No injuries of any significance, everybody practiced, no roster moves.
Saints? They have several weapons in the running and passing game, but it starts with their QB. He's a good player and the concern about his shoulder was unwarranted.
Does he have more arm-strength after the surgery? I can't answer about his arm strength, I have to see it live.
More Saints: They're a much more confident team now, it's no fluke that they have that record, they move the ball well against everybody. The defense hustles, they got a good pass defense, they got 33 sacks, they're doing a lot of good things. They've integrated some new linemen, last year Brown and this year Evans, they're doing pretty well. I looked at the preseason game, Terry made some great catches in that game, but they were just a short way into training camp, with all new coaches and a new system, some new players. Some young players have come through for them. They're in the same position we are in.
Any advantage to Payton knowing the Cowboys/Romo? I don't thinks so. We both have an understanding of what each other does. The problem is execution, proper defense; we've got work to do.
Why has Payton succeeded? He's a bright guy, energetic, and he put a reasonably good coaching staff together. Last year there was a lot of change coaching-wise in the NFL, it's good for a new coach, and new people become available from coaching staffs that dissolved. He was able to get some people involved in coaching changes, that helped, it was fortunate.
Reggie Bush? He's a dynamic guy, had his first real major breakout last week. You have to be concerned with him in the running and passing game, he's difficult in space. San Fran did a poor job tackling him on some TD's last week; they like to get him the ball in space where he can maneuver.
He's deployed different ways; you can't just put one player on him. He's played against corners because he's lined up outside. They do a good job of getting him involved. They have some fast receivers, Henderson is doing a good job, and the rookie Colston has been outstanding. When a 7th-round pick plays like he plays, you consider yourself fortunate. Horn is a good veteran. They have a balanced attack, a couple of young linemen, and a good QB. Also have a good kick returner and punt returner, and they put Bush back there some.
I think everyone is aware of his [Bush's] ability, you're concerned with situations in space, but it's not unique to him. We had it happen to us in the 2-minute drill last week. Barber caught the ball for three yards then ran and we couldn't tackle him, and had another big play on the same thing.
Saints offense, do you have to outscore them? They had a difficult time with Baltimore, they moved it against Cincinnati but didn't score well. When they turn the ball over they have more trouble, just like us.
The Saints don't give up a lot of sacks? The QB gets ball out quickly, and they do a good job with protection. Now, their QB's been hit some, so the numbers aren't exactly the whole story.
Do you attribute the change in Dallas' fortunes to the change to Romo? I don't think that's the case. The QB change has helped dramatically. But I think our team has a genuine confidence now, a rise in competitive spirit. We're the same team as them [New Orleans] we both have a 2-game lead, we have people behind us that you have to play, both of us. Their offense can move the ball like us, our defenses look about the same. It will be a good test; they are no fluke, they've done a good job.
Do you feel more like a genius coach now, when earlier you were facing some criticisms? (BTW, which idiot asked this question, was it JFE again?) That term is for a person who saves lives or something like that. Look, you can go up and down the elevator pretty quickly in this job. You can go from "the game has passed you by" to "wily veteran" in just 10 days. I don't pay attention to those monikers anyway.
So which of those are you now? I'm in the same place I've always been, getting ready for next game.
Worried about Tony handling his celebrity? (How many more times are we going to hear this same question?) Tony is serious about his job. It's not a concern to me. I watch him; he comes in on his off-day and watches film. He's following the example that Vinny set, I told you guys that.
Is Brees an MVP candidate? He's performed at a high level, but I haven't looked at that question. Even though I'm in the football business, I don't see as much of everybody as you might think. I'm focused on the week to week. I don't look at stats unless they're our opponent. He's performed well, I'm sure there are other guys up there with him.
How do they win with a -6 turnover margin? They haven't had an inordinate amount of turnovers. They hit big plays; they have 22 passes over 30-yards, that's good. They're very effective in 2-minute offense; they've had 14 possessions and 5 TD's. They have weaponry, but the key is Brees. He's a solid vet that's using his weapons.
Is Brees similar to Manning in what he does for their team? He's a different style player than Manning. They're not anything like the Colts. The Colts run a minimal personnel offense, they stand still to get a good look, and then execute. New Orleans is the opposite, they use multiple groups, motion, they have a lot of variables in the offense.
Are they a screen team? They screen some, they get Bush involved, they also screen to the WR's. I know the screens Sean likes to throw.
Was Payton instrumental in signing Romo, being from the same school? That was a point of introduction that they both played there. I don't know how much was Sean. I and Jerry both helped to recruit him. There wasn't time for them to develop a personal relationship. Tony looked at the situation and chose here, even though he was offered more money from others. Payton was interested in him as a free agent, as was David Lee. I can't remember if Sean pushed to draft him.
Keith Davis singed an offer sheet with the Saints, why did you match it to keep him? Davis was a valuable asset to our team, I thought at worst we get a very good special teams player, plus he had game experience, he's doing OK, even though he's out of position a bit, he's more of a SS. We didn't have Watkins, yet, so that's the reason.
On leadership and this team playing as well as his past teams in December: It's more difficult to create permanent leadership these days. Back then, it was a rarity to get 4 or 5 guys to make the team and actually play. There's a willingness on this team to try and do what's necessary. I've done my best to keep them fresh for a push in the stretch. But you risk deteriorating fundamentals. Sometimes the conditioning is a worry, because the only contact is in games. In those days, I just practiced them.
I'm convinced this thing could go down to the wire. There is so much interaction among NFC contenders, aside from Seattle and Chicago. There's a lot of inter-play between the contenders, it could go down to the wire.
Is there a stigma in the NFL against guys from smaller schools? You're taught to be on alert for a big guy from a small school, it's a flag that you have to check out. You wonder why he's there instead of somewhere else. The competition isn't as good, they don't have the players that can push him down. At a big school, there's a higher level of competition, you have guys who can push him down. I do think with the rules about fewer scholarships at big schools, means you can find more quality players, like in the MAC conference you'll find players. Years ago there weren't too many. Conference USA has it too. Generally speaking, reduced scholarships have created more players at small schools.
Do you think it says something about the NFC QB's when the two best are a guy who came over form the AFC and a guy making his 7th start? You mean best on paper?
I mean from what I've seen? Maybe there's a guy on a bad team that no one talks about. Would there be any interest by me if one of those guys [other NFC QB's] came walking in? Yes.
More interest than with Romo? That's a loaded question.
What about the other NFC QB's? There's not enough QB's to go around. Then you get a year like the Marino, Elway draft and you find a few. There are more teams so it's hard to find a QB. I'm not going to speak about Brees, but with my guy I wouldn't totally agree that he's "the best". I'm happy with the way he's played. And don't write something and say I was negative, but to call him "the best" I can't do that yet. I need to see more than what I've seen.
Was last week's game one of the when you see how a QB does when he's getting beat up that you often talk about? That game wasn't close to that theory, didn't resemble it any manner of speaking.
Romo seems to have the ability to make plays when it really matters? I've been impressed with that aspect. I think it's the demonstrated ability that builds confidence. Why some can and some can't, I don't know. If I did I would bottle it and be better off economically. He's a competitive guy. Will he make the correct decision under pressure? He made 4 or 5 decisions under pressure that weren't correct in that game. We escaped them. By the same token he made decisions that worked out well. Some places he got away with bad decision.
Was the pass to Crayton a bad decision that he got way with? I think in Romo's mind it was the correct decision, but in my mind it was a little too close.
Lately, Terrell hasn't been really talked about that much, thoughts? You guys are the ones that determine what people talk about. I just come in; you prop me up and ask me questions.
Worried about the team responding to the pressure in the final weeks? I though there was pressure on the other night, we played the Colts and that was pressure, after the Redskins game was pressure, and we responded favorably. They need to maintain the sense of urgency. I wouldn't be surprised by bump in the road; we got 2 tough teams coming up, plus Philly, who if I remember correctly beat us. These teams are all in direct competition with us, the Saints have the same thing. They play the Giants and Carolina after us, Philly has three division road games in a row coming up.
Terrell had his birthday party the other night. Do you discourage players from leaving town on their off-days? No, they do what they want to do.
Were you invited to the party? No.
You can bet someone is writing a story tomorrow about Brees and Romo, and how they are the best in the NFC right now. About how they got there so quickly, Romo through only a few starts, Brees coming over fromm the AFC, and the lack of quality QB's in the NFC.