Opposing View: New Orleans Saints

On when he recognized the coaching potential in Ron Rivera: "Man that's a good question. I know this, I get to age him a little bit because when I was in college, I remember him playing for the Bears and I grew up a Bears fan. I think, I'm sure...probably somewhere in Philadelphia, you know, the late Jim Johnson was there and I believe Ron and Sean (McDermott). There was a group of coaches there...I was at the Giants and it was a good divisional rivalry. I think it's a small circle and you know, be it the combines, be it the senior bowls, league meetings, those types of things...clearly...I mean, I always felt like...we're fortunate sometimes to be products of who we came up under. The experiences I've had under some real good coaches and I would say that probably the same goes for Ron, Sean, and a bunch of those guys that came up, whether it was with Jim or someone else. I can't pinpoint a date, but I do remember the roster back when I was in college for Chicago."

On if in college he thought he'd be coaching in the same division as Ron Rivera: "Man, it's hard to predict. When I first got hired here, some of my closer friends, Gruden was the head coach at Tampa Bay and I knew Foxy there at Carolina and Jim Mora and it was like, man they were all in the same division. That was unique. Ron's done a phenomenal job over the years there and I feel like every time our teams play regardless of the records, they're always hard fought games, generally they mean something. It's been a good back and forth rivalry and a game I think both teams look forward to playing and understand the details come down to who wins and loses the game."

On the Saints management and ownership standing behind him after three straight 7-9 seasons: "Well here's the thing, as coaches we're all conditioned, and rightfully so, to focus on the things that we can control, and that's getting our team ready each week, getting our team ready to play and prepare. And those other things can only become distractions, things that keep you from your objective. I think the success that they've had (the Panthers) just as an organization, and certainly while Ron's been there, is unprecedented for Carolina. I know we've got a tone of respect for what he's done and how they play, I think that goes without saying."

On how Carolina's season has shaped out in comparison to where it was earlier in the year: "Listen, not having followed it directly, I mean, as a team in the division, the perfect weekend for the team in the division is you get a win and the other three teams lose. But that being said, this is an awfully important game for both teams. Again, number one, it doesn't seem like we're sitting here in the middle of December already and having played 11 games or 13 games with three to go. It seems like it's gone by quick. I don't know that anything surprises you anymore in our league. You focus on getting your team ready to go. You focus on...if you have a tough loss, making the corrections and trying to improve each week. Again, when the schedule is released and you look at it, I do feel like we've always kind of had Carolina late in the schedule for the last 13 years, we're either at their place or at here. Now the first game can vary, but I don't know that we even look at it...the first thing I look at is just travel and how that applies to the games we're playing. Then after that you just start playing them and you can't control the other stuff, but I think it's an important game for both teams."

On interest level in Ian Thomas in the 2018 Draft: "He's a player that we felt we had good grades on. A guy...you get to know these guys and you do enough homework and you follow them and there are some guys that you're not in a position to pick based on where you're selecting. Other guys you might be in a position to pick, that runs together after a while. Certainly a guy that we had good grades on."

On who sent Cam Newton a broom after the Saints swept the Panthers last year: "I've got no idea. Seriously. Give me another good question."

Follow up question...Sorry had to ask, we're trying to clarify: "No, you didn't have to ask, but you chose to ask, but that's alright."

On how defending Alvin Kamara presents a challenge: "I think the one thing we try to do is move some of these guys around a little bit, so you don't always know when we break the huddle this is where they're going to be and I think that can be challenging if you're always in the same spot…so within reason what are some of the things we can do package wise? Carolina puts receivers in a lot of different positions. It’s pretty challenging when all of the sudden you've got a speed sweep or a receiver, Moore is into the backfield and he's part of a run plan or a screen plan. I think Norv's done a great job with their misdirection and their screens and the reverses. Each week you see several explosives. You're just trying to slow down; the first ally of any good defense and that's formation play recognition. If you keep lining up in the same formation and running similar plays, guys like Luke and Shaq and those guys, Thomas, will start calling out the plays. You're trying to slow down formation play recognition and it's difficult to do."

On defenses putting a bigger emphasis on Alvin Kamara's ability as a receiver: "A lot of it is not just Alvin, but who's on the field with Alvin. For instance, a year ago with Christian, if he was on the field, but another running back was on the field and two other receivers and a tight end you might treat it as nickel and treat him as the sub-receiver, but if he was on the field with a fullback, a tight end, two receivers, then it was base. It's not just singularly...it's not just the player, but it's the packages that he's on the field with that can dictate how he's covered."

On how the Saints have been able to remain on top of the NFC South, a division that saw a lot of inconsistencies in division champions early on: "I don't think, relative to time in the history of our league, it's a fairly new division so I don't think that existed for the longest time, it just existed in the NFC South since its inception. There just wasn't the same amount of games played over the years and so early on there, you were right, there was a run where it seemed like every year there was a new division winner. It's hard to predict. It's hard to predict the health of teams, how teams are going to play earlier in their schedule. Shoot, there's going to be four or five close games. One year you find a way to win more of them, the next year maybe you don't. I think it is a fairly young division, just in regards to how long these four teams have been playing."

On what makes Christian McCaffrey hard to defend, and similarities he sees between him and Kamara: "He's a fantastic football player. You're seeing him...clearly he is the every down halfback. He's very gifted in the passing game, he's got exceptional vision, and I think he runs with good balance and power. You see him in goal line situations, short-yardage situations. He's a guy that's very difficult to defend in space and I think that's the same way Alvin is...I think that those are explosive guys that can change the field position very quickly on a team and I think both defenses, obviously, will pay close attention to those types of players. I know it seems like it's new wave, but man, we can go back in the history of our game and they're just new now, but I think offenses historically have had players that created some unique challenges. Now the formations and the running schemes I think have begun to change a little bit to what we've seen in the college game and you're starting to see the zone reads and you're starting to see the RPOs and some of the things that are really new. Those type of players are a handful."

On specific memories from college of watching the Bears (team that Ron Rivera was on): "Man, to this day I felt like it was...and I'm biased because I'm from Chicago, but I felt like it was the best defense that was ever put together. I mean those guys, when you see the various documentaries on it...I can recall the game-by-game, the seasons and just how talented they were, how driven they were and that playoff run after they lost to Miami, then very soon after they had a bye and I don't know that anyone really got close then. It was a big deal growing up in Chicago, I was in college when it happened and I can remember it like it was yesterday."

On if he ever got to see Ron Rivera play in person: "One time...it's kind of a cold windy stadium, it was the old Soldier Field, same location as where it's at now. I can remember back to when it was Bob Avellini, Revie Sorey. Walter Payton was a young player and he played on some teams that weren't as successful and it was good to see him get a chance to play on a championship team."

On what's different about Cam Newton now compared to when he was a rookie: "Holy cow. Look, there's an evolution, there's a confidence. I think there's someone that has great command and understands what's taking place defensively. I think Norv's done a great job. You're starting to see different things built in to where he's got run-pass-options, he's got a quick release, and it’s a tight spiral. He is an extremely difficult sack in that he buys time, there's a strong presence in the pocket. Obviously he can beat you if he has to with his feet, but I think...I can't recall how many years now, but right in front of our eyes I saw a transformation of a guy that has confidence, not only with his feet but clearly with his arm and his location. You know it's unusual to be able to watch a guy from his rookie season and now be here that long and just see the progress and also recognize, just like with Drew, the pieces over time have changed around him. Who the tight ends have been, who the receivers have been, and who the running backs have been. All those require post-practice time on task, timing. That's the stress of that position sometimes, there have been a lot of different skill players around him and yet, its functioned and it's gone and they've won and I think one of his great traits is he knows how to win. He knows how to win when they're playing with the lead and obviously he can come back from behind."

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