Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

26 Feb 2009

The Week in Quotes: Combine Edition

compiled by Doug Farrar

Almost everyone talks at the Scouting Combine, and almost every press conference is transcribed by a pool of reporters who are then allowed to use those transcripts for their own benefit. I'm always happy to participate because of the sheer enormity of information that comes out of the process. Here are some of the more interesting, informative, revealing, and funny quotes from the 2009 Combine.

The Coaches

"I'm just trying to coach the Patriots. I'm not trying to solve the world's problems."

-- Bill Belichick, on whether he thinks the trend towards younger head coaches is leaving some legends in the dust.

"The big surprise, more than anything else, is in this position you could literally work 24 hours a day because there's always something to do. I found that to be a real challenge, but a lot of fun also. Certainly it's going to take up a little bit of my time that I used to spend on the golf course every once a while in the spring, but I certainly relish the opportunity to work within the framework of the organization."

-- New Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who obviously didn't get the memo on Steve Spurrier's "Knock off at 5 for 18" tenure with the Redskins.

"I had a good conversation with Gus [Frerotte] the other night. He was watching a girls' basketball game."

-- Vikings head coach Brad Childress, dialoging with his backup quarterback.

"It's much more efficient now. There is very little wasted time. The evenings are now established with set times for the interviews. It used to be years ago you had to hustle around and scramble with your scouts to get guys to be interviewed. That's been completely worked out. Your hope is always that more and more of the outstanding players will participate so this one aspect of the Combine is also complete. We get tremendous medical information which may very well be the number-one reason for all of us collectively to be here. But to fill in all the aspects of the Combine, the work on the field, the research, the interviews, each year there has been an attempt to improve and it has improved."

-- Giants head coach Tom Coughlin on the changes to the Combine over the years.

"It's always been the Commissioner's position and the Committee's position that if in fact we're allowing the coin toss to determine the outcome of the game, we need to look at what's going on. But there are so many other factors involved. You don't want ties. The length of games, the injury issues that come up with extended overtime periods. There's a lot of different options we've looked at and we're going to continue to look at them. And that doesn't mean we're going to change them either."

-- Titans head coach and Competition Committee co-chair Jeff Fisher, on the overtime rule discussions.

"I'm not going to do hypotheticals today, OK? I don't know. That is a very creative question."

-- Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, responding to this: "Do you see any circumstance where it might be possible for Brett Favre to return to the team, even if it was in a coaching role?" Yikes.

"Me and (Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin are very close friends. We talk a lot. We actually talked last night about meeting in Miami next year and going down there and having a heavyweight head-coaching boxing match, something the media wouldn't be used to. It would be pretty funny if that happened, we'd love it to happen. It'd be the first time in NFL history you'd have two head coaches talking smack to each other on the podium."

-- New Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, getting ready to rumble.

"Those three years were quite an education for all of us -- Tony Sparano, now in Miami, Todd Haley now in Kansas City. We were all on the offensive side of the ball, we were there for a long time, and we were all learning. You get some battle scars -- if I pulled down my blue jeans, you'd see them -- but that's part of the deal."

-- Saints head coach Sean Payton, on his time in Dallas with Bill Parcells.

"I spend a lot of time with kids. I have seven kids myself. So, no, I don't think they have any clue. I think they'll sit there and tell you, 'Yes, I know what I want to do and I know what I want to be.' But once you turn the fire on and it starts getting hot, 'Well, wait, I'm not sure I really want to do it that way or that much.'"

-- 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, on young players realizing what it takes.

The Executives

"I personally believe that has changed. We just used to look for that tough hombre, that strong safety. The guy that is going to step up there and fill the hole, real strong. A 220-pound-plus guy. Now, ideally we'd like to get to a situation where you have interchangeable safeties. Maybe one guy is the strong safety, but you can flip it. There is a lot of variety in your coverages. I think it's something that usually will keep the offenses guessing."

-- Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, on his evaluation process for safeties.

"We have two goals in mind. One, to create an environment where the athletes can perform at their peak, and the other is to create an environment where the NFL personnel can evaluate these top players apples to apples. The belief is if we allow the general public and allow other people in to the building, it might compromise that working environment. That's really the reason we have maintained the privacy of the event."

-- National Football Scouting's Jeff Foster, on why the Combine process remains private.

"You've got a bunch of tapes to watch guys. From our standpoint we evaluate guys on how they play football, not just on how they run. Football players play with injuries, football players get injuries ... the Combine is great, but you watch players perform on tape. That's really the top evaluation."

-- Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, on whether Michael Crabtree's foot injury will affect his draft status.

"We have not yet seen the full effects of the recession in this industry, as the commissioner said last week, because the wash-through of sponsorships and things like that have not really hit us yet, and ticket sales are yet to be tabulated. Right now it's a murky picture except that we know the rest of the country is suffering badly."

-- Colts president Bill Polian, on the current economy.

The Xs-and-Os

"The things they're doing in college, most of it won't transfer to the NFL, so you're really looking for physical characteristics, the footwork, the arm strength, some of the decision-making. You're trying to take some of the spread part out of it and maybe just take it to point where the quarterback is getting ready to throw the ball. You see certain things in what he can do from that point on that may indicate what he can do to transfer to a more conventional offense."

-- Steelers Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert, on the transition of many spread players to the NFL.

"I think you're also going to see, as time goes on, some evolution of the college game into the NFL. You're seeing some of that this year with the Wildcat stuff, but I think you'll also see some possible use of some spread stuff as these Dennis Dixons, that type of quarterback, come into the league."

-- Colbert, on whether the NFL might meet the spread halfway.

"I think the Wildcat situation is something that a lot of us are trying to figure out what's the best way to defend it and as well as use it. I think (Falcons offensive coordinator) Mike Mularkey has a very good understanding of that as well. I think it will continue to bring players to the forefront that are a little bit of that 'Slash' ability, where they can also toss the ball. That's important as well. If you can get that runner who can run as well as be a receiver, versatility in this league is huge at any position. But when you get a receiver/skill position, a guy who has the versatility to run it out of the backfield, to me that adds a whole different dimension."

-- Dimitroff, on how the Wildcat affects the draft process.

"It's going to be a part of our personality. There's no question about it. I think our players like it. I think our coaches feel like there are some advantages there. There are some things this offseason that we had to go back and look at and reevaluate how to do it better, those type of things. There was a lot left on the bone that we didn't roll out there during the course of the season for one reason or the other. This gives us a chance this offseason to push the envelope a little bit more."

-- Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, on Miami's furtherance of the Wildcat.

The Players

"I'm not torn at all. I'm actually excited about embracing one or the other because I know that's going to happen and I know the two-way thing can't happen unless it's in a red zone situation. I'm intrigued about fully diving into a position and learning the full technique and the intangibles and other things about whatever position it is."

-- Cincinnati's Connor Barwin, on his TE/LB/DE versatility.

"It's like speed dating. It's incredible. If I were that lucky with the women, I'd be alright. All the teams have shown great interest. They all know I have the ability to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. Some teams that play the 4-3 know that I have the ability to play in a 4-3. As far as strength and speed, all of that is there. Once we get into meetings and they hear my understanding of terminology, when I put myself in the position as an outside linebacker the more comfortable they feel I can be."

-- Florida State's Everette Brown, on meeting with NFL teams.

"He gave me a call during the season my senior year, and I kept in close contact with him after that. I sent him some film. He was kind of tweaking me during the season. I knew I was going to down there to train after the season. Before I even found an agent or anything, that's the decision I made."

-- UConn cornerback Darius Butler, on working with Deion Sanders.

"I dropped the law school thing around my junior season. I built a great relationship with coach [Jim] Grobe at Wake Forest and I realized that coaching college football was what I wanted to do. When I'm done playing football I want to go back and help young men in a pivotal point of their lives and help them get through school and be successful players and people."

-- Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.

"I get real pumped up for games. This is something I love to do, and to do it in front of 70,000 fans, plus people watching at home on an ESPN game, that gets me even more juiced. To go out and have a chance to be on ESPN like that, I think they had me miked up for the game and I was talking about the Pain Train. And growing up, Terry Tate, No. 56, the Office Linebacker, he was my hero watching those commercials. I tried to emulate him when I was out there."

-- Cal linebacker Zack Follett, on his primary role model.

"I've become a YouTube sensation. How it came about was, one day our strength coach said Adam Archuleta could jump out of a pool, and everybody was super amazed. I went out there one day -- it wasn't that big a deal to me -- and I just went and jumped out of the pool. I found out that I could do it, so I put it on film to make everybody else believe me."

-- San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert.

"My father, he said I was very, very challenging (as a small boy). Riding my tricycle over people's feet and stuff like that around the house. So he just didn't want to name me a regular name, he wanted to name me a masculine name, a nickname, so he came up with 'Macho' and it stuck with me ever since."

-- Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris, on the nickname.

"He was a fluid quarterback. Besides [Texas'] Colt McCoy he was probably the best quarterback we played against. He did a great job of studying us. He definitely knew what we were going to do before we even got to the game. He was able to just not even have to think about things and just be calm and deliver some throws. He did a great job of being poised and it showed in the game. He has confidence, he prepares well and it shows every Saturday."

-- Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, on USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

"You're out there every day doing your thing. As far as advantage or disadvantage, physically it was most likely a disadvantage. You're not working out too much or staying in too good a shape. Mentally I think it helped me a lot. It helped me grow up and mature in a lot of ways. So in the long run I'm really glad I went. It was an awesome experience and something I reflect upon a lot."

-- Utah defensive end Paul Kruger, on his Mormon mission.

And this year's winners...

(Most reports had Mark Sanchez and Jason Smith as the most impressive podium participants, with Aaron Curry not far behind.)

"Well, we went to lunch yesterday, so ... went to the Ram. Not bad. Indy's fun.
Indy's a good town. What did I have to eat? Club sandwich. No mayo."

-- USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, on meeting with the Detroit Lions.

"I'm ready. Let's get it done. Sure, absolutely. I'm not in favor of a holdout, obviously. That wouldn't be very fun, not for the team or for me. You're already starting off at a bit of a disadvantage. These guys have already started working out since the Super Bowl, I know that. They're dedicated and ready to get things going in their new season, and whether the rookies sign or not they're going to kick it off after Labor Day. So you gotta be ready." --

-- Sanchez, on being picked first overall.

"That's a good question. I think the best way to answer that is talk about the kind of experience I've had, against the top players around, most of them in the NFL, since my freshman year. I started 16 games, played in practice every day with a pro style offense, against a pro-style defense with guys like [Brian] Cushing, [Rey] Maualuga, [Kaluka] Maiava, [Clay] Matthews, Taylor Mays, Kevin Ellison, Lawrence Jackson, guys who are in the league and are going to be in the league, first-rounders and things like that. So I think the experience I've had has been very valuable. And the type of atmosphere I've played in. I've been in a big city, a large media market. We've played in the Rose Bowl, in nationally televised games, and I'm ready for this league."

-- Sanchez, on his relative lack of experience.

"When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody. As far as finishing them off, that's just a part of the block, so you don't really think too much of it because that's what you go on the field to do. So it's just something I practice real hard at, and I practice real hard at practicing, and when its game time it just happens natural."

-- Baylor tackle Jason Smith, on finishing blocks.

"I got it when I was younger and I just kind of carried it with me. Well, actually, I didn't carry it. A friend of mine at college came home with me and he heard my friends calling me that and he brought it to college. Over the years, I've developed that, 'Hey, that's really how I want to live, is be smooth every day.' So I started adapting, 'Yeah, call me Smooth.'"

-- Smith, on his "J-Smooth" nickname.

"I'm a team roper. I'm a header. It's something I adapted when I was younger. Team roping's actually safe -- it's not one of those events where you can get hurt. I did it while I was in college up until last year when football really got serious. When [Baylor Head Coach Art] Briles first came in, he said, 'You gotta quit riding horses.' I was like, 'Yes, sir.' I've got a pretty big quarterhorse. Ol' Gray's pretty big."

-- Smith, on his love of calf roping.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 26 Feb 2009

9 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2009, 12:49am by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear


by Bobman :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 4:23am

Doug clearly picked good player quotes but I am impressed at how sharp these guys sound. There were probably an infinite number of "Duh's" as well.

Raheem Morris is my new favorite head coach. If players ever strike, I propose coach boxing matches to replace the games. I got $10 on him.

Belichick is a good quote despite his rep as being tight-lipped. But did anyone imply he was supposed to try to solve the world's problems? That seems like an odd response based on Doug's explanation.

Doug, nice knee to Spurrier's crotch. Always fun kicking a guy even when he's been out of the league a few years. I am sure Skins fans would have been much harsher.

by Unverified Telamon (not verified) :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 1:09pm

Por Ejemplo:

'Spurrier was a 24-hour coach. He spent 24 hours a day shouting "Yee-haw! Run and shoot!," which, unfortunately, left very little time for actual coaching.'

I'd say that's the kind of thing a Redskins fan would say

by Bobman :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 5:47pm

I think you are dead wrong. 19 hours and 50 minutes of shouting and 4 hours of golfing, 10 minutes lining up tomorrow's tee-time.

by NY expat :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 2:22pm

I would expect any half-decent agent has arranged for training for all aspects of the combine -- not just the physical stuff like the 40, but the interviews as well. Just the agent's own self-interests would seem to support that. Think about how much money Andre Smith's agent has lost by Smith's showing up out-of-shape and then leaving early.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 2:36pm

How do you allow yourself to show up out of shape like that? That's not just a red flag to teams, it's a UN complex of red flags.

by Bobman :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 5:46pm

100% agreed. But even some word and grammatical choices looked, oh, erudite, for a 22 year old kid who has spent 6 hours a day practicing and working out since he was 15. Prepared speeches are one thing, and prepping them for expected questions ala courtroom trial is another, but who can prep for some goofy press questions?

Again, some guys are actually sharp and well spoken. I was just expecting a little more Emmitt Smith and a little less Tony Randall. (okay, I am dating myself here, but I guess it was better than David Niven or Oscar Wilde....) Even the players who are 15 years older and end up with media jobs are not that well spoken. Maybe it IS all agent prep.

by Sophandros :: Sun, 03/01/2009 - 8:30pm

Yep, that's why some teams have tried to get players out of their element by cutting them off, asking them strange questions, and basically being rude to them during the interviews.

I think it's hilarious.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

Oh, and Hail Eris!

by RBurgh (not verified) :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 7:43pm

There are 31 coaches out there who want to be paired with Bill Belicheck in the first match!

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Mon, 03/02/2009 - 12:49am

Wouldn't they be afraid he might already have tape on them?

Somebody had to say it.