ML: “It was obviously a very disappointing loss for our fans yesterday, for our football team, for anybody associated. It was a great atmosphere created here, and you really want to capitalize on it, and we failed to really do that. As I told our players after the game, I take responsibility for it; trying to work it hard, getting them in position to make plays. We didn’t get that done enough yesterday. When you’re playing in the playoffs, each and every possession, each and every play, they have such a bearing on field position, the down and the distance, the possession of the football, and we didn’t make enough of those plays yesterday. We had opportunities. When you don’t capitalize on those, and make the most of those opportunities, it takes you away from having opportunity to win the scoring battle, and the field position battle. We did some wonderful things on defense, but we had an 86 and 80-yard TD drive given up, and some third-down conversions which were huge. We didn’t create a turnover, we didn’t tip a ball in the air. We had one sack on the opening drive.
“Obviously, offensively, we had two or three protections that we didn’t get right and caused us to get behind in the down-and-distance count, and making third downs a little bit harder there a couple times, particularly in the second half, and then obviously the turnovers played a huge part. We missed a huge opportunity. That’s yesterday. What we have to do is move forward. It hurts, but we’ve got to progress forward. A lot of positives occurred, and when the chance and opportunity rises, we’ll get back on it. We’ll put our head down, and go to work and be on a mission. We’ve got to earn our way back, and then we’ve got to go forward, and the only way to stop the chatter is to win.”
Did you get a sense during the course of the game that Andy or anyone else was pressing a little bit?
ML: “I think all of our guys try hard. We try hard. That’s part of us.”
Given the talent level of the team and where you had them positioned this year, are there steps that you will take in the offseason to try to ensure that they are back in playoff position next year?
ML: “We’ll coach better. That’s all we can do.”
You always say the only thing that’s sure is change with a football team with roster or maybe even coaching staff. Are we at the part of the year now where you just wait and see what shakes down and make moves then:
ML: “Yeah we’ll just have to do that. But we’re not going to waste time talking about things that are nebulous. It’s part of the NFL, it’s part of the offseason. Most of this football team will be back and ready to go. We’ll add to it, we’ll be better at spots. We’ve got a lot of maturity at spots. We’ve had guys come on that we weren’t sure could play. As we gain a lot of the injured guys back, hopefully we’ll have a healthier football team as we go through 2014. We’ll be that much better. Our experience will play. Our quarterback continues to take positive steps forward. Yesterday was not the outcome we wanted, and of course the quarterback gets the heat for it. He had another very good season. He’s progressed well. We need to continue to do things to make his job just easier and easier to do, and make sure to continue to be repetitive with what we do for him, and continue to let the players around him continue to get better. Defensively, we missed some guys throughout, but I thought the guys stepped in and did a great job. I thought we did a great job this year in sudden-change defense. We continue to improve both sides of the football on third down. We’ve got to continue that way. We’ve begun a new development of core guys on special teams. We had kind of a changing of the guard and we’ve got another young, new group there. There’s been a lot of experience and a lot of things that have occurred this year that we will continue to build upon.”
Andy told us that you had said to him that you believe in him and he’s the guy to get you over the hump. Can you just reiterate that and why you believe that is so?
ML: “I think I just said it.”
How important is it that he hears that from you, or that he hears it from the coaches, that it is the message?
ML: “It’s a consistent message.”
What makes you believe that he’s a big-game quarterback?
ML: “He’s won big games for us, and he’ll continue to win big games. We ask a lot out of him, there’s no doubt about it. He just finished his third season of doing it. I believe in his abilities, I believe in his makeup, I believe in his maturity and I believe in his ability to let the last play go and move on to the next play. That’s probably one of his best attributes, along with his abilities.”
You talked about making things easier for him. What are some of those things?
ML: “We’ll just have to make it easier as coaches. That’s what we’ve got to do for everyone.”
Andy has big peaks and valleys with his performances. As a coach, would you like to see that even out a little bit?
ML: “You’d like to be able to overcome having a negative play, which all quarterbacks do. Our team has to mature through that as well and be able to overcome those plays. People would say we did two weeks ago. We’ve just got to do it more often. Right now what’s on everybody’s mind was that yesterday we didn’t overcome it, so that’s what’s fresh in your mind.”
Is there anything you have to do to change?
ML: “Probably so.”
ML: “If I tell you then it won’t work right. I think we all have to get better. It’s a constant. You’re throw that question up there and I’m not going to answer it that any other way. I hope I gave you the answer you’re looking for.”
In 11 years you’ve accomplished a lot with this franchise. Do you believe you are the guy that can get it to the next level?
ML: “Yes, I believe so. Is there a better answer for that?”
What gives you faith you are that guy?
ML: “I’m the guy in the seat. So, we’ll be fine. Today sucks. We’ll be better. We’ll be all right.”
NFL coaching jobs are difficult to keep. What is it about here you think might be different, to progress and have more time? Is this a unique situation?
ML: “No, I don’t think it’s a unique situation. I think we’ve been in a unique area where we’ve continued to progress and do things. We continue to move forward. Yesterday we lost a playoff game we all thought we would win. We didn’t win it. I don’t think the situation is unique at all. I think if the other places were in the situation they were in, and lost the playoff game after winning the division, their head coach would be in place. Don’t you?”
Going back to making the offense easier for Andy, Philip Rivers threw 16 times and they ran it 40 times. Is that what you are talking about?
ML: “I’m not making any comparison one way or the other. We ask Andy to do a lot. There’s maybe ways we can just keep getting better at it. We are comparing him to guys that have been in the league for a long time and doing a lot. Some of them didn’t play when he played. We’re asking a lot. Some got to sit and watch others, but we want him to be better than they are. That’s what we are asking him to do, and we want it done in short order. Each and every day. That’s what I tell him all the time. He’s got to do it, and continually do it the correct way. The most important thing this year is that as an offensive football team, we didn’t do a good enough job all the way around of taking care of the football. That’s why we sit here today not continuing to play. We didn’t take of the ball well enough as an offensive football team this season. We have to have it be a point of emphasis moving forward.”
You’ve been good at that in your tenure:.
ML: “That’s right. And we didn’t do good enough this year. We were careless with the football at times and it ended up getting us beat in the end.”
Anything you can put your finger on?
ML: “We’ll continue to look at it and get better at it.”
ML: “We all have a hand in losing, and he doesn’t like the way it tastes any more than anybody else. So through his actions, he has led the football team, and the way he works and does things. But he can continue to reinforce it in other areas, which is good.”
The Chargers worked yesterday to hold onto the football, and they didn’t turn it over:
ML: “They were able to run the football because of the field position that was created. In each of the touchdown drives, they had two plays that were major portions of the drive in the passing game. The cross to the tight end on the first drive and the deep ball on the sideline in the second drive. Those were major parts of the drive, but they didn’t put their quarterback at risk and were able to run the football. They didn’t always gain the score that way, but continued to run it and we held them to field goals a few times. At the end of the game, the stats will be skewed because they had the lead and could run the football. I don’t know their plan going in, but I don’t think it was going to end up with (just) 16 (passes).”
You mentioned all year that the strength of your team was the guys up front on offense and defense. Do you think the Chargers kind of reversed what happened out in San Diego?
ML: “No, I thought we were physical up front and did a good job. We just weren’t able to sustain it and have the lead throughout the fourth quarter, when it mattered, and continue to pound on it. We pounded the ball early, but we’ve got to continue to not get shied away. You get some of the pressure getting hit in the run game. It was feast or famine. We were getting eight or we were gaining two. We’ve got to let that continue to roll.”