Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Coach Jackson: Obviously, I guess this is the end of the season meeting. This meeting was too soon for me. I would hope that we’d be still playing getting ready to practice and prepare against whoever we’d be playing this week but it didn’t work out that way. Yesterday, we didn’t play like I think this team can and that’s disappointing as I said yesterday, and that’s what I told the team today. We got some work to do and we’re going to get it done.
Q: What is the message that you gave the guys on the way out, beyond that?
Coach Jackson: That as a Raider you’re expected to win and 8-8 is not where we want to be and I don’t want to use the old coaches’ cliché, you look at the wins you possibly could’ve won and you didn’t. To me that’s just, you know you’re setting yourself up again to be able to say ‘hey look if we did this we’d be here, if you did that you’d be there.’ You didn’t, at the end of the day, you didn’t win those games. Now we got what we earned, we’re 8-8, we’re a .500 football team for the second year in a row and that’s disappointing. But the guys that come back here, that get ready for the offseason program, they’re going to buy in all the way to what it is that we’re selling because we’re going to win a championship here and that’s what I told them; and if you don’t feel comfortable at the way I think you got to buy in then maybe this is not the right place for you.
Q: So is there a segment of guys that didn’t buy in?
Coach Jackson: No, I’m not saying that there was a segment. To me, like I said, my disappointment the last game of the season with everything on the line, it doesn’t come, down in my opinion, to X’s and O’s, all the time. I’ve been on some really good football teams and I think at some point and time there’s a group of men that make a decision they’re going to win a game and they play that way. I think our team started in that fashion, I mean unbelievable first drive by them that led to an interception, unbelievable first drive by us that led to a touchdown and then all of a sudden, to me, when I looked at the tape today it looked as if maybe we got a little complacent. You know and said, ‘whoa, this team today we’re going to blow them out, they’re not going to play.’ But my message all week has been to you, to the team, to everybody, is these are pros, they’re going to play, they’re going to play every snap as hard and as well as they can play and when you have this much riding on the line you got to play better than you have all year to give yourself even a chance. Not to win the game, just to give yourself a chance and when you don’t do that, that is very disappointing to me.
Q: Coach, how would you letter grade the season overall?
Coach Jackson: Average, I mean and maybe C-. I mean, there’s too many times where we were ahead. I can go all the way back to Buffalo, I can go back to Denver here, I can go back to the Detroit game, I can go back to this game yesterday, where we had opportunities that we didn’t make the most of them. So, we weren’t good enough obviously. So C is average and I think we were a little bit below average, but do I think that we have the potential to be better? Yes, I do and I’m going to get this football team better.
Q: What would you say to those that say you changed your tune a little bit yesterday with the way you dealt with the loss and with respect to how you talked about your players?
Coach Jackson: That I would respect that; I did change my tune. It’s the end of the year. I told you I’m going to take it and I took it all year for this football team. The year is over now, now I can tell you what I really feel and what’s really on my mind. I know what’s in our locker room and I know what the team has the potential to be and I look at me first. I didn’t get them to do it and that’s disappointing to me; and then secondly, we didn’t, as a staff, get them to do it. We got them to do it in an average way, 8-8 that’s not good enough. That’s not acceptable to me, I don’t want it to be acceptable to our players, I don’t want it to be acceptable to the organization. I didn’t sign up for that, so I’m disappointed. I told them that, they understand that and people take that because I’ve normally taken it all and yesterday I decided to tell you what I really felt, then so be it, that’s fine.
Q: Are you concerned at all that the difference from the way you handled it with the players changes anything?
Coach Jackson: No, because what you guys don’t know is what I already say to my players. So that’s the difference, how I talk to them isn’t how I talk to you. I have different conversations with them. So I think they understand where I was coming from whether they read it, I don’t think there’s any hard feelings. I mean if a player, coach or whoever can’t take a justified whatever way you want to look at it when it’s justified then so be it. That’s just the way it is.
Coach Jackson: It’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable.
Q: Is there any changes coming staff wise yet, or have you made those decisions yet?
Coach Jackson: I haven’t sat through it all but obviously I’m going to meet with everybody here soon and we’ll go from there.
Q: Can you make those changes if there’s going to be a front office hire at some point and you also mentioned you’re going to start taking a stronger role in the organization is that stuff already sorted out in your mind?
Coach Jackson: No, it’s not, but I would hope as a head coach of this football team that I would hope that the organization understands that I have a pretty good idea where we need to go because if not I shouldn’t be where I’m sitting. So, at the end of the day I think I have a pretty good idea now that I’ve been through this for a year and have done it. Be it coaching, be it all kind of sort of different hats and duties, dealing with you all and everybody, I think I know exactly what this team needs to do and how they need to do it and that’s the fun part of it. The downside of it is I didn’t want to be sitting here today; I wanted to be preparing for a game and we’re not.
Q: Are you going to be meeting with Mark [Davis] this week in terms of setting out the plan for this offseason?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, I’m sure we will. I’m sure me and Mark will get together here soon.
Q: At one point you said it could be an elite defense but now that we’re really being honest, do you have the personnel to be an elite defense? Are the pieces really there?
Coach Jackson: I thought the pieces were there, I mean a year ago this defense was 11th with basically the same guys other than
Q: Did you expect to get more out of [Rolando] McClain this year? You talked in training camp about how he needed to be great and be a leader; did he do that this year?
Coach Jackson: I’m not going to talk about individual players, I just think as a group I don’t think we played as well as we can play and I’m going to leave it at that.
Q: Do you feel like you saw enough leaders in general when the team was up against the wall? Were people standing up and talking? What was the leadership in the room at half time yesterday or some of those games that you let slip behind? How did people respond after those losses?
Coach Jackson: Leadership is tremendous; I mean the locker room and prior to the game is as good as any place I’ve ever been. It’s playing the game; see all that talking don’t mean anything. I mean you can ‘rah rah’ and talk and do all that stuff all you want, you have to play. This is a performance-based business and you get paid to play you got to play. Just like I get paid to coach. I mean you have to play and you have to coach good on game day, not at halftime, not before the game, when they say ‘set hut,’ that’s when you have to play good.
Q: So I guess another question then would be out on the field when you’re talking playing, did you see your leaders out there, did you see leader-type play out there?
Coach Jackson: I mean there wasn’t a question of effort. The guys are playing hard. Obviously, I mean which leads into the penalty issue; we’re not playing smart enough and what that does it take you away from opportunities and possibilities to be all you can be. So again, we have some things to correct and address and get better at and I think we have an opportunity to do that. I’m not going to back off of what I think this organization can be and should be. We’re going to be it we’re just not it this year.
Q: How eager are you to build the team and be able to mold it the way you want where you hire all the coaches that come from you, all of the players, and you have a heavier hand in all of the moves?
Coach Jackson: I’d like to be involved just because, again, having been through it now and seen it and played the different divisions across the league you get a different idea of what it’s going to take to win. I mean, but at the same time, whatever Mark decides to do I’m going to respect that also. This is his football team so I respect that, but I will want to be as involved as I can be just because I think I’m in it, I’m in it deep and I understand exactly what’s going on.
Q: Hue, how involved do you think you’ll be in the actual search for a GM and will that be kind of awkward considering you’d be then looking to hire your own boss?
Coach Jackson: Yes, I don’t know that, but I don’t think it’d be awkward. But I’m pretty comfortable with who I am and what I am, you know I don’t - I’m not going to get caught up in who we hire and who we bring in here. I know how that works I know when people mention that well if you hire a GM and then he wants to bring his own head coach, then hey if that’s what Mark decides to do that’s his right. I don’t think that that’s the case but that is his right, but at the end of the day whoever comes here I think is going to be somebody who wants to share the same vision that I do which is winning a championship, which is getting the organization back to being better than average because we should be and we can be.
Q: Have you been involved in that process yet, has there been discussions with Mark about who this executive could be and do you expect to be involved in that situation?
Coach Jackson: We’ve had conversations, but we haven’t said exactly who, what, where, when and how. But I do know that there’s going to be somebody that we do bring in here and talk to and do those things with. But we haven’t just nailed it down or anything like that.
Q: But your opinion is being sought and you’re a part of that process?
Coach Jackson: I think I will be, but how involved I don’t know that. I think he’ll let me know that as we move forward.
Q: Hue, it’s been common here in the past where at the end of a season for the head coach to sit down and have a very detailed meeting with Al Davis about what went right, what went wrong. You mentioned you’re going to meet with Mark. Do you anticipate something on that level or where you meet with a group of people in the front office to look at that?
Coach Jackson: I would love to meet with Mark and tell him that. I feel very comfortable whether it’s Mark, the front office people or whoever wants to listen. I have a pretty good idea of where we need to go and I think we’re going to go there. I know what Mark’s vision is, which is to put the Raiders organization back among the elite. It’s my vision; I think it’s the organization’s vision. We know we’re not there yet by any stretch of imagination, but I think we know we’re making progress. I mean is it good enough? No, but I think we’re making progress.
Coach Jackson: Well it’s just painful, period, because I expect to be playing. ‘The time is now’ is going to be the ‘time is now’ every year that I’m here. I expect to win and I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I mean I know everybody talks about the moves, but that move gave us an opportunity to be playing for the AFC West championship yesterday. We just didn’t win. Without that move, we wouldn’t be having this conversation like this. We would of a long time ago been talking about, ‘Hey, what are you doing for next year?’ So that being said, I understand the critics that talk about those things and I respect that. The other side of that is there is going to be all kinds of different ways to acquire players. I mean, I know we talk about the draft all the time. That’s just one vehicle to get players on your team. There’s going to be a lot of different ways to acquire players to get this football team better and I think we all know that. Normally, you do it through the draft. We do not have a lot of draft picks, but we will have some that will be compensatory picks. There will be other things that we can do and I do – I get a little disappointed that that’s all we talk about is, ‘well, the draft picks for
Q: You obviously traded for Carson for now to win this year, but obviously, you’ve tied your future to him. He’s under contract for a few more years. Did you see everything that you wanted to see about feeling good about going forward with him and being able to win a championship with
Coach Jackson: I think obviously, he has some strong characteristics throwing the ball. I mean he’s proven that. I think he’s disproved all the issues with his arm. I don’t think anybody can bring those subjects up anymore. I think what Carson needs is a strong offseason with his teammates, with the players, training camp, and then let’s see what he can be then. Am I tied to him? Well, I made the decision so I guess I am. I mean he’s one of our quarterbacks, but by no means does that say, ‘hey,
Q: I remember you talking yesterday and you said this is not a dumb football team. You said they were not playing smart enough…
Coach Jackson: Yeah, dump is a strong word. Dumb means you don’t know what you’re doing.
Q: Yeah, well what is undisciplined?
Coach Jackson: Well it’s to me and I’m going to say this because it’s what I feel. I wish, and I’ve made this statement, I wish sometimes when I get things back from the league, you guys can see some of the things that I get back because I think you’d be shocked. Like I said, I know we’re the most penalized team in football. I wear it, don’t like it. but I’ll wear it. But until we play better in all areas and consistently and intelligently for 60 minutes, maybe we’re going to be the most penalized team in the league. When you say undisciplined, I mean we have some of that. I can’t run from that. We get out of gaps, we do things that don’t allow us the opportunity to win football games, things that I don’t see on the practice field that show up in the game, so we have wear some of that but this is not a dumb football team. This is a team that to me that wants to be aggressive, that wants to win, and has got to learn how to win every play, every down and play as hard as they can play for 60 minutes to give themselves a chance to win.
Q: How do you feel your team dealt with distractions this year whether it was the passing of Mr. Davis or the trade or the situation with Rolando [McClain]?
Coach Jackson: I think great. I never felt that any of those things, other than obviously losing our leader was tough. I didn’t think that once we made the trade, I didn’t think anybody balked at it or fought it, I’m talking about on the team or on the staff. I think once the thing happened with Ro, I mean I think everybody understood what it was, I made the decision and we moved forward. I know people want to point a lot of those things maybe why you lost a game here, lost a game there. I don’t see it that way. Did it take some time to get
Q: Getting back to
Coach Jackson: Wouldn’t you like me to answer that? I know you would. I’m not going to answer that. I think you know that’s a loaded question. I mean it’s not about a competition. One thing you guys know about me – I’m going to play the best guy and right now, one guy will be under contract, the other guy is not. So let’s see where that goes when the time comes then you can ask me that question. I’ll be very honest with you.
Q: But you would welcome him back?
Coach Jackson: Oh, no question I would. I would.
Q: Is McFadden’s injury worse than you thought?
Coach Jackson: No. No, is it worse? Yeah, because it takes so long, but it is what I told you guys it was – a midfoot sprain and everybody just comes back off of it differently. He’s taking more time than some other guys have from that injury and it’s unfortunate, but that’s the hand we were dealt. But,
Q: Does that injury affect your long-term thinking on him, his value to the organization?
Coach Jackson: Well, you have to always put everything into the evaluation when you think through your players. Obviously, Darren’s under contract and I think all those will take care of themselves as we move forward but it has taught me that you have to make sure that you always have, whether it’s the running back position, receiver position, quarterback position, you’ve got to make sure that your number two is very capable and obviously Michael Bush was.
Q: Darren’s been a Raider for 64 games now. When he’s up and running and at his best, it’s obvious how good he is. But, I think you could probably pinpoint it to he’s been healthy, really healthy, maybe 18 times in all of those games. How much of a concern is that that history? The fact that he’s, through no fault of his own, he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently…
Coach Jackson: Right. It’s a concern. Me talking to him, it’s a concern of his too because he wants to be out there with his teammates competing, and playing, and helping contribute. Again, this was an unusual year. Not an offseason, going right to training camp and obviously him getting injured early in training camp. Starting the season – boy, he started the season like gangbusters. He was rolling pretty good, then all of a sudden, here comes the next injury and then we didn’t have him anymore. So, I know everybody has said that’s been is history. Hopefully, we’ll get over the hump and I know it’s been the foot issues per se. I know he’s going to do his part to do everything he can to make sure that he has the opportunity to play 16 games because that’s what we need him to do. We need him to play 16 straight games to help us earn a 17th.
Q: Does that concern about McFadden make bringing Michael Bush back a bigger priority?
Coach Jackson: Well, it’s a concern, but again, you’ve still got to look at how your team is set up. I mean would I love to have Michael Bush back? Yes, I mean are you kidding me? The guy is tremendous, but Michael Bush is going to have some opportunities himself. Sometimes, you’re not in control of that and I respect that. And I think Michael loves it here and loves playing for the Raiders and being a part of this organization, but I think any young man in this situation – they’re going to do what they think is best for themselves and their families.
Q: Maybe it’s too early, but is there a time you can look at and say this was the moment that dictated who we were?
Coach Jackson: Well, I mean if you go back to the Buffalo game because when you’re winning 21-3 and the other team comes back and beats you, that’s who we really were. That’s who we were all year and that’s really disappointing to tell you that, but that’s the truth. I mean we have had leads and teams have found ways to catch us in the end and beat us and defeat us because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’d be still talking about practice and that’s disappointing because that starts with me, on down through our coaches, and down through our players. So, we’ve got to find a way to finish and I used that word earlier in the year. We’ve got to become a team that finishes and that’s where my disappointment is because I believe in that, we talk about it, we just haven’t done it as well as I think you have to in the National Football League.
Q: How would you access your game management skills in your first year, whether it is kicking a field goal at a certain time, or going for two, timeout management, things like that?
Coach Jackson: Hey, I am growing just like everyone else. It is unfortunate that there are some things that happened, but I can get better too. I am not taking myself off the hook by any stretch of the imagination. I need to get better, and I will, and I feel very comfortable with that. But there are some things that I wish I could do over, there are some times where the phone doesn’t work and the communication is not the greatest, those things do happen contrary to what people believe. Those things happen in real life, where all of a sudden the phone does go out and the quarterback can’t hear you and you deal with some of those things, but as I said, I need to get better and I will get better.
Q: Yesterday on the telecast,
Coach Jackson: Yeah, oh yeah. What comes from that is when you are a head coach and the play caller, I think the quarterback wished you were more down in the meetings. But as you guys know, when you wear a lot of different hats there are so many different things you have to do. So I do install the offense and I do run the offense on the field, but as far as the quarterback meetings, I am not in those much. So I am going to have to make some adjustments again too. You go through the first year and you find out what was good and what wasn’t good. So we will continue to make those adjustments as we move forward and get this thing better. But it is going to get where I need it to be, and trust me when I tell you that, I am not going to stop until we get this thing right.
Q: Besides from Bush,
Coach Jackson: Very, because I think he is one of the young talented players on our team and I think he has a bright future here ahead of himself, so any guy that is back there that we deem, the organization deems, is a Raider that plays the way we want them to play, we want to get under contract and get back here in uniform. So he is definitely one of those guys.
Q: People talk about McFadden being out, how much did Shaughnessy being out hurt you guys? Is that a bigger hit than you guys thought initially?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, because he has so much tenacity and quickness. He is a really good pass rusher and there are times when sometimes we didn’t pressure the quarterback as well. But I think Matt would have given us just a little bit of an edge, coming off the edge, attacking an offensive tackle.
Q: After the game yesterday, you guys never made
Coach Jackson: Well, I am not going to tell you there was a disconnect. I just know this, we cannot look at what we did on defense and say it is good enough. Or say it is even close to being good enough. It is not, and my players know that so I am not saying something to you that I haven’t said to them. We have to improve by leaps and bounds, and we are going to. I guarantee you we will. And we have got to get better, we have got to get better fast, and we will.
Q: And how much of what didn’t happen can you ascribe to physical shortcomings versus mental or emotional shortcomings?
Coach Jackson: Well, I think it all goes hand in hand. I think the physical is a mental, and the mental is a physical. I think as you work through some of the things that we have had happen to us on defense, from week in to week out, is very apparent that it is kind of the same theme. So, like I said, I know exactly what we are, what we need to fix. And we cannot let quarterbacks come in here and play pitch and catch. And we can’t let guys take the ball and just bring it back at us. I mean we can’t do that. At the same time, on offense we have to make sure we score in a scoring zone more than we did and finish. And I am not saying, again at the end of the day 26 points at home, you know, in your stadium, you would hope you have a great opportunity to win. But we didn’t, so we need to get better, and we will get better.
Q: There were instances this season where defensively you changed up more than we had seen in past years, there were more blitzing, there were more zone, in some games than there have been in past years. But it never seemed to have a specific style that you would ascribe to be the way you are going to play. Is that important to you to have a ‘this is what we are going to be and this is how we are going to do it,’ or do you want to be just a good multiple team that shifts things around and isn’t always the same?
Coach Jackson: No, I think you have to be a team that has an identity. But then you also have to have some things off of that, that you can go to. So we are going to learn to become a team that is this and then we are going to have the opportunity to do that if need be because the offenses are too good in this league. You can’t just line up and do one thing all the time, but you have also have to make sure your players know exactly who you are, and we will do that.
Q: Is that what teams like you think,
Coach Jackson: I know that is what they do. My time in
Q: What kind of defensive identity do you want to be?
Coach Jackson: Well, I want a team that one, stops the run, and two, I want the opposing quarterbacks when they get off the bus, to be worried about getting hit. And then I want us to be able to take the ball away from the offensive football team. Turnovers is the key to any championship in this league. The teams that are in the playoffs, they get a ton of turnovers, and we need to get better in all three of those areas and we are going to.
Q: Is that a 4-3, 3-4?
Coach Jackson: I will tell you as we move forward.
Q: Is this 8-8 team, is it better than last year’s 8-8 team?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, I think it is. I think there are some things we have grown in and done better than last year. But when you look at it on paper it is not. I mean, 8-8 is 8-8. I don’t care how you cut it, slice it, I think there is a sense that we have been closer to what we have been. Just talking to all the players this morning, meeting with everybody, I think there is a good feeling, but I also think there is true disappointment. And that is for me to help to help them solve. That is why I sit in this chair. I have to help them solve that along with this staff. We have got to fix it, and we will.
Q: Talking to players who have played in
Coach Jackson: I will tell you next season. We will talk about that next season. I mean we have a bunch of guys and I think we have some good football players and what we are going to do is become a really good defense. And we are not there yet, and so we have got some work to do.
Q: This year, in some ways was kind of like a feeling out process where you find out which guys are your guys, and which guys you want around next year?
Coach Jackson: Oh yeah, for me, it was my first year being the head coach here and really seeing it from a whole different level. A year ago, all I did was run the offense and watch it, and obviously I got totally involved in watching the defense too this year and being a part of that and that was different. But it was good because I have learned in my first year so many different things that you have to deal with. Offense, defense, and special teams, and we need to grow and get better. I mean we went from a defense that was 11th a year ago to 29th. We went from an offense that was 10th a year ago to 9th. So there is a discrepancy there. I mean we got better in some areas and we didn’t get better in some areas. Our special teams grew. Obviously we have the two best kickers in football. With that being said, I think our coaches did a great job in scheming. We made more plays in special teams this year than we probably ever have. So I think we got better in that area. I just think we have got a little ways to go in a couple of areas to get to where we need to be where we can be a consistent team that has a chance to win. And one of those areas we talked about earlier is we have got to eliminate penalties. And then we have got to get some of these other things right that we have gotten wrong.
Q: What did you think you got out of your rookie class?
Coach Jackson: Oh, wow. I think they contributed. If you go back and look, a lot of those guys played. Obviously
Q: Do you see him as a left guard moving forward?
Coach Jackson: I think that is where is he is now, but we will see as we continue to move forward where we are and again, as you guys know, the team is going to change a little bit. The shaping of the team as we move forward is not going to be the same team. It is going to change here or there and we will see where we are as we continue to go forward.
Q: Keeping up with that change, would you say you are 80%, 90% with the same people next year?
Coach Jackson: I can’t answer that right now, I think it is too early because you just don’t know where people are but we will see.
Q: Could you put a letter grade on the rookie class?
Q: You mentioned Van Dyke. Is it a red flag at all that you brought in Lito [Sheppard] off the street and took most of Van Dyke’s snaps?
Coach Jackson: No, I don’t think that was a red flag. I think, obviously again, he got hurt. One time I think we had two defensive backs that were active, going to be active for a game, so we did that when we started, just for numbers, and then all of a sudden he started to play and do some good things, and the next thing you know, DeMarcus was down a little more. So Lito had played well and when you find a guy has played well, you hate to move him at that time, so that is what that was more so than anything.