“It’s good to be back here. Time flies. This time last year, it certainly was a whirlwind. It certainly is better to be here now with circumstances being what they are and excited about continuing to improve our football team and keep marching onto a championship.
How important is the combine?
“I think it’s critical. It’s all about gathering information. Gathering information on the prospects, they’re really a talented group here. We’ve done a lot of research on them already, our scouting department, our coaches and now a chance to see them do some things live. Maybe as important as anything, a chance to visit with them live in the interviews. We take it real seriously, I think it’s a critical part of our evaluation and we’re going to take advantage of the time we have.
Jump to the pros from college, advice for Chip Kelly.
“Well, first my biggest advice would be to say, “Thank you Chip.’ Because had Chip not decided what he did last year, I wouldn’t be standing here so that’s first and foremost. I’m happy for Chip. He’s going to do a great job. I know it’s something he’s excited about doing. We had a chance to visit a bit at the Senior Bowl and he’s going to do great, he doesn’t need any advice from me. He’s going to do an excellent job.’’
How much did his experience with the Bears help with the transition?
“I think it was huge. I had three years with the Chicago Bears in the late 90’s. Just to come into this league with a frame of reference so not everything was brand new. Now certainly, when you become a head coach, it’s a totally different set of responsibilities. That part was a learning curve. But just having had the experience of working with NFL players. Even though schedules and things change, it’s still a pro schedule as opposed to a college schedule.
How far are you along in the process of the draft versus last year?
“Our personnel group, headed by Mark Dominik, they do an awesome job. They were at the same spot – maybe Mark wasn’t because he was hiring a head coach – but everybody else was. But now, for Mark and myself, to be able to sit in the draft meetings, our pre-draft meetings in January and really read on kids and hear about kids we’re going to be watching, that’s huge for me. Now to be looking out there and know a lot of these guys and to have watched film on them, not doing it after the fact, it makes it more enlightening for me when I get to visit with them and all of those things.
On Tailb deal?
“I think anytime in the draft, if you have picks, you have some ammunition to do things, whether you pick at that spot or you move around with those picks. That was something that was very helpful to us last year, being able to move up and get Doug Martin. So to have some ammunition I think is critical.
Again on Talib
“I can’t comment from the Patriots perspective and I really can’t comment because Talib’s under contract with another club, but when Talib was with the Bucs, I enjoyed coaching him, he did the things we asked. I’m not naïve there were some things in his past but there was nothing more than what I said at the time.
Benefit from having recruited prospects?
“It may have, and maybe not so much the player we did select, although we did select two West Virginia players we played against. But more importantly, knowing information, knowing backgrounds, so you kind of cut to the chase on things. The other thing is the relationships I had with college head coaches, I think that’s critical, whether you went through league meetings with them or you went through national meetings with them, but you built a relationship through time to be able to talk to those guys and gain insight into the player that you maybe couldn’t have otherwise. That’s helpful.
“You know I think it goes both ways. I think the further I get away from being the head coach there and the more I’m in the position I’m in, I think that’s where it becomes a lot more easy not to be emotionally tied in any way. But I made sure last year that there’s one thing we focus on, that’s winning a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. And everything is focused on that. So every step we take has got to get us closer to that. So whether it’s Rutgers or Michigan, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s the right kind of people for the Buccaneers.
Evaluation of Nassib and other Big East QBs
They’re all good players. I’m glad we didn’t have to coach against them this year.
On additions to his coaching staff
You mentioned Dave Wannstedt. I thought that was a great addition that we were able to do. Dave’s our special teams coordinator and he’s done that. People ask, have you ever been a special teams coordinator. As a head coach you really have to do everything and you’re involved in everything and Dave has done that where he has been the whole show and other times he assisted. So I’m very very comfortable with him. And as importantly, he’s a got with a lot of great experience and a guy that I trust. So to have all that and have him in our building is just too good to pass up.
On having a big staff of assistants
You know what, there are benefits to both and I think it’s always a fluid situation. Do you always need to have a staff as large as we do. Maybe not down the road. But the people we have in place right now are all people that I trust and believe in and they all have a function or a role and as those roles change then our staff will change but right now I feel very good about our staff.
Why add Bob Fraser as an assistant DC?
It was twofold. No. 1 he’ll be able to assist Bill Sheridan, which all assistant coaches do for the coordinator anyway. But he’ll be able to do specific things that will free Bill up to do other things. The other part was to bring Robb Smith in to coach our linebackers. Robb worked with me at Rutgers for several years and then he began being a defensive coordinator last year for Rutgers and did an incredible job, which I knew he would. And I just felt like now, he has a desire and I still have a desire because I would have liked for him to have come last year but he had a chance to be a defensive coordinator and call the shots and it worked out great because we’ve all worked together and understand each other and so I’m excited about having Rob on staff as well.
On John McNulty
Again, John is a guy that I worked with very closely in the past and I actually coached John at Penn State when he was a senior, a red shirt senior, at Penn state, so we go back a long way. He’s a great football coach, a really solid guy. And I thijn he’ll be excellent. The thing I really like is that Mike Sullivan is still there and so there’s that consistency there for our quarterback and we have a guy in there that I think will do a great job and I think it’s going to be a great combination. And Sully and John have some common background as well in the systems they’ve worked in as well so I think it’s really good for us as a staff.
On Freeman and your evaluation of him
I think that’s good. I’m glad you brought that up, because at the end of the season, the day after the final game, I probably said something that probably got a lot more attention than I meant for it to, and really it was about, at that point, every year that I’ve been a head coach, I step back and evaluate every phase of our program and that starts with me and so that takes a while. And I even said I don’t know if I’m the right guy, so let me figure that out first and we went through every coach and then as a staff we went through every single player and a series of evaluations. But the one thin I believe in is that competition is healthy. So I made the statement that I want competition at every position, and it’s my fault, but it kind of stood out at the quarterback position more than any other. And Josh Freeman is our quarterback and I believe that with Josh Freeman, we’ll be able to accomplish our goals. That’s my belief and our organization’s belief. And we’ve been so busy working that I haven’t had a chance to clean that up and I’m glad I had an opportunity to today.
More on Freeman
He had a very productive season as far as when you look at his stat line. The most important thing is, taking care of the football and playing winning football, Buccaneer football. Those are the things we talk about all the time. There are way too many specifics that go into that. But I think you kind of get the picture.
What specifically does Freeman need to work on to take next step?
Just as we do with every guy on our team, we have a specific plan to help them get better. And we visited with all our players before they left at the end of the season and there are certain things that we thought would be good for Josh to do in this down time. And that’s one of things, people say what’s the biggest difference, well one of the big differences between college football and the NFL is, you don’t get to see the players that much. They left after the last game and now we’re in February and other than a few guys that pop through the building, you don’t see them. But before he left, we talked about things and I think he will continue to continue to make improvement in going through the installation of the offense, a better understanding and do all that we can to develop all the players on our roster as well as go out and pursue players I free agency and the draft and so we’re going to surround Josh with better player and he’s going to get better as our whole team is and as I said, I believe he’s going to lead us to where we want to go.