OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE SHULA
On when offensive change, and also with Cam Newton, became apparent: Well, I think it's been, this season specifically, probably those games right there in the middle of the season where it was going back and forth and you needed to have some drives in the fourth quarter. It started in the Seattle game. Coming up with two 80-yard drives on the road at Seattle for touchdowns to win the game. Then we had some close games with Green Bay and with the Colts in overtime. You know, he really stepped up to the plate and especially at the end of the game. I think the game kind of slowed down for him. I think even before that though it got started, the biggest change we noticed offensively was when we were playing the Saints last year at the end of the year. We figured we've got to do something different so went to the little more no huddle and we caught fire and the offense played really well. And then of course our defense has been playing lights out the whole time and they get us the ball back. Started to get on a little bit of a role there and I think we carried that momentum into this year.
On Cam Newton and his running game as a quarterback: It's definitely a different feeling. You always feel like you kind of have that in your hip pocket and it's one of many things that Cam brings to the table for us as an offense and as a football team. You know he loves running the ball and I can remember right when, see I was coaching quarterbacks in Jacksonville, you know the spread offense and the quarterbacks running it. And I was talking to one of our other coaches who had come from college and I had said, "I don't know how that offense is going to ever work in the NFL." I just, those guys are going to take too many hits and then all of a sudden Cam Newton comes along. You know the biggest thing obviously is his size and he loves running the ball. But it's a fine line every week. We've been asked that question since day one and it is, it's a fine line. You want to be able to use him as a weapon but you hate putting him in harm's way too many times.
On Denver's defense: Yeah, they're so talented. They're so fast and I think the best way you can - you talk about how well they're coached, and what a good job Wade (Phillips) does is when you see them diagnose so quickly. They get to the ball so fast even on the missed direction stuff. They seem to find the ball quick and they're swarming to the ball. You know they'll play some backups and a lot of their backups could start for just about anybody and there's not that big of a drop off. They'll mix it up so you can't get a beat on them, you know where one or two different coverages. They're going to mix it up and whatever they do, they do it well.
On family and if they ever add more pressure: Not really and the reason I'm kind of smiling when I say that is because I'm the last of five kids. So my brother probably, he was the first to go through it. So any of that, I kind of learned from my brother and my sisters. Probably the first time I ever heard it, which I kind of laughed, was when my mom - I think we were playing, I don't know if it was junior or senior year in high school and my mom was nervous about me playing because they said somebody had point bounty up for Shula. And so we kind of chuckled about it then. Probably ever since then, it's just kind of been something that you know your last name, obviously like that, you're going to get singled out at times. But more importantly than anything else, I feel just so lucky just because of not my dad's last name and who he was, but just because he's my father. And the way he and my mom raised us and then have Dave and my sisters to help me along the way growing up.
On getting into this business and any advice his dad may have shared: Well, number one that there are going to be some ups and downs. That if you coach, you're going to be in a leadership position. You've got to make sure you understand that because people are going to be looking at you on how you react after good and bad. No matter what you do, don't settle for anything other than the best from yourself and any kind of confrontation or problem that you have, you've got to hit them head on. Right away. And I've tried to stick with those throughout my career and of course I've always had my dad, and my brother as well, to fall back on. Anytime there's any big decision I'm having to make in my life, those are the first two guys I call - after my wife.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR SEAN MCDERMOTT
On how the team has made it work on defense: I don't think the story is out there in terms of Luke (Kuechly) missed the first four or three games, Charles Johnson was on short-term IR (injured reserve). We've had multiple guys who have gone down over the course of the season but guys have stepped up. In those cases we've had to pull guys from off the street or off the couch and I think it's a credit to not only what we do but how we do things and the culture we have built and then just continuing to develop they players. The players make the plays. With the leaders that we have with the culture inside the building it's important that the guys that come in are wired the right way. In Cortland (Finnegan) we wanted a tough guy with some swagger and then with (Richard) Rodgers at the end of the year with a couple of games to go just personality wise fit into what we do. So that's been neat to watch.
On safety Roman Harper: He's my enforcer. I don't know if the movie was "Slapshot," but years ago whenever we needed to do something, he comes out like the twins used to come off the bench and go in and lay the wood then go right back into the penalty box. He's kind of that to us. He sets the tone for us and sometimes it becomes personal with him and that's okay. That's what it's all about. The younger guys look to him for that leadership and he's done a really solid job for us.
On the league is now set up to where interior linemen are more impactful than 10 years ago: There is no doubt that the way the league is trending you've got to get pressure inside. The quarterbacks are getting the ball off so fast now that you've got to get penetration and affect the quarterback in the 'A' or 'B' gaps. Peyton Manning is no different this week. He gets the ball off, I think, the second fastest among all quarterbacks. So it's important that you have some guys in side that can win.
On defensive tackle Kawann Short's development: This is another step in his development, really. He went from his first year when we got him we knew he had the talent but weren't sure if he had the motor. Then within that first year (Defensive Line Coach) Eric Washington continued to work with him with Kawann and really took ownership of it and so that's not been an issue. And then from year one to year two he continued to develop in the system and now he's made a huge jump in year three as everyone has seen. I credit to Kawann for really taking ownership of it.
On if Short's development has been strictly mental: For him it has been. That's really where you expect to see the jump. Their freshman year, the guys are just getting themselves acclimated. Their sophomore year, it's a little bit of a test to see if they are going to stay where they were or if they are going to continue to develop. The sophomore to junior year, which is basically where he is at now, is where you really expect to see (the jump). That's where we have seen it. Credit, like I said, to him. He's really matured with what he is doing off the field in the community. It's incredible. If you do things right off the field you get a chance to do things on the field.
On if it's been impressive that most of Short's sacks this year have been second-effort plays: It is. Just from a total development standpoint as a person that's been fun to watch. Like I said, how he has matured off the field and now on the field watching his game develop. He's not just a one-phase player. He's not just a pass-rusher. He defends the run extremely well. He and (Panthers Defensive Tackle) Star (Lotulelei) kind of have a bond in terms of their development together which has been nice.
On if the idea of having both Short and Star Lotulelei was to have them play together in the way they do: Well, when we drafted them we obviously drafted Star first and we knew Star was a three-down player. (He was) much-heralded coming out of college and what not. Obviously Kawann was as well, but there were concerns by some people with him. When you dig deeper he had three or four defensive line coaches at Purdue and so all that factors into it. Now to watch the two of them fit together like pieces in the puzzle is fun to watch.
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR BRUCE DEHAVEN
On what he saw in Ted Ginn, Jr. that made him believe he could be a key part of the team: Well, first of all, he is fast for one thing. I saw him run by me one year out there in Seattle when he was with Miami, and thank heavens there was a holding call that brought it back. I just think that he is a really, really rare talent in terms of his speed and athleticism. I think he has been a little bit pigeonholed sometimes that he is just a speed guy, but I think he is a lot tougher than people think he is. This guy was a 400 meter intermediate hurdler. I ran the 400 meter intermediate hurdles when I was in college, not nearly like he did, but that is a tough race. He has really been a good player for us and made so much difference in what we have done in the punt return game.
On his fifth trip to the Super Bowl after losing the first four: I keep telling these guys, I said, "Listen, it is such a great experience to go to the Super Bowl, but if you lose you just won't have good memories of it. As great as it is right now and as great as it was to win that Conference Championship game, you go home a loser and you're the second plane taking off on Monday at the airport, you just won't have good memories of it.
On what a Super Bowl win would mean to him and to his friends and family in Buffalo: I'm not even going that direction. I told everybody I'm not even thinking of that possibility. I tell my players all the time that I want them to concentrate and focus on the task at hand, not the end result. If I am telling them that then I have to do the same. I don't want to have any kind of preconceived notions about what it might be like to win one. Whether it is to win one or lose one, whenever the moment happens, I am going to react to whichever it is. I'm just hoping it is on the positive side this time.
On what he has heard from people back in Buffalo: I have lots of friends. The thing about going to the Super Bowl, you hear form people you haven't heard from in over 20 years. I'm hearing from kids I coached in high school back in Wichita, Kansas, back in the '70s. That's the neat thing about the Super Bowl when you hear from people like that who you haven't heard from in a long time.
On the coaching staff that Rivera has assembled: Great guys. First of all, great guys. I remember Marv Levy telling me one time, he said, 'There's a lot more coaches in the league that get fired because they can't get along with people than ever get fired because they don't know what they are doing.' This is a great bunch, which says a lot about Ron and his personality. It's as good a staff I have ever been on in terms of how guys get along. My thing is, it is hard as an assistant coach because you are so involved with what you are doing, you don't ever talk about the expertise of these other guys. I might see them coach on the field and they look they know that they are doing. We've had some success, but they are just a great bunch of guys.