ORCHARD PARK, NY - (Buffalo Bills/WKBW) Below are transcripts from Buffalo Bills President/CEO Russ Brandon, General Manager Buddy Nix and Head Coach Doug Marrone following the 2013 NFL Draft:
Q: How do you feel about your draft overall?
Buddy Nix: We felt like we stayed with the board. Everybody says that. Everybody says they do not draft for need, but basically you do some. Everybody does some. We stayed with our grades and we think we filled a bunch of holes. It remains to be seen if…we feel good about it. We think we got them at the right position and we think they are good players.
Q: Two safeties—are you sort of protecting yourself if it does not work out with Jairus (Byrd)?
BN: Well they were the two best guys up there at the time we were picking. Obviously we want to be prepared for whatever happens.
Q: What do you feel about those safeties?
BN: Well the big thing I think about Duke Williams is that he can play more than one spot. Our coaches and everybody else thought he could be a Nickel guy. Maybe even an outside corner and also a safety. Now (Jonathan) Meeks is a safety. He is a big guy that can run. He is a centerfield guy.
Q: Is there less certainty regarding FS Jairus Byrd’s situation?
BN: It just means whatever happens.
Q: Can you talk about why DB Duke Williams’ issues with alcohol were not a concern with him?
BN: We did every bit of the work we could do on these guys and we did not ever decide to take him until we felt good about it. Duke was a younger guy. He had not had any sense. Most of it was like a lot of things bad judgment. I think one of them was underage possession of alcohol, beer. Anybody in here ever done that? (Laughs) So we tried not to make that a huge issue. The things about him, football means a lot to him. They brought him in. I have had this happen to me a hundred times in coaching and I know coach has. When you start to take something away from them that is important as football they straighten up. I think that is what they did with him. The last couple of years he has been a model citizen and a good player.
Q: He did get into a fight with a teammate though. When you talk about character concerns with players and then pick guys with issues like that, it tends to ring a little bit hollow. How much do those things impact things?
BN: Well again, we do our work. We think they are OK. We think we can handle whatever problems. Either they have handled them before now or we can when they get here. That is the answer.
Q: Every head coach, new coach since Marv Levy the first pick in their first draft has been their side of the ball. Where you determined to help an offensive coach who wants to attack get playmakers including receivers and a quarterback?
BN: You know you go back and look at our drafts and most of them have been defensive players or a lot of them. We have tried to fix the defense. Same way in free agency. I think we said even before Doug (Marrone) was hired that we felt like we needed to have a quarterback. I think I said it during the season. We needed to find a young quarterback that could be the guy of the future. We needed a big time receiver and always trying to add more speed. I would say it is more that. Certainly not because this guy is the CEO. He oversees all of it.
Q: Were speed and versatility the highest priorities?
Doug Marrone: Yes. When you say priority as far as how they are ranked or what not. I think that I said it before when you look at the picks you are looking at players who have a lot of speed. I was brought up in this profession with (Syracuse) Coach MacPherson and even when I was younger my high school coach. I was taught follow speed. I think the versatility is important because I think when you have versatility within the players then you can get the best people on the field. That is everywhere except the quarterback position, where there is just one position for that.
Q: Can you talk about the focus on getting players who can fit multiple schemes?
DM: Obviously we have multiple personnel groupings to see what gives you the best opportunity. I do not think it is a secret when you look at this league it is about when you put a personnel grouping on the field and you are looking to see what the defense is putting from a personnel grouping. You are looking to see where you can get that mismatch and how people treat you. So I think it is always important. Defensively the versatility of, wait a minute is this outside linebacker—is he an inside linebacker? Is he rushing, is he dropping? And a lot of times when you have that type of versatility you cannot really get a beat on who you want those five guys up front to protect and we have seen that throughout this league.
Q: As a former offensive lineman, are you disappointed you did not draft one?
DM: No, I actually like the group that we have here. I think that we will be able to add when this draft is over some free agents for that competition. I think that we have some guys here that really, that I am really looking forward to working with. I am actually planning on trying to start next week and get myself involved with it, Coach Morris and Kurt (Anderson), working with our offensive line.
Q: Is drafting LB Kiko Alonso and two safeties factor into the third down defense and covering the new wave of tight ends?
DM: I think that is a great point. It comes in with the versatility and the ability. You look at Duke (Williams), and I know Buddy said it before when he was asked a question, for us where do you start him out? Obviously he can play safety, he can play nickel and he can play corner. He is someone who is a deep field safety—that is on film, but he also has good range, good speed and can do a lot of things. I think it is important that with all of the different types of tight ends that you see who is matching up to them. When you look at Kiko as a linebacker, he can be not necessarily a nickel or third down linebacker, but a three down backer potentially in the system. I think it is a good point. I think you have to keep changing it up on what that matchup is.
Q: Does this draft indicate what variation of the West Coast offense you plan to run?
DM: I think so. I think that the background and history when people talk about the West Coast immediately in their mind I think of Coach Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers. They had more of a horizontal passing game, but when I think of the West Coast I think of it a little bit more of my background and what I have been involved with which is a little bit more vertically down the field. I think whether you are throwing the ball five yards and hitting someone on the run with speed or whether you have the ability to get behind someone, I think that is what you are looking for.
Q: Buddy, are you surprised that the quarterbacks did not come off the board quicker?
BN: Yeah. I tell you it really at first kind of shocked me a little bit, but when you think about it people were worried about this quarterback class. The hype or the lack of got people concerned and they went out and tried to give themselves some insurance. Brining in veteran quarterbacks. It made that not be a priority in the first few picks. I think once that got started and they started hanging on and staying out there that people worried about there might be something they did not know. I think those things happen. They slide a lot of time and you think, ‘Well if this guy is still there somebody knows something I do not know.’
Q: How much did you consider taking another quarterback?
BN: Very seriously we did. We will try to get another one in free agency.
Q: When you go to camp will you have a penciled in starter or a complete open competition?
DM: I said this before, I have run into this problem before when you come into this point of phase two of a mandatory mini-camp. We are simulating football, but we are really not playing it physically. I have always had a difficult problem with that. Moving people around and making sure from a standpoint of when I am thinking about contact, when I am thinking about obviously with the quarterback when you are actually seeing people coming at you that can actually hit you. Right now my plans the answer would be, ‘Hey when we feel comfortable with one we will go ahead and name one.’ I am probably going to have to answer a lot of questions for a long period of time before I am ready to sit down and go through a lot of practices, before I am able to name a starter.
Q: Were you especially interested in getting the type of playmakers who could help you move this offense forward?
DM: Yeah. I do not think that you can ever have enough playmakers. Yes.
Q: Buddy can you give me rough thumbnail sketches in the last two draft picks?
BN: (Dustin) Hopkins we thought was the best kicker around. Again, coach has said that he wants competition at every position and we think that makes you better. We brought this guy in. He is a good kickoff guy and he is an excellent field goal kicker. We will let him compete. Chris Gragg, we were, again we have got tight ends and think Doug and his staff likes them. We worry a little bit about Scott (Chandler) and the injury. We are just trying to get some guys there that will give us some depth.
Q: What do you like about TE Chris Gragg?
BN: He is a receiver. A running receiver and he is a 38.5 inch vertical jump and all of that. He is a good athlete. Runs a 4.5. Big enough. Caught some passes. Been hurt, got hurt and did not have the big year at one time, but he is healthy now. I was at his workout. He is a guy that will stretch them some.
Q: Might you trim him down and use him more as a receiver?
DM: I am actually thinking about building upon what he was doing at Arkansas. I think that the 4.5 speed coach mentioned, I think that he can stretch the field vertically which gives you some good matchups at times depending upon what is on defense. I think that he has been off the ball and on the ball some, even though he has been mostly split out. I do think he can give you some value there. I think there are some clips of him in the backfield. I like to look at that. Again, I think it is something that here is a position that someone runs 4.5 and has catching skills. Good catch radius. Was injured and has a lot of upside.
Q: Buddy is your defense better than its numbers last year? It was statistically one of the worst.
BN: I know and I cannot explain that. I do think we are a lot better than that. I know the question you asked you were not satisfied with the answer, but we needed playmakers on offense. We think we are pretty good on defense. Got pretty good people. Enough depth in most spots. What we needed here regardless of what you run was more speed on offense and more playmakers.
Q: The run on corners late second and early third—did it just not work out on your board for the value at corner? And then Doug how do you feel about your depth at corner?
BN: Well yeah that is what happened with us. Again, we thought Duke Williams could help fill that void.
DM: My question, that is very difficult. As a coach you sit here and you always say you never have enough. You could pretty much say that. You ask any coach and they will tell you that at any position. I believe that the people will we have and the people that we have drafted, again Meeks is a middle field safety player, but everyone else including Kiko and Duke have man-to-man coverage ability.
Q: Buddy, have you considered stepping down now that you drafted a quarterback?
BN: That has not changed. When it does, one of these days I will shock you and tell you then, but it has not.
Q: Can you talk about the wide receiver position? You have a lot of young guys and WR Brad Smith is still a part of the mix, right?
DM: Absolutely. I think that myself along with the rest of the offensive staff, you mention Brad Smith’s name to me and he had an outstanding voluntary mini-camp. He really did. Also T.J. Graham. I think we do have some players there that maybe not have played a lot in the past, but have really worked hard and shown us a lot. So when you sit there as a coach and you say, ‘Gosh these two guys are really good players.’ To pick one, those are the best situations you can be in. That is the type of environment we are trying to create.
Q: How does what happened over the last three days impact your plans for FA LB Karlos Dansby?
BN: We are still going to keep the dialogue open with him but we do think it has changed some because Alonso can play both places.
Q: Was there a chance to sign him (Dansby) before the draft or was it a situation with you meeting just to meet?
BN: I would just say it did not work out to be honest. At that time.
Q: What positions need to have depth added to in the undrafted free agency period?
BN: Yeah, coach sets a number and what he needs. We try to go get them so he can answer that.
Q: Coach what are your plans for this free agency period?
DM: Well we have 90 (man roster to fill) that basically we can go to camp with. Again, I apologize for not brining those numbers out. We will add one or two at the offensive line. Add one at probably quarterback. Again, I do not have the numbers in front of me but you will see that. It will be spread out. That is what you will see all over the league. It won’t be any different. Everyone is going to take advantage. You have the ability to bring 90 to camp. Like I tell all the coaches, the scouts and Coach Nix talks about it—we want to bring 90 players in there that we are saying, ‘You know what? This guy has a chance to make this team.’
Q: Do you have plans for a fullback?
Doug Marrone: We brought (Frank) Summers in to work with us now and I was really pleasantly surprised with the job he did in camp. I think that normally you like to go in with two fullbacks into camp. I think that obviously with the pick of Chris at the end and I mentioned that maybe you can put him in the backfield and I think that you’ll start to see more of that as we go forward and what style we’re playing. I think you look in college, you really have to go and find what maybe we, showing our age, remember with the true fullbacks. I think you’ll see things like that. You’ll see more of that probably hybrid tight end. And those are things that I’m looking at. You’ll see it when you get down probably to the goal line, short yardage or maybe bringing in a defensive tackle or an offensive lineman or things like that going on. I look at it at the game you can only dress so many for that game, how much are you going to get to use at this position or this player and that, so you have to look for the versatility I believe.
Q: Were there any significant things that you got out of the draft experience as it being your first as a head coach?
DM: I’ve been through this, I don’t know, I have experience being through this. I have experience of actually being in the draft room. Where sometimes when you’re an assistant coach you’re not, so I have that experience. Really for me and it’s a credit to Buddy and Doug Whaley, the scouts and I mean this and this is not one of these BS things that I’m just saying, as far as being close, being on the same page and excitement felt throughout, it was outstanding. I think that’s the thing that you look for, at least that I look for, is that we’re taking players that everyone in the building is extremely 110-percent we’re all excited, and that’s the way it should be and that’s the way it was.
Q: You never caught yourself saying “hey…”?
DM: You know what happens, it’s the role. I think when people get confused of what their role is. I had this, and Coach Nix knows through the interview process, I talked about how I felt my role was as a head coach and I told him how I looked at my role when I was an assistant coach and a coordinator. As a coach I take a lot of pride in developing players. At the end of the day that’s what we have to do. We’ve drafted some players that have some very good skills and it should be able to get them the ability to maybe compete and be very good professional football players. We have players on our team that have skill, but it’s our job as coaches when we have them on the field know to develop them. I think I know as a coach that’s what I know I’ve taken the most pride in.
Q: What you guys did in the secondary during the draft, does that change what you will do with Aaron Williams (moving him to safety)?
Q: What does the Dustin Hopkins pick mean for Rian Lindell?
BN: It means he’s got to compete, I would say.
DM: I think again we go out on the field and we see what they have. There’s components too; you have a snapper obviously you have the PAT field goal kicker, you have a kickoff guy, you have a punter. We have to see what the best position is for our team with all those players. I want to be able to have the ability to make decisions based on the roster keeping the best players on the team and the best situation for us and what we need to do.
Q: Would you keep two kickers?
DM: I would. Yes, I would. If I didn’t feel comfortable with someone being able to do both, I absolutely would.
Q: How much better do you feel now knowing that Ryan Nassib is going to play with a very good friend of yours, Tom Coughlin?
DM: I’m not going to lie, I’m very happy. I really am. And I’m happier that they’re in the NFC, that Ryan’s in there. I’m extremely happy. I’m not going to lie. It’s struggling and you go through it and its human nature. We sit up here and we get in front of you guys. We say things and talk and you listen to things, but anyone that gets up here and says I don’t listen to that or I don’t have any feelings, in my opinion they’re not telling the truth.
Q: Is this team ready to compete for the playoffs? Or are you rebuilding?
BN: From my standpoint we expect to compete, yeah.
DM: Absolutely. That’s why I’m here. That’s why our players are here. It’s something that we talk about with them, I wouldn’t say every single day, we’re putting that in, and we talk to them about it.
Q: The players you drafted are versatile and can play different positions. Does that speak to the innovation and creativity of this new coaching staff?
DM: I think that you have to be that way. I think that you defensively have to attack people. I think offensively you have to attack the defense and I think that people talk about competition amongst the players, there’s competition amongst us right now. We’re going to be going against each other. And I think that you need to do that in this league, because I think that if you stay the same and unless you have 11 players that are better than the other 11 players on the field, I think you can find yourself getting into some difficulty and being able to get your goals accomplished, which is winning.
Statement from President and CEO Russ Brandon:
First and foremost thanks for the outstanding coverage throughout the weekend but most importantly, I wanted to, on behalf of the organization and Mr. Wilson, pass along our sincere, heartfelt condolences for the passing of Larry Felser. Obviously Larry’s an icon in the business. He’s someone that is a huge part of the history of this franchise and we are all deeply saddened on his passing. I can’t say enough on behalf of this organization especially with Mr. Wilson and their relationship, how important he was to us and to this community.
I wanted to start with that and secondly I just want to thank Buddy, the scouts, the tireless efforts that have gone into the preparation. As you know, everyone who’s been covering this for a long time, this is a year-long process, but when you go in prepared with a plan and have belief you feel very good about where you sit at the conclusion of today and as you all know today is not over. The fun part starts now. A little Wall Street will start at the conclusion of the draft with the undrafted process, with the college free agents that have not been drafted. We’re excited where we are today and look forward to getting to work now that this is behind us. But I just wanted again to thank Buddy, the collaboration with Coach Marrone, the coaching staff. This is as fluid of a process as I’ve seen with my time here with Coach Marrone and Buddy, and our people. So I just wanted to bring that up to you guys.
Q: How competitive do you expect the undrafted free agent process to be?
RB: It will be competitive. It always is. You look back at it historically some of the successes we’ve had with undrafted free agents and it comes down to recruiting, it comes down to situations within your roster structure and opportunity. We’ll be very competitive. It’s a big part if you look at the statistics over the years and you look at just even last year the percentages of the amount of undrafted free agents that make rosters, that make practice squads. It’s significant. We’re getting prepared. As soon as that last pick, as soon as that last tag is pulled we’ll be ready to go.
Q: What is your position on Jairus Byrd?
RB: I’m certain that Buddy’s addressed that. Organizationally of course we’d love to have him back. We utilized the asset that was available to us with the franchise tag as you all know. It’s a priority for the organization and we hope to continue to work through the process with him and more importantly his agent, Eugene Parker, and we’ll keep conversations in a fluid process.
Q: Since the first of the year has your role in football decisions increased at all?
RB: No. My role is to provide leadership to this organization but make no mistake, and I know that it gets brought up every once in a while, Buddy Nix pulls the tag, as I like to say when it comes to the draft. He has the entire time that I’ve been here and worked with him. That’s the way I was brought up in this business. You let the football men and Buddy, the general manager, make those decisions and you provide every support element as you can as an organization to Buddy, the scouts, the coaches, to make and form decisions. We had a very thorough process this year as you know. We had a lot of private workouts and tried to have as much information available as could be, as we could provide to make good informed decisions. That’s what my role is, to provide as many assets as an organization to our general manager and our people to make good decisions.
Q: A lot of fans are asking about the analytics department?
RB: I think when I said that I should’ve put a pillow under it from the standpoint that it’s a process for us that we’re going to review moving forward. A lot of it has to do with as I mention, it’s another layer to any process when it comes to football. But it’d be very focused on salary cap management and everything we do on that front. It will never take away from the scouting process that we have in place now. It would be additional information that will provide. As we move forward as an organization it’s a priority for me but to be quite honest the main priority has been Coach Marrone in here, his staff and ramping up for the last few days in free agency.
Q: Is there an analytics department?
RB: No, not at this point. It’s also something that we’ve embarked on over the last couple of years and we have people that are focused on it but we don’t have a complete department per say. Obviously Jim Overdorf oversees the salary cap management decisions within the organization.
Q: In the past four months how has Doug Whaley’s role grown and evolved?
RB: It’s been consistent with years past, really the past couple of years. Doug continues to mature within his role. Buddy keeps providing him opportunity within the department. There’s lot of speculation for whatever reason related to that. Buddy Nix is our general manager and will be for a long time. As I mentioned before, Doug is a vital part to the process but when it comes to football decisions in this organization, one person and one person only makes decisions and that’s Buddy Nix.
Q: Does it feel good to get the quarterback question behind you?
RB: Yeah. I’m excited about it. I know our fans are as well. We’ve heard a lot about it for many, many years. Looking forward to having EJ (Manuel) in the mix coming in to compete and watching his growth and maturity in the organization is exciting. It’s exciting for all of us. I’m excited about the entire process. The entire draft and what still lies ahead in the next few hours when it comes to college free agency. We still have a lot of work to get done, but I’m very pleased with what’s been done to date.
Q: How concerned are you with the Jairus Byrd situation?
RB: Not concerned. Obviously it’s an opportunity, as I mentioned earlier, it’s an asset that we have in our holster. He has the opportunity to wait until he’s comfortable. We’ll continue that dialogue. You always want to always have all your guys here, but we understand the situation and we’ll just keep working through it.
Q: There’s been reports that there’s been no talks at all with Byrd?
RB: I don’t know where those reports come from. That’s not accurate.