Hey, if you know what's good for you, you'd learn more about the teams that Seattle must defeat in order to 'own the West' next year so you sound smart at the water cooler. Big changes in the desert, time to get to know the new characters down there - these interviews came late last week, but now that I've got access to transcripts, you might want to give them a read.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, as transcribed by Darren Urban.
Q: How's life in Arizona?
A: Warm. Except for yesterday. Shocked to see the snow. First time I think a golf tournament has been snowed out. It's an exciting time. Put the staff together, they are all working. It's fun.
Q: Coming back to this building bring back memories?
A: As I drove up to the parking lot I had to sit in the car for a minute because it was an unusual year. Lot of great memories that will never be forgotten, people, relationships that happened in this building. It was special.
Q: How difficult was it to leave the Colts?
A: Very. I always said I wouldn't be a head coach just to be one. It had to be the right fit to leave Indianapolis because I had the greatest job in the world right here. Once I met Michael Bidwill, (GM) Steve Keim and (VP of player personnel) Jason Licht, I knew this was the one that would work for me, the way it was set up.
Q: What will be the greatest memory from last year?
A: The biggest thing from last year was I watched a dear friend get healthy. Football was a back seat the whole time to watchingChuck fight that fight and win. It just so happened, everyone in the country joined the fight. It was heartwarming to watch the cheerleaders shave their heads, players shave their heads. Fans, truck drivers, doing it. I already was. I was a natural. I jumped in the picture, though. The easy part was, if Chuck was fighting that fight, why couldn't we win games. That was the only message we had the entire season. It was an amazing, emotional ride the entire time.
Q: Motivation rather than distraction?
A: Totally. It could have been. But we had great leadership in that room. I've named them, Reggie, Cory, Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea, they weren't going to let it be. We left that light on for a reason. We had to fight every day to extend that season because we were going to do it until he got back.
Q: How is your health?
A: Fantastic. Crazy situation. Inner-ear infection. Didn't know anything about it until I got one. I found out I'm really healthy. I've had every test known to man.
Q: Assess NFC West?
A: Played them a year ago with the Steelers. We are in a division with two really good young quarterbacks and they have good defenses too. St. Louis, Jeff is doing a fantastic job. It's an outstanding division. Reminds me of the AFC North, the way the teams are running the
football and playing defense. Each division is extremely difficult but right now the West is really tough.
A: We have a good young defense. We just have to get faster and tougher. But playing those two young (QBs) is a challenge because they are so athletic. Give the defensive coordinators of the NFL some credit. They will have some time to study this trend that is happening. I'm not a believer in putting my quarterback in harm's way. I believe a lot of harm will come to him. I'm more of a traditionalist.
Q: Finalized plans of how you will address QB situation?
A: No. The biggest thing for us right now is you can't talk to them about football, and that's what we need to talk about. We know we have talent on our roster, we know there is talent in the draft. As we grow as a team we'll determine what is best for the Arizona Cardinals at that position. We have some tough decisions to make because of roster bonuses and things before we can talk football.
Q: Ray Horton in Cleveland?
A: He'll do a great job. We won that Super Bowl together and I have all the respect in the world for him. I always felt like, had I got a job, I wanted Todd Bowles (to be my DC). He's a bright young coach too. Just more history. But I feel Ray is one of the best.
A: Do a great job not only evaluating on the field but getting to know these guys individually. We have a great job of scouts and front office people I lean on heavily. This is the beginning of the process to make sure you have a great draft.
Q: Chances of Patrick Peterson getting offensive snaps?
A: I wouldn't say it is out of the question. We have a group of receivers that are pretty dnag ood and I'm not sure which one of them I would sit on the bench. The more he can touch the ball, that's why he will be the punt returner. We'll look at that, we'll have some fun with it. I've got to see him throw too. Maybe we'll get some reverses in it.
Q: Thoughts on OL?
A: I think there is talent there, especially once you get Levi back. Once you get Levi back, the whole thing looks prettier. We had some young guys get baptized last year, who got better and better as the season went on. It's not as near the dire straits everyone wants to make it out to be. There were a lot of sacks and the offensive line takes the blame for that. All 11 guys have a hand in that. Obviously this draft is pretty loaded in offensive linemen. It's a good thing we like that. I like our guys, and I like where we are today moreso than where we were at this time last year in Indianapolis.
Q: Ryan Williams thoughts?
A: First of all Ryan has to stay healthy. I actually ran the Pro Day there when all those guys came out and he was a fantastic athlete. He has to get healthy and we'll see how he fits. But as a running back, he's got what it takes.
Q: Think DCs will figure out the read-option?
A: Give them credit. That will be the emphasis in everyone's defensive room in the offseason and do a big study. One of the things we did, I hired a defensive coordinator from college (new DB coach Nick Rapone) who's dealt with it. He's got some good ideas on it. I think everyone is going to be going to the colleges, rather than the colleges coming to the pros, as far as information on how to handle it.
Q: Why Tom Moore?
A: Tom is one of the greatest teachers I have ever known. He has a way of taking a lot of knowledge and simplifying it. I was elated when he decided to come back. I met with him when we played in Jacksonville, and it was his 74th birthday and he had just birdied 17 at TPC. He was excited. To see him as healthy as he is, he got his knees replaced, he said, 'I'm getting back in.' I told him, 'If I'm in you're in.' Because he brings that wealth of knowledge to young coaches. I love the dynamics of our staff.
Q: Something about the Colts offense changing.
A: It was probably a natural fit for Andrew to go back to his old offense. It will be tough for those other young guys to learn another one. But I can see why that decision was made.
Q: The dynamics of Tom Pratt on the staff.
A: I've known Tom since our days in Kansas City. Not many guys can say they have a guy who coached in Super Bowl I. Tom has been coaching in Japan, he's been coaching all the pass rushers coming out the past few years, he's on top of every defensive line move. He came to Pittsburgh one year with Bill Cowher as did (DL coach) Brentson Buckner with John Mitchell. I've watched those guys and he still has a passion to teach, just like Tom Moore. Brentson Buckner had a great passion asa an intern. I thought it was a great mix. Tom's title is pass rush specialist.
Q: How is Michael Floyd?
A: I think he is a bright young star. He has to get better fundimentally. But he's physical, he's big, he's active. I loved him coming out. To see he and Larry across from each other, and Andre Roberts, that's a nice group. That's one position we don't have to worry about too much.
Q: Did you give up the idea of being a head coach when you retired and how real was retirement?
A: It lasted about 3 or 4 days and my wife said, you need to get a job. I was satisfied with where I was at that point and time and when I saw the call from Chuck I got excited because of the situation. There was going to be a young quarterback again and a chance to maybe have that relationship I had with Peyton and Ben and Tim Couch. I didn't think it would lead to this. No one would have foreseen the circumstances of the Colts last year. There was no book on how to handle that. You go with your gut and rely on the people around you.
Q: Evaluate QB class.
A: I'm in the beginnings of my evaluations of them. Obviously they have a great body of work. Their careers are outstanding. The thing that is hard to evaluate, we'll get all the height-weight-speed stuff but the two muscles you evaluate quarterbacks with are brain and your heart. Until you can really get in there and know them, until you can get into a huddle-type situation and not a rehearsed interview, that process I am looking forward to. There are a bunch of guys who I think will be playing for a long time in this class.
Q: What could they add to the combine to make it better for you to evaluate?
A: Pads. Let them play football. I don't think agents would go for that. I think they do a great job. What you can do at this time is start the process. You only get one first impression and these guys have rehearsed it pretty well but it's still the first one. You get the ball rolling.
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim:
Q. And we start off by not hearing the question, something about the roster.
A. "It's obviously going to remain a fluid situation, but I think we have a much better understanding of where we are from a roster standpoint after we had our UFA meetings and actually had a chance to have our coaches evaluate our own players last week. So throughout this whole process, it took a little extra time, obviously, getting a new staff in place, getting Bruce's guys into the building. "There will be a few changes here and there along the way but for the most part, we have a good understanding of where are with the roster situation."
Q. How much different is it being GM than your previous job, where you just evaluated talent?
A. "You have more administrative duties, which is a challenge because it's a learning process. But for the most part, I'm going to continue to do the personnel stuff. That was one of the agreements I had with Michael Bidwill when I accepted the position. I let Michael know, 'I'm a football guy. I need to spend time looking at our players, looking at other players, determining who our left tackle is going to be, not how many rooms we need at training camp.'
"My expertise is in the evaluation process and I think that will help our team in the long run, being able to build a stronger roster from top to bottom."
Q. The read-option, is it here to stay? You see a lot of in your division with Wilson, Kaepernick?
A. "For the most part, it comes down to personnel. What type of personnel you have and obviously those guys (Wilson, Kap) with their foot speed, their athleticism, the way they can throw the football, you want to cater to their strengths and put them in a position to succeed. To me, it all goes with what skill set you have. If you have a guy with those types of tools, you put them in a position to succeed."
Q. Hard to hear this question, think it was something about if running ability becomes a bigger factor in evaluating QBs.
A. "I don't think so because at the end of the day you need to be able to spin the football and spin it accurately. I think that one of the concerns that comes with that is durability. Those guys are going to take shots and durability really equals availability. And if a player is not going to be available, that's an obvious concern.'
Q. What will you be looking for when you see Geno Smith and the other quarterbacks throw?
A. "Once the lights come on, being able to throw the football, throw it accurately on the big stage. When you go see these kids practice in their own environment, and see them practice, they have a certain comfort level. Well now you're taking that player out of the comfortable and you're asking them to throw to (unfamiliar) receivers.
"And then to have a chance to talk to these guys for the first time, I think that's a big deal. A lot of times when you go on the campuses, you have access to see the film, watch the practices, talk to the staff about these guys, but now you can put a name with a face and you have an opportunity to dig and get to know these players from a personal standpoint."
Q. Can you provide insight on coach Ray Horton leaving?
A. "We had a long process where we opened our search. Ray is one of the guys we talked to for our head coaching position and that was really because Ray has done a phenomenal job. He's a great person, a great coach, and our defensive players really responded to his style. "I think that once we determined Bruce was our guy, you give him the opportunity to build his staff the way he wants to build it. And he made the decision where he wanted to move in another direction and hire Todd Bowles."
Q. What can the Browns expect from Ray, besides some quotes?
A. "They are going to play fast, they are going to be aggressive. He has a great scheme. I think he would be the first to tell you he learned a lot from Dick LeBeau. But Ray's ability to put players in position - I say this often because I think a quality coach caters to a player's strengths, is able to hide some of their limitations, but at the same time be able to get some success out of a guy where maybe some others threw him to the side. Ray was able to do that with several of our players."
Q. You've been with the team awhile. When Bruce and his staff evaluated players, were there any eye-openers or huge discrepancies between what you thought of a player and what they did?
A. "Not really. What probably stood out in my mind was the most was how optimistic they were about our current players. They came in and did a nice job studying our team, looked all the tape, and when we had our initial meeting with them to talk about our players, I was pleasantly surprised with how many of our guys they really liked.
"Whether it was the offensive linemen, some of them who were maligned throughout the year, guys like Bobby Massie, Nate Potter, who if you watch them early and watch them late, they improved considerably. But they were very, very excited about where we were from a roster standpoint. "Now, again, I'm not naïve. There are certain areas where we need to vastly improve. But at the same time, those guys had a very, very optimistic outlook on our team."
Q. Did you need a sales job to believe in Todd Bowles?
A. "Not really. I had heard about Todd before. Matter of fact, Ken Whisenhunt interviewed Todd Bowles a few years ago for a position on our staff, and Ken had a lot of great things to say about Todd Bowles.
"I think the Philadelphia thing, he was put in a tough situation, taking over a defense midway through the year. He was running a 4-3 defense in Philadelphia where we're going to be more of a 3-4 base."
Q. This isn't supposed to be a great class of QBs. Thoughts?
A. "I think it's solid. I think there are guys in every round that have ability. In years past, we've seen that position can get pushed up from time to time, where a guy is probably a good third round pick, but because of supply and demand and need at that position, guys get pushed into the second and first round. More importantly, I think the player has to fit what you do and what you're asking him to do schematically. If you can get a guy and put him in a position to succeed, I always ask people then how high is too high? "If you're convinced a guy is a good player, take him."
Q. Beanie Wells, what's up with him?
A. "I think Beanie had a tough stretch this year because of the injuries. He showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness late in the year when he was able to. He's had some injuries so he had a difficult time with his cut ability and his lateral movement but Beanie is still a big horse who can finish runs and create yardage after contract, which is something that excites us."
Q. Ryan Williams?
A. "I saw Ryan in our weight room the other day and he's doing fantastic. He's a guy that, watching film with Bruce, because he got injured early in the season, you fogot the type of run skills Ryan had. We watched him against Philadelphia, we watched him against New England, his later quickness, his later quickness, his natural run skills, his avoidability is something he brings to the table. Plus he's a three down back. We're expecting big things out of Ryan moving forward."