Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
October 5, 2017
Q: When you hear wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. say things like, the Buccaneers knew what plays we were going to run last week, how does that make you feel as an offensive coordinator?
A: I heard about that. I don’t know what was said, I wasn’t there for the conversation, I don’t know how it was said between those guys. I know that we were able to get almost 400 yards of offense in the game, and no turnovers and a couple touchdown passes, one that put us ahead near the end of the game. And also, the player that [Beckham] was talking to was actually the same player that Odell beat on a 42-yard double move. So, I don’t know how much stock I would take in those type of accusations, if you will, as far as what opponents would say.
Q: What makes you think that the offense is improving?
A: I think two weeks in a row, we’ve had some early adversity and some early setbacks, often self-inflicted. And yet, have been able to re-group, come together and find ways to put ourselves in positon to win. There’s been some things that have been very positive in the second halves of games. We’ve come up just short, but we do see some improvement in some various areas that the major focus and the major emphasis that we’ve had is, taking that second half, or that fourth quarter energy and focus and execution and let’s start it to start a game. I mean, we’ve struggled, as I’m sure you all know and that’s probably the next question: ‘Why have we not scored any points in the first quarter,’ or, ‘Did I know we haven’t scored any points in the first quarter of a game?’ Yeah, I’m well aware of it, and I think there’s no doubt we can’t wait until the second quarter, or the third quarter, or the fourth quarter to get things going. There’s got to be a concerted effort. It certainly has been an area of emphasis for this week.
Q: What do you differently, non-schematically, to try and score early in games?
A: Well, schematically is a component of it. You do want to have some ideas of early on, how they have played and how we can put our best foot forward, how we can feature playmakers, attack their defensive players where we have an advantage. But I think a big part of it is the communication with the players and just shooting straight and just taking a look at ourselves and saying, ‘You know what? There’s been some difficult and challenging things we’ve been able to do later in games. Yet, early in the games, there’s some simple and routine things. Whether it’s catching the ball, throwing the ball, making a block, etc. that we haven’t done.’ And making it that point of emphasis and really just discussing it and bringing it to light and just say, ‘Wow, if we can take what we do in the second half and get better at doing the easier things, that’s going to help us not have to be playing from behind.’ It’d be awful nice to sit there and be in the first quarter and have a nice lead, or in the second quarter have two touchdown lead. So, it is a communication, it’s a point of emphasis and just pointing out letting the guys understand, ‘Hey look, we’re doing some things well that are difficult. Let’s get better at doing the easier things, instead of shooting ourselves in the foot.’
Q: Are slow starts even more unsettling for the coaching staff, as those are the plays that are scripted?
A: It’s hard to say that they’re more – I think any coach would tell you that any play, or any series that’s a three-and-out, or there’s a turnover, or anything that sets you back, and failing to come away [with points] down their tight towards the red zone and not getting a touchdown, that’s all disappointing. So, I don’t know if you can say one scenario or situation is more disappointing than the other. There’s been a lot of disappointment, obviously with where we’re at. We just need to find a way to take that second half, later in the game execution and that focus and that execution, and start the game with it.
Q: What did you think of running back Wayne Gallman last week against Tampa Bay?
A: I mentioned last week, he has gotten a lot of his work in the show team, simulating the opposing team’s offense. We saw things that he could do in the preseason, and he had some flashes. You had a sense that – often times it may not have necessarily been exactly how we wanted it done, he’s a rookie, he may make a few mistakes, but there was a spark. I think he had his opportunities last Sunday and did some very nice things for us. Has a great attitude, he’s had a very good week of practice and we’ll see how it transpires.
Q: How do you work the running back rotation?
A: I think it boils down to, from a situation standpoint, there may be areas where we may feel more comfortable with a certain player, based on his experience and his skillset, as opposed to another. But all of the backs, whoever gets a suit on Sunday has to be ready if they’re called upon. And often times there are plays that are called up and during the course of the week, ‘player X’ has gotten the reps and, oh crap, there’s an equipment malfunction, or there’s an injury and now ‘player Y’ is in there and they all have to perform. So, each of those guys has a skillset they bring to the table and they all have to be ready and we’re counting on all of them to be ready.
Q: Shaun O’Hara had some pretty critical comments about the offensive line. You can respond to that if you want, but more generally, how can you explain fundamental breakdowns that guys like Shaun are seeing on film week after week?
A: I think that offensive line, we look at the last two games the thing that really needs to be brought to the forefront is we haven’t had any sacks. In Philadelphia, it was, ‘Well we are getting the ball out in 1.85 seconds.’ This last week it was out in a lot, not a lot, but it’s all relative, but it wasn’t 1.85 seconds. So there has been some improvement from that respect. From a run game standpoint, there is no doubt about it we got to get better. We got a long way to go, but we made some strides. So I think across the board, you can put to that group, you can point to all of the other positions. We all have areas that we have to get better. So there has been some progress made and we’re hoping to build upon that.
Q: Was putting Kerry Wynn at fullback planned before the game or was that an in-game adjustment and can we expect to see more of that?
A: Well, we talked last week about what are some of the ways without having a fullback on the roster that we’re going to still have some versatility. And we can still be able to do some of the things that two-back teams do. As I said then and I will repeat in a different way, we’re going to count on other people to be able to fill the role so that we cannot be as one dimensional so that we can add that to our arsenal to give teams a few more things to defend. So a situation with Kerry being there in the goal line was successful for us and if we have a chance to build upon it, we will. Other guys who have had that opportunity whether it’s a short yardage situation, as Rhett (Ellison) as the lead blocker on the successful third and one that we had that can come into the fray. So whoever can fill that void, we want to do whatever we can to have that type of balance.
Q: How did you land on Kerry?
A: We flipped a coin. No, I think you start talking about big picture in terms of the head coach looking at what defensive players, what offensive players, how things can ever crossover. There is discussion amongst the staff just looking at where somebody fits in the big picture and how it might be able to blend and help us out. There is certainly a history of other teams doing that and pulling defensive guys to play offense and occasionally an offensive guy to play defense. So whatever can help us win. We certainly need to get a win.
Q: Have you guys made such emphasis on the pass protection that it has had a negative impact on the run blocking?
A: I wouldn’t say that I would agree with that just because we actually ran the ball better, not the first series for sure, we all know. But across the board, there were more examples of effective runs, of runs that were close to double digit gains and others that might have been just two-three yards, but were blocked well or just short so I think we made some progress especially in this last game in terms of running the ball a little bit better. I don’t know if I would say, ‘Gosh we’ve spent so much time on the pass game, but now the run game is really being degraded.’ I think there was a few flashes and a few sparks and hopefully we can build upon that Sunday.
Q: Even just the way that they are lining up. (Ereck) Flowers for example, his splits are much wider than the guard. I know he is struggling on the backside a little bit, but I was just wondering.
A: You know I don’t think so. We are mixing some different faces in there, some different guys. We kind of play with that all week and just try to find the best combination. I think guys who’ve had to play some different spots and move around have done a commendable job. It’s not easy having so many cumulative reps in this particular spot on the right side and then having to move to the left side and they’ve really responded well. I think the big thing is the entire unit has responded well with this despite the setbacks, despite us not being where we want to be. They’ve got that collective grit and that competiveness. It’s been ugly and we all know it’s been ugly, but we’re in a position to win the games these past two weeks and now we just got to take that next step. Like I just said and like I keep saying, ‘start fast’, and I have to have it be one of those fourth quarter type situations.