Note: Some questions were “best guess” edited because they were difficult to hear. Some repeat questions were not transcribed.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio talked to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings for nearly an hour. Part II from a transcription from audio recorded by the NFL:
Q: Gotten younger at corner, confident, DJ, TJ, Keith McGill ready for that kind of responsibility?
Del Rio: I think, as a staff coming in and evaluating, we felt like that was one of the more talented positions that needed to develop. Certainly staying healthy will be important for DJ. Carrie played well in his role. We feel like that group has a chance to develop beyond where they are. There are really four pretty solid young guys right there that we look forward to working with and helping them play at a higher level.
Q: Inaudible . . . (Carr-related question)
Del Rio: I’d hate to throw out any comparisons of guys. Sometimes that can lead to different kinds of pressures I’d rather not have. To me, I’d just want him to be as good as he can be every day. He has a real short, quick release. There have been successful quarterbacks that have been able to do that. I think being able to get the ball out from smaller windows, being able to get the ball out quickly, that’s a good quality to have.
Q: Emphasize getting ball downfield more?
Del Rio: We’ll take our shots. I think he has, even last year preparing against him, I think he’s really a good deep ball thrower. They didn’t have a lot of guys that would necessarily scare you in terms of getting deep, but I thought he was a really good deep ball thrower.
Q: What leads you to believe a team that has not been over .500 for the last 12 years, biggest drought in NFL, what leads you to believe you can turn this franchise around?
Del Rio: I guess faith. I have faith that we understand what it looks like, what it takes, to come in, share a vision with our players. We’ll practice with great energy every day. We’ve assembled a strong staff. That’s where it starts. We’re acquiring talent. Look, every good coach has good players, you’ve got to have good players. We need to continue to add good players, and then build a team that’s willing to sacrifice and play together and understand what it looks like to be accountable to each other. Play fast and play hard. Kind of some old-school basic fundamentals that we’re going to stress that are proven and that I believe in. I believe every program I’ve ever been a part of, there’s a mindset you have to establish, and I feel like it starts with the top and permeates through the whole organization. We’re going to pay attention to details. We’ve begun that process. We’re two months in to this process and feel like we’ve accomplished quite a bit in the first two months and we’re just going to keep kind of plodding away methodically, chipping away, at what we know needs to be done.
Q: Raider Nation, everywhere, every state, do you feel that from around the country feel the history of the Raiders . .
Del Rio: You feel it. You definitely feel it. You certainly feel it locally, but you feel it like you’re saying wherever you go. It travels. It travels well. I’m not a huge social media person, but my kids are, and they tell me about how tremendous the support is and how tremendous the reach is in the Raider Nation. It’s pretty amazing. It’s good stuff.
Q: Inaudible . . .(differences from first time as HC in Jacksonviille)
Del Rio: A little wiser. A little older, a little wiser. I think you learn from the experiences that you go through. Some good, some positive, some not so good. The ones that you want to be better at. Just the experience at having done the job before. Juts the hiring process, OK, I think impacts everything you’re doing. The first time through I just really felt like I had to rush. Like I’d get a cookie at the end if I did it all real quick. There’s no rush. Take your time, get the right people, discern, take your time, be sure the guys that you’re adding exemplify what you’re looking for, the environment you want to create. I feel like we were able to assemble good teachers. A lot of guys are former players that are grinders, you know, which is not always a combination that you find. Guys that are hard-working, professional guys that happen to have played. So I’m excited about that coming together as well as it did and I think that the experience that I had, having done it before, really helped. That’s just one example. I think, as you go through it, putting together camp, and minicamp and all that, I’ve done it before. I understand what it needs to look like. What makes sense. What works. The way we travel. Everything we do. Every facet of the organization, I’ve had experience in now, at a professional level, leading a team, the dos and don’ts. I think that’s invaluable. Referees, how we’re going to interact with them, the more I’ve been through that thing. That experience, it means a lot. And until you’re in this chair, you think you have an understanding what it’s going to be like as an assistant coach, but until you actually get the reins and you’re in that chair, you really don’t know.
Q: Roy Helu . . . .
Del Rio: Roy’s a good, solid backup running back. He played a third-down role in Washinigton for them and on special teams. WE see him coming in and competing in that role and if he creates a bigger role than that, good for him. But we know that we’re getting a young man that is capable of that. He did grow up in the area. He’s excited to be back in the area, he’s excited to have the silver and black on, and we’re excited to have him.
Q: What are Redskins getting with Terrance Knighton?
Del Rio: Terrance is a great young man. He can become a leader in their locker room. Big, strong, on his feet, able to move down the line. I think Terrance is a good football player.
Q: What did you take away from your time with John Fox?
Del Rio: Foxie? Foxie’s a really good people person. Being able to go back after nine years as a head coach then being able to spend three years with John, able to kind of rejuvenate, to get with a guy that’s been a winner in this league and understands some of the things he does and why they’re effective. It was a good experience for me. Obviously John and I have been friends for a long time, but it’s the professional part that I appreciate the most because of the environment he creates for his staff members, the environment he creates for the players every day. I think that’s important. I believe in that as well, to create a positive environment, so when your players come to work every day, they’re not dreading it. They don’t pull in the parking lot with a pit in their stomach, like `oh, I’ve got to go in today.’ They jump out of their car and they’re excited to get into the building. John seeks to create that type of environment and I do as well. I believe in that
Q: One takeaway from Fox . . .
Del Rio: One takeaway . . . that’s basically how i see it. A valuable time, and obviously stepping in for him as the interim head coach when he was having the procedure done and healing, and spend those four weeks back on the job, and the way I approached that was, `What would I want a guy doing this for me to be like?’ And I tried to be that guy. I actually called Bruce Arians and asked Bruce about it, `What did you do for Chuck?’ and how did that go. I wanted to apply myself in a manner that you’ve got a job to do but you want to be respectful of the guy, that’s his chair that you’re in. We did things accordingly. The same way, if anybody were to be filling in for me I would hope they would do it the same way.
Q: The time Fox was away, any sense for how that all impacted him?
Del Rio: Any time you have your ribs cracked and your chest split open and they’re working on your heart, that’s pretty significant. I was actually shocked at how quickly he fought his way back. It just shows how much he loves the game, wants to be around the game, wants to be part of the game. I was really shocked more by that. He came back after four and he was trying to make less than that, he was fighting the doctors on it. That’s kind of who he is.
Q: Did his perspective change at all?
Del Rio: I don’t think so. He was a little weaker, he’d lost some weight, but the way he described it, he had all new plumbing, the plumbing was better than ever, the circulation was improved and he felt better. In terms of the staff, we continued to do the things we were doing. It wasn’t a negative.
Q: Free agents talking about energy in the building, creating working environment, is that the first building block to a new culture . . .
Del Rio: Absolutely. Everything we do. I took time building a staff because I wanted guys that had positive energy, guys that are teachers, guys that believe they can bring out the best in players. We’ve assembled a group, of, our staff is built that way. We believe we can believe we can help guys play at a high level, maybe at a higher level than they ever have. We want to create that positive energy where we know we can, we’re all together, we’re on board, and we can make things happen. That’s been Day 1 and that starts with me, bringing that energy, and Kenny Norton, and Bill, all of us bringing that energy every day.
Q: How long in Denver did it take to get that itch to be head coach again?
Del Rio: It doesn’t take long. It didn’t take long. But I feel like the time was valuable for me to step back, take notes, and be a part of a real successful environment and re-enforce some of the things that I know, that I believe in. They are principles that will help you play at the highest level, and so it’s just kind of an affirmation of that.
Q: What do you like about Latavius Murray . . .
Del Rio: He’ll get an opportunity to compete for that. He’s got size and speed. He got a couple plays last year that were spectacular and would like to create ways to have more of them.
Q: characterize how important it is to have stability at quarterback . . .
Del Rio: I would say the importance of that position is I think one where if you don’t have a healthy respect for it, you’ll get one soon. You’ve got to have a trigger man. Having good production from that position is kind of like the engine, it makes it all go. And so my belief is, you have to be strong around him as well. You can’t ask the guy, you can’t put a great engine into a bad car, tires don’t work, no brakes, it all goes together. Part of what I look at when I look at Derek and our quarterback situation, we have a young, talented guy, that has a bright future. And the best way to help support that is not just to get a receiver, everyone is clamoring to get a receiver, it’s deeper than that. It’s have the line be solid, and we get a Hudson, I feel that really solidified us. It’s make sure the things that we’re doing on defense and special teams are playing complementary football. We’re getting him the ball in good field position to do things. It’s being able to run the ball so he doesn’t have to drop back and throw it and it’s on his shoulders the whole day. The design of what we’re doing and how we’re utilizing the things he’s good at, is all part of it. I think it all adds up. It’s a team game, we’re playing football, it just happens to be the most important position on the football team, and we’re fortunate that we have a good young player in that position. That was one of the things that was very attractive about me wanting to be in Oakland. Not only was it a place that I’m from and all those things, but a good, young quarterback to work with.
Q: Your interior defensive line with Ellis, Dan Williams . . . touigh run up the middle . ..
Del Rio: We’ll see, again, those kinds of things are being worked out. But there’s no reason they can’t be on the field at the same time.
Q: Encouraged having guys like that run stuffers . ..
Del Rio: Yeah, absolutely, you’ve got to have big, strong men. It starts in the trenches in this game. As much as we want to talk about the beauty of a ball being thrown and caught on the outside, you’ve got to be able to be strong in the trenches. That remains a central part of what we do in this league.
Q: Any relationship or encounters with Al Davis?
Del Rio: Nothing more than just respect paid to him at these owner’s meetings, I’d be able to say, `Hey, Mr. Davis, great to see you.’ He knew I was a longtime Raider fan and I would articulate that to him and pay my respects. Nothing more than that.
Q: As former player, longtime coach, how about the game in terms of safety, how it’s changed . . .
Del Rio: The game has changed in some respects and really stayed the same in many others. I think from a safety standpoint we’ve taken huge steps as a league to help take the head out of tackling, the targeting, making sure that we lower the strike zone. That we teach it, that we understand it. I think the players and the awareness they have is improved. I mean, look, I learned as a player to appreciate, we would basically go two and then one and then two in camp so we’d never go twice a day in double days in full pads. So that’s kind of become a norm now for the league. Denny Green brought that in in Minnesota when I was playing for him. I think he got it from Bill Walsh. Some of these principles, teams were doing. I think the idea was to arrive at the season as fresh as possible. Some of those things have been taking place. Certainly we’re at a point now where it’s less taxing on a player and his body to go through a season now than it was when we played years ago.
Q: Borland’s decision . . . is a certain amount of the dangers overstated ?
Del Rio: I don’t want to do anything to cause a situation to be inflamed or anything like that. I think you have to respect each person’s decision. It’s unfortunate. I had 11 great years as a player and I”ve been coaching for 19. Thirty years as being a part of this league has been a tremendous blessing in my life and for me and my family. I’m very appreciative of that time and I wouldn’t trade it. But if somebody else feels differently, good for them.
Q: Heard it said your principles is keeping it simple, playing fast, not overload guys with too much information, is that accurate, how would you describe your appraoch?
Del Rio: We want to know what we’re doing first. We don’t want the quarterback to ever be too comfortable, either. It’s always making sure that nobody can run the ball on you and the quarterback isn’t comfortable. You don’t allow plays to go over the top on you. Those are basic principles. I think if you’re going to play good defense, it always starts with tackling. If you can’t tackle, how do you stop anybody. You have to be able to leverage and tackle. It’s a mentality that you have to develop with your defense, everybody hunting the ball and leveraging the tackles. Those are things we’re going to do. In terms of structure, the number of blitzes or not blitzes, those types of things, I think that’s probably overdone. I think people want to focus there, where in reality if you’re shedding blocks, tackling and not letting the ball get over the top you it’s going to be hard for an offense to move the ball. At the end of the day, what are we after? If you want to be one of the teams that is at the top you’re going to know how to play fundamentally sound. When you play really good football teams, you’re not going to trick a lot of of ’em. You’re going to have to beat a block and make a tackle. We’re going to spend more time focusing on those simple things. I think maybe Kenny’s referring to that in terms of us focusing on the basics, on the simpler things of playing great defense, the understanding of what it looks like tackle, what it looks like to leverage, what it looks like to get off a block and those are things we’re going to spend a lot of time on.
Q: Curtis Lofton . . .
Del Rio: Having a chance to get a guy who’s played at a high level. He’s been an experienced middle linebacker, he’s played a large number of snaps in the league. So he brings some of that experience and playmaking ability, and a guy that can come in with that veteran presence and understand what we needed to get done.
Q: How much did you need that presence, an MLB who immediately becomes that leader . . .
Del Rio: We felt like it was an opportunity, there was a good match there. It was a nice opportunity for us to improve and I feel like we did.
Q: What do you like the most about this draft class?
Del Rio: What do I like most about it? I like that we get an opportunity to get some of these players and add them to our team. It’s deeper in some areas than others. Certainly it’s an opportunity this time of year to add some young players to your roster. When you go through free agency like we do you’re able to fill some definite holes and go for need right there. Then when you get in the draft you’d like to get value. You’d like to get some of the better players that are coming out of the draft.
Q: Starting to determine what position you’ll go with?
Del Rio: We’re getting to the point where we’ll come together and start poring through all the information, sharing that information and going through it. We’re not there yet.
Q: What will it take for Derek to take the next step at QB?
Del Rio: A lot of things. Obviously, I think it’s not just about him, it’s about what we do around him. We’ve got to be able to run the ball. Got to be able to play great defense. I think when we’re doing that, we’re putting less on him, and I think that’s a good things. In terms of what he can do himself, he’s a young player, he’s got a lot of growth ahead of him. Him and Khalil Mack, two examples of guys coming off their rookie campaign, great start to their careers. They have a long road ahead of them. A lot of work to do. A lot of improvement should be expected and we’re going to expect a lot out of them I think for both those guys, hey, great start to your career, really happy that you had that start. Now let’s look at how much we have to do. There’s a boatload of work to do, let’s get started at that. Let’s not spend too much time patting ourselves on the back for having a great start to our career. Let’s continue to be great teammates and work hard every day and grow.
Q: First couple of months on the job . . .
Del Rio: It’s been good. Lot of good things going on. Basically we’re two months into the job and in those two months we’ve been able to accomplish quite a bit and looking forward to getting back when we’re done with these meetings and continuing.
Q: Doesn’t look like you have a lot of bodies at D-end, although Mack can play down there, needs to add numbers . . .
Del Rio: I don’t see that, I don’t know what your depth chart looks like. I’ve got one that looks OK. But we’re going to strengthen it there. We’re going to add some players there at defensive end and wide receiver spots, two spots we know we’re going to need to address in the draft.
Q: Quarterback position . . .
Del Rio: I think that position, it’s up to the individual. There’s so much that goes into it. It’s such an important position. The quarterback and the head coach are the two guys that answer to the media and they’re the two guys who answer to a won-loss record. Not everybody can handle that platform. I think it’s important that the guy you have in that position can, and I think that’s something obviously I think we’re all looking for.
Q: TEams moving up Mariotta?
Del Rio: We’ll be prepared for different scenarios that may unfold. At this point right now we’re sitting at the four spot. We’ve got to make sure we understand how we like them. Whether it would be moving up or down from there we would talk about that as we prepare for the draft. It’s a little early for that.
Q: How do you weigh taking one prospect at four as opposed to getting more if you trade back?
Del Rio: It just depends on who we end up taking at four. If we take Jonathan Ogden and he plays for the next 12 years at a Hall of Fame level, then you’re pretty happy you stayed at four. If you moved down and were able to get four Jonathan Ogdens it would be a rarity but maybe it happens. It just depends on how it ends up playing out. There’s certainly an opportunity for each team to kind of measure up how they see the draft, what makes sense to them and whether or not there’s a trade partner that makes sense for both teams. That’s part of the process that we’ll begin to go through as we begin looking at scenarios and how we value the board, whether we would be willing to go up, whether we’d be willing to go back, or whether we’ll just stay and take the best player because we’re locked in on a guy. All those things are kind of looked at and talked about.
Q: Calls on that . . .
Del Rio: No, it’s really very early in the process right now . . .
Q: Draft one Jack Del Rio or four Reggie Mckenzies . ..
Del Rio: Gotta go with me.