Good morning everyone. Looking forward to another combine, a chance to take a look at some good football players and just find out who some of those players are and also find out whether they can fit what we’re trying to get done in Minnesota. So we’re very excited about being at this year’s combine and always look forward to coming back to Indianapolis as well.
How important is Percy to the O?
He’s extremely important, as evidenced by the type of season he was having prior to his injury. He’s a focal point of our offense, did a great job for us.
When you spoke to him a few weeks back, what did he convey?
He expressed to me that he was healthy, which is something we wanted to make sure of when he came back for his exit physical. And that he was doing well. He was going to go home and spend some time with his family and that he was doing fine. So that was encouraging.
Sense of whether he’ll commit to the team and be a part of what you’re building?
Well, the fact that he’s under contract, he’s a part of our team. And he’s excited about being a part of our team from my conversations with him. And that’s where things are.
What you’re looking for in WRs in this draft?
You’re always looking for speed at the receiver position. So that’s a criteria. Along with the fact that eh has great hands. That’s another part of it. So being able to get a little yardage after catch, that’s a part of it as well. So there are a lot of things that go into it, more than even what I’m saying. But we have a number of positions that we’re going to try to get addressed and that’s one of them. But we need an all-encompassing guy, a guy who can run by some people, who can make the hard catch for us if he’s in a contested situation but hopefully also can get us some yards after catch. And he’s a guy who has the smarts to be able to understand game plans from week to week.
Upgrading speed on perimeter, how does that help QB development?
You would think that would be a plus for us. When you run the ball as well as we do, if we can get that home run guy outside, we think we’ll just improve our entire offense and our team as well.
Is Jarius a home run guy?
He does. Jarius did a great job for us late in the season, made some big plays for us. So we’re excited about his development and watching him progress. But he has that potential to be that type of player.
Has safety become a tougher position to judge?
I think it has become a little bit tougher to judge. And part of it is because of the way the game has evolved. There was a time when you could draft a safety and say OK, we need a guy who can play close to the line of scrimmage and really be almost another LB. And another guy who can maybe play deep in the defense. Well, in today’s NFL, the way offenses spread you out, if you just have a guy who’s one-dimensional, you can get exposed if he’s a guy who can only help you in the run game but can’t match up sometimes on RBs or TEs. That can be problematic for your defense. So people are going, it seems to more of the hybrid type safeties, to guys who have some cover skills and have some ability to play the football in deep defense but maybe not as aggressive in the run game. So it’s changed. So when you’re looking at safeties in the college draft, you’re trying to find more cover ability guys than you are the guys who are the hard hitters.
Is Tavon Austin Percy Harvin 2.0?
Oh, I wouldn’t want to really compare anybody to Percy that’s playing college football. Percy Harvin is a very, very good football player. Excellent football player. Pro Bowl caliber guy. So I wouldn’t want to compare him to any guy who’s in college right now, coming out of college.
When WRs get on the field here Sunday, what catches your eye?
Part of the evaluation for us will not only be what they do on the field. But also when we get a chance to interview them in these meetings in the evening, along with when we bring them to Winter Park. So we’ll have a chance to talk to them there as well. So it’ll be a combination of what they do in these workouts, what we’re going to find out when we go to their college campuses and work them out as well and what we get done in these interviews. So it won’t be just what I see in the workout here but a combination of a lot of things between now and the draft that will determine if they’re going to be a fit for what we’re trying to get done.
What’s the advantage of the Senior Bowl?
That’s a good question because that time at the Senior Bowl was big for our staff. We got a chance to get to know those players on an intimate basis because we were working with them every day. So when we got to this point in the process, our familiarity with them was so much better than it had been in years past. So it was big for us when it came to targeting the right guys for the draft. A good example of that is Harrison Smith. He’s a guy we spent a lot of time with at the Senior Bowl. And if we had not spent that kind of time with him and gotten to know him as well as we did, who knows if we would have moved up the way we did and been aggressive as we were in picking him.
What you look for in interviews with players?
Just try to find out what his comfort level is in conversating and how he’s going to be able to respond when we talk to him about our offense or our defense. When we give him some information, can he disseminate that back to us? We want to see if he can handle information and be able to process it. And also, some of the personal questions, how he’s going to handle those. Is he a guy that has the character you’re looking for when you ask him some of those tough questions. So that’s a part of it as well.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned in player evals?
I’ve learned from coming to Indianapolis for the combine and not getting too caught up in numbers. When you’re looking at 40 times, you’re looking at vertical jumps, you’re looking at the broad jump. Don’t forget about watching that tape and trying to determine whether or not this guy’s actually a good football player with pads on and not just with shorts on. So that’s a part of it. But there are so many things you do that you have to learn from year to year, season to season, game to game, week to week. I mean it’s an ongoing process of learning for me personally. But specifically about the combine, just making sure that this is just one part of the evaluation process and not the whole deal.
40-yard dash mean anything anymore?
At certain positions, it’s vitally important. But you hope you don’t put so much stock in it that it detracts away from what a guy has done on tape. What he’s done on tape should be the overriding factor. But the 40 time at certain positions, it’s a big deal.
You weren’t a burner …
No, I was not a burner coming out. Thank you for reminding me of that. But you have to be careful about getting too caught up in numbers. That tape tells you a lot. You usually can tell if a guy can play or can’t play.
What was your 40 time? 4.6?
Probably my best time, about 4.5. It’s not relevant for what I do today. Who cares about my 40 time?
Take next step and win in playoffs?
For us, it’ll be determined by what happens this offseason. If we can address the needs that we have and we can put in place a good offseason program to help our players to come to training camp and enter the season where we need them to be. So, the next step for us is how we approach this offseason and what we’re able to acquire in this draft or in NFL free agency. That’ll determine whether or not we’re going to be able to take that next step and win a game when you get to the playoffs.
Feel intensity go up in playoffs when playing team several times?
To a degree. I don’t know if it really would’ve made a difference if that were a different team that we were playing, rather than Green Bay and the fact that the familiarity was so great. We played them so many times in a short period of time that it had significance because it was a playoff game, but also the week before that, the fact that we were playing for a playoff spot. I don’t know how much that’ll help us a season from now, that we played Green Bay versus some other team.
What do you need to get done in this offseason to take a step towards being a top run defense again?
There’s some things that we have to address personnel-wise that I think will help our run defense improve along with we can do some things schematically that might help us as well. We’ll look at those things this offseason and make the adjustments we have to make to be a top-tier run defense.
Enough young players to fill holes if not active in FA?
We do have a number of young players that helped us a season ago. Our coaches did a terrific job in helping develop those guys. We had contributions from just about every draft pick that we had, with the exception of Greg Childs, who was injured. But we’re not where we need to be by any means. I don’t think we can go back in this 2013 season with that roster and say we’re going to be a playoff team. We’ve got to make some improvements along our roster, and that’s going to be one of our goals this offseason.
When you see Kaepernick and Wilson come out of nowhere, does that make you have to be more open-minded about QB position?
Well, you’re always looking to improve your team and for us, that improvement at the quarterback position we’re hoping will come through this offseason. We really like the progress that Christian has made for us, Christian Ponder, and we expect in his third season he’s going to take another jump and part of that will be what happens this offseason. So, we’re not at a point where we’re looking for a quarterback to come in and move Christian at all. We expect him just to keep getting better. So, it’s a little bit different for us at the quarterback position than maybe some of those teams you mentioned. We feel like we have our guy in place. We just want to see him keep improving.
Well, I’m sure the 49ers felt they had their guy in place, too.
That’s what I’m saying -- don’t you have to transition to hey, maybe Plan B is better? I think it probably depends on how that guy you deemed is your guy is doing. If he’s not living up to what your expectations are, then I don’t think it’s very hard to make that switch. But if you’re getting the production you expected and what you’re looking for and it helps you to win, maybe you stick with what you’ve got. Every situation’s different.
How important is it organizationally to make clear your direction at that position?
Not only organizationally, but for our team. Our guys need to know who’s the starting quarterback and how confident myself and the rest of the coaches are and kind of create some clarity for our football team as we are giving them direction about where we want to go and what we want to achieve. So, it’s important to have that position solidified more so than any position as you are setting your goals for that next season. I think we’re solid at the starting quarterback position and maybe do some things to make sure we’re solid at the backup position. But as long as Christian keeps improving, we feel like we’ve got what we need to bring a quarterback to Minnesota.
How much weight on Joe Webb’s performance in playoff game?
He was in a tough spot in that playoff game, not taking any snaps and not knowing for sure that he was going to end up being the starter. So, it was a tough, tough deal for him. But that position like a lot of our positions, the backup quarterback position is one we’re going to create competition and try to make sure that we have the right guy in place backing up Christian if for whatever reason something happens injury-wise. But Joe understands that. He’ll come back. He’ll compete. He’ll work as hard as he can. So will Bethel-Thompson, and if we decide to do anything else, those guys will compete for that second position.
Bring in somebody else?
Find backup QB in FA?
We’re going to take a look at a bunch of different avenues and just see what’s the best direction to go in and we’ll continue to talk about it over the next few weeks.