By Steve Corkran
Monday, January 2nd, 2012 at 4:41 pm in Oakland Raiders.
After hearing from numerous players today, Raiders coach Hue Jackson got his chance to speak with the media in his season-ending news conference in Alameda.
Among other things, Jackson said: he is open to bringing back quarterback Jason Campbell, strong safety Tyvon Branch and running back Michael Bush; wants a defense with a well-defined identity; hopes to be involved with the general manager search; and the things that ailed the Raiders this season won’t happen again next season.
There’s too much ground to cover and I don’t want to leave out anything, so here’s the entire transcript from the nearly 35-minute question-and-answer session:
Intro: “How we doing today, ladies and gentlemen? Obviously, this is the end-of-the-season meeting. This meeting’s too soon, for me. I hoped we would still be playing, getting ready to practice and prepare against whoever we’d be playing this week but it didn’t work out that way. Yesterday, we didn’t play like I think this team can and that’s disappointing, as I said yesterday, and that’s what I told the team yesterday and we got some work to do and we’re going to get it done.”
Q: What is the message you gave the guys on the way out, beyond that?
A: “That as a Raider, you’re expected to win. And 8-8 is not where we want to be and I don’t want to use the old coaches’ cliche — you look at the wins you possibly could have won, and you didn’t. To me, that’s just…you’re setting yourself up again to be able to say, hey look, if we did this, we’d be here, you did that, you’d be there. You didn’t. At the end of the day, you didn’t win those games. We got what we earned. We’re 8-8, we’re a .500 football team for the second year in a row and, that’s disappointing. But the guys that come back here, that get ready for the offseason program, they’re going to buy in…all the way to what it is that we’re selling. Because we’re going to win a championship here, and that’s what I told them. And if you don;t feel comfortable at the way I think you’ve got to buy in, then maybe this is not the right place for you.”
Q: Is there a segment of guys that did not buy in?
A: “No. I’m not saying there’s a segment. To me, like I said, my disappointment, the last game of the season, with everything on the line, it doesn’t come down, in my opinion, to X’s and O’s, all the time. I’ve been on some really good football teams, and at some point in time, there;s a group of men that make a decision, they’re going to win a game. And they play that way. And I think our team started in that fashion. I mean, unbelievable first drive by them that led to an interception. Unbelievable first drive by us that led to a touchdown. And then, all of a sudden, to me, when I looked at the tape today, it looked as if, maybe, we got a little complacent and said, ‘Oh, this team today, we’re fixing to get, we’re going to blow them out. They’re not going to play. But my message to them, to you, to the team, to everybody, is these are pros/ They’re going to play. They’re going to play every snap and as hard and as well as they can play. When you have this much riding on the line, you have to play better than you have all year to even give yourself a chance, not to win the game, just to give yourself a chance. When you don’t do that, that is very disappointing to me.”
Q: How would you letter-grade the season overall?
A: “Average. I mean, maybe C-. I mean, there’s too many times that we were ahead. I mean, I can go all the way back to Buffalo, I can go back to Denver here, I can go back to the Detroit game. I can go back to the game yesterday. And where we had opportunities and we didn’t make the most of them. So, we weren’t good bough, obviously. So, C is average, and I think we were a little but below average. But do I think we have the potential to be better? Yes I do. And I’m going to get this football team better.”
Q: What would you say to the people that say you changed your tune yesterday?
A: “That I would respect that. I did. I did change my tune. This is the end of the year. I told you, I’m going to take it. You know, and I take it all year for this football team. The year is over now; now I can tell you what I really feel, and what’s really on my mind. I know what’s in our locker room and I know what the team has the potential to be, and I look at me first. I didn’t get them to do it, and that’s disappointing to me. And then secondly, we didn’t as a staff get them to do it. We got them to do it in an average way — 8-8. That’s not good enough. That’s not acceptable to me, I don’t want it to be acceptable to our players. i don;t want it to be acceptable to our organization. I didn’t sign up for that. So I’m disappointed. I told them that, they understand that. And if people take that because I’ve normally taken it all and yesterday I decided to tell you what I really felt, then so be it. That’s fine.”
Q: Are you concerned the difference from the way you handled it with players changes anything?
Jackson: “No. Because what you guys don’t know is what I already say to my players. See, that’s the difference. How I talk to them ain’t how I talk to you. I have different conversations with them. So I think they understand where that’s coming from, whether they read it, I don’t think there’s no hard feelings. If a player, coach, whatever can’t take a justified whatever way you want to look at it, when it’s justified, then so be it. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”
Q: How do you really feel about the defense and how it played down the stretch?
Jackson: “It’s unacceptable.”
Q: Any changes coming staff-wise, made those decisions?
Jackson: “Well, I haven’t sat through it all, but obviously I’m going to meet with everybody here soon and we’re going to go from there.”
Q: If there is going to be a front office hire, can you make those changes? Talked of taking stronger role in organization. Is that stuff sorted out in your mind?
Jackson: “No, it’s not. But I would hope that as the head coach of this football team I would hope that the organization understands that I have a pretty good idea of where we need to go. Because if not, then I shouldn’t be where I’m sitting. So at the end of the day, I think I have a pretty good idea now that I’ve been through this for a year, and have done it, be it coaching, be it all kind of sort of different hats and duties, dealing with you all, and everybody, I think I know exactly what this team needs to do and how they need to do it. That’s the fun part of it. The downside of it is I didn’t want to be sitting here today. I wanted to be preparing for a game. And we’re not.”
Q: Will you meet with Mark Davis this week in terms of setting plan for offseason?
Jackson: “Yeah, I’m sure we will. I’m sure me and Mark will get together here soon.”
Q: At one point, you said your defense could be an elite unit, but now that we’re really being honest, do you have the personnel to be an elite defense? Are the pieces really there?
Jackson: “I thought the pieces were there. I mean, a year ago this defense was 11th with basically the same guys other than Matt Shaughnessy. So I thought it was. That’s what I made my prediction on, from one year to the next. You’re kind of playing with the same guys other than Shaughnessy and Nnamdi. Maybe that was bad on my part. Maybe I over-analyzed what I thought we had the potential to be. But I still believe that there is decent enough personnel to be, I don’t know what we were, but there’s no question about that.”
Q: Rolando McClain, talked about how he needed to be great, needed to be a leader, did he do that?
Jackson: “I’m not going to talk about individual players. I just think as a group, we didn’t play as well as we can play and I’m going to leave it at that.”
Q: Did you see enough leaders, in general?
Jackson: “The leadership is tremendous. The locker room and prior to the game is as good as any place I’ve ever been. It’s playing the game. All that talking don’t mean nothing. You can rah-rah and talk and do all that stuff all you want. You got to play. This is a performance-based business. You get paid to play, you got to play. Just like I get paid to coach. You got to play, you got to coach good on game day, not at halftime, not before the game. When they set-hut, that’s when you got to play good.”
Q: Did you see leaders on the field?
Jackson: “I seen guys. There wasn’t a question of effort. The guys are playing hard. Obviously, which leads into the penalty issue, we’re not playing smart enough. What that does is take you away from opportunities and possibilities to be all you can be. We have some things to correct and address and get better at and I think we have an opportunity to do that. I’m not going to back off on what I think this organization can be and should be. We’re going to be it. We’re just not it, this year.”
Q: How eager are you to field a team where you can mold it the way you want, to where you hire all coaches, all the players, have a heavier hand in all the moves?
Jackson: “I’d like to involved. Just because, again, having been through it now and seen it and playing the different divisions across the league, and you get a different idea of what it’s going to take to win. I mean, but at the same time, whatever mark decides to do, I’m going to respect that also. This is his football team. I respect that. But I will want to be as involved as I can be just because I think I’m in it. I’m in it deep. And I understand everything that’s going on.”
Will you be involved in search for a GM, and will it be awkward that you might be hiring your boss?
“I don’t know that. But I don’t think it’d be awkward. I’m pretty comfortable with who I am and what I am. I’m not gonna get caught up in who we hire and who we bring in here. I know how that works. I know when people mention that, ‘well, if they hire a GM then he’s gonna want to bring in his own head coach.’ And hey, if that’s what Mark decided to do, that’s his right. I don’t think that that’s the case, but that is his right. But at the end of the day, whoever comes here, I think it’s gonna be somebody who wants to share the same vision as a I do, which is winning a championship, which is getting the organization back to being better than average. Because we should be, and we can be.”
Have you been involved in that process yet?
“We’ve had conversations, but we haven’t said exactly who, what, when, where and how. But I do know that there’s gonna be somebody that we do bring in here and talk to and do those things with. But we haven’t just nailed it down or anything like that.”
But you are a part of that process?
“Um, I think I will be. But how involved, I don’t know that. I mean, he’ll let me know that as we move forward.”
Will you have a detailed sit-down with Mark Davis to discuss what went right/wrong?
“I would love to meet with Mark and tell him that, and feel very comfortable with it. Whether it’s Mark or front-office people or whoever wants to listen. I have a pretty good idea of where we need to go, and I think we’re gonna go there. I know what Mark’s vision is, which is to put the Raiders organization back among the elite. It’s my vision. I think it’s the organization’s vision. We know we’re not there yet by any stretch of the imagination. But I think we know we’re making progress. I mean, is it good enough? No. But I think we’re making progress.”
Was this supposed to be The Year? And did failing to make the playoffs make it even more painful?
“It’s just painful, period. Because like I said, I expect to be playing. ‘The time is now’ is gonna be ‘the time is now’ every year that I’m here. I expect to win, and I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I mean, I know everybody talks about the moves, but that move gave us an opportunity to be playing for the AFC West championship yesterday. We just didn’t win. Without that move, we wouldn’t be having this conversation like this. We would have, a long time ago, been talking about, ‘Hey, what are you doing for next year?’ So that being said, I understand the critics who talk about those things, and I respect that. The other thing out of that is, there’s gonna be all kind of different ways to acquire players. I mean, I know we talk about the draft all the time. That’s just one vehicle to get players on your team. There’s gonna be a lot of different ways to acquire players to get this football team better, and I think we all know that. Normally you do it through the draft. We do not have a lot of draft picks, but we will have some. There’ll be compensatory picks, there’ll be other things we can do. And I do, I get little disappointed that that’s all we talk about is, ‘well, the draft pick for Carson,’ and was it worth it? Well, like I said, without him, I don’t think we’d be having a chance to play in a game yesterday to win the division. So was it the right situation, the right process in my mind? Yes, because I think every team every year goes out there with the intent of winning. And not so much winning at all costs, that’s not what I’m saying. But with the intent of winning, you have to give players hope. I think the city had hope. I mean, that’s why eight of our games were sold out. And that’s disappointing, because they’ve done their part. We just gotta do our part, and we gotta do it better.”
Do you feel good about moving forward with Carson Palmer?
“I think, obviously, he has some strong characteristics throwing the ball. I mean, he’s proven that. I think he’s disproved all the issues with his arm. I don’t think anybody can bring those subjects up anymore. I think that Carson needs a strong offseason, with his teammates, with the players, training camp. And then let’s see what he can be then. Am I tied to him? Well, I made the decision, so I guess I am. You know? He’s one of our quarterbacks. But by no means do I say, hey, Jason Campbell doesn’t haven’t an opportunity to be here, too. That decision has not been made. I have a strong feeling about Jason Campbell, and I think you guys all know that. I mean, my doing that, I know everybody sees it as maybe it was a slap to Jason. It wasn’t. I owe this team the best opportunity to win, and this organization the best opportunity to win. That’s why I did what I did. And at the end of the day, I’m not gonna run from that.”
Yesterday, you said this was not a dumb team. Today you said they need to be smarter …
“Dumb. I said they are not a dumb team? Yeah. Dumb is a strong word. Dumb means you don’t know what you are doing.”
What is undisciplined?
“To me, and I am going to say this because this is what I feel, I wish sometimes when I get things back from the league, you guys could see them. To see some of the things I see, because I think you would be shocked. I know we’re the most penalized team in football. I wear it. I don’t like it, but I will wear it. But until we play better, in all areas and consistently, intelligently for 60 minutes, maybe we’re going to be the most penalized team. You know? When you say undisciplined, we have some of that. I can’t run from that. We get out of gaps, we do things that don’t allow us the opportunity to win football games. Things that I don’t see on the practice field show up in the game. So we have to wear some of that. But this is not a dumb football team. This is a team that, to me, wants to be aggressive, wants to win and has to learn how to win every down, every play and play as hard as they can play for 60 minutes to give themselves a chance to win.”
How did your team handle distractions, from Al Davis’ death to the trade for Palmer to Rolando McClain’s arrest?
“Great. I never felt any of those things, other than obviously the losing of our leader was tough, … I didn’t think that once we made the trade I don’t think anybody balked at it or fought it – I am talking about on the team or on the staff. I think once the thing happened with Ro, everybody understood what it was, I made a decision and we moved forward. I know people want to point at a lot of those things as to why you lost a game here or there, I don’t see that way. Did it take some time to get Carson up and running? And have his teammates comfortable with him? Yeah. But I knew that was going to take time. I think we all knew that. Did we have to make some adjustments from this team that was going to be a bully to play to his strengths? Yes, that’s what you do. That’s any good coach does. You take the players you have and you try and make adjustments to what you need to do. We lost some very key players early, I don’t make that the excuse why we didn’t win yesterday but we did. We lost some very valuable members of this football team, be it Jason, be it Darren, be it Matt Shaughnessy. But we have to find a way, and that’s what coaches do. They find a way to get their team to respond and continue to play and play well.”
If Campbell comes back, is it an open competition?
“I am not going to answer that. That’s a loaded question. It’s not about competition. One thing you must know about me is I am going to play the best guy. And right now, one guys is under contract and the other guy is not. So let’s see where that goes when that time comes.”
But you would welcome him back?
“There is no question, I would.”
Is McFadden’s injury worse than you thought?
“No. Is it worse? Yes. It took so long. But it is what I told you guys it was, a mid-foot sprain. And everybody comes back from that differently. He has taken more time than other guys have. And it’s unfortunate but that’s the hand we were dealt. But Michael Bush did an unbelievable job filling in. He had an outstanding season. But again I would love Darren back out there playing. Would have love to have him yesterday.”
That injury affect long-term thinking regarding him?
“You have always put everything into the evaluation. Darren is under contract and all those things will take care of themselves. But it has taught me that you always have to have – whether it be at the quarterback position, the running back position of the receiver position — a very capable No. 2. And obviously Michael Bush was.”
Darren’s been a Raider for 64 games, but maybe been really healthy 18 times. How much of a concern is that history?
“It’s a concern. Me talking to him, it’s a concern of his, too, because he wants to be out there with his teammates competing and playing and helping contribute. Again, this was an unusual year – not an offseason and going right to training camp and obviously him getting injured early in training camp and starting the season and, boy, he started the season like gangbusters. He was rolling pretty good and then all of a sudden here comes the next injury, and then we didn’t have him anymore. And I know everybody said that’s been his history. Hopefully we’ll get over the hump. And I know it’s been foot issues, per se. I know he’s going to do his part, to do everything he can to make sure he has an opportunity to play 16 games because that’s what we need him to do. We need him to play 16 straight games to help us earn a 17th.”
Does that concern about McFadden make bringing Michael Bush back a bigger priority?
“Well, it’s a concern, but again, you still got to look at how your team is set up. Would I love to have Michael Bush back? Yes. Are you kidding me? The guy is tremendous. But Michael Bush is going to have some opportunities himself. Sometimes you’re not in control of that, and I respect that. Michael loves it here and loves playing for the Raiders and being a part of this organization, but any young man in these situations, they’re going to do whatever they think is best for themselves and their families.”
Is there a time you can look at and say this was the signature moment that dictated who you really were?
“Well, if you go back to Buffalo game, because when you’re winning 21-3 and the other team comes back and beat you, that’s who we really were. And that’s who we were all year, and that’s very disappointing to tell you that, but that’s the truth. We have had leads, and teams have found ways to catch us in the end and beat us and defeat us, because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’d still be talking about practice, and that’s disappointing because that starts with me down through our coaches, down through our players. We got to find a way to finish, and I used that word earlier in the year. We got to become a team that finishes, and that’s where my disappointment is because I believe in that, we talk about it. We just haven’t done it as well as I think you have to in the National Football League.”
How do you assess your game management skills in your first season?
“I’m growing just like everybody else. It’s unfortunate that some things happened, but I can get better, too. I’m not taking myself off the hook by no stretch of imagination. I need to get better, and I will, and I feel very comfortable with that. But there’s some things that I wish I could do over, there’s some times where the phone doesn’t work and communication’s not the greatest. I mean, those things do happen. Contrary to what people believe, those things happen in real life, where all of a sudden the phone does go out and the quarterback can’t hear you, but you deal with some of those things. But as I said, I need to get better, and I will get better.”
Carson Palmer told Rich Gannon that he wished he had more face time with you each week. Did Carson tell you that?
“Oh, yeah. What comes from that is when you’re the head coach and play caller, I think the quarterback wishes you were more down in the meetings. As you guys know, when you wear a lot of different hats, there’s so many different things that you have to do. So I do install the offense, and I do run the offense on the field, but as far as the quarterback meetings, I’m not in those very much. So I’m going to have to make some adjustments, too. Again, you go through the first year and find out what was good and what wasn’t good. And so we’ll continue to make those adjustments as we move forward and get this thing better. But it’s going to get to where I need it to be. Trust me when I tell you that. I’m not going to stop until we get this thing right.”
Tyvon Branch could be an unrestricted free agent. He improved a lot this year. How eager would you be to get him in the fold before free agency?
“Very, because I think he’s one of the young, talented players on our team. I think he has a bright future ahead of himself. Any guy that’s back there that we deem, the organization deems, is a Raider and that plays the way we want them to play, we want to get under contract and get back here in a uniform. He’s definitely one of those guys.”
Was the loss of Matt Shaughnessy bigger than some thought initially?
“Oh, yeah, because he has so much tenacity and quickness, and he’s a really good pass rusher. There’s times where sometimes we didn’t pressure the quarterback as well, where I think Matt would have gave us just a little bit different edge coming off the edge attacking an offensive tackle.”
Q: There a disconnect between players’ performance on defense and results?
A: “Well, I’m not going to tell you there’s a disconnect. I just know this: we cannot look at what we’ve done on defense and say it’s good enough, or say it’s even close to being good enough. It’s not, and my players know that. So, I’m not saying something to you I haven’t said to them. We have to improve by leaps and bounds, and we’re going to. I guarantee you, we will. We got to get better, we got to get better fast, and we will.”
Q: How much mental shortcomings vs. physical shortcomings defensively?
A: “Well, it all goes hand in hand. The physical is the mental, and the mental is the physical. As you work through some of the things that we’ve had happen to us on defense from week in to week out, it’s very apparent that it’s kind of the same theme. So, like I said, I know exactly where we are and what we need to fix. We cannot let quarterbacks come in here and play pitch and catch. We can’t let guys take the ball and just bring it back at us. We can’t do that. At the same time, on offense we got to make sure we score more in the scoring zone than we did, and finish. Again, at the end of the day, 26 points, at home, in your stadium, you would hope you have a great opportunity to win. But we didn’t, so we need to get better, and we will get better.”
Q: Is it important to you to have a firm defensive identity?
A: “No, you have to be a team that has an identity, but then have to also have some things off of that, that you can go to. So, we’re going to learn to become a team that is this and then we’re going to have an opportunity to do that, if need be, because offenses are too good in this league. You can’t just line up and do one thing all the time but you also got to make sure that your players know exactly who you are, and we’ll do that.”
Q: Do you think teams such as the Ravens and Steelers do that?
A: “I know that’s what they do. My time in Baltimore, that’s why Baltimore is playing in the playoffs. That’s why they got a first-round bye. They’re really good on defense and they play well enough on offense to make things happen. We’re not going to follow their pattern but we’re going to become who we’re going to become, and we’re going to get good at it.”
Q: What kind of defensive identity do you want for your defense?
A: “Well, I want a team that, one, stops the run. And, two, I want the opposing quarterbacks, when they get off the bus, to be worried about getting hit. Then, I want us to be able to take the ball away from the offensive football team. Turnovers is the key to any championship in this league. The teams that are in the playoffs, they get a ton of turnovers. We need to get better in all three of those areas, and we’re going to.”
Q: 3-4 scheme, 4-3 scheme?
A: “I’ll tell you as we move forward.”
Q: Is this team better than last year’s 8-8 team?
A: “Yeah, it is. There’s some things that we’ve grown in and done better than last year. But, when you look at it on paper, it’s not. Eight and eight is 8-8. I don’t care how you cut it, slice it. There’s a sense that we’ve been closer than what we’ve been, just talking to all the players this morning, meeting with everybody, there’s a good feeling. But I also think there’s true disappointment. That’s for me to help them solve. That’s why I sit in this chair. I got to help them solve that, along with this staff. We got to fix it, and we will.”
Q: Do you have someone who can raise everyone’s level of play like Ray Lewis?
A: “I’ll tell you next season. We’ll talk about that next season. We have a bunch of guys and I think we have some good football players. What we’re going to do is become a really good defense. We’re not there yet. We have some work to do.”
Q: Was this year a feeling-out process for you in terms of the players?
A: “Oh, yeah. For me, it was my first year being the head coach here and really seeing it from a different level. A year ago, all I did was run the offense and watch it. Obviously I got totally involved watching the defense too this year and being a part of that. That was different but it was good. I’ve learned in my first year so many different things that you have to deal with, offense, defense and special teams. We need to grow and get better. We went from a defense that was 11th a year ago to 29th. We went from an offense that was 10th a year ago to ninth. There’s a discrepancy there. We got better in some areas. We didn’t get better in some areas. I thought our special teams grew. Obviously we have the two best kickers in football. That being said I think our coaches did a better job of scheming. We made more plays in special teams this year than we probably ever have. I think we got better in that area. I just think we have a little ways to go in a couple of areas to get to where we need to be, where we can be a consistent team that has a chance to win. One of those areas is we have to eliminate penalties and then we have to get some of these other things right that we got wrong.”
Q: How do you assess the rookie class?
A: “Oh, wow. I think they contributed. If you go back and look a lot of those guys played. Obviously Taiwan Jones, he was injured a little bit, quite a bit down the stretch here. You look at the corners. DeMarcus Van Dyke started a few games. Chekwa started a few games. David Ausberry made a catch in the game yesterday. He started to come on there at the end. Richard Gordon was a contributing member on offense and on special teams. When I look at all those guys, they did some really good things. Wisniewski. The guy was phenomenal playing left guard for us. We’re getting the right players. We’re putting the right players on the football team. What we have to do is keep them healthy and keep them out there so they can grow and get better.”
Q: Is Wisniewski a left guard moving forward? Center?
A: “That’s where he is now. But we’ll see as we continue to move forward. The team’s going to change a little bit. The shaping of the team as we move forward it’s not going to be the same team. It’s going to change here and there and we’ll see where we are as we continue to move forward.”
Q: Will 80-90 percent of guys be back?
A: “I can’t answer that right now. It’s too early. You just don’t know where people are. We’ll see.”
Q: Grade the rookie class?
A: “Denarius Moore, I give him an A. I think they were as a group, contributing to the football team, I think they’re C+. The guys played here and there. But again, there’s some rookies that are playing in the National Football League who are starting every game. But Wisniewski, Denarius Moore on offense they were outstanding. Then some of the other guys who got injured would bring the grade down a little bit. But contributing they were above average no doubt about that.”
Q: How come DeMarcus Van Dyke didn’t play much late in season
A: “I don’t think that was a red flag. Obviously again he got hurt. One time I think we had two defensive backs that were going to be active for a game. We did that when we started just for numbers. Then all of a sudden he started to play and do some good things. The next thing you know DeMarcus was down a little bit more. Lito had played well and when you find a guy who’s playing well you hate to move him at that time. That’s what that was more so than anything.”
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl