Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: How aware are you of every scenario that it will take for you to get into the playoffs or do you just not even deal with that?
Coach Jackson: Yesterday when I gave the team and the staff off, I came in to watch the tape and do a little work, I looked at it a little bit, and as I was looking at it I stopped because that can't be my focus. At the end of the day, what we have to do is win our game and I think the rest will take care of itself. If you get to playing those games about this team is playing at this time and they are playing here and what is it going to be, I will be taking away from what I really need to do which is prepare this team to win our football team and that is the most important thing we have got going. We are playing here at home and we haven't done a good job of doing that here lately. So I am not going to get caught up in all the different scenarios, I know they are out there and I'm not going to tell you that I am not privy to the information or I don't know that they are out there, but I think I would be remiss if as the leader of this organization, this team, if I just jump over in that boat. I think the boat I have to jump in is getting this team to play as hard and as well as they can play to win this game this weekend and that is what my number one responsibility is.
Q: Do you not want scores of those games shown during the game on Sunday? Do you have an opinion of that?
Coach Jackson: Well, I am not going to control it. I think that every time when you play a game there is always some updates of the games that are being played. I normally don't know about them, I just hear the crowd. Someone screaming about some team being up, or they will show some red zone highlight and you might catch one or two. I am not going to stop what is going to happen within our stadium from happening. I am not going to go to Amy Trask and say Amy please don't put this on the scoreboard, anything like that. We are going to conduct business as usual. I don't want to do anything different, other than play better and that's it. At the end of the day that's all that we can control. We can't control what happens in Denver or what happens back east, anywhere. We can't. We have to control what we can control which is us being prepared to play a Charger team that is coming in here to beat us.
Q: How do you handle the guys that have been out for a game or more? Going into this game do you go to them and say hey look, if this is in the middle of the year I might think twice about this, but given the magnitude of the game, I might ask you to play?
Coach Jackson: Well, let me say this, if they are healthy enough to play then they are going to play. If they are not healthy enough to play, then no I am not going to. If a guy could play this week than he should have been able to play last week that is the way I see it. This team has been fighting for the last four weeks and we have been on the L side of it for three and we just played a tough physical game this past week. I think the most important thing, if a player can play, he needs to come out and demonstrate it in practice first. I think you guys know my policy. It is hard for me to play a player that doesn't practice unless I know certain things about him. And I do know about all of our players, but we haven't had players that have been out as long as some of the guys I think you are mentioning have been out. That they do need to come out and demonstrate something to their teammates before I can stick them in the game. I don't think it would be fair to this team to go put a guy in a game when he hasn't practiced because this is a big game. Truth be told, it is because it is the one we are playing in, and it is the most important one we have got because we have only got one. So in order to win it, we have got to win it with the players that can play as well and as hard as we can. And that is what we are going to do.
Q: You said there is a big difference between guys being hurt and being injured. Does that bar alter at all because of the magnitude of this game coming up? Or is it, like you said, just business as usual?
Coach Jackson: It is business as usual. Obviously, the guys that have been injured may fall over into the hurt category as we move forward. And if they are just hurt, and they can deal with it but demonstrate that in practice, then yeah, we will give them an opportunity because they are good players. But if it is anywhere close, I am always going to air on the side of caution, because I think it hurts your football team. I think when a guy can't play as hard as we expect you too play, the way I know you have to play this game to have a chance to be successful, then I think I am cheating the team.
Q: There is no such thing then as you want somebody back at 100% because at this time of the year nobody is 100%.
Coach Jackson: Absolutely. Nobody is 100%, but everybody is practicing and working at it and at least out there to where they can do something to show that they have a possibility to make a contribution to the football team on Sunday.
Q: You have a lot of guys, especially younger guys who have not been in this position before. Have you given them any message about how to approach this week? Or do you not bring the playoff stuff up to them?
Coach Jackson: I don't bring up the playoff stuff, I bring up the preparation. How we prepare every week is what gives you a chance. How you practice and get ready for a game and how everybody has their own individual style once we leave our facility here at 1220 and we go to the hotel. The next several hours or whatever that is before we play, that is the player's time. I don't mess with that time. They have to get themselves ready to play, and everybody does it differently. I am not going to change that; I am not going to all of a sudden have this magical thing we are going to do to make sure this happens, no. I think our players understand what they need to do. We know when we are ready to play and we know when we are not. We have to be ready to play this week, so I think everybody understands what is at stake here and what we need to do. And I think the team will get that done.
Q: Besides from the younger guys you have, Tommy Kelly and Michael Huff, this is the only place they have ever played in and they have never been in this situation before, what is the difference for guys like that preparing for a game like this?
Coach Jackson: I would hope that those men are excited about this, and I know they are. They might not publicly say that, but I think they are. I think they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but obviously the tunnel is long and we have got to walk the right way to get there. There has been a lot of struggle to get to this position and I think you guys all know that, it has been well documented, but at the end of the day to say that at the last game of the regular season that you have a chance to have something special happen that we have all talked about since day one, that is what you want. Somebody told me, lined it up and said, 'here it is, here is an opportunity.' Because that is what it is; it is an opportunity for something good to happen for this team and this organization that had not happened in a long time would you take the odds? I would probably say yes. Because you can't get any better than this other than to have won the division. We haven't done that, but we have a chance to play for it and I think that is what's really important.
Q: Darrius Heyward-Bey, can you share your thoughts on how he has been making plays at critical points in the game?
Coach Jackson: I think he is really blossoming into what we all want him to become. And he has made some huge plays, obviously none bigger than the one he made in overtime, him and Carson [Palmer]. He is getting there. Obviously, I keep telling everyone, I'm sure there are a couple plays he wishes he could have back, but the one thing I know about Darrius is that he is going to work at it and he doesn't let things bother him like they used to. Sometimes maybe you drop a ball, maybe you miss a block or run a wrong route, or don't come out of it like you want to. And as a young player I think he used to get down on himself, not because he couldn't do it, but because he knew he could and he just didn't do it as well. But now, it is water off a ducks back, let's go on to the next play coach, here I am, give it to me. And that is what we are doing and he is responding. And that's all you want and he is doing his job as well as he has ever done it here. And I think that is what we all have to do, coaches, players, trainers, everybody. We have got to do our job as well as we can to attain our goal for this organization.
Q: Before their last field goal attempt, did you feel pretty good about the chances of blocking it because you guys already blocked one previously?
Coach Jackson: No, I didn't. I'm not going to kid you, no I didn't. I mean, I don't ever feel good when the other team is lining up to and they are about to kick it because there is a 50-percent chance we can and there is a 50-percent chance they are going to make it, so no, my heart was someplace else than it normally is. Again, our guys are playing hard and in order to make those plays, it is really ironic, just the week before we had one blocked that could potentially could have won the game for us. We talk about it all the time, John Fassel does a great job, him and Bob Ligashesky do a great job. And we keep talking about those plays that will change and that was two huge plays that changed that football game. So again, kudos to our guys for understanding that you can't take a play off. And you have seen that in the National Football League sometimes that is just a customary everybody just rush, but you aren't really trying to block it, and the ball goes through the uprights. But no, not our guys, our guys are getting after it because we know and understand that every point counts.
Q:What were you thinking at the end of the game yesterday when the kick goes through you kind of looked at the ground?
Coach Jackson:Yeah, I was praying. I was praying, I'm not going to kid you. I have faith in what we're trying to do here, always have even when you guys have always doubted us and I understand that and deservingly so. When I say that, deservingly so, I understand that, but I do have, I'm a man of faith and I believe in things and I have unquestionable belief in what we're trying to do and it doesn't look pretty all the time, it's not sexy, it's not what everybody wishes that it is, but it's the way we are and it's the way we are right now. You know every year takes on a different look and this year's been a different type of look and that's okay. The end result is the end result is winning and that's all that we're truly after and when that kick went through, I could just - I mean everything, all the hard work and preparation, all the coming off of the Detroit game when we had a chance to win a game that we felt like we let slip through our fingers and have a team going into a very hostile environment, I mean you guys were there, it was loud. To go play in that stadium against a team that I think is very hungry and coached by a really good football coach and he's a really good defensive football coach and then it put us - we had to be at our best, which we weren't sometimes. But we were good enough in times that mattered to get it done and I think that's what matters.
Q:Have you established yourself as a team that fights and stays in and somehow hangs around until the very end, would you then be surprised if you went out in the last game and made very few penalties and stuffed the run and won a big game emphatically?
Coach Jackson:It's time. [Laughs] We deserve one of those don't we? At some point and time that'd be a lot of fun, but that's just not the way it's been. You know, we all want that, we all work towards that and we're going to make it happen at some point and time. I do believe that, I keep telling you guys that. We got one more game, you know, to try to earn another one so who knows what might happen. I know what we're playing for, but I know sometimes it doesn't always go the way you planned. So we'll just keep on working at it and if it comes down to the last play, overtime, whatever it is, we've been in every situation you can think about being in this year other than being way ahead of somebody to finish a game. So we'll take that, if that's going to be the end result, we'll take that too.
Q:The Chargers are out of it now, but what kind of effort do you expect from them coming up?
Coach Jackson:Are you kidding me? This is the Chargers and the Raiders. They're going to come here and put their best foot forward and I think our team understands that. I mean, what would be better for them than knocking the Raiders out of contention? That's what this is all about. I mean, you come here and they're coming here to play well and I do know that. I mean, there's no doubt about that; they're going to come here and they're going to give it everything they got. Their quarterback's that way, they have some very good defensive players and they're that way and I think we understand that. We wouldn't expect anything but their best challenge and I know that's what we're going to get but we'll be ready to play just as I told you every week, this team will be ready to play. We understand who's coming in here and what they represent and what they can do. But we have to play better than we played all year.
Q:Weekly penalty question, the four penalties, 11 penalty yards to set a new standard for penalties, what does that mean?
Coach Jackson:It's disappointing. I don't have the answer obviously. I talk to the team about it all the time. I mean I don't just talk, I yell, I scream, I threaten, I've done everything. So, I get a bunch of letters of people telling me other things I should try too and please don't send any new ones because those things don't work, but we're going to continue to work at it. I get frustrated; I'm very frustrated by it because it's something that I don't believe in. I don't think you can be a champion and continue to get those kinds of penalties. At the same time, I do get frustrated because there are things that happen to us that are self-inflicted and I know we can do better and we just got to keep - we got to stay after it. At some point and time it's going to go the right way for us, just like anything else, I think if you continue to work at it, you make it an area of emphasis and you continue to do so, something good is going to come out of it. When it's going to happen? I can't tell you, but all those penalties and then the last drive there's none and it gives you a chance to win the game. So I think there's a correlation. I think our players understand that in order to play good you need to play penalty-free football. But we haven't. That's not who we are right now and that's my fault, I take responsibility for it, I've got to get it fixed and I haven't yet. So I don't run from it.
Q:Have you referred to the record with them as motivation? Like you don't want to be the first team to do this.
Coach Jackson:No, because we may be the first team to do it but as long as we're the first team and we keep winning, then I'm going to take it. Do I like it? No I don't want that asterisk next to this organization's name or this football team's name, but I don't have that answer right now. Don't anybody think that I'm not trying or I don't have sleepless nights about it and why it's this way or that way and I'm not blaming it on the officials. I think that's what everybody wants me to do. I'm not going to do that, I'm gong to blame it on myself, our coaching staff and this football team. We have got to get this solved.
Q:What went on with the back to back illegal formation deals, you guys were pretty upset about that?
Coach Jackson:Yes I was; I don't even want to get in to it because it doesn't matter. Honestly, it's okay it's alright. Thirty days, next case.
Q:Palmer had a nice throw at the end of the game, but watching film what happened in the first half? What was he doing with the interceptions? He had some bad passes in the first half.
Coach Jackson:Obviously the first one he got hit as he was attempting to - I think he was honestly trying to throw the ball away and when you get hit the ball carries. So that was unfortunate. Again, it goes back to a point where sometimes you don't even have to throw it away. I told him and he understands and he will, sometimes you just take the sack and I'm okay with it. Our opportunity to win a championship is tied to our ability to take care of the ball and to get turnovers, that's what we have to do. There was some throws like I always say that he wish he had back, but he made some huge throws in that game. How about that pass to Denarius Moore? I mean have you guys seen a prettier long ball than that? No, what about the one to Darrius Heyward-Bey in overtime? Look I have great expectations of Carson, but he's human just like the rest of us and every now and then things do happen. But the guy is playing good enough football for us to win and I think that's what matters and I'll shape him up and get him to where he needs to be here in the next week so that we can play good. He's done some tremendous things and there's also throws that he wish he had back, but I'm sure glad he's here and playing because we're playing for all the marbles this week and he's a big reason why.
Q:He's got great career numbers against San Diego. Can a quarterback get that confidence from each time you go out and play well against a certain team and there they are again, are you going to build on that?
Coach Jackson:We're going to try to build on it. I want him to but I think every individual game has its own subplot to it about how you play because they're going to defense us I'm sure a little different and we'll have to play offense a little different than what we have because they'll go watch us and see who we are over the last several games since we played them. So, it's a good chess match, they're a good football team. I mean, I know people don't feel that way since they've been eliminated and didn't play like they wanted to play in Detroit, but there's some very dangerous football players on that team and I know that and I'm going to make sure our team understands that. They're going to come here ready to play and we have to play better, harder, longer than we've played all year.
Q:Taiwan Jones was inactive, but he did make the trip, any indication that he was close? I mean did you decide the day of the game?
Coach Jackson:He was very close, but just not ready. You know, very honest with you guys, I had a conversation with him before the game I said, 'Taiwan, can you carry it?' He said, 'Coach, honestly I can't.' He was sore, he had a little knot there and I mean you can try to push people through certain things but if the body is not willing to do it you just can't. So to me, the smart thing was to keep him down and hopefully we'll have him this week without any ramifications, anything you know that he'll be fine. So I think we're very close to quite a few guys maybe having an opportunity to be back out there but we'll now more as you guys know by the time we get out there on Wednesday. As you guys know we still have two more days for guys to rest up, get treatment, heal up see where they are and then let's go out there on Wednesday and see what kind of team we can put together for this big game.
Q:What does it do as a coach when you work on this incredible special teams play and then have it go down like that where now you've shown your hand to the rest of the league and what this play is and then get nothing out of it?
Coach Jackson:Yes that's hard. Again, I'll be the first to tell you that's on myself as coaching. When you got everything dialed in the right way and it's ready and you lose it because of a delay of game penalty it's not right. I mean you can't do that, you can't blow those kinds of opportunities and I understand that. As I told you guys before, I take sole responsibility for all that. Anybody wants to get mad? Blame it on me; I get enough of those letters as I keep telling you guys. I get them and I throw them away very quickly. So, I get it, there's some things we have to continue to sure up as a staff and as a unit, but it is fun to see, I think everybody knows we'll try anything. We'll do it, as I tell our guys, we're going to stay aggressive and that's the way we're going to play because I think it gives us the best opportunity to have success.
Q:On that play, do you have to wait and see what the defense is doing? Is that the time element to it?
Coach Jackson:Yes, because you have to make sure that they're lined up right and I'm being very honest I got caught up in making sure they were lined up right to see if we were going to get it off. I did not look up at the clock. If I did or somebody did I'm sure somebody would've alerted me and we would've taken a time out because the play was there. But in the haste of trying to make sure things were good kind of got looking at the defense maybe a little bit too much and obviously it was there. We got a penalty and that's unfortunate and that can't happen. Honestly that can't happen, that's not good football so we have to fix that.
Q:How surprised would you be if [Sebastian] Janikowski's name didn't show up on the Pro Bowl roster?
Coach Jackson:I'd be very disappointed. The guy is the best kicker in football, are you kidding me? My opinion hands down. I mean if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl this year then in my opinion something's wrong. To me he should already have stock over there in the Pro Bowl and he doesn't so he should and I'd be very disappointed if his name doesn't show up. He's good as there is in football, period.
Q:[Darren] McFadden had some test last week, anything come of that or anything new with him at all?
Coach Jackson:Darren, yes I think there is. So we'll see Wednesday and see where we are.
Q:There's a chance he might play Sunday?
Coach Jackson:I didn't say that, you said that.
Q:I'm asking is there a chance?
Coach Jackson:I'm going to wait until Wednesday and see what's going on.
Q:So Wednesday you're going to answer that question?
Coach Jackson:Well I'll do this, Wednesday I'll let you know if he's out there. [Laughs] You're good, you keep on trying.