President and CEO John K. Mara -- January 9, 2020
Q: Can you kind of walk us through how things went with Matt Rhule when he came back with you, he said what the Panthers were offering, your reaction to that and your decision to not match it?
A: He was supposed to come in on Tuesday afternoon. After we finished the interview with Joe (Judge) on Monday afternoon, we were ecstatic that we had somebody that we were going to be very excited about being our head coach. We still were going to interview Matt just because he was planning on coming in and he was somebody we were interested in. His agent called me early Tuesday morning to say that he had a deal in place. It was a seven-year deal. I had a brief conversation with Steve (Tisch) and Dave (Gettleman), and we agreed that we were not going there, for a number of reasons. One, we werenít going with a seven-year deal with anybody. But more importantly, we had somebody we were excited about. So, we went ahead and made Joe the coach.
Q: Why did you not want to go with a seven-year deal?
A: For a new head coach in the National Football League, I just did not think that was a reasonable way to go. Thatís all. And again, would we have talked about moving some parts around in that deal? Possibly, if we werenít excited about the candidate we already had.
Q: As much as you like what youíve heard from Joe, are you apprehensive at all over the fact that heís a first-time head coach?
A: Of course. There are always risks when you hire a coach whoís never been a head coach before. But I think as you could see in there, Iím just excited about what he brings to the table here. He has a certain poise and presence about him. You guys have pointed out the last couple of years that Iíve had a lot of experience interviewing coach candidates. Iím just telling you, thatís the best interview Iíve ever been a part of right now for a lot of different reasons. When you train under Nick Saban and then you end up on Bill Belichickís staff, thatís something you take notice of. Heís obviously had great training, a great background. Heís used to winning, he knows what winning looks like, and weíre excited to have him here.
Q: Why should fans believe that this hire is going to work out better than the last two have?
A: Listen. I understand weíve lost some credibility in that regard because the last two hires havenít worked out. But I think that this guy is unique, and weíre going to have to prove it. Weíre going to have to win their trust back by winning games. Itís up to us to show a little more patience with this coach than perhaps we have over the last few years because he is a first-time head coach. But I think he has everything that you need to be successful.
Q: You talked about his interview. Was there really a moment in his interview when the light went off that this might be the guy?
A: I would say it was a little more than halfway through. To be honest with you, I went into the interview not really expecting all that much, just because I didnít really know him. I certainly knew of him. But the more we went on, the more impressive he became. When we finished, I looked at Dave and Kevin, and we were ecstatic. We said, ĎThis is our guy. This has got to be our guy.í He just had a certain poise. He didnít have any notes with him. He just was so confident and poised, and had such great knowledge about how to build a winning program. What they did in New England, what theyíve done at Alabama, the people heís been around, his beliefs, his philosophies. He checked all of the boxes for us.
Q: How daunting is the task that Joe faces right now?
A: He has a big task. Heís 38 years old and heís never been a head coach, so yeah, it is going to be a daunting task. But everything we know about him and everything he showed in our interview with him tells us that heís ready for it.
Q: What were the qualities that you saw most in that interview that made you want to make this hire?
A: Somebody who could be a leader, somebody who had poise and a presence about him, somebody who was a teacher, and somebody who knows what a winning program is supposed to look like.
Q: Can you say how many years he got?
A: I donít like to go into the contract details. But hopefully, heíll be here for a while.
Q: What went through your mind when you saw him up there at the podium answering the questions the way he did today?
A: I think he showed you exactly what he showed us in the interview on Monday.
Q: How did he get on your radar? I think you guys are the only team to interview him.
A: He was somebody that a number of people had called us to tell us about. I was aware of who he was. Again, when somebody goes from Alabama and then ends up on Bill Belichickís staff, your radar has to go off there and say, ĎThis guy might be something special.í Now, did I expect him to be a head coach this soon? No, I didnít. But again, Iím glad that we were the only team that interviewed him because Iím glad that we got him.
Q: How important is getting the trust back of the fans?
A: As I said before, Iím painfully aware that weíve lost some credibility with our fans over the last few years, when you have three years like that consecutively. We need to win their trust back. I think with this new hire, weíre on the right track to doing that. We have a healthy cap situation, we have the fourth pick in the draft, weíve got some good, young players coming back. We obviously need more, but I think we have the right guy to lead us now.
Q: How much of this decision was based on the quarterback you have and how he might work with him?
A: Not really a lot, to tell you the truth. I will tell you this, it felt good that every person we interviewed loves the quarterback. They all said that to us. They all said, ĎWe could win with this guy. He has some unique talents.í That was something that was great for us to hear. It was more about, can this guy be the guy to build the program, to build a successful program? As I said, he knows what one looks like and heís been very much a part of helping build that in two very special places.
Q: Are you willing to maybe change the structure of how personnel is controlled Ö Do you think that will change or is it going to kind of be business as usual?
A: itís certainly not business as usual when you hire somebody as a first-time head coach whoís 38 years old. But I think he and Dave will work very well together. Dave does not go to a coach and say, ĎHere are your players. Go coach them.í Itís a collaboration. Itís a partnership. They talk it out, they watch tape together and then they come to an agreement. Iíve never had to step into a situation and break a tie, because (Dave) believes in working towards an agreement, making it a partnership, and Iím confident that itís going to work out that way here.
Q: Building off the quarterback question, how critical is it, because he doesnít have the background developing a quarterback, he doesnít have an offensive coordinator background, how critical is it that he brings someone in here to develop Daniel and get the offense rolling?
A: Itís going to be critical that he builds the right staff, because again, heís a first-year head coach. Having experienced people on both sides of the ball is going to be critical. Obviously, you want somebody whoís good at developing quarterbacks, and Iím confident that heís going to be able to find somebody like that. This is still an attractive job and I think people will want to come here to coach Dan.
Q: Are you interested in having Jason Garrett as your offensive coordinator, number one, and number two, did you make staffing suggestions to Joe?
A: We havenít had those discussions yet. I know Dave has had a few discussions with him. Itís going to be up to Joe ultimately who he brings on as an offensive coordinator. I certainly wouldnít have any objection to that. I have a lot of respect for Jason. At the end of the day, thatís going to be Joeís decision.
Q: Would you like to see him bring in somebody who has some head coaching experience?
A: That would be great if he could find the right person, yes.
Q: What stood out in that interview that gave you that moment that separated Joe from other candidates?
A: I just think the more he went on answering our questions and talking about his vision and what he believes a successful program has to look like, and just the way heís a teacher. He grew up believing that you have to be a teacher to be successful in this business. Talking about his experiences with Coach Belichick, his experiences with Coach Saban. I donít think there was one specific moment, but the longer we talked, the more excited we got about him.
Q: Did you ever try to hire Bill, and do you feel like in the absence of that over the years prying him away, that you got a young Bill?
A: Billís under contract. I had a number of discussions with him over the weekend about Joe. The more I spoke to him, the more excited I got about Joe Judge.
Q: Iím sure you answered this earlier so I apologize for the follow-up, but just how much weight does that carry, your opinion of Billís opinion?
A: it certainly doesnít hurt. But no, I have a lot of respect for Bill. We have a good relationship. He doesnít have bad coaches on his staff. I think he has said publicly that Joeís one of the best coaches heís ever had. All of that was factored in.