ML: “We’re pleased to be here today. We’re excited for Jay (Gruden) and his opportunity to move on and become the head coach of the Redskins, and obviously we had to move very fast and were able to hire Hue Jackson to move forward as our offensive coordinator. The thing to know is that a couple years ago when we had the opportunity to add Hue to the staff here, we didn’t really have the fit that some people probably thought, and Hue worked with the defensive coaches in the secondary and special teams, and it was the vision that if this would happen, we would have Hue here, and he have an opportunity, as he had last year to move over when Jim (Anderson) retired, to take this spot. The idea was that one day this would occur, and that we would be able to keep the continuity of what we were doing and move forward quickly with that. I’m excited for that.”
How beneficial is it that you already know the players and they know you?
HJ: “Very. I’m very excited. First of all, I’d like to thank Marvin and the Brown family for this opportunity. What a tremendous group of players, having been here the last two years, working on defense, getting to know the defensive players, meddling in the offense with some of our guys, and then having the opportunity to come over on offense and coach the running backs, and be around our quarterback, offensive line, tight ends and receivers. It makes it a really smooth transition for me, because they kind of know me and I kind of know them. They don’t know me from a leadership standpoint of standing in front of a room, but they kind of know my personality, and kind of how I see things, because I’ve been around.”
When you came here a couple years ago, how beneficial was it to work on the defensive side of the ball in that first season?
HJ: “Honestly, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. I needed that experience. I think that experience was invaluable. I don’t think as a coach you ever get that chance to go on the other side and be there for a whole season, coaching defense and really understanding what defenses are trying to do to offenses. I knew how to attack them, being on offense, but I didn’t know everything that went in to putting a defensive plan together, how they really saw an offense, how they went about trying to attack an offensive football team. Obviously it’s going to make me a better coach. It did make me a better coach. Being on offense, I was able to help my players with some other things, and I was also able to help the defensive players a little bit. At the end of the day, what a great opportunity. I think everybody should try it every now and then.”
How different will the offense look?
HJ: “It could look different. At the end of the day, we’re still going to do everything to take our best players and give them opportunity to be special. We’re going to try and create an environment for these guys to be great, and that’s what Marvin is all about. We know we need to run the football. We want to run the football. I think that’s where it starts. That’s what he preaches. From there, we have some very talented players on the outside. We have to give them opportunities to make plays. We’re not going to shy away from having to throw it when we need to. In order to win and be a very good offensive football team, you have to be able to run the ball, and that’s going to be a starting point for us.”
What is your take on the quarterback, and what do you have to do to help him?
HJ: “I think he’s a really good football player. Andy (Dalton) has won a lot of football games here. He’s been in the playoffs the last three years and it’s unfortunate that it hasn’t happened for him or his teammates in the games they have played. I think he has tremendous upside. What I have to do is not just about him, it’s about the offensive unit. Everybody’s got to play better than they’ve played around Andy, and Andy has to continue to grow and get better at what he’s doing. My charge in it all is to do everything I can to make sure that it in the classroom, out on the practice field, and then on game days, he can play free and play without any hesitation, which will allow our offense to play the same way.”
As a coordinator, you sometimes have to coach the coaches first and then coach the players. How much will you do that?
HJ: “A lot. Again, my style and how I do things will be a little different than what Jay’s was, and Jay was very successful here. At the end of the day, I’m going to try to take it all on, first with our staff and then with our players. I just think there’s a way you have to play this game from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. There’s a mindset on how you do it, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to change the mindset a bit and then move forward.”
What were the biggest things you learned from your time in Oakland, specifically as an offensive coordinator, that you feel like you could apply and do better here?
HJ: “Football is about situations. You’ve got to be able to handle all the different situations that happen in a game, whether it’s two-minute, or four-minute, or scoring zone, or first down, whatever those things are. You have to be good, but your players have to understand what you’re trying to accomplish within those situations. That what I really learned being there in Oakland, being able to attack those different types of situations. I think if you can be very good at situational football you have a pretty good chance of being good on offense.”
How did the three years with the receivers here about 10 years ago shape you as far as leading men and handling a room?
HJ: “That was a tremendous room, and a different room, too (laughs). Being here before with that group was awesome. They were really good players at the time. We’re talking about Chad Johnson, and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) and the late Chris Henry. Those guys were fantastic. Obviously we have a great group here, and they’re a different group but very talented.
With as many skill position players you have, how do you manage all of them?
HJ: “There is one ball, and everybody wants the ball. That’s the fun part about this thing. You find the niche that everybody does really well and you give them an opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities. At the end of the day, the guys understand what we’re trying to do, which is score touchdowns. The fun part will be that all of them will want the ball to try and score touchdowns. What we’re going to try to do, and you’ll hear me say it a lot, is create an environment for these guys to be great. The guys that are great, they’re going to touch the ball every chance they can touch it, because it will give us an opportunity to be very successful on offense.”
Is it important that the offense have an identity?
HJ: “It think it is. You have to have something that you can lean on. My offense – our offense; I shouldn’t say mine because it’s going to be our offense -- starts with being physical. You have to be able to run the football, in my mind, to win football games. You can’t become one-dimensional in pro football anymore. These defenses are too good. You get exposed really quickly. You have to be able to do both. You have to be able to run it, but you also have to be able to throw it. And sometimes you have to be able to dictate when you want to run it. That’s the kind of football team we want to be. We don’t want anybody to stop us from doing anything. There will be times when people do slow us down, but at the end of the day we want to be a physical unit.”
What’s your philosophy on the zone read?
HJ: “I think there’s a place for it. I think it has its place, just like everything else. The gap scheme had its time. The zone scheme has had its time. I think football is evolving year-in and year-out and, I think there’s a place for anything that will make yards, but still the nuts and bolts of it is you’ve got to be able to block. You’ve got to be able to run with the football. You’ve got to be tough and tough-minded when you decide to do that.”
Your one year in Atlanta, what did those experiences teach you?
HJ: “That anything can happen. I’ve had some great opportunities, whether good or bad, but that’s what has made me the coach I am today. When you go back through my history of being here and being there, at the end of the day, they’ve all put me to this point where I’m sitting with you now with the opportunity to be the offensive coordinator here and leading this offensive unit. I’m going to take all of those experiences, whether they were good or they were bad, whatever they were, and use them anyway I can to help this football team be everything it can be.”
Any idea who will be the running backs coach now that that position is vacated?
HJ: “I’ll leave that up to coach Lewis.”
ML: “We’re going to elevate Kyle Caskey to be the running backs coach. I met Kyle back in 2008 and had an opportunity to add him to the staff here four years ago. My first observance of him was how hard he worked, how diligent he was, and when we got an opportunity to bring him forward and interview him for a job, we brought him in as one of the offensive assistants. He has worked very closely with the two coordinators, Bob Bratkowski and Jay Gruden, and then with Paul Alexander and the offensive line. He’s been here and sat in the room with one of the greatest running backs coaches in the history of the league in Jim Anderson, and this last year with Hue Jackson, so he understands, and he’ll have a chance to be mentored hands-on by Hue as we go forward. We have some young guys who come here different ways, and they work very hard at what they do. They’re diligent at it, and this move is a way to reward them and continue our growth from within. It gets Kyle his first chance to be a position coach in the NFL, and with everybody else still being intact. It should be helpful that way.”
ML: “I think it makes a big difference. I think it’s good for our players. As long as we feel the person is qualified. That’s the first thing. The No. 1 thing is that our obligation is to have the Cincinnati Bengals be world champions. That’s the first thing. From there it’s, how do we do that? And, did we put the right people in place? In this case, we had people in place that way and I feel good about that. Sometimes we’re going to have to go outside, but in this case I feel really good about the ability to do that. I remember when Hue Jackson began coaching. He doesn’t know this, but he kind of knocked me out of the way one day at the University of Pacific out there, a junior college, Stockton Junior College, but I had a chance to observe Hue then when he first got into coaching when he was a coach at USC, and then I had the opportunity to work with him in 2002 in Washington. When they got let go at the end of 2003 season, one hour I’m trying to get him a job interview somewhere else, and the next hour I’m trying get him off that plane to bring him here, because I knew his value and what a great coach he was. I’m very happy to do this and, just like with Kyle, we’ve had a chance to observe these guys when they don’t know they’re being observed and how they carry themselves, how they conduct their business and so forth.”
With where this offense is after three years, what do you want Hue to be?
ML: “I feel really good where we are. I think Jay has done outstanding to take the situation that he came into. Three years ago we had to say (due to the lockout), ‘We’re going to hire you as offensive coordinator, but your quarterback is not going to be here, your best receiver is not going to be here, your other receivers are not going to be here and we’re going to have to re-sign your running back. And, with all of that, we’re not going to let you talk to these guys until June. Or July, I guess it was. So what Jay and the offensive coaches did in that situation was tremendous. But that’s the point where we are. We’re not quite where we want to be yet. We’ve still got room to grow and we want to feel good about involving these guys. We’ve got great tight ends. We’ve got great runners. We’ve got great receivers. We’ve got an offensive line that we know will play very physical and productive, and we want to put it all together all of the time and be consistent with it. That’s what his job is. He’s got a high standard to uphold and move forward on because no one sits here today satisfied. As we said, we’ve got to be on a mission, and that mission is to go back and fight and battle and get back to where we were and move forward.”
How does Hue’s personality fit what you want to do?
ML: “Hue is going to bring that energy. He brought it to us on defense, he brought it to us as the running backs coach this year and he’s going to bring that energy to the offensive football team now. It’s his charge. It’s exciting for him. It would have be exciting for me to have an opportunity to do that back in the day, if I’d had a chance to move into the position in Pittsburgh before leaving. That’s what you’re excited for, because you know the guys, you know what we’re good at, you know what we need to get better at and you excited about that.”
One of the big issues was turnovers, so in your system:
ML: “Our system’s not going to change.”
But the mindset would be more conducive that if you’re going to pound the rock, there’s less chance to turn it over:
ML: “It’s easy to sit here and say we’re going to pound the rock. But they’re going to line eight guys up in there, and we’re going to have to throw it very productively, which means we’re going to have to protect the quarterback and we’ve got to do other things.”
But what I’m saying is you’re declaring:
ML: “They don’t declare them. They drop them in late.”
But the object is to simplify that:
ML: “We’re talking football on paper right now. We’re going to have to go 11-on-11, and we’re going to have to grind and get it done. And eventually that’s going to happen. We’ve got to be great at everything we do, all phases of it. Like I said three years ago when we made the changeover, I want to package the run and the pass together and be the most productive team in the NFL at doing it. And we’ve made great strides. We’re not there yet. We want to keep moving forward. And when we have to reach back and throw it, we’ve got to protect our quarterback. We all feel very confident that Andy (Dalton) can play at the tip-top of his game and lead us where we want to go. No one in this building has ever wavered about that. I know it’s hard right now, because we didn’t leave here the best we could be. But we have to take the criticism, and we have to look at it, and we have to correct it and we have to move forward. That’s all we can do. Unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to do it for a while.”
When you say the same system, does that mean the same language?
ML: “Yeah. Same language. Same playbook. Same thing. Hue went into a situation in Oakland where they wanted to keep things constant, and so he was able to move within that. It’s the same thing here. He knows our system. He knows our nomenclature, our verbiage. That’s what I’m talking about. We’re not going to change out of that verbiage. What I was looking for when we made the switch over to the West Coast theory of offensive football, was to help our young players get on the field and play productively early. And that’s been proven. We’ve been able to do that. I don’t want to go backward with that. I want to continue that. I love (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer to death, but if he gets an opportunity and we have to make a change, we’ll do the same thing defensively. It’s easier for one or two of us to come in and learn something new than to have 35-40 guys have to learn it new. It’s not broken, so let’s continue to tinker with it and get it better. Let’s mend it and get it better.”
Like when you buy a car, there’s a bunch of different models to the West Coast. You just have to tweak the model a little bit?
ML: “Well, Hue is going to put his stamp on it. He’s going to be the play caller. It’s going to be different that way. He’s going to put the offense together through his eyes and the rest of the coaches. That’s what you do as the coordinator. It’s your job, soup to nuts, to take care of everything from how the left guard steps to how the Z receiver releases. It’s your responsibility on every single play to know that and get it to the way you want it done. That’s what I’ve asked from our coordinators to do here. That’s a lot of responsibility.”
If you lose Zimmer, does that indicate that would be an inside hire?
ML: “It doesn’t indicate anything. I said whether it be one or two people or whatever, they may have to come in and learn.”
You created that system yourself, right?
ML: “No. I would say the verbiage we use defensively has evolved more to what Mike’s comfortable with from where we were with me. Pittsburgh’s was very similar.”
Going back to Jay, this is obviously a big branch on your coaching tree and that’s something coaches take a lot of pride in. How proud are you of Jay and what he’s done?
ML: “To go backward, I didn’t know Jon (Gruden) had a brother (laughs). Jon and I coached together at the University of Pittsburgh and have been great friends since. We were talking after the (2010) season, and he said ‘You ought to talk to my brother,’ and that’s when I said, ‘I didn’t know you had a brother.’ But Jay and I finally sat down and spent a couple of hours talking, and we went from there. Right away what I felt was real comfortable. I felt good about what his vision was and how he was going to be in front of the players. When you’re putting in a dive play to the fullback, that’s going to be the best darn dive play ever installed in an NFL meeting room when you go in there. That’s what you have to be as the offensive coordinator, and the play-caller and the installer. Everybody in that room’s got to know that if they put 11 guys on the line of scrimmage, we’re going to make whatever we have to make. He left me with that impression. That’s what I was looking for. And from there, he has done a tremendous job. He took a job not knowing that you’re going to be sitting there in the room by yourself. We were actually out there practicing coaching coaches because we had no players to coach. He did a great job.”