Different this time around - It's a little bit different, you could say that. The focus is still the same, just to improve every day. It's a little bit different landscape, that's for certain, but it's still the same mindset, just trying to get better and stay within the vision of winning Super Bowls.
More comfortable now than last year - You know, it's funny now after a year's past now everyone tells me how miserable I was up here. The words 'fidgety' and 'uncomfortable' and 'sweatin' bullets' someone just said before. Those things are all true. But it's definitely easier for me to be up here and just have to talk about football and not have to be too guarded because last year I had that was going on that I couldn't stand up here and talk freely about. That's just the plain truth. This year it's a little bit better, but I'm sure you guys will hit me with something.
Where are you with re-signing your own FAs - I won't put any names, but we have reached out to guys on our team we'd like to re-sign. I sat down with players that I wanted to explain situations to them. I try to put as many cards on the table as I can, to be as up front as I can so everyone kind of gets a glimpse of what direction we're headed. You like to at least let them know what you're thinking to a point because you want them to be able to wrap their head around their career because there's unease on their end, too.
Yes, we've reached out and we're still going through the process. That's why we're here. There's college and pro players that we're delving into daily on iPads now. Technology is unbelievable. You can watch tape on the street corner now. That whole thing has changed. It makes the whole process a lot more expedient than in the past.
(inaudible) - There's no doubt Chuck being ill galvanized our team. It really brought us together, maybe sooner - no one really knows - maybe sooner than it would have had he not (gotten sick). I just know this. We looked at the same type of guys this year that we looked for last year. Guys that played snap-to-whistle. Guys that buy into the philosophy, Chuck's philosophy. And that's play hard, be in your book, do the right thing, all those types of things that make you great, that's what we're going to continue to do.
I feel like we stayed to the plan when Chuck got sick. Bruce stuck to the plan and I feel like that's why we were successful. I feel like we've laid a really, really solid foundation as possible because of what Chuck implemented from Day 1 and that was carried forward the whole season when he wasn't here. I think we're in a good place in terms of our culture and our philosophy going into next season.
A ton of cap space as compared to last year - Excellent. It's black and white. Last year I was in a completely different situation. It's nice to be able to go shopping a little bit. It's nice to be able to know that if there is someone I'm really pining for, I've at least got a crack at him. Last year, too, in a way was still fun for me as my scout (roots) to go out there and dig and find guys that other people may have overlooked. Maybe they didn't have to dig as hard because they had the money to go get the guys that were right there for the taking. That will serve us all well.
My department did such a great job throughout the year and in the draft, even in free agency last year when you didn't have that much money. The guys we got all contributed and bought in and were guys that helped bridge the gap between players . . . a veteran that had been here a while that brought some draft picks up in terms of maturity and show them how to be a pro.
It's a good spot to be in, but again, still be vigilant with how we do things.
How to turn a team around - I think everyone has a different mindset. Everyone wants to win. Everyone has their own formula. There's certain things I brought from my end that if you were doing a quote-unquote rebuild, retool, re-load whatever the word you want to use, if you want to sustain success, you can't start with guys that are on the wrong side of 30. That's just the truth. You have to have some youth with some vets splashed in. That was just my approach. But also I couldn't keep (some vets) last season even if I wanted to. I think it's a mixed bag.
It's what you have when you come in. Some rosters are very old and guys are expensive and it becomes purely a cash issue. But sometimes you might have some young guys and you get there and they were drafted the year before, well, they're really not that good in my opinion. They might not fit the scheme you're bringing. That's a whole another can of worms, too, the scheme.
It was a monumental thing in our eyes going from the far end of the spectrum 4-3 in terms of personnel to 3-4, where your 3-technique is supposed to be a 325-pound (elite player). There's not too many of those guys walking around.
Areas of concern -- Right now we're still looking. This week's huge. We had draft meetings a couple of weeks and getting our board set, so that gave me a better picture because I didn't get to look at 350 guys like I did last year before I came in. I don't have that catalog or reference point. I'm grinding in that respect. I told Jim Irsay this yesterday. The picture is a little murky, but every day it gets a little bit clearer with more information. The more film I get, the more passionate pleas I get from my scouts about players - watch this guy, watch that guy.
A lot of times I follow this path of passion. We're sitting in meetings and you're in the doldrums for an hour and everyone is just waiting for the next coffee break. It's like somebody all of a sudden perks up. The whole room perks up when a name gets brought up. I make a note of that. I actually had one of our interns make a list - it's called 'buzz' guys - when we're in the room. You go through 10 guys and no one says a word, then all of a sudden everybody is ready to have a real strong opinion of someone. I follow that.
If someone moves the needle in terms of talent or first impression, I think that goes a long way. It goes a long way with me anyway.
Building for now or the future - You have to be pliable in your mindset. Obviously Andrew is a heckuva quarterback. He still is developing. But he's darned good. You temper that with 'Well are you really in a four-year rebuild?' Your mindset changes once you see players actually prove themselves on the field. It's a constant process, an evaluation of everything, everyone on the field, coaches, staff, everything. But I think this year set the bar high like everyone said. But I don't feel like we had - Chuck or myself or our players - that the mindset to where it's going to spook us or scare us by any means.
One thing our team proved this year is we're up for a challenge. That's kind of our mindset and just kind of our personality. That's what I love about our team and our coaching staff. It's always up for a challenge.
Who would you be more comfortable playing as a rookie, an O-linemen or a DB - I would have to say a DB. A first-year offensive lineman, there's a lot more bullets flying in that vicinity where he's working that involves thinking and involves experience. That's why a lot of times they call those rookie tackles they go through a baptism of fire. They don't say that because it's an easy process. A lot of times that ends of working in their favor when they're thrown out there like that.
A lot of times corners that play on an island, they're relying on technique and pure athletic ability and God-given ability. A lot of times on the offensive line, their first year they're going to see exotic blitzes that they could even dream of. They're going to see pass rushers and body types they never knew existed even in some of the bigger conferences.
Pep Hamilton/wildcat/read-option - I'm extremely excited to have Pep and the fact we were able to acquire him. He has that 'it' factor. His familiarity with Andrew is obviously a bonus. That can only help. In terms of different types of looks and kind of how the game is evolving at the quarterbck position, doing different types of things, we'll obviously be smart about what we do with Andrew Luck.
Does it feel like Chuck Pagano is back to normal - Well, his hair's almost all the way back and he's never lost his sense of humor. His color's back. He looks great. I feel like months ago the old Chuck was back. Now he's getting back in the weight room, working out, things like that. I feel like he's back. Chuck's back. If we didn't have some rules set in place with Jim Irsay and I didn't have to be his watch dog, he might have been in his hospital bed on wheels in the office watching tape and be at practice. That's just how he is. It's his passion.
Is Freeney's replacement on the roster -- It's going to be like any position. I'm going to create competition. Chuck's going to create the best competition. We have some young guys coming up through the ranks that we feel has promise. Some of them aren't battle-tested. Some of them haven't even been in our scheme, but we feel have some traits to eventually be that guy. With free agency and the draft, we're still going to be looking real hard.
Like last year, sitting at 24 we feel there's going to be a really good player there. Like last year, we want that 'blue player' at 24. We don't want to just settle for a need guy. Jim Irsay has unbelievable patience with this process. He knows he can't get everything in one year even though I'd like to.
Herd mentality among scouts - If you point 20 scouts out in the stands, I'm confident they'd all say 'I'm so anti-herd mentality.' That's the easy way to go. If you just agree with everyone, then you have shelter. If you stand outside the pack and you beat the drum for something that's not popular, then you stand alone. But it shows you have courage. It also shows you believe in that player and that opinion you formulated by hard work. That's something I told our staff when I opened our draft meetings. This is your venue to state your opinion. You were away from your families. You were on the road. You were guzzling coffee and staying in bad hotel rooms and those types of things. Now talk about your guy. You put in all the work, so you should have a strong opinion. I feel like if you go with the flow, you're just going to be an also-ran.
Decision on Freeney and Austin Collie - That was a process as well. We had a lot of discussions about it. We just felt like our vision moving forward that they weren't part of it at this point. It was just time. We felt good about our position groups. We felt good about this draft. I feel good about free agency. It just came down to what was best for the organization, what we felt was even best for the player. That was just my opinion and the people involved. I felt it was best for both, I really did.
Maybe draft 2 DTs - You never say never. Defensive linemen are a hot commodity. That's why they make big dollars and that's why they go so high in the draft. That's why they go so high in the first round. I'm never going to say never.
Players drop in the draft because of combine; where does combine rank in the evaluation process - I personally like when that happens. I've learned lessons from starting at the bottom. A scout at the very lowest level, the entry level. I've just watched draft boards get way out of whack. I've cataloged that and made mental notes of that. Anquan Boldin fell down draft boards because of the (40) times speed. But at the beginning of the process he was way up there. You've got to make note of that. You also have to temper that with you don't want to take a guy too early because you love him when the market is bearing he should be taken later.
It's still a risk because if you try to trade back, it only takes one other team thinking like you are. That's why a guy like T.Y. Hilton. If you want a guy, you've got to go get him.
Big spending in free agency - We're not going to do anything fiscally unresponsible because I don't want to end up being in cap straits. That can really hamstring you. We'll be smart how we approach it. We're going to build this thing smart. We're going to build this thing the right way. If it means we're going to have a mixture of vets in free agency that costs more than we expected but then we really bring in guys, draft picks, that those vets can foster their growth because maybe they're more on the developmental side, we'll figure all of that out.
What would make combine better - Put 'em in pads. That's the only thing. The great thing about this is it's one more reference point. A great cover corner, for instance, a great athletic with great speed on film. Well if he runs 4.35, you say 'OK, he's that guy.' But the play speed and actual game playing is so huge. A lot of times you can go out and watch a player in drills, a corner for instance, move. I've got burned on that myself. You go out and see a guy that's 6-1, 200 pounds that's a low-rated guy and he doesn't look good on tape at all. You go out to practice and he moves unbelievably. His movement skills are off the charts and you get bamboozled into thinking that he's a player. Well, there's something to be said for how you process information as a football player. That's why I like taken guys that are productive in the actual environment, that's football, that's combat, a physical competitive situation.
Size up the draft -- I feel like the corners, defensive line, offensive line, and that's real good to see those positions because sometimes those are your bell-cow positions, positions that can get you over the hump.
Tom Telesco GM at San Diego - Tom has that no-stone-unturned mindset. We both have different styles, but Tom never stops working. That's what the Chargers are going to appreciate. If I asked Tom if this guy could play or not, an hour later I was getting a text from him or he was knocking on my door, giving me a thumb's-up or a thumb's-down. Tom is a bright, bright, bright guy with a great work ethic. He obviously has the resume all the years working for the Colts, being on the road.
Bruce Arians - I can't say enough good things about Bruce. We had a great relationship. We were in a complete whirlwind (in 2012), but yet we were in a vacuum. Just a tight, tight knit group. Still had lot of fun together. His strengths are his directness, yet he could still do it in a way that's not demeaning. He could still get a chuckle out of someone, but at the same time they knew 'I'd better get this cleaned up or things aren't going to be good for me around here.' He's an effective play caller. The thing I love about Bruce is he goes for the throat. He was a big part of us winning this year. He took chances, but it wasn't like he didn't have a reference point for what he was doing. He took calculated risks.
Injured D-linemen - (Josh) Chapman hopefully he's going to be rarin' to go this year. We played it safe with him (in 2012). I have big plans for him. (ready for OTAs) I sure hope so. Drake (Nevis) should be fine. Just got his cast off. McKinney is still rehabbing; hopefully have him for training camp. (Fili) Moala is doing great. He's a UFA we hope to get back in the fold. He's coming off an ACL, a serious injury. But he works his tail off. We feel good about him. It's just going to take time to come back from this injury.
With Luck, are you committed to keep his supporting cast strong - The last guy in the last seat in the stadium can see that 12's pretty good. You want to take care of him, set the table for him, make sure that he's comfortable. But you also want to have the best team year-in, year-out possible. You want to have balance.
Last year if there had been more defensive players in the draft that I wanted or Chuck wanted, we would have went and got them. A couple of times a guy maybe was taken right (ahead of us). That's just how the draft is. But at that time, every position was a need. We just want to get the best player. It's a little more streamlined this year, but the philosophy will still be the same.
Character issues - We don't want to downgrade somebody because they have an issue. We grade what we see on the film, and then we address those issues at a later date.
Vick Ballard be the feature guy - Vick did a heckuva job this year. When I think of Vick Ballard I think of him flying through the air at Tennessee. Maybe one of the most competitive plays I've ever seen. And that was a rookie that did that. We all feel very comfortable with Vick Ballard. Donald (Brown) was dinged up this year, but he had moments and flashes of greatness. Delone (Carter) runs really, really hard. He runs angry. Delone was banged up and dinged up this year. We'd love to see all three of those guys healthy in camp and stay healthy. Like to see what emerges. But Vick obviously proved himself this year.
(inaudible) - Defense is a little different than offense. Certain positions are unique. There's only so many 3-technique body types. There's only so many 5-technique body types out there. We're still evolving from the 4-3 to the 3-4. We have some really good players that don't exactly fit that scheme, but we found niches for them. Our coaches have been flexible enough to be able to create spots for them. I still think we'll hold fast to 'best player' because at 24 you don't ever want to reach. Who'd ever thought the guys would be there at the top of 2 or the type of 3 for that matter? We never dreamed that some of those guys would still be available at the top of two. I think that will be the same case this year at 24.
TY Hilton - TY came on like gangbusters. He was hurt through OTAs. TY plays very fast. Most productive receiver this receiver among rookies. Showed up as a returner as well. He showed he could be a big-play guy. But that all comes back to how he's wired, the type of guy he is. In OTAs, he was hurt all OTAs. But constantly he was in Charlie Williams, our receivers coach, ear. You saw it every day. He genuinely was trying to take mental reps. Some guys do it for a couple of days, then they fade and get in the doldrums of being hurt. TY was so on point about taking the reps in his head that he was ready when he had his chance despite all that time being out.
I still feel there's a big arrow up on him. I told him he needs to get in the weight room in the offseason because he's a peanut. He is. He's relied on his God-given abilities. That's no fault of his. It's what has worked for him. First time he touched the ball at Florida International he took it to the house. I just feel he understands that to be great in this league, you have to be a pro every day and do the little things. That means putting 5-to-10 pounds of muscle on to sustain the hits you take in this league. That's only going to elongate his career.