Every week Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis gives us unique insight into the team with his press conferences. This week we’re adding in the press conference from Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton, too, into our analysis.
With two different press conferences, we have taken two different approaches. Dalton gives us a unique player’s perspective, so we have tried to interpret what he was thinking, and what he would have preferred to say, if he had the liberty to deviate from the scripted type of responses. With Lewis, who gives us a higher level state of the team, as it were, we have provided commentary on what he said and what the bigger implications are.
Interview question: You and A.J. (Green) have a great rapport, and so do Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. What goes into the chemistry of those QB/WR relationships?
Dalton’s comments: First off, Ben and I both have really talented receivers. I've been with A.J. my whole career, he's been with Antonio for seven years now, I think.
What Dalton probably meant to say: You remember all of those quarterbacks drafted in 2011 with me? You know what the biggest difference between guys like Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and me is? I had A.J. Green.
Interview question: You and A.J. have had a lot of fourth-quarter success, particularly on the road. Is there something where you just feel like you have to get it to him? What happens in crunch time that allows you two to have that success?
Dalton’s comments: That's the point of the game where you have to be at your best. If you're wanting to win the game, you've got to get your guys the ball...We've been able to get our best guy on the offense the ball.
What Dalton probably meant to say: It’s like that insurance commercial. I throw the ball to A.J. Green - it’s what I do. If somebody else makes a completion in the fourth quarter, well, let’s just say that my throw was off target. But as long as it’s an offensive player, I’m ok with that, more or less.
Interview question: The first regular-season game of the year always has a lot of adjustments and coaching on the fly, and this year you did it with new people in key positions on offense, including a new play caller in Ken Zampese. It seemed like it went smoothly and you guys were still able to make quick adjustments, didn’t you?
Dalton’s comments: ...we were able to adjust to things...That's what you have to do...It's not always going to happen exactly how you think it's going to...we did a good job of that on Sunday.
What Dalton probably meant to say: You may know that I’m a Christian, so I’m used to making adjustments on Sunday. Growing up I can’t remember the countless times we’d get to our church service ready to put in our sixty minutes before racing home for the NFL games, only to find out that pastor was planning a two hour sermon. So you have to adjust. Fake a trip to the bathroom and then sneak out to the car. Feign a sudden coughing spell, and excuse yourself as you slide out to the parking lot. Wake up your napping baby to get them to cry so you have a reason to step out for a minute, only to never return. That last one is our favorite now that we are parents, but our son is outgrowing that tactic.
Interview question: What did you learn about Brandon LaFell on Sunday?
Dalton’s comments: He came to play...He's a true pro...He knows what's going on.
What Dalton probably meant to say: If you recall, we said the same thing about another wide receiver named Brandon (Tate), when we released him. So am I giving you a little inside information, or just joshing with you?
Interview question: Why is this team good on the road?
Dalton’s comments: I think that extra focus. You're going, and all you're thinking about is the game.
What Dalton probably meant to say: Why do you think most employers don’t let their employees “work from home”? Why do they make players head out for training camp and spring training? Too many distractions at home – wife, kids, dogs, television, dishes, laundry, dead bodies to hide, etcetera, etcetera. Well, ok, maybe the last one is only in the Aaron Hernandez home.
[In Dalton’s career, the Bengals have had as many or more wins on the road as they have had at home in five of his six seasons. Ignoring the 2013 season, the Bengals have a BETTER overall winning percentage in Dalton’s career away from Paul Brown Stadium (0.667) than they do at home (0.654).]
Interview question: You had a slow start at the Jets. Does your mentality help you get through something like that?
Dalton’s comments: You're getting some looks that you're not expecting to see and you move on past that. You talk about what they're doing and how you're going to attack it the next time. So I think it's just making good adjustments and guys realizing what we have to do to attack them.
What Dalton probably meant to say: We had eight months to prepare for the Jets’ game. Instead, we spent that time mourning Harambe and watching the Olympics. So once the game started, we quickly crammed and came up with a game plan – it worked. We’ve spent this week speculating whether Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s, so we’ll just wing it again in Pittsburgh.
Interview question: With all of the new pieces on offense, was it a big deal to play that well in opener?
Dalton’s comments: You can't worry about all that. We have some new guys, but at the end of the day you've got to go play your game and expect them to win when they get their chance. Nobody's talked about that inside this locker room on the team. It's just we came out with a win.
What Dalton probably meant to say: I still throw the ball to A.J. Green, and hand the ball off to Bernard and Hill. I still get pass rushed by whoever lines up over Bodine. Oh, did I say that I still throw the ball to A.J. Green? So different pieces or not, it all seems the same to me.
Interview question: As they were in the preseason, Jeremy Hill’s touchdown celebrations were toned down – he handed the ball to the official and shook hands with teammates. What are your thoughts on that, and have you noticed any change in him?
Dalton’s comments: That was a tough way to end it for him last year...It wouldn’t surprise me if he dances again.
What Dalton probably meant to say: Yeah, last year Hill was using his touchdowns to audition for that Dancing With The Stars show, kind of like that Ochocinco guy did before I got here. They aren’t currently taking auditions, but in a couple months when they start looking for next years “stars”, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him resurrect the dance moves.
Interview question: What is the biggest challenge looking ahead to Pittsburgh?
Lewis’ comments: To play in the division and play on the road in addition...they have good players...
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: Obviously Lewis can’t come out and say the biggest challenge is to avoid the dirty hits and their attempts to induce concussions on our players. He does a good job of coming up with an answer that hits the questions without being blunt.
Interview question: Will you watch the game tonight?
Lewis’ comments: As long as I can stay awake...
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: Lewis highlights the NFL’s scheduling dilemma with so many fans on the eastern and western coasts of the United States, three hours apart. If you start the game too early, the west coast fans miss the game because they are still coming home from work. If you start the game too late, the fans on the eastern coast fall asleep in the second half. Unless President Obama and commissioner Goodell can impose a mass migration of all NFL fans to one half of the country, it will remain a minor problem for any NFL fans who don’t live in the middle of the country.
Interview question: Do you see a trend for why most games have been so close lately?
Lewis’ comments: I think it’s the goal of the league...That produces close football games. It was more last year from the year prior, and it’s trending that way again.
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: It is interesting that Lewis sees the league working behind the scenes to manipulate the games to produce close scores. Close scores mean fans remain more interested, and stay in the stadium longer, spending more money. It also means fans watching the games, watch the entirety of the game, and all the advertisements that come with that. The league would clearly benefit financially from closer games.
While one could argue that this is a mere conspiracy along the lines of government cover-ups of alien crash sites and the major political parties and the mass media being mere puppets of an elite society ruling the world from behind the curtain. This conspiracy certainly is nothing new. For years fans have speculated that sports leagues at all levels work to ensure that certain teams do better than others for a variety of reasons. It is interesting to hear a coach call it the goal of the league.
Interview question: Do you want your guys to hold on to some of the feelings from last year regarding Pittsburgh?
Lewis’ comments: This is a new team, new season, and a new year.
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: Who wants to hold onto the feeling of referees calling non-touchdowns as touchdowns, opposing linebackers targeting your running back with helmet-leading contact, and opposing coaches yanking your player’s hair out of spite? Those feelings just make you sick. People who can’t naturally shake feelings like that usually turn to legal or illegal drugs to alter their brain chemistry in an attempt to purge those feelings. It’s odd that the interviewer thinks the team would benefit from holding onto miserable, pent-up feelings and emotions.
Interview question: Do you feel good about how the team executed down the stretches?
Lewis’ comments: ...Andy hadn’t been in that end-of-half situation or end-of-game situation during the preseason...I thought about doing it the third game vs. Jacksonville...but I didn’t do it, and then we decided to take him out.
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: Lewis makes a great argument here for why preseason games really aren’t all that necessary. The team opted for injury prevention over giving Dalton a series to run a two minute drill, and he did just fine when the real thing happened.
Interview question: The offensive line gave up seven sacks. Is that a scheme thing? Was it how good their personnel is?
Lewis’ comments: We had some things we had to do better. We had one where we were kind of screwed up in the play. So we had some things just all around that were a combination of things. They did a great job executing, and we didn’t do as a good a job of protecting and blocking them at times and facing up. It was a combination of everything we have to do much better, as I said after the game.
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: Lewis is put in a difficult spot here. Do you just flat out admit that Russell Bodine is horrible, or do you take the tactful approach, not throwing your center under the bus? Lewis opted for the second route, unsurprisingly, spreading blame thinly around, instead of letting it pile up on the source of the problems on the offensive line. He repeats the message that it is a “combination of things”, which is an accurate statement, because it’s a combination of drafting Bodine, putting Bodine on the roster, putting Bodine in the starting lineup, and the defense rushing through Bodine. So it’s not just one thing that led to the seven sacks, but clearly a combination of things.
Interview question: Jeremy Hill had a focus throughout the preseason and was very businesslike. What do you think of him not celebrating and handing the ball to the ref and the handshakes after his touchdowns?
Lewis’ comments: I don’t know what Jeremy’s doing, other than when he scores a touchdown. I lose track of him. He scored a touchdown. It was a great run. He got the ball north and south and got his shoulders pointed toward the goal line like we ask him to do. He did a great job. He scored a touchdown last year the first ballgame of the season, and it seemed to be the characteristic for a bit. It seemed to be his tendency. Now, hopefully his tendency is more this way, as we move forward this season.
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: First off, the ref is the one who stands in the backfield by the quarterback. If Jeremy Hill is handing the ball to the ref after the touchdown, that’s a whole lot of going out of his way to get the ball to the ref. More than likely, Hill would be handing the ball to the back judge (if he exited out the back of the end zone) or a side judge (if he was near the sidelines). As a hint for the interviewer, he should look for the official with the white hat who gets all the television time – that’s the referee.
Barry Sanders had one of the all-time classic touchdown celebrations. He handed the ball to the official. Sanders wasn’t focused on what to do after he got into the end zone because his attention was on getting there. If Hill can bring that focus of what to do during the play instead of after the play, that is a good thing.
Interview question: Has the red-zone defense turned into a mentality of, “This is who we are, this is what we’re about?”
Lewis’ comments: ...you don’t want them to get into the red zone. You don’t want to play with fire like that..
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: It seems the interviewer asked one question, while Lewis addressed another. Do you want to be good when the chips are down, or do you not want the chips down in the first place?
Interview question: You mentioned the defensive line. Do you think that the big game Margus Hunt had yesterday can be a catalyst for more big games?
Lewis’ comments: Man Mountain Dean. We want Margus in the worst way to continue to press forward and continue to break out and have a tremendous season. We’re counting on him to..nobody’s worked harder at it, and nobody’s spent more time at it...
Taking a deeper look at Lewis’ comments: For those of you who don’t know the reference, Man Mountain Dean was a professional wrestler in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Standing 5’11” and weighing 300 pounds, he would be a slightly undersized defensive tackle in the major college ranks. But 90 years ago with his stocky build he was a big dude for his era. Man Mountain Dean wasn’t as big the English writer G.K. Chesterton, from the same era, who stood 6’4” and weighed even more, but I digress. The comparison between Hunt and MMD is an interesting, and obscure one. Hunt isn’t the showman that MMD was, but for their era were bigger than their average sporting counterpart.