Initial comments ...
"I would like to take the time to wrap up the season. As I told the guys going into the game, there were a couple things we needed to get done. Winning the takeaway margin in our series with the Ravens, that seems to be very important. Obviously, Darqueze (Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard) turned (a takeaway) into a touchdown. Being effective in the running game (was also a key). We didn't get it sustained as much as we would like, but I thought that was going to be important. And then coverage on the other side of the ball — don't allow an explosive play, which I thought the guys did a good job of. We did excellent on third down in the first part of the game defensively, but then fell off in the second half. One of the things I told the guys was that the other guys were going to have to win at wide out, and I thought our guys did a good job. Tyler Boyd, Tyler Kroft, and actually "Jo" LaFell (Bengals WR Brandon LaFell), really came up with some big catches, and a couple penalties and some third-down (conversions). So that was good. We were able to have Andy (Bengals QB Andy Dalton) drive the football there at the end and make the big play.
"One of the things I left with the players ... After we lost to the Steelers here, the sky didn't fall. We lost the game, and we still had an opportunity to control things. For the guys, as they move forward in their careers, they have to understand that, that they have to get back up. It was a Monday night game, it was a shorter week, and you have to get back to work, understand it, and get back focused, and go on and win the next one. Had we done that and gone into Minnesota and won, we wouldn't be ... we'd still be working. I'd be worried about how cold it is going to be this week. That's what would have been on my mind. That's what they have to understand, that you just keep playing and keep winning the games and see what happens at the end. There's all of this talk about how important winning division games are, but winning the inter-conference games against the other AFC teams matters when you get to the end of the season, when it's time for the playoffs and opportunity. So, that win against Buffalo was huge and would have provided an opportunity there. We had so many young guys in that room, so it was good for them to understand and know (that experience). The veteran players understand it, but for the young guys to really sink their teeth in and understand what that means, with the (playoff) opportunity that we virtually lost with that. Hopefully they never get in that situation again.
"But again, our season was obviously not what we wanted. With the changes we made offensively, there have been some ups and downs with everything. But we're pleased to finish the season the way the guys did, with winning the two football games after losing three in a row. The three we lost in the beginning of the year and the three we lost in the middle — those were big. But, as (the players) go into the offseason, they have to remember the preparation and what it takes to get ready and go again, when that opportunity comes."
Did you have a conversation with Bengals president Mike Brown this morning?
"Mike and I talked this morning."
Do you have any timetable on a decision in your mind?
"No, I don't."
I imagine you would not like this to draw on too long ...
"No, I don't think it will draw on too long."
How did the conversation go? Did you guys leave it somewhere? Will you guys talk tomorrow?
"We will continue to talk (laughs). We will continue to talk, yes."
Was that conversation earlier this morning like before you talked to the players? Or was it (later in the morning) before this press conference? There was a delay ...
"Well, I had a lot of players who wanted to speak (to me). I wish I could give you more news, but I can't. Is there anything else anybody has?"
As far as the assistants, have you thought about how hard this process of waiting might be for them?
"Yeah, it is hard. I spoke with them this morning — we met this morning about it. I told them, as far as from my direction, I would get them where things are as quick as I could. It's unfortunate that they're stuck in this limbo right now. They are aware of it, and it also makes some urgency for both parties. They're basically free agents as well. The urgency has to happen on both sides."
You mentioned yesterday that the situation is complicated. Is the coaching staff part of that complication for you?
"That's a part of it. There are a lot of things. People have their viewpoints, I have my viewpoint, and so forth. The one thing we have been consistent on since I've been here is staying on the same page, and I think that's important. There is a direction that the owner wants to have, and there is a direction that I have to ... he has hired me to do a job, and we have to make sure that I stay aligned in that. If his direction is different than my direction, then that's probably not good. So, we have to make sure we are all on the same page."
After your discussion with Mike Brown, what do you think that direction is? The fact that you're still here has to mean that you're on some sort of good page ...
"(Laughs) You mean 'here' as in physically in front of you?"
Yes. In front of us and not in a U-Haul ...
"(Laughs) Well, I'm not going to be in a U-Haul. Regardless."
It seems like there is mutual interest to continue this relationship. Would that be fair to say?
"I guess that would be fair."
Would you want every assistant and coordinator back?
"I'm not going to ... the first thing's first. Then we will go from there."
If you had to characterize the sticking point in the delay in all of this, what would it be?
"Well, I'm not sure if there is a delay or sticking point. I just think that we're ... I almost just said something stupid (laughs). I caught myself. But, this isn't a paper route. Not that that's bad, but there are things that both of us want to feel good about."
Would the roster be one of those things?
"That's part of everything we talk about all the time."
Were you happy with the roster going into the season? Were there things you wish you had more control over?
"No, we're aligned on things, but I think, as you move forward, '17 is over — we're going into '18 now, into the future. Everybody wants to make sure we stay on same course together."
Can you speak to the fans? Obviously there is frustration — there has been for the last couple of seasons. Maybe that's why we're here. Ultimately, they're the ones that fill the stadium and help pay the payroll. What message do you have for them today?
"Well I think if you're a real fan, then stay the course and understand we're not happy with what transpired this season. I am here, we're going to do everything in my power to get us to be world champions. That's what my job is. Nothing short of that is acceptable. That's the way it is in my mind. That's why I do what I do. That's the hard part — there is only one (team) that gets to do that, and unfortunately it's not going to be us. So we got to go back to work when that time comes, and build a better football team — one that will win games. We didn't close games (this season). We had a myriad of things that we didn't overcome, so we got to do a better job."
Where do you think the team is offensively?
"This is probably not the time for me to address moving forward with the Cincinnati Bengals, right now today."
With your meeting with Mike Brown this morning, was there something that either side could have said that would have gotten the deal done?
"Again, we're just not in (a position to address that) right now."
Did you think your meeting would go quickly?
"Mike (Brown) and I speak every day. He wants to hear my view, and he's going to give me his view."
Fifteen years is a lot institutional knowledge, how do you leverage that?
"Leverage it? I don't understand that question."
How do you guys get back to where you once were?
"Well, we're not going to get back. We're going to have to build better. You don't get back. I think sometimes that's what happens. We have to build better. We have to build a team that can win this division. That's important. We're not there, obviously. That's the first step. Then you have to build a team that can win the AFC. That's what our goals are. And I have to do a better job of coaching them."
Is there something over the 15 years that you've learned about some of these players?
"Well, I haven't had these guys for 15 years — luckily (laughs). But there's going to be new guys — there always is — and we have to do a better job of coaching them. The evolution of the player changes year to year. With the in's and out's of guys, we have to make sure we build a better football team in every way, and then we coach them better."
When we talked to some of the players earlier, they had a lot of endearment for you as a coach and as a person. What does that mean to you at a time like this when there is some uncertainty?
"Hopefully we have helped them grow up as young men — as fathers and so forth — and that's part of it. This is their job and I approach it that way with them all the time. As they move forward, as I told them, 'You have to understand you're a professional athlete. Each and every day, you have to come to work and you have to make it your best, because there's always someone who is ready to take your spot. Whether it's me standing right in front of you or somebody else, you got to understand that and take it that way. I appreciate that, and you've worked your tails off for me, but if ever change happens, then there's going to be change. You'll adjust and move on. And you just have to take it that way.' But they almost have to be their own little corporation as well."
Is there a role in the organization on the table that you could have that isn't head coach?
"No. There's never been that. I don't know where these thoughts come from that these people make up (laughs), but no."
Do you think these last two weeks were important in Mike Brown's eyes — the team playing hard and winning those games?
"I think Mike was pleased with the football team the last two weeks, no question about it, because we certainly were not pleased the three weeks previous. And I guess the character within the group (played) out, which is good.
You talked about being on the same page as Mike Brown, is it your understanding that there is a path that has you here for a 16th season again next year?
"I think so. Probably the less said, the better."
Is the decision with you or with Mike?
"Well it's mutual. Every decision that I've made here has been mutual, with both of us, since January of '03. It's always been mutual. It has to be that way."
You said that you and Mike Brown had not talked about your future, but why did you two wait until today? If you talk all the time, why didn't it come up naturally?
"I guess, in his mind, this was the time. From the last time we spoke about it, whenever it was, he said (that) we will address it at the end, and that was fine."
Do you want to see what else is out there? You've been here for a long time, but there are other positions open. Are you curious about being somewhere else?
"I haven't even thought about that."
How would you characterize your talk with Mike Brown?
"We haven't talked about a 'deal' or anything that way. We were just talking about the football team. We discussed the football team this morning."
"Yes. We just talked about the football team. We didn't talk about Marvin or anything else, other than the football team — just what my viewpoints were."
When do you expect to see us again?
"(Laughs). You know me better than that (laughs). Not that you aren't a lovely group (laughs)."
If you had to characterize your reaction to that report coming out that you were leaving and what you had to deal with afterward, with games still left to be played?
"It just wasn't fair. Just didn't think it was the right time. As I've told people all along, there was nothing to be said. I'm sitting here today in front of you, and I don't know what there is to be said, so I certainly didn't know what there was to be said three weeks ago. That's my only thing — it's unfair. I just don't know what there is to be said."
So this is the only team that you've talked to?
"It's the only team right now that I'm employed by."
But you haven't thought about it?
"No I haven't thought about it."