Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: Still steady progress for [Michael] Huff, [Jacoby] Ford?
Coach Jackson: No question. Those guys have done a good job. Today, it's been three good days for them. We'll see where they are tomorrow. But I feel very strong about those guys having an opportunity to contribute to our football team.
Q: Defensively how different is San Diego with Shaun Phillips and without?
Coach Jackson:They're really good with Shaun Phillips. He's a big time player, he's an impact player for their football team, so I know what he brings to the table and I think we recognize what he brings to the table. He's a real good player and he makes a difference because he's an impact player for their team.
Q: Indicated earlier in the week that it might be a reach for Ford to return kickoffs, still the case?
Coach Jackson: Probably so. I'm glad to have him back out, but I don't want to put him in a situation where he can't do what he's accustomed to doing. I don't know that he's totally there yet, but I know he's very close. I think the guys that have been returning for us have done a great job so I'll kind of probably stay in that direction until we get him back totally healthy.
Q: Taiwan [Jones] turned it loose yet?
Coach Jackson: He's trying. Not totally there yet. Again, I have to be very careful with those guys who are race horses like that, because you do, then all of a sudden, you pull something, so I'm not going to tell you that he's out, obviously, I'm not going to tell you that he can't do it. I just haven't felt that yet.
Q: [Bryan] McCann really set tone last week, did you see big play ability in him when you picked him up?
Coach Jackson: Yes I did, because obviously he did it when he was at Dallas. He returned two kicks for touchdowns. He has that kind of ability. He's a real good player at returning and he's been a pleasant surprise in the defensive backfield, so I like that this young man's on our team.
Q: He had an alarming number of fumbles in Dallas. I'm sure that's something you immediately saw. How did you clean that up?
Coach Jackson: I don't know. Maybe it's me, before every time he gets ready to take a ball, I say, 'you better hold on to it.' Maybe that's what it is, but no, I think he understands that this is his opportunity, and when have this kind of opportunity, you have to make the most of them because you'll be right back out of the league again, and I'm sure that's not what he wants. He's a talented young man and he needs to continue to get better.
Q: The inconsistencies the team has had this year, is there any common thread?
Coach Jackson: No, I can very easily say injuries. I can very easily say, just chemistry as you continue to move forward. When I mean by chemistry, I don't mean bad chemistry, I just think, when you haven't played together, especially on offense, more per se, than on defense, it takes a little time to get through the rough patches. I think you guys know me, I said what I said, but that being said, I don't make any excuses, we haven't played well in some instances. We should play better than what we have. I'm disappointed that we don't have a better record. I think our team is, but that being said, you get what you earn and you earn what you get, so this is where we are and we've got to do better. That's the goal.
Q: How do you feel the team responded this week with everything on the line?
Coach Jackson: I think they responded really well. I think they're probably tired of hearing me have them understand what we're really, truly, trying to do. I said it in the beginning and I say it now. We're trying to become something and what that is we're trying to become is obviously an opportunity to win this division, an opportunity to represent the AFC in the playoffs. An opportunity to start 2012 with a home win. An opportunity to win in front of our fans. Our fans have given so much to us. Eight sellouts, that's unbelievable. There's so many things to play for, but at the same time, all you need to do is play your best. You don't have to do anything special or anything out of the ordinary. You don't have to do anything you've never done other than be focused, play with great passion, great intensity, and we understand that because if we don't take care of our business we have no more opportunities to continue to play.
Q: How fine is that line with young guys, how important the game is and not spooking the young guys?
Coach Jackson: I hope it's not a spook because these are the games we hope to be playing year in and year out, so they'd better get used to it. Hopefully they understand the magnitude of playing pro football, and truly, what all those games prior to games like this give you an opportunity to do, which is be in this position, to have an opportunity to have some great things happen for your football team. I want a bunch of guys who just relish this opportunity and can't wait to go out there on Sunday and prove their superiority to whoever they're playing because that's what you have to do.
Q: When you add up a lot of things that have gone on this year - penalties, run defense, the two big losses on the road, losing your owner, losing McFadden, the list goes on and on – but to still be a game away from playoffs, what does that say?
Coach Jackson: It says that I have a group of guys in the locker room that believe in me. That believe in leadership, direction, that won't quit, that they learn to endure things, and we know it's a long season and there were some things that were really good, there have been some times that were really bad, but we've stayed really consistent, and I think I've learned a lot through it. I think the more consistent you stay as a head coach, the more your team understands what it is they need to do. It's just been so many things that have gone on. When the season's over I'll get a chance to reflect on it, but I just know this, that these guys, they fight, and they tried hard. I know sometimes it doesn't look that way and it doesn't feel that way, but I know they're trying, and that's all you can ask. But I do expect to be in the playoffs. I do expect to win this division. I do expect to have these kind of opportunities here, and what we have to do is clean up all the other stuff that has happened to this football team, the penalties, the things that don't allow you to be all you can be. Are we as good as we can be? We are today, but we are not when I look at our football team right now.
Q: How special is it to wrap up versus a division rival at home?
Coach Jackson: Again, it's against a team that's in our division that's had tremendous success in the past and we need to go out and win our division games and we need to win them at home, and it's very special because it's the Chargers. If it was somebody else I'm not saying it wouldn't be special, but this is the San Diego Chargers we're playing. And that, within itself, gets you going a little bit.
Q: Chemistry issues, how much of that has to do with bringing in Carson Palmer?
Coach Jackson: Oh yeah, I get that. That's a lot to do with it. There's a new voice, a new leadership piece that's making decisions and saying things and leading guys and making calls and making adjustments, but again, kudos to our football team, nobody blinked. I've never seen or felt a resistance to him, about him, on anything, because I think our players trust me. They know if I put somebody on this team, it's going to be somebody that's going to help, not somebody that's going to take away from what we're really trying to accomplish and that was a tough decision, I think everybody knows it, but at the end of the day, it was a decision made for this football team to win, and it was the right decision and I stand on that and I will always stand on that.
Q: How close are you to building the bully you want to pack?
Coach Jackson: We're close. Obviously, we've got some pieces that aren't here playing right now. When I made that statement, it was without a Carson Palmer on your football team. It was with a healthy Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore and the rest of those guys. So I've had to adapt, I've had to adapt, like, to me, what good coaches do as you go through it, you have to make adjustments. I know everybody just wants me to just line up and beat everybody up, but sometimes your team changes. And so as your team changes you've got to change. So we've made the necessary adjustments, do we want to be that? Yeah. Are we totally that yet? No. But that's okay. Because it's a process of getting there, too, and we'll get there.
Q: Still not going to watch the scoreboard?
Coach Jackson: That won't change. Absolutely, that won't change because if I get caught up in that and it's not going to make a difference, if we don't do what we need to do. If I'm worried about that, I'm not going to be worried about what I need to do which is help this football team do everything it can to win. If we win, then I'll quickly run to John [Herrera] and say John tell me what the scores are, or somebody, and I'm sure within the crowd, we'll know, because they'll probably be throwing stuff and yelling stuff and all kind of things, but bottom line is, we need to win a football game and it's going to be a tough game. It's going to be an exciting game, it's going to be a fun game, but these are the type of pressure games and attitude games that I want our team to experience and be a part of because I think this is our future.
Q: This the type of game Denarius seems to thrive in, had the big game against San Diego on Thursday night under the lights, seemed like since he arrived he's liked big moments . . .
Coach Jackson: Absolutely. I need a lot of our guys to show up that way. I think it's time. I think it's time for our really good players to show up when it's on the line. I think this is what this is all about, the Denarius' the Richard Seymours, the Tommy Kellys, the Michael Huffs, the Carson Palmers, the Michael Bushes, all these guys need to show up and play football the way they can because they're big-time players and they need to play that way in order to earn a victory. Our great players have got to play great.
Q: What does it say about a rookie doing that, all other guys you're naming are veterans?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, he's special. I've always said that. I've said it since training camp, but he knows, he's got to keep earning it. He's done some great things, but I'm not ready to hang his jersey up on a wall or anything like that. He's got to continue to do it on a consistent basis, game in and game out, then I'll say, 'well done, young man.'
Q: What does getting to playoffs do for reinforcing your message?
Coach Jackson:That it's a start. I would hope it reinforces throughout the city, the organization and everywhere, that we're close. We're getting there. I think that's where it starts. Coach hired me to do a job, and he said, 'Hue, my job is for you to have this organization win a championship.' And to me, you have to walk before you run. And to me, we have to, within our division, earn the right to be in the playoffs or win the division or whatever all those things are, then you go chase the Super Bowl championship. And I'm not talking about next year. I'm talking about, as you go through this process. So if we can get in, the whole goal is alive and what it says is, that when he hired me to do the job, that we're starting the process and the job is being done, what he asked me to do is what I'm trying to deliver.
Q: How much does it help that Palmer has been in big games before like this?
Coach Jackson: It's very important. He's not going to flinch. That's what I love about him. We've had some things not go his way but one thing I know about him, he's not sitting over there sulking about it, or worried about it, he's on to the next play and that's kind of the way I am. We're going to make mistakes. We just can't make too many, and you can't keep repeating the same mistake. What we have to do is move on to the next play and continue to get better and that's what I know he is, that's what he'll do, and he'll go fight, he'll do everything he can to help this team win on Sunday.