Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
September 21, 2017
Q: What is the biggest factor as to why youíre 0-2?
A: Well, I think itís been hard for us to get any level of consistency and there are a number of reasons why thatís the case. But, when you look at the fact that weíve turned the ball over in both games, weíve struggled on third down in both games, struggled to get any type of consistency. Obviously, had the one nice drive for the touchdown Monday night, but far too many three-and-outs and really not able to get in a type of rhythm that weíd like to get into where we have that balance that we want to have as far as running paths. Weíre able to get some of those play action shots down the field and able to do some of those things. Then you throw in there some of our penalties and some of the negative plays, whether itís a tackle for loss or a sack that set us back. I think thatís the biggest reason, if you will, as far as why we put ourselves in this position.
Q: Is there anything you can do as a coach to establish a rhythm or does that have to happen naturally?
A: Well, I think there are certain instances where by virtue of a personnel grouping or in terms of just trying to have a set scheme or concept that you want to try to run it, you want to try to feature that, you just have to be patient with it. Thereís ways to try to kick start that, if you will, but if thereís a turnover or all the sudden youíre trying to stay on track and now a penalty and something sets you back, itís hard to overcome. So, thereís certainly things from a schematic standpoint that you try to do, but in order to get the guys the touches that they need to get in terms of the defense having to defend the entire field and have to face different obstacles and issues. Unless weíre able to stay out there, itís going to be hard to get anything done.
Q: If T Bobby Hart canít play on Sunday, will OL D.J. Fluker be able to play?
A: I think all the guys that we have on the roster are open for discussion in terms of those guys out there working throughout the various positions. Weíre just trying to find the very best mix thatís going to help us be successful.
Q: Is it possible that defensive coordinators figured out your offense?
A: Thatís one way I think could be looked at it from the outside looking in. I think it goes a lot deeper than that. I think weíve certainly looked at the tape and havenít necessarily had the sense of, ĎOh man, they certainly had our playbook right hereí or ĎHoly cow, they must have been able to hear what we said on the headsets.í I think you give credit to the opponent. Weíre not making excuses. Itís easy to sit up here and talk about obviously the mistakes that we made and the things that we have to overcome and not give the opponents credit because they did do a good job. I want to make sure Iím clear about that. From the standpoint of being predictable, I donít know how predictable weíve been. We havenít been out there long enough to be predictable. I hope we can be predictable because that means weíre sustaining some drives and weíre doing some things to get the ball in the endzone, but I donít know if thatís quite on point right now.
Q: How much of a difference can a play-caller actually make?
A: Well, I think regardless of the team, regardless of the offense thatís run, regardless of any of those variables, it still comes down to players making plays and itís about the players and itís about them being able to go out there and perform and then obviously, no kidding, itís our job to put them in the right spots and try to feature what their strengths are and try to minimize or mask or reduce what the weaknesses are. I think that you brought up a point as far as how thatís going to unfold. I think the most important thing for us right now is making sure that we can start playing better football, more consistent football and that seems like an oversimplification. But, a lot of that just comes down to us having more opportunities and that goes back to answer Kimís question as far as the three-and-outs and turnovers and those negative plays that keep us from getting in some type of a rhythm. Thatís, I think, what weíre going to have to do regardless of the play-calling situation.
Q: Do you think you have to get the ball out quicker as an offense or does the line need to protect better?
A: I think the more versatile that we can be, the better. Let me be specific what I mean by that is you canít be any one thing. It goes back to predictability. If weíre always five-step drop, if weíre always three-step drop, if weíre always in a mode where we have tight ends and backs to both sides chipping and helping tackles, if weíre always just forcing the run and weíre getting stuffed or weíre always just trying to throw it, regardless. Too much of one thing is not good. So, we have to constantly try to find ways to keep the defense off balance, not be predictable and try to, at the same time, know who our playmakers are and put them in positions to be successful. So, I think that certainly, looking at this opponent in terms of the strengths that they have and being so dynamic up front, you have to make sure youíre aware of that and I think for anybody, I donít think itíd be shocking to say that we donít want to drop back 65 times against the Eagles down there. That wouldnít be an earth-shattering statement.
Q: Are you counting on the line to protect better or will you scheme around that?
A: I think itís a combination of both. Weíre always looking to get better. Thereís always improvement. Thatís why weíre out there practicing. It never happens as fast as we might like and thereís frustration, Iím sure, from all of our fans and from everyone on the outside looking in and, guess what, our players are frustrated with themselves. Weíre frustrated in ourselves as coaches and I think when that comes to the forefront, you can either complain about it and point fingers and look for the blame or circle the wagons and say, listen, we just have to keep wheeling stones down the street, just keep grinding away, keep grinding away, keep trying to find a way to get better in conjunction with the individual technique, regardless of the position. Then also from a schematic standpoint, trying to do the same thing, as I mentioned earlier, that can play to our strengths and then try to minimize our weaknesses.
Q: How do you think G Justin Pugh reacted to the unscheduled move to tackle on Monday night?
A: Justin has played a lot of football. Heís played tackle in his NFL career and heís a smart football player and tough football player and a guy that weíre counting on as weíre counting on all of our offensive linemen and really the other guys at the other positions. Often times, what we planned for, what we expect, anything can happen in the course of the game. Guys have to be ready to step up, and obviously it was a difficult night. It was a tough night, but for the most part, he did a lot of good things out there.
Q: Do you see tangible evidence that the players still believe in this team?
A: I do. Thatís a great question. There hasnít been any type of finger pointing at each other or at us coaches. We spent a lot of time. Some of these players have been with us for three years. Some of these guys, a lot of times, those who are new to the organization through the spring, through all of the OTAís and training camp, in the meetings, in the practice room and you get a sense of whatís in here. What their character is like and there isnít a group of guys that are looking to quit or looking to point fingers or looking to make excuses. Itís a prideful group. Itís a competitive group. Itís a group that is frustrated, but I think in a positive way that thereís more of a determination and more of a resolve to get this thing headed in the right direction and play the type of football we know weíre capable of rather then look to make excuses and finger-point.
Q: Is your offense not one that naturally gives a lot of help to the tackles?
A: I think schematically, it is a part of what we do. Like anything else, if you pay enough, if you want to buy something in one area, you pay in the other area. If you make a commitment, say for example this week, hey, weíre going to chip and have a tight end always to the left. Well, then No. 55, (Brandon) Graham is one of the best pass rushers in the National Football League is to the right. So, it gets to Ė I hate to sound like a broken record Ė but, itís having that balance and versatility just to try to get that defense off balance a little bit.