Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
January 5, 2017
Happy New Year to everyone. I havenít seen everyone in 2017, so hopefully you had a great New Year. Great day out there today. It was nice to get out there in that weather. The good Lord blessed us with the perfect weather that we needed to get ready for this one, so with that I will open it up.
Q: Does that weather affect you guys as a defense?
A: I donít think so. I think that initially when some of those Southern Florida guys were out in the cold weather it did, but I donít think it has had an effect. Our guys are pretty focused right now.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about Aaron Rodgers being better on the run and being very elusive. So is it very tricky for you, in terms of game planning, because on one hand you want to keep him in the pocket, and on the other hand, I donít know what you want to do.
A: When you are a great player, and an elite player, and one of the top quarterbacks in the league Ė take away this and he goes that way, take away that and he goes this way, so look, there are some things that we think we need to do. Whether that happens or not we will see, but he finds ways, he is as competitive Ė I have talked with Ben a lot this week, we did that last time, but I will see something on tape and go running down to his office and say, ĎWhy is he doing that?í Sometimes Ben has an answer and sometimes he is like, ĎI donít know. He is just a great athlete and figured it out.í But yeah, he is as effective getting out of the pocket as he is hanging in there. The one thing that he does a great job of is, I think, he purposely extends the downs sometimes because I think he knows that his receivers can get open eventually and then it ends up being a big play. I think that sometimes he just says, ĎHey, I am going to let this down go a ways.í He knows that he can get himself in and out of trouble. Very rarely does he get tackled, or get put in a tough situation, and it makes it tough on the guys in the back end.
Q: So are you saying that sometimes he will pass up an open receiver?
A: Well, I am not saying that, but it just looks like sometimes when he is back there, he has got every intention of letting the down extend, making moves and having somebody miss, and I think it is because he likes making big plays. The most amazing thing to me about Aaron Rodgers is all the different places and positions that he can throw the football and be accurate. A lot of guys have to be perfect when the ball is accurate, Aaron can be anywhere. He can be running right, running left, being up inside, off his back foot, not have his feet set, and he can flick the ball anywhere and he is just accurate with every throw that he makes.
Q: What is the key for him to be able to do that?
A: Yeah, one of the terms that we always use defensively is that a good quarterback throws his receivers open. So the receiver might be covered, but he has a great anticipation skill, I am talking about Aaron there, and look, those receivers and him have been working so well together and so long that he knows where he needs to throw it for his receiver to go get it and nobody else. So that is a term that we use, and I think that he is as good at that as anybody.
Q: What do you remember about that 2012 matchup?
A: I wasnít here then. I wasnít, so you would have to ask one of the other guys. I was watching it on TV.
Q: In Week 5, in the second half, it seemed like your secondary did a great job of staying disciplined to not give up the big play. Is that how you are going to have to play it against Green Bay?
A: Against anybody you donít want to give up big plays and certainly not against this football team. The thing that I remember about that game was that we didnít tackle very well, and I think that we have to begin there first. Whether they run the football, or get it to wideouts, we have to limit the yards after catch. They are going to complete balls. That is just the way it is going to be. That is what he does. We just have to make sure that wherever the receiver catches it, he needs to be tackled there; and when they do run the football, we need to tackle better than we did last time.
Q: How important is DRC to what you have done all year?
A: How important? Well, I think it is kind of obvious. He has stepped in there when guys have gotten hurt and played a number of different positions. He has had one of his better years. He has been great, he has been great to work with. All of the other guys have kind of rallied around him. He has been in the league a while, he has been through a lot. I think that he can share experiences that some of the other guys havenít been through, and I think some of the young guys appreciate that.
Q: Everyone knew that you had a tough hand dealt to you. Does getting the infusion of talent this year, with the results that you have had, invigorate you?
A: You are assuming that there was a time when I didnít think I could. But I can tell you that I never felt that way. I have been in it long enough to know that it is not one person that makes it happen, you have to have good players. I will tell you what, and I do want to say this Ė the guys, in my opinion, that get lost in this whole thing are our assistant coaches on defense. The players go out and play, and one person who happens to be the coordinator, gets some credit. Look, our assistant coaches that we have on defense have done as good a job as anybody I have been around, with all the things that you are talking about; new players coming in within a certain group, making them gel, you have a young guy and an older guy, you have a guy that knows the system and a guy that hasnít been exposed to the system, and I have sat back many times during the season and just let the assistant coaches go and that has been a joy. I told them a couple weeks ago in front of the group that one of the joys that I have had this year is being able to step back and watch them gel with their coaches, and just player to player, and when you can start to do that, that is when it really works. So this is really not about me, it is about a bunch of guys coming together as a unit and playing as a team. To me, we had injuries and boom, we didnít blink, we went forward and guys kept working at it and we kept playing pretty good. Now of course none of that matters now because it is a whole new season.
Q: Were you nervous about how DRC would take a new role and how did you approach that with him?
A: Well, initially when Eli was drafted, the immediate thought wasnít that DRC would play inside or there would be three corners, or that sometimes DRC would be out. That wasnít the initial thought. You draft because he is a good player. Jerryís crew identified him and I am glad we got him. Get as many good players in the group that you can, and then you get the ones out there playing the best football. You get the best 11 out there and I know we have had three corners a lot, so you need three in this league, you need three corners. But he has done a great job with the role he has had and he has excelled at it and has had a really good year.
Q: The players say that you emphasize making decisions at full speed. How is that of particular importance against this quarterback and this offense?
A: Well, we have been talking and that is a good point, Kim. We do stress that and our guys do a good job with it. Against Aaron Rodgers, in my opinion and I may have said it before the last time we played him, but it is as much about what you do from whistle to snap as it is from snap to whistle. Usually everyone talks about that, how fast you have to play from snap to whistle. He is so good when the down is over as to what he is going to do on the next down, that you have to be ready for that, and if our verbal and visual communication isnít dead on, and it begins with me, I have to get a call in there quickly. The mike linebacker has to get it to the other 10, and we have to be ready to roll and he is the master at getting you off on that, and that is what he wants to do. He wants you out of sync and he wants to get you to substitute and he got us once the last time we played, we got stuck with 12 guys on the field. We are trying to avoid that this time around. But you have to play this game thinking fast and hopefully we do enough preparing during the week that our guys can just go out and play. But he loves to think and manage games, Aaron Rodgers. There is no doubt about that.
Q: Does he have as good of a pump fake as there is in the NFL? Do you have to coach your players up on that?
A: We did, today. We talked a lot today about keeping your feet on the ground. What he wants to do is to get you in the air and whether he sidesteps or gets out, he ducked somebody on one of the teams we just watched this morning. We believe that you have to keep your feet on the ground and keeping running, so that you can run to him and hit him. Now that is easier said than done. It is easy for me when I am standing up there with the remote saying, ĎDonít do this and donít do that.í But I think it is sinking in, and I think the guys will take that and try to do that in this game, but he is a master of that, or looking one way and making you think when you are coming from here that he doesnít see you, but he does. It is instincts and vision.
Q: With his ability to extend plays, does he negate or limit the opportunity of the pass rush?
A: If you let it, yeah, he will. You have to be a little bit more disciplined. I donít think that you can turn guys loose like you can do with some quarterbacks and we are hoping to do that. Look, there are going to be downs where we are going to have to say, ĎLook, you just have to go get him. Find a way to get him and let somebody else rally from behind you.í Pat Graham and Z (Jeff Zgonina) have been trying to piece all of that together. One of the things that we do talk about is that Aaron Rodgers is one of the elite and in some regard, you are not going to change that. What you have to do is try to affect the other 10 and that is what we are going to try to do during the game.