Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Dowell Loggains, 12.17
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Dowell, what kind of challenges is there facing this defense and everything they have really?
Yeah, you stopped yourself because they are that talented where you can name more than just one person, but it’s a unique challenge. We start talking about very few teams have a true shutdown interior defensive lineman and a true shutdown corner, so it does give them flexibility to play aggressively, and the other nine players on the field are pretty good as well. They’ve done a very good job drafting guys. It’s a tough scheme to face. I was with the defensive coordinator (Brandon Staley) in Chicago. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a Vic Fangio guy, who obviously does a very good job on defense. The scheme is very tough to face, and you throw really good players on top of it, and it’s an obvious challenge for us. It’s one of those things where they do a really good job, because I know you were about to ask about 99 (Aaron Donald), they do a really good job of moving them around. There’s some games when you come in and you say, ‘Hey, he’s at the three technique on the right, let’s double them this way,’ or ‘Hey, we can shift the tight end to make sure he’s away from this play.’ But he plays a three technique. He plays shade, he’ll play the defensive end. They do a very good job of moving them around. It creates a unique challenge because you can’t zero in on him to lock him into one spot. Every offensive lineman is going to have to block him at some point, one-on-one, and they do a good enough job in the scheme to make sure that you can’t dial in where he’s at.
Peter Botte, New York Post: Dowell, you guys only had 12 first downs last week and under 200 yards of offense. Facing the number one defense in the league, obviously, it doesn’t get any easier. What do you have to change now this week and do better than what happened last week against the Seahawks?
Yeah, I thought the first half of the game, we started out okay, and just had to kick too many field goals. And as the game went on, the second half, we obviously played poor for a number of different reasons. But the biggest thing is when we got down there last week, we had the opportunity to kick four field goals, and we obviously missed three of them, but we need to do a better job finishing those third downs and making sure we can get a touchdown or two, here or there on the board and just create positive momentum. All of a sudden, when you fizzle out like that, and then you end up kicking field goals and you don’t make them, it challenges your mental fortitude of going forward. We just have to continue to put those things behind us and keep grinding, keep working. But at the end of it, I felt like we played okay in the first half. We were able to move the ball and it was kind of sloppy and got down there and had a chance to get points on the board and didn’t do it. I think it affected us too much in the second half, and we’ve got to keep fighting and battling.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: How tough is it when you’re struggling as an offense, and then you’re going against these defenses where you know the margin for error is so small? You talked about it a little, but just mentally, how do you keep the team where they need to be?
That’s a very good question, and sometimes it comes down to each person’s individual makeup. As a coach, you’re always trying to lead, inspire and motivate, but it comes down to each person, including the coaching staff, making the decision that you’re going to block out everything that’s going on, all the negative and focus on the things that we can control, and that’s how we practice, how we go about our attention to detail and improving those things, the fundamental breakdowns, making the corrections from last week that we need to make. And obviously, when you play a good team and you keep playing good teams, it’s a huge challenge mentally. It always goes back to your preparation and how you go about meetings and those things. There’s no secret. There’s no magic wand. There are no words a coach can say that make you feel any better as a player or a player telling a coach anything outside of, we just got to go do it and execute and keep working hard.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I think you guys had 53 plays on Sunday. You have had a number of games like that this year, low play counts. How tough is it just to establish an offensive identity when that’s the number of plays you’re getting?
Yeah, that is tough, because what happens is, you can’t get a flow going in the run game, and everything starts getting choppy. It starts to feel real choppy from every aspect, and it’s hard for your quarterback to get in a rhythm that way. When you’re in those first down, second down, you’re in the third down situation, now it puts a lot more pressure to convert on third down, to stay on the field. And when you’re not creating explosive plays, all of a sudden, it’s hard to go down on eight to 12 play drives and score touchdowns all the time, which we’ve been able to do against (Las Vegas) and some of these teams, but it’s just hard to sustain that through a game of saying we’re going to have five, eight to 12 play drives. You need to find a way to create explosive plays. If not, you’re going first down, second down, have to convert on third down. And it’s very few teams, especially where we’re at right now, because third down is not a strength of ours is, the chances of us right now converting three third downs, four third downs on a drive to go get points is a challenge for us. Against the Raiders two weeks ago, we were hitting explosive plays in the run game and hit a couple of explosive plays. I think last week, it hurt us not having (Denzel) Mims there for multiple reasons, not just having him as the player, but the attention that it drew other people and Crowder being banged up for the week. I think all those things kind of stack up on you, but the biggest thing is the explosive plays and your ability to convert on third down.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Hey, Dowell, for a guy Sam’s (Darnold) age and for the unfortunate amount of disappointment he’s had in his career, can you speak to how he’s handled himself both publicly and behind closed doors, please?
I can promise you this, I couldn’t speak higher of a player than how Sam’s handled himself as a professional, as an individual, in the quarterback room, in front of the team. He holds himself accountable for everything the team does. I don’t know that he embraces what he should, as far as the quarterback play, and I’ve said this to you guys before, it’s about getting the other 10 guys around you to play well, sometimes. You have a big part in that, and it’s your coaches putting you in good spots, and Sam wants to carry all the burden himself, and it’s always, I have to play better, I need to make a better decision, I need to throw that ball away. And so, I couldn’t speak to his character enough, how mentally tough he is. I think I said this to you guys last week or the week before, he’s as mentally tough as a player I’ve ever been around. Sam gets in the situation where he feels the stress to try to help. And when things are choppy, like Brian (Costello) referred to a minute ago with the offense, he wants to make plays, and sometimes it’s, ‘Hey, the play don’t care who makes it, throw it away, throw it away earlier. Don’t try to force things.’ They’re just things as a leader and as a quarterback that he tries to carry the burden for everyone, and I can’t talk enough about his mental toughness and his accountability to the situation, and our record.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: To that element there, you could say that of everybody in the team, of course, but because of what you just talked about, is there a feel in your heart that he just deserves better than the results that have been there?
I think Sam Darnold’s a young player, and his story hasn’t been written. He’s going to be a really good player in this league, and I have all the faith in him. I know his teammates do. I know it’s close for him. I know it’s been a disappointing season for all of us up to this point, but we have an opportunity this week to go play really good defense. Sam Darnold deserves the best, and he needs to play a clean game this week, and we need to play better around him, and we need to coach better.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Yeah, regarding this week with Sam, what do you want to see? What do you need to see, again, against this defense, because I’m sure he’s got to get the ball out quickly, but you don’t want him to rush, so to speak?
Right. We always tell Sam, ‘Hey, you’re an artist, not a blacksmith.’ That’s part of playing quarterback is, paint the canvas the way you see it. But it’s also, you have to know what strengths that the other team has and how they’re going to attack your weaknesses. You have to have a lot of self-awareness of how they are going to attack you and you have to do a good job of understanding the pieces we have. For us, its play a clean game. There’s going to be times when you need to throw the ball away. You have to have that clock in your head, and when it’s going off, you can’t sit back there, and you can’t scramble around. These guys do a really good job attacking the spots in the pocket, and they’re really talented, and they have a really good corner that can eliminate half the field. So for Sam, he needs to play clean football, and sometimes that means running to get out of a bad spot. Sometimes, it means throwing the ball away and not forcing things. That’s the biggest thing in this game, because this team has the ability to make you look really bad, if you’re careless with the football or you’re careless with the shot clock in your head of holding onto the ball and those things. You have to play with anticipation versus this team, and we need to do a good job as coaches, knowing when we can and can’t take our shots and making sure we put Sam in a good situation that way, and the offensive line, as well, because it’s not just 99, there’s four or five guys on this defense that can really rush the passer.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Dowell, you said a minute ago, “Sam’s going to be a good player in this league.” Statistically, it’s not there right now. There’s no measure that supports that statement, so I just ask you, what do you see that makes you say that?
Yes, I understand the question, but I see it every day. I see his talent every day. I see the ability to make throws that are extremely accurate. I see the ability every day to extend plays and get out of harm’s way and to do things that very few guys can do. We have not, as an offense, put that on tape and put that on display. I think we’ve all seen glimpses of it. It hasn’t come together yet for us, and that’s not always on Sam. Sam carries his own portion for all of this, but it takes all of us. It takes the coaches doing their jobs. It takes the players to execute, and it takes 10 other guys doing their jobs. I say that because of the talent he has, and we’ve all seen the glimpses and flashes of it.