Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: You guys have the same record as last year. What was gained this season?
McKenzie: “At the beginning of the season, I thought we started off pretty good from a standpoint of how competitive we were from beginning to end. We had lapses during some of those games, at different points, but a breakdown here or there could have determined a different outcome. We were competitive, I felt, in the first half of the season. It faltered during the end. A couple of games got out of hand. Other than that, I thought we played better, in my mind without a doubt, compared to last year. It was a different 4-12 team. We ran the ball better. As far as being 4-12, the record is what it is. We’ve got to find a way to win some of those close games. We’ve got to try to close them out some kind of way. We’ll work to upgrade wherever we have to, to get that done. Comparing the two teams, I don’t think it’s comparable. We had a different makeup defensively. I thought we were smaller across the board than we were in 2012. We definitely wore down on defense. I thought we played hard. That never faltered. Sometimes when you have players, they have good games and bad games. Whether it’s up front at linebacker or in the defensive backfield, we didn’t put it all together as a corps. Third down hurt us on defense, I felt, especially throughout the latter part of the season. We’ve got to figure out a way to get off the field. The overall play was better in 2013, when you compare those two teams.”
Q: When you talk about upgrading at certain positions, where do you think that the biggest need is, personnel-wise? Do you plan to attack that via free agency, the draft?
McKenzie: “To answer your first question, the biggest need? We have biggest needs, with an ‘s’. We’re going to attack it however way. I don’t care if it’s off of a waiver wire, if somebody gets cut. If it’s an unrestricted guy, trade, draft, we’re going to do whatever we can to upgrade this team and we will. It’s a two-way street in some of those instances, but we’re going to upgrade this team personnel-wise.”
Q: There is a lot of cap space and money to spend, but that may not mean that you’ll spend it all on one or two places. What is your strategy for allocating the money?
McKenzie: “We’re trying to accumulate as many really good players as possible. The philosophy is not to dump every dollar and cent into one or possibly two players, no. That’s not my philosophy. We’re not at that point with our team that we’re able to do that, because we have more than one or two needs. We’re going to figure out how we can best get as many good players as we can. If that, by chance, leaves enough money or cap space to get that one player, then we’ll do that, too. We’re going to do things that make sense for the big picture. The big picture is the overall of the roster.”
Q: [Owner] Mark [Davis] talked about the first two years being the deconstruction. Now you’re going to start Year One of the reconstruction. Is there a sense of urgency now?
McKenzie: “Yeah, absolutely because now you get to make some decisions from the standpoint of the offseason, am I going through the list of who I have to release to get under the cap or to get to where we need to get to, to bring one or two players in, just for starters. Now we can start building it and adding some players and trying to keep guys that we don’t want out. At least we can communicate to agents and get close to where we need to get to, and we can be in the game when another team is negotiating. We’re not in position where we can’t match and we can’t negotiate because the numbers are nowhere close to us being able to do it. So yes, it’s a heightened sense of let’s get this thing going. It’s more decisions, more impactful decisions to be made and the draft will help in that also. So, this is the fun part, even though it’s a good sense of urgency. To me, it’s a positive situation.”
McKenzie: “I thought he was very solid and could contribute and I told him so. I told I would like to talk about getting him back here.”
Q: When you look at Dennis Allen’s performance over the last two years, whether it’s as a developer of talent, a game manager, a motivator, what areas do you want to see him get better?
McKenzie: “The bottom line is let’s figure out how to win games. The close games, especially, let’s take a look at that and let’s see what happened and see how we can fix it or get it turned around, turn a negative play into a positive play. However it gets done, let’s see how we can win one or two of those close ones. You could say three or four games very easily could have gone the other way. Let’s figure out how we can do that, whether it’s a play here or there, whether it’s moving players around. It’s getting comfortable with players too; putting them in the right spot, getting the right rotation. You can X and O it to death, but from a big picture standpoint, let’s just figure out ways that we can turn those close ones into wins.”
Q: You talked about continuity. You had 10 new starters on defense and so many of those guys are on one-year deals. How many of those guys do you really anticipate being back?
McKenzie: “I don’t think we’ll have 10 new guys. Hopefully, there will be a few of the guys coming back, whether it’s at the same role or whatever, at least we’ll have some guys to choose from. We can get them back. If not, we’re going to upgrade. The continuity part of it on defense, it’s tough. When you really look at it, 10 players who were starting for 85% of the season were different than the year before. It’s not a simple task. But, you still want to get better. If we can, whatever that number is – six, seven, eight – there are still going to be some changes. Continuity helps, but great players and really good players would help more and add to that continuity.”
Q: What’s the strength of your team right now in your mind?
McKenzie: “We’ve got some good, young, up and coming players that are good role players, who can have the talent to move in as possible starters. But I like some of the depth of some of our young guys. From a back standpoint with Olawale to pair with Marcel and trying to get Rashad back. We’ve got Latavius coming back from his ankle surgery. We’d like to add the receivers, young nucleus, but we don’t have that star, so to speak. We’ve got some depth in some areas; we just need to get some top guys at a lot of these positions. Defensively also, we’ve got to get that pass rusher, get a little bigger up front. But we’ll fix that.”
Q: What message would you like fans to take with them into 2014 to inspire them to continue to be patient?
McKenzie: “We’re excited about the opportunities that are coming for us in 2014 from adding players to help bolster this roster, from the draft, as well as free agency. But we’re excited about the continuity we’re bringing back and we’re looking forward to winning a lot more games this year.”