Tight Ends Coach Derek Dooley
Q: How did that go the last two weeks with (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie (Kitchens) taking over that role of play calling?
A: As far as what part of it?
Q: How does the offense change? What's been different?
A: Obviously, it's a change. Anytime you fire a coordinator there's going to be a change in the dynamic and Freddie's done a great job. Our coaches have been around football a long time, this isn't our first rodeo. Everybody really pulled all their energy together and worked together and helped him as much as we can to put in a game plan and help him on game day. I've just been really pleased with how everybody's been. Obviously, the results are not what we want and that's our job to try to get a better result.
Q: Without a traditional 'He's the offensive coordinator', are you asked to do more? Are you giving more input? Are you going up to him more during the game? How does that work?
A: When (Former Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) was here, we all gave a tremendous amount of input during the week and certainly he had a clear vision with this offense of what he wanted and what he wanted to call. On game days, he wanted things – every coordinator wants different things on game day to help him. I think we're all given similar input and ultimately instead of Jason deciding on what he's calling, it's Freddie deciding on what he's calling. I think any play caller – that's not specific to Jason or Freddie – sort of has things that he's accustomed to in certain situations, things that he's accustomed to offensively, so there's a natural adjustment from that standpoint.
Q: I know they're not your guys, but how does this offense get its skill position players more involved and into the end zone? You guys haven't had a touchdown—
A: The end zone is the biggest one. Obviously, the first key element of getting the skill players involved is having them dress out on game day, which is a really important thing. It's hard to get them the ball when they're in the sweat suit. If you said what's been a little bit of a challenge is you start planning early in the week and usually by about today or tomorrow you find out who's playing and who's not. That's a challenge that we can easily overcome, and we've got to do a better job of, but that's been our focus is try to get our best players the ball. I think if you look at any team, they do the best job of that, but at the same time the other guys make plays, too. I think about the first third down of the game, we called a play that typically was going to be designed for (Tight End) Evan (Engram). But if they're doubling him or they take it away, the next guy has got to be in the progression and (Wide Receiver) Pharoh Cooper did a great job. It was third-and-six or third-and-seven, he runs the route perfectly, how we coached it up, makes a tough contested catch. When you're on good offenses, which all of us on our staff have been a part of, not only are the good players playing with a great spirit, but then when the other guys, the role players, get an opportunity they pounce on it. But that's been our goal. Every week, we look at it and say, 'What could we have done better?' Then, try to do a better job planning it and then the players doing a better job of executing it.
Q: From what you've seen from this offense, when Jason – one of the last times he talked to us, he expressed that this offensive line is a work in progress. From what you've seen, how much have you guys had to navigate around that offensive line? You talk about getting the ball to the playmakers. The ball goes nowhere if the quarterback can't get it to them. What have you seen from this group and is it a constant challenge with all of your offensive brain trust to function with this offensive line?
A: Line one in the NFL in the pass game is how are you going to protect him, and this is not specific to the New York Giants. Most everybody's offensive line is not quite as God-gifted as the defensive line, right? Let's be honest, if you're really big and you're incredibly athletic and explosive, most guys play on the defensive line. When you're in high school and college, if you're not quite as good on the defensive line, but you've got really good size, what do they do? They move you to offensive line, right? So right away, you have an immediate mismatch from what God gave you. My point is, we're always starting with protection and the challenges, and every defense that you play typically has elite rushers. Obviously, we've got one this week. Sometimes it's the tackle, sometimes it's the two edge guys. Everything we're doing is trying to help our offensive line in the protection, but at the same time you've got to get guys out and get open, and then emphasize a ball out philosophy. I don't think it's anything unique to a lot of other teams in the league. Yeah, we're trying to do our best, but at some point, you've got to block a guy and you can't avoid that. There's no pass protection we can put out there where a guy doesn't have to block somebody.
Q: With Evan, just watching the game it seemed like he was getting the ball in different spots than maybe he had previously during the season. Was that a conscious change to put him in different spots or were you guys able to get to those routes because of certain things that may have happened?
A: That's a good question. No, we've pushed each week, each year to try to use Evan more and more. I think early in the year, we probably felt like we needed to use him more to help some of the protection stuff. We also had guys like (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) KT and (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard) Shep out there in the slots. Now that we didn't have KT, we don't have Shep, let's be a little bit more aggressive getting the ball out and Evan has all the skillsets to go do that. He made some tremendous plays, he did. He ran great routes like a receiver against tight man coverage, caught the ball well. Hopefully we can keep building on that.
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my untrained eyes it looked like a little difference you guys had the last two weeks is stacking your receivers a little more, using more routes to sort of work off each other. Is that accurate? And then why has that been—
A: I can't say specifically how much different things look than what we've done. I feel like every week we're trying to do the same thing, which is help our guys and put them in a position to where they can make plays. We can simply just line them up and say, 'Go win your one-on-ones,' but those guys on the other side are good, too. As much as we can do to help them – every team does it, the shifts, the motions, the stacks, the bunches. We're going to keep doing that. We have to.
Q: I heard that Jason is a candidate for the Duke head coaching job right now. Do you think that he's especially qualified for that specific job, that he would be a good fit there?
A: I mean, go look at his 10-year record in the NFL. How many active head coaches of the 32 have a better winning percentage? If you're asking me whether he's qualified to be a head coach – is that what you're asking?
Q: No, just specifically at Duke, this quickly after leaving the NFL, going to college after coaching an NFL team for so long. It's just that it would be different, you know?
A: Jason is incredibly intelligent and if you put him in charge of anything, he would quickly figure it out and have success. There's no doubt in my mind. Obviously, there's a different learning curve in college, but you just go in there and learn it and apply a lot of the things that you've been using over the last whatever years as a head coach. Ultimately, coaching is coaching, whether you're in high school, whether you're in college, whether you're in the pros. You're having to have this great connection with a player and motivate him to be the best player he can be, give him the resources to be the best player he can be and then give him all the tools on the field to help him play his best. That doesn't change no matter what level, it really doesn't. The good coaches – there are great coaches at every level that can coach at any level and I think he's one of those.