Head Coach Jay Gruden
* The following is a transcript of Gruden's conference call with local reporters this afternoon.*
On the magnitude of Saturday's victory against the Philadelphia Eagles:
"I think, in a way, it justified our preparation and our work and what we've been telling them all along, to just hang in there and stay the course and good things will eventually happen. And you keep saying that, but things don't happen very good four or five, six weeks in a row, and people get down a little bit. But the guys stayed the course and it's great to see positive results because of it, and the guys continue to work and prepare, and good things finally happened."
On if quarterback Robert Griffin III's comments were meant to help clarify the talk about his future:
"Well, I hope so. I think, like I said, a lot of the talk between Robert and I of me not liking Robert or Robert not liking me, I think, has been a little bit misinterpreted or misunderstood. I think it's obvious I have a great respect for Robert and what he does, and I'm happy with the way he came out and competed last week, and I'm glad he likes it here, he likes his teammates, and I think everybody has a genuine respect for what he does as a football player and what he's gone through. He's just got to continue to build off his performance, and hopefully against Dallas next week he can finish the season on a high note and have something positive going into next year. But, you know, it's good to hear him say that."
On if there was anything in particular he stressed to Griffin III the last few weeks to help him become more comfortable:
"No, not really. I think just continuing to watch and continue to play and continuing to practice and learn. I mean, he's still young and he's still going to have some types of bumps along the road and it's never going to be perfect, but I think his just continuing to learn and study the game and study the game plan and get to know these concepts and how we're trying to attack a defense is all starting to pay off a little bit. But, you know, we weren't perfect by any stretch on offense, but I was happy with the way he competed and made some big throws in crucial times and, obviously, protected the ball. So it was just good to see. But I can't really say that … I don't know the reason for his progression right now, it's just the fact that I think he's getting more comfortable with the terminology and more comfortable with what we're doing."
On his decision to start quarterback Colt McCoy a few times earlier in the season:
"The decisions were made based on the strong feeling that I had as far as what I thought was best for the football team and that's it. I had no other hidden agenda. So that's the only reason I made the decisions I made. I just thought Robert, at the time I went back to Colt, I just thought Robert needed a little bit more time to take a step back, take a deep breath and just sit back and let's learn a little bit more. And it was not the end of his career, I said. I thought he was going to have a great chance to play again and he has and he's taking advantage of it. Going back, I think I'd play it the way I thought was right. That's the only thing I can do at the time."
On the run/pass balance:
"I mentioned that I think last night, I think the fact that we're in the game or in the lead going into the fourth quarter, late into the fourth quarter, it enabled us to continue to run the ball as opposed to being down by 10 or down by 13 starting the fourth quarter where we have to pick up the pace and become one-dimensional. I think that's happened at a lot of our games and we always want to be run-first, there's no question about it. But unfortunately the score takes us out of that or maybe it's a two-minute drill at the end of the half and maybe numbers get skewed one way or the other. Since we had the lead, we were able to run the ball a little more, stay a little bit more on balance. That's obviously I think the goal and the intent of the majority of teams in the NFL, especially here."
On saying players respond to Griffin III:
"I just think, like Trent Williams coming out and playing through that injury is one, Kory Lichtensteiger had the stinger he came back in the game trying to compete for the team and Robert and everybody else – I think the way when you watch the receivers run routes, they were all full-bore, they were running extremely hard, they were running after the catch. I thought everybody played extremely hard on offense. That's a good sign that these guys want to play, want to perform and obviously want to play for the quarterback or the team or whoever they're playing for. I know they all played hard and that was great to see despite the situation we're in with our record."
On how big of a factor winning is when evaluating a quarterback:
"That's the biggest factor, that is the No. 1 factor and that is it. Obviously you look at the production and all that stuff and what he could've done maybe, but winning football games is the only thing that matters to me for a quarterback. And it doesn't matter, like I said, if they go 12-for-24 for 80 yards and we win or if they go 28-for-35 for 400 [yards] and we lose, you'd rather have the 12-for-24. So I think the ability to manage a football game, stay away from the big turnovers and get the W is all that counts and that's the first objective. We had that losing streak going, we were looking for answers and trying to make changes that would help us win the football games and that's why we made some of the decisions we made back in the earlier part of the year. But now that Robert got this win, got the monkey off his back so to speak, it's great to see and he'll definitely be the starter next week."
On linebacker Trent Murphy and tackle Trent Williams:
"I would say Trent [Murphy] is going to be a longshot right now. He fractured his hand and I don't know if he'll be able to play through that right now. We'll get a better understanding tomorrow. And then Trent [Williams], same injury, he's just...it's very painful for him and what he can tolerate is what he can tolerate. Luckily we have an extra day this week of recovery time so he'll get an extra day of treatment. So hopefully he'll be up and ready to go again next week, but he's pretty sore."
On if Griffin III looked more confident:
"It looked like he did to me. It looked like he was having fun out there and he was a little bit more decisive with the football, I thought. I just think just the whole production that he put on as far as running the offense I thought was good – getting them out of the huddle, calling the plays and then taking his correct drops and delivering the football where he needed to. There's some things that we're going to correct, obviously, as there is every week with every position, but overall I just thought that he had a little bit more confidence in what he was doing and what we were trying to do with the game plan last night and I think it showed."
On tackle Trent Williams and if there is any thought to telling him to sit out the season finale:
"No, that's up to Trent and the doctors. I don't ever make that – I don't ever force a player to play if they're injured or try to talk them into it. First of all, the trainers have got to clear him, the doctors and then if the player thinks he can fight through it, man, it's great. But it's a great tribute to Trent and what type of tough guy he is and then that's why he is voted captain when he does stuff like that. I mean, it's just – really he could barely lift his arm up and he's out there continuing to battle and came out of the game, came back in the game and finished it so… But I will leave that up to Trent. I'll leave that up to the doctors and if he can go I'm sure he'll go."
On what he liked about the team's pass protection:
"I liked a lot. You know, I think the two sacks we gave up – one was a good pass rush by their guy on Trent [Williams], the other was Fletcher Cox made a heck of a bull rush on [Chris] Chester, but other than that I think our pass protection was excellent. Our tight ends were asked to stay in a couple of times, our backs hung in there, but overall I think the five offensive linemen that played did a great job. But it also starts with the score of the game and where we were and able to run the ball and take some of the pressure off of Robert and not having to drop back and throw it 60 times or 50 times trailing down two touchdowns or what have you. So we were in pretty good down and distances. We had a couple third and longs that we were very close to converting, couple third and shorts but we stayed in the game and we stayed pretty much ahead of the sticks pretty much the whole night, which enabled the pass protection to be solid and kept the defense off-balance."
On if a player can benefit from playing well going into the offseason:
"I think so. I think you want to see some positive results as you're going into the offseason. You don't want to have a 10-game losing streak going into the offseason and then you're not sure what you are doing is right and there's question marks going in. But if you have a couple-game winning streak here and you see some results from your hard work and the things that we are trying to accomplish offensively, defensively and on special teams, then I think people buy in a little bit more. I think the players will listen a little bit more to the coaches maybe and move forward and get in the weight room and work maybe a little bit harder and be a little bit more excited and people be more excited to come back to the OTAs and the training camp. So, 4-11, 5-11, would be a hell of a lot nicer going into the offseason, that's for sure."
On the play of the defense yesterday:
"Yeah, you know there were a lot of yards. I think they did a good job of keeping us off-balance. They were able to run the ball a little bit and they mixed in the short passing game, obviously found [Zach] Ertz and Ertz was finding little holes in the zones and Sanchez was doing a good job of finding him but you know you're right, we go two big turnovers, which are huge. [Ryan] Kerrrigan got one, of course and then [Bashaud] Breeland got the other one and then made a couple stops. I think the best – I think the most important part of the defensive stand other than Breeland's pick was the drive to start the third quarter where Andre [Roberts] fumbled the opening kick and we got the three and out and they missed a field goal. I think had we given up a touchdown there, I think a lot of things probably change in that game as far as momentum is concerned. But the momentum was able to stay with us. We were able to get the lead and keep the lead and keep our whole playbook open offensively. So there were some very good bright spots as far as defense, young guys stepped up made some plays, [Trevardo] Williams got a sack, I think [Jackson] Jeffcoat got a sack, [Phillip] Thomas continued to play pretty good at safety and obviously Breeland. So there are some things looking up you know and these guys haven't been playing together for a very long time. [Will] Compton had an outstanding game at linebacker filling in for Keenan [Robinson] so there are some guys stepping up and playing well."
On the third and 25 converted by the Eagles:
"Yeah, that'll make you sick. We had a three-man rush on and our right defensive end went underneath the left tackle so Sanchez escaped out to the left and when he escaped out to the left, we were in a deep zone coverage. When he escaped to the left some of the zone coverage guys stepped up to try to go get Sanchez and that left a huge void out behind them and that's where he found the receiver for a 25-yard gain on third and 25. So we've just got to be more disciplined and not chase a quarterback in a zone. If he scrambles for a five-yard gain, so be it, but we can't give up the zones. They just tried to play on instinct there and vacated their zones when the quarterback scrambled."
"There's some coaching that is involved, especially in forcing fumbles and protecting the football, man. There's a lot of drills that we do and work that we do as far as how to get the ball out, stripping the football. As far as interceptions are concerned., some of that is on the players. It's ball skills and how to attack the ball when it's in the air, driving and reading the quarterback – of course getting into passing lanes as a zone defender. We just haven't done a great job of that. Also, it comes with a great pass rush, forcing the quarterback to throw it when he's not ready to throw it and making him make bad decisions under duress. We haven't had a consistent pass rush for us to get enough turnovers, and obviously our defenders secondary-wise haven't had many very good opportunities to get the interceptions. So, it kind of works hand-in-hand with the pass rush, and defensive backs having great ball skills and anticipation for what routes are coming. Part of that is all the guys that we've had to play in different spots. I can't tell you how many different guys have been in the starting lineup on the defensive football field this year. It's got to be in the thirties or forties playing there on defense. So many people have been in and out of the lineup that it's kind of hard to get the continuity down. But, they're still working and we just have got to continue to keep pressuring the quarterback, and our defensive backs will start to make some plays."
On how much the defense's playbook has been affected by the changes in personnel:
"A ton. A lot, yes. There's a lot of different fronts and looks you can do on third down and your nickel and dime personnel, they all get affected when key players are out – when Keenan Robinson is out, when Jason Hatcher goes down, when Trent Murphy goes down. There's a lot of dime and nickel looks where you walk around blitzes. You can't do them. You just can't do them. We just don't have the bodies and the guys don't know them. It's very difficult. I think Coach Haz [Jim Haslett] has done an excellent job despite giving up a lot of yardage yesterday, of just putting together a plan these people can handle, these players can handle and feel good about. Yesterday was more about bend but don't break and try to make some plays. Ultimately they did. They got the big pick, the big stop at the start of the third quarter and of course [Ryan] Kerrigan's forced fumble."
On the kickoff coverage against the Eagles:
"It was outstanding, man. It was great. The kickoff cover team was great. [Bashaud] Breeland had a slam, a pick-up body slam. I think on the second kickoff we had I think [Justin] Rogers came down, covered a kick and did a great job. Trenton Robinson did a good job in punt. Akeem [Davis] did a good job in punt. I think Trevardo [Williams] did a good job on punt. A lot of these guys stepped up and made some big plays against a darn good punt returner in [Darren] Sproles. Obviously their kick return game has been outstanding all year. So, it was very, very good to see. Last week I think we struggled a little bit more than we have in the past, but this week they stepped up and did some good things."
On cornerback David Amerson and defending slants:
"Yeah, yeah, you're right. He was too soft on both occasions, especially the one against New York he was way too soft. I think he got the call a little bit late on the one in New York, and this week, I think, we're in bump-and-run coverage and he sloughed off a little bit because I think he thought he was going to get picked, so he just gave a little bit of ground and the No. 2 receiver inside was also kind of close to him and he was afraid he was going to get picked, so he sloughed off and gave up the inside move unfortunately, and it was a good throw-and-catch by Sanchez and Cooper. But I think David… I don't think David's ever going to lack confidence, and I don't think any of those defensive backs that we have on the field will lack [it]. What makes a defensive back good is their ability to forget, and both those guys – Breeland and Amerson – do a good job of forgetting their bad plays and going on to the next one. Unfortunately, David has been targeted a little bit with the two slants in back-to-back games, but he's got to play inside and protect the inside obviously and play through the arms and the hands on the face."
On defensive end Stephen Bowen:
"Bowen, yeah, he is coming along and I think we're all starting to see it. I think when we first activated, he looked shaky, he was a little bit tentative as far as pushing off that leg, but I think now he's got the confidence back and I think he feels full strength. I know he's full strength when he came out there, but as an athlete you just still have second guesses. You don't quite believe it when you first come back and now I think he feels good about it and he is playing extremely well."
On the difficulty of stopping opposing tight ends:
"Yeah, it's happened, I know the first time we played the Giants, we gave up some big ones. Obviously Philadelphia, Ertz had a big game and I don't really remember all of the other ones, but I think it's just part of the scheme that you're running that week. If you play a lot of zone coverage, then a lot of the tight ends, you know, they find a hole in the middle of the field or the flats or what have you, and they end up catching those short passes for four-, five-, six-, seven-yard gains, you know. If you're playing man-to-man, you're going to have a person covering that tight end and whether it be a linebacker or a safety, sometimes that's a mismatch if that tight end is really, really, really good. So I think you just mix up the coverages and you try to take away their most dangerous threat, and sometimes somebody else has a good matchup because of it. But I think there's no real reason. I think last night we played a lot of zone, and Ertz was just able to find his way and find the holes in the zone and Sanchez was able to find him."
On how much stock he puts into late season momentum:
"We put a lot into it. Like I said, it just justifies what we are doing and we think we're on a positive upswing as far as our work and our preparation and all that. And the guys that we do bring back here, I think they come back here with a little bit more confidence, a little bit more excitement to get back to work, you know, as opposed to a nine-game losing streak or what have you and it's, 'Ah, here we come again.' But I think when you see results based off your preparation and your work, I think it will entice people to work a little bit harder in the offseason and get back to work."
On if wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been exactly what he expected:
"Yeah, he has. You know, I said that because the last two weeks he was hurt and he wasn't quite the 4.28 guy that we want to see. So I think yesterday he showed that he's healthy. He's been great, man. I gained a lot of respect for DeSean. Whatever happened in the past in Philadelphia I don't know, but I know since that he's been a Washington Redskin, he's been solid to be around. He's been a good worker and obviously he's a big-time threat all the time. You know, we've had the revolving door at quarterback a little bit, which I think hurts some of the receiver production from time to time, but overall I think DeSean, Pierre [Garçon], all those receivers have worked extremely hard and I'm very happy that we got DeSean . He's a huge play waiting to happen and luckily we were able to use him and get two 50-plus yard gains because of his speed."
On if tackle Trent Williams has played up to expectations:
"Yeah, he's done a good job. You expect him – sometimes when the guy's this big and this talented, your expectations are so high that it's impossible for somebody like that to live up to them, you know? He's so talented, so when he does get beat, you figure, 'Ah, he's lazy' or something's wrong with him. But he has gotten beat from time to time this year, but most left tackles have. Great left tackles will get beat. It's the toughest position to play – one of them – with the great pass rushers and the stunts and the blitzes they have to see out there on an island. But I think he's delivered. I think he's been very solid. Obviously he should get Pro Bow l consideration, but we're definitely happy to have him and I think he's had a good solid year."
On his message to the team this week:
"You know, we're going to get ready for Dallas, obviously. It's one last game, and it's the last chance we'll get to play together for a long time. It's a great opportunity to take this season and as disappointing as it is win/loss record-wise, it's a great opportunity for us to end with our heads held up high and a positive outlook moving on and moving forward to the following year. The big thing is just finishing up this season, continue to finish with the pride and the competitive spirit that you guys have and good things will come of it. So, just have got to keep working one more week, give them Thursday off for Christmas, man, so they can open up their presents and their goodies, then we'll get back to work Friday-Saturday and play Sunday against our archrival, the Dallas Cowboys. And that should be motivation enough. Anytime the Redskins play the Cowboys, it doesn't matter what your record is, it should be great motivation and that's definitely going to be my No. 1 tool this week for motivation is just beating the Cowboys.
On how pleased he was with the team's cut down on penalties:
"Very pleased. Those penalties are huge. We had a couple of them that were offsetting that didn't get called. I think Breeland had a couple of hands to the face that were big, but other than that man, I think guys played sound. We didn't have a penalty on special teams – that was a cause for celebration right there. So that was excellent, man. I'm happy the guys were diligent in what they were doing. A lot of guys had a chance to be emotional. DeSean, I was worried about DeSean maybe getting a penalty – unsportsmanlike, something – but they all did a great job of keeping their cool, keeping their heads and then playing between the whistles, so I was happy to see that."