President and Chief Executive Officer John K. Mara
August 17, 2021
Q: The Las Vegas Raiders announced that they are going to require vaccinations. Is there any discussions about how you are going to approach that?
A: I saw that. As of right now, there's no plans to do that, but you know, if you asked me that question again in a week or two, I may give you a different answer. That'll depend on our discussions with the governor's office and further guidance from the CDC and other health organizations. I think it's a fluid situation.
Q: What are your expectations for this season in terms of results on the field after recent results haven’t been what you want?
A: Yeah, I would say that's an understatement. I certainly think we're a lot better on paper, I’d like to see us show that on the field now and win more games and make the playoffs. I mean, that's my expectation every year coming into the season. Obviously, we’ve fallen far short of that the last four years, but I think on paper, I'm pleased with where we are, but I want to see us win some games.
Q: Do you think you guys did enough to address the offensive line this offseason? How do you feel about that group going into the season?
A: I have confidence in that group. Did we do enough? I think time will tell. I like those guys., I think we're always looking to upgrade where we can. Do we have enough depth there? I'm not sure about that yet, but I think we'll get a better indication of that over the next couple of weeks when we're practicing against some pretty good teams.
Q: How do you balance trusting the process and being patient versus if things aren't going the way you want it, you have to make a move or a decision?
A: It’s never an easy question. I really do believe we're moving in the right direction here. I think the attitude on the team is really good and with the coaches. I think I just have to try to continue to have some patience, which is not easy for me given the last four seasons that we've had. I do think (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Dave (Gettleman) and (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) have made a lot of good decisions. Again, I think we're moving in the right direction.
Q: Dave said recently it’s an important year for (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones), year three. This is year four for him (Dave Gettleman) yet 15 wins in three years. How much does that same logic apply to him as well?
A: Well, I think it's the same for the entire organization. I want to see us make progress and become a winning team again. We're overdue on that and we spent a lot of money in free agency. I think we've had a couple of really productive drafts, now it's time to prove it on the field.
Q: Is Dave on the hot seat this year?
A: We’re all on the hot seat, with our fans in particular. We've given them too many losing seasons, it's time for us to start winning. But no, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that's an accurate statement.
Q: Given the results, why is he not?
A: Let's see what happens, let's see what happens during the season. Let's see what kind of progress we've made. Let's see if we've won some games and we'll address that after the year.
Q: Do you need to be in the playoffs this year?
A: I always feel like we need to make the playoffs, yeah.
Q: In terms of if you’ve missed it (playoffs), would you consider major changes?
A: I'll look at that at the end of the season and see whether I think we're continuing to make progress and moving in the right direction, but I'm not issuing a playoff mandate. I don't think those ever do you any good. I don't think I need to say or do anything to motivate the people in this building any more than they're already motivated. They all want to win.
Q: You would consider if missing playoffs, but showing progress would be enough?
A: That's hard to say. I gave the same answer last year, I think when I walk off the field after the last game, whenever that is, I want to feel like, do we have a chance to win a Super Bowl with this group? Does this group give us a chance to win the Super Bowl? Are we moving in that direction? If the answer to that is yes, then we're not going to consider making any changes. If I feel like we're going backwards, that's another discussion.
Q: You feel like you are headed in that direction?
A: I do feel like we're heading in that direction, yes.
Q: How would evaluate last year being in a playoff run with a record of 6-10?
A: I felt like despite the record, I felt like we were making progress and I think with the additions that we've made this past offseason, I still feel that way. I feel good about this team right now.
Q: There's a lawsuit that alleges a culture of violence in the workplace here. How do you respond to the picture of your organization after this lawsuit?
A: It's a baseless lawsuit, but given that it's active right now, I'm not going to comment any further.
Q: We know what a big story it was when you guys decided to trade (Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver) Odell (Beckham Jr.) to Cleveland, you guys will be out there and kind of get that first look at him. What are your feelings today on that trade you guys made versus maybe what you felt?
A: I think it's a trade that will work out well for both sides. Obviously, the players that we added have been big contributors for us. I expect Odell to have a great season. I still have a great relationship with him, I've texted with him. I'm looking forward to seeing him next week.
Q: A few of the free agents you have signed and (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney has not been able to practice a lot of the times so far. What's your level of concern about that as you're a couple of weeks in and they haven’t gotten many reps.
A: Yeah, I would have liked to have seen them on the field more, but our medical people are not concerned long-term about it, so that'll be good to get them back out there. But I wouldn't say that it's a major concern right now.
Q: Why do you think the offensive line is in better shape considering you lost your better guys from last year?
A: Well, because I think all five of the starters, plus a couple of the backups are good quality players. I know our coaching staff feels good about them. Obviously, there's going to be skepticism about them until they do it on the field and they start producing some complete games and some wins. I do like the people that we have up there, and I do have confidence in them.
Q: Why has it been such a struggle for this franchise to build an offensive line? It's going on close to a decade now where the offensive line has been a going concern and some misses in the draft, some whiffs in free agency. Why has that position been such a struggle?
A: Some misses in the draft and some whiffs in free agency. I mean, that's the bottom line on it, but I think we've made better decisions lately. Are they a complete finished product yet? I wouldn't say that, but I think they have the potential to be a very good offensive line, but again, until they do it out on the field and we start producing some good offensive performances, there's going to be that skepticism and I understand it.
Q: I know you spoke glowingly about Daniel in general. Are you convinced that he's the future for the franchise quarterback here for now and years moving forward, or do you need to see more this season? If so, what do you need to see?
A: Obviously we want it, we need to see more wins, but I do have a lot of confidence in Daniel. One of the things that gives me that confidence is the way that the coaches in this building feel about him. They love him. They love everything about him, we just have to win some games now. I like everything that I see on the field with him. I like his leadership, I like his work ethic, I like the way the players respond to him. We just have to win some games now.
Q: We asked Dave Gettleman before and he said that by the end of this season, he'll know about Daniel Jones, whether you're hoping that he's an NFL franchise quarterback. Do you almost have to know just based on the financial realities now of quarterback prices and where he is in his career?
A: Well, I think before you make that type of decision, yes, you have to know, and this will be his (third) season. Hopefully he stays healthy, hopefully he'll make it an easy decision for us by the end of the year.
Q: What do you need to see from (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) to commit to him long-term?
A: Well, you need to see him back on the field producing, which we expect that to be the case. Our medical people feel very good about where he's at right now. I like what I've seen from him out on the field and hopefully that'll be an easy decision for us as well.
Q: You were a big proponent of (Offensive Coordinator) Jason Garrett before he was hired. Just looking back on his first year, how would you assess the job he did with the offense?
A: Listen, we did not have a great year offensively last year, but I feel good about Jason, I know the rest of the people in the building do as well. Again, there's going to be skepticism about our offense and until we start scoring points, I think we have more tools to work with this year, certainly than he had when he started with us a year ago.
Q: You've seen championships won in this building and you know what it takes. How tough is it personally for you over the years now to not be without that, to kind of judge things on well, let's make progress because you know the difference. How tough is that?
A: The last few years have been very tough on our fans and certainly on our families, as well. Nobody wants to be losing games in a manner in which we've lost them over the past few years. That's why one of the reasons we made the decision to spend so much money in free agency because we believed in the guys that we were spending it on and we desperately want to be back playing in championship games again. I think we have a group here that is on its way to doing that, but again, until we do it on the field, there's going to be that level of skepticism and I certainly understand that. But I will say that I feel better about what we have on this field than I have in years.
Q: With Joe, you’ve spoken glowingly about him and about your confidence in him. What do you think of what he’s building here, and has it added to your confidence?
A: It's definitely, it's definitely a huge factor no question about it. He exudes confidence, but his attention to detail and the way the players respond to him I think is something that adds to my level of confidence, as well. He demonstrates leadership. He demonstrates – he sees the big picture. He has an appreciation, strong appreciation for the history of this franchise. That's why you see the former players coming back all the time that he's invited. I'm convinced that we have the right guy at the helm.
Q: What did you think of his response to the brawl?
A: I thought he handled it well. I thought he handled it well. It was disappointing for me to see what happened on the field. I think I said to somebody the other day, I think I've been to over 60 training camps in my lifetime and I've seen every type of brawl that you can imagine out on the field. You never want to see that. I thought he handled it well. And I thought the player's response to the way he handled it was very good, as well.
Q: When you hired Joe, this looked like a rebuild and maybe you guys looking at doing the right thing in the long-term. Is this still a rebuilding year, too?
A: I don't know, how you do define rebuild? I expect to win more games than we did last year. I'm hopeful that we're going to be a playoff team this year. You can call it anything you want. I just want to feel like after the last game, that all right, what we have here as a team can win a Super Bowl.
Q: There’s noise in this building that there were some miscalculations made in the 2018 Draft. Can you give anything more about what those miscalculations were and how to avoid those sort of things moving forward?
A: You can always look back at previous drafts and say, ‘we should have done this, we should have done that.’ The only thing I will say to you is that the last two drafts I think were much better and provided us with more quality players, and I feel good about where we are right now.
Q: You obviously made a mistake in drafting (Former Giants Cornerback) DeAndre Baker, a guy who had red flags. You addressed how that didn’t work out with (Former Giants Cornerback) Eli Apple and some other guys and then you draft Kadarius Toney who had some red flags. How do you respond to that?
A: Well, you say he’s had red flags. I don't think Kadarius Toney had any red flags and DeAndre Baker, there was nothing in his background – there was nothing in his background that would have led us to believe that he would have been involved in the incident that he was involved with. There were certain things, but when players coming out of college, there are always issues that you have to look at and you have to make a decision. Sometimes you're not going to be correct. More often than not, we are, in terms of their character anyway.
Q: Dave mentioned how one of the things that he’s done since he’s been here is improve of the football operations. I'm wondering when you look at that, what's the biggest gains or increase that you've seen in that regards?
A: He absolutely has done that. We've made a lot of changes. We've got an entire analytics department now. We've got more people in our personnel areas, some really talented young people. I think our football operation is definitely much improved since when he took over.
Q: (Cornerback) Sam Beal was out here and he said there is more to the story of his gun charge then has been recorded and he shared that with you guys. Is that why you feel comfortable with him still on the roster, what he shared with you guys?
A: I would say, yes. I think he's done a good job since he's been here. He's working hard on the field trying to make the roster. He obviously has some talent. The league has addressed his or is addressing his issues and we feel good about where he is right now.
Q: What do you say to the large segment of your fan base that says this has to be a playoff team or there should be changes at the top in terms of your personnel?
A: Let me just say this, in my recent memory, this is the most positive that our fan base has been about our team. I've gotten very few negative letters or emails about where we are as a team right now. Now, if we do not have a good season, that will obviously change. But I think our fan base is very optimistic, more so I think than the media is about our prospects this year.
Q: Your Dad went through a lot of tough years before they turned it around. Do you ever think of his experience? Did he ever share anything with you that is helping you?
A: I mean, no question. I have thought about that quite a bit over the last few years. I think what changed then was bringing George Young in and finally getting the right people in the building. I think we have the right people in the building right now. I think one of the things that was true back then is we went through this period in the 70s where we were trading draft picks, trying to bring in the next franchise quarterback and it never quite worked out. We ended up giving away a lot of valuable draft picks. I think even when you've had a bad stretch, you still have to maintain some level of patience and still look at the long term, and that's what we try to do. It's taken a little longer than I would like, but I hate to sound like a broken record, but I do feel like we're heading in the right direction.
Q: If you look across the country, Delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing. Is there any danger that you might have to dial back fan attendance?
A: I think that's certainly something that we're monitoring very closely. We've been in constant communication with the governor's office about it. Right now, we're full go for having a full building and I believe that will be the case throughout the year. Now, whether we'll have to add some precautions like masks in indoor areas of the stadium, we're not there yet, but that's subject to further discussion. If you asked me that, as I said before in another week or two, I could have a different answer for it.
Q: If you have to possibly ask fans to be vaccinated, don't the fans who have tickets to the opener kind of need an answer soon on that?
A: As of right now, they do not need to show proof of vaccination. Could that change in a few weeks? I don't want to rule anything out because it's something we would have to discuss with the governor's office. But as of right now, we're planning on going ahead without requiring proof of vaccination.
Q: Where’s your team now as far as vaccines?
A: We're in pretty good shape. I think we’re well over 90 percent and everybody in this building, every non-player in this building is fully vaccinated.
Q: Obviously, the NFL has been strict and clear about what they want players to do with the vaccine. Would you prefer not only that you get 100 percent with players, but that some of the faces of your team are vaccinated?
A: I prefer that everybody be vaccinated. I would've preferred that it would have been mandatory for players to get vaccinated, but the Players Association did not share that view, so we are where we are, which is not a bad spot to be in. We're over 90 percent. Obviously, I'd like it to be 100 percent because I think it's the right thing to do.
Q: One little league question. The taunting emphasis, what were the conversations about that amongst you guys?
A: That's something we discuss every year in the Competition Committee. We get kind of sick and tired of the talking that does go on from time to time on the field. We tried to balance the sportsmanship with allowing the players to have fun and there's always a fine line there, but none of us like to see that. It's just a question of whether you can have rules that can be enforced and without taking the fun out of the game too, but nobody wants to see a player taunting another player. I know, I certainly don't. I think the rest of the members of the Competition Committee feel the same way, too.