12:27 P.M. MST: Bon giornio and welcome to the final press conference of the 2007 campaign, Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s season-ending gathering here at Dove Valley, which begins in 33 minutes. At the very least, he’ll almost certainly offer his first comments on Tuesday’s change at the top of the defensive coaching staff, when Jim Bates departed after one year as assistant head coach/defense.
12:45 P.M. MST: T-minus 15 minutes here in the media room, which is already full and has eight cameras poised to chronicle the doings.
12:55 P.M. MST: Testing is done … we’re ready to roll.
12:57 P.M. MST: Here we go … three minutes early.
12:58 P.M. MST: “I’m sure there’s no questions,” Shanahan joked.
12:59 P.M. MST: Bob Slowik will be calling the defenses, Shanahan confirmed … He said he offered Jim Bates the chance to continue as a linebackers coach and he declined … “I thought as a defense we needed to continue in a little different direction.”
12:59 P.M. MST: Shanahan said the decision to part ways with Larry Coyer a year ago wasn’t predicated on football matters … Shanahan also points to the team’s league rankings over the years compared to what they were in 2007 as reason for making the change from Bates to Slowik.
1 P.M. MST: “We’ve got a philosophy here on defense that I’d like to get back to. Bob knows that philosophy and had some success with it; that’s why I think he’ll do a great job.”
1:01 P.M. MST: “Philosophical differences … (Bates is) someone that’s had a lot of success in different places; it just didn’t work out here.”
1:02 P.M. MST: “We’ve had a certain philosophy … We got back to it when we couldn’t stop the run this season — back to more 8-man fronts — but it was different coverages, different assignments and it just never came together.”
1:04 P.M. MST: In looking back at Ray Rhodes’ tenure in 2001-02, Shanahan said that his departure had nothing to do with football, but with health … He also reiterates that Coyer’s departure “had nothing to do with Xs and Os” but declines to get into it. “It’s really none of your business; I just make decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the organization.”
1:05 P.M. MST: “It goes back to me. I gave (Bates) the freedom to run the defense that he would like … It just didn’t work out.”
1:06 P.M. MST: Now Shanahan is asked about the 2003 draft, from which no players remain. ”I think you have to average it out through the years, and the bottom line is you judge it through wins and losses … I can throw stats at you, wins, those types of things, but the bottom line is we were 7-9. How do we correct it?”
1:07 P.M. MST: “The bottom line in drafts, free agency is if you win? … We’ve got to correct it.”
1:08 P.M. MST: On Javon Walker: “Guys like him, I will talk to before March 1.” Also said he has or will talk to Travis Henry and John Lynch about their status but declined to get into details. “There’s different issues with different players … but for me to make comment before I talk to (Walker) would be inappropriate.”
1:09 P.M. MST: On what is next: “You decide what areas you need to improve, what you have to do from a coaching standpoint,” he said. “We go back for a couple of weeks and evaluate personnel and schemes, and after we get away for a couple of weeks, we get back and look back at free agency and the college draft.”
1:10 P.M. MST: On whether the offseason will be more intense after a 7-9 finish: “It’s more intense … You’ve got to take a hard look at yourself and then you look at different areas and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
1:11 P.M. MST: Said Jim Ryan will become the linebackers coach while Joe Baker takes Ryan’s old spot on the coaching staff. Other than that, there will be no more coaching changes.
1:12 P.M. MST: On the offense’s efforts in 2007: “I saw us getting better. Even though we didn’t play as well as we’d like to play consistently, I think there’s a big future there.”
1:13 P.M. MST: “You always have the personnel to win 10-plus games. We’ve got to get a little healthier. We’ve never lost 62 (games) for guys on offense.”
1:14 P.M. MST: “It’s not excuses. It’s just the way it is. It’s the bottom line. We’ll see if we can step up and if we go in the other direction.”
1:15 P.M. MST: “I think the gap is very big right now between the Patriots, Colts and everybody else … Those are the two teams that are obviously above the rest. Everybody’s trying to catch up to those guys, and rightfully so … It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.”
1:16 P.M. MST: On San Diego: “If they put their best game together they can beat both Indy and New England … We’re going to have to play well to beat San Diego, which we didn’t this season … Can we get there? Yeah, we can get there … But we’re going to have to get lucky from an injury standpoint.
1:17 P.M. MST: Said both Tom Nalen and Ben Hamilton both believe they can be back. “We should have Tom back full speed and we’re hoping to have Ben back full speed … Will Ryan Harris step up? All that’s part of the evaluation process.”
1:18 P.M. MST: On Al Wilson being cleared to play and potentially rejoining the Broncos: “You never know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said, adding that he had not spoken with Wilson since he left Denver.
1:18 P.M. MST: On D.J. Williams: “I’m not going to go through personnel — if he’s middle or outside — we’ll find out who’s on our football team before we make those evaluations.”
1:19 P.M. MST: “There’s some optimism,” he said as he rattled off the status of each unit, as well as some younger players who stepped forward because of injuries to players above them on the depth chart.
1:20 P.M. MST: On whether a coach’s message grows stale: “Not with the turnover,” he said, citing an annual 30 percent roster turnover that goes along with life in the NFL nowadays.
1:20 P.M. MST: “I think it’s personally embarrasing when I tell you we have the talent to win 10 games and we don’t.”
1:21 P.M. MST: “He (Pat Bowlen) understands you go through some tough times … He understands the big picture.”
1:22 P.M. MST: “Nobody can put more heat on me than me … When you don’t win, it’s pretty tough with the time we put in … You’ve got to have thick skin and believe in what you’re doing.”
1:23 P.M. MST: “It’s me. My bottom line is to get this team to win … When we don’t, I know when it’s coaching and I know when it’s players. Like I said, we should have had 10 wins … We did have a few guys we lost during the season, but even with that, we still should have won 10 games.”
1:24 P.M. MST: Said he likes Slowik’s “flexibility,” among other things.
1:25 P.M. MST: On free agency: “It’s getting harder and harder to get quality free agents because you’re overpaying for guys that others don’t want … You’re better off doing it through the draft.”
1:25 P.M. MST: Breaks down the left tackle position … reminds listeners that Erik Pears started there in 2006 … also said Ryan Harris was drafted in part because of the possibility of left tackle opening up if Lepsis left, as he did last week.
1:26 P.M. MST: On Pears: “He does a good job. He gives you everything he’s got. I like the way he handles himself.”
1:27 P.M. MST: Says there’s talk of microfracture surgery for Javon Walker, but that it “could be two to three years down the line; we really don’t know.”
1:28 P.M. MST: On Jay Cutler: “Strong arm, a guy that’ll compete … Now he’s got to go out there and do it, just like John (Elway) did … John had to prove himself in a playoff situation and finally got to that Super Bowl … His first four years all you heard was that he never played in a bowl game and that he never won a playoff game … But he believed in himself and kept on working his rear end off and finally got to the promised land … I was in the same situation with Steve Young, following Joe Montana.”
1:29 P.M. MST: “There’s a million things (Cutler) can work on — ball position, consistency with his short throws, blitzes and how to react to them, footwork, pressure, stepping up, scrambling. Different things that all quarterbacks go through.”
1:30 P.M. MST: Evaluating Travis Henry: “Any time there’s a setback with a guy you have to look back at what he did in the first four or five games.” … Said that he didn’t think he ever recovered from the initial medial collateral ligament injury. “You kind of get out of football shape … He tried, but he could never get back in shape.”
1:31 P.M. MST: More on Henry — “With the money involved, you have to make a decision that is best for the organization.”
1:32 P.M. MST: Said that Young can’t handle “20-25 carries” 16 games in a row … but that for 15-20 carries he can get five yards a carry … Expressed a similar sentiment with Andre Hall. Both dealt with injuries this year.
1:33 P.M. MST: “We definitely need the right returner … We thought we had it with Andre Hall this year … The thing we’re going to have to get better on is kickoffs … We had more of a hang time with kickoffs (after signing Matt Prater) … We’ve got a couple of guys that we think can help us already on our football team.”
1:34 P.M. MST: On Jason Elam: “I’m hoping he will be (here).”
1:35 P.M. MST: Said that Tim Crowder and Marcus Thomas “both have a big upside” and that defensive linemen make big jumps from their first to second years.
1:35 P.M. MST: Ebenezer Ekuban will be back “in the middle of May (or) June … besides him, some bumps and bruises.” Said Selvin Young will have minor knee surgery, with a 1-2 week recovery time … Also, Jarvis Moss will be ready by the start of offseason workouts.
1:36 P.M. MST: “We’ve got people that have been on the road that have evaluated every guy in pro football; they’ll come back in three weeks and go over all the recommendations in free agents. Our pro scouts will rank them and put them in a pecking order … We do the same thing in the college draft. I don’t even know all the guys that are out there. … Even though I’ve got the final say, there’s no way you can do that without guys out there hitting the road and making recommendations that are in the best interest of your football team.”
1:37 P.M. MST: “You’ve got to get an independent contractor that will look at your players … it’s a good cross-check for us.”
1:38 P.M. MST: On Hamza Abdullah as long-term safety option: “We’ll find out.”
1:39 P.M. MST: “I think John (Lynch) will decide in the next month … I talked to John today for an hour, hour and a half.”
1:40 P.M. MST: On whether Travis Henry will be the No. 1 tailback next year: “There’s a lot of money involved and you’ve got to make the decision with a big signing bonus what’s best for the organization. To tell you right now — I can’t tell you … There’s a lot to weigh … There’s so many factors involved that to say one way or another right now would be a little bit — not dishonest, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth.”
1:41 P.M. MST: On whether a great coach or great quarterback is more important to win a title: “To win Super Bowls, you have to have an organization … it can’t just be a quarterback or a head coach; it’s got to be a lot of people working together … and you’ve got to be a little lucky with injuries.”
1:43 P.M. MST: “If you don’t win 10 games, the blame should be on the coach,” he said, reiterating that even with injuries, one should still expect to win 10 games.
1:44 P.M. MST: “If you play him 50-60 plays a game, I think you’re going to wear him down … sometimes you have to play him more than you wanted to, but I think to do that to Brandon was a mistake, and that’s why he wore down.”
1:45 P.M. MST: On Rod Smith’s involvement after his career: “I want to get Rod Smith to be a part of this organization, doing something … hopefully we can work something out down the line.”
1:46 P.M. MST: “As a player, you can only lead when you’re playing. It’s hard to do it from the background, but if anybody could do it, Rod could.”
1:47 P.M. MST: On whether there were second thoughts about Domenik Hixon’s release: “We felt that Andre Hall was a better look for us … but just because a guy has an 85-yard kickoff return, it doesn’t mean the guy has arrived; let’s see it over time … we gambled over (trying to get him on) the practice squad and we lost.”
1:50 P.M. MST: On whether the team has already started rebuilding: “Any time you have young players, everybody says (that) … I know after an 8-8 season my first year, everybody thought we had three or four years to rebuild, then we went 13-3 … Maybe it’s Terrell Davis or Tony Jones coming in … That’s part of football. I can’t answer that question,” Shanahan said, then citing the contributions of Brandon Marshall, Selvin Young, Chris Kuper, Andre Hall, Marcus Thomas, Tim Crowder, Elvis Dumervil and other more experienced players.
1:51 P.M. MST: “There’s a fine line to try to get that chemistry right and a lot of things that go into it.
1:52 P.M. MST: On Jamie Winborn: “He was our best special-teams player … He played well the last couple of games …. Jordan Beck was (also) a difference-maker on special teams.”
1:53 P.M. MST: Ronnie Bradford will coach the secondary as Slowik handles overall defensive supervision.
1:53 P.M. MST: And that’s it … 56 minutes, start to finish.
Tags: Mike Shanahan