Head Coach Lovie Smith
"I was kind of hoping John (McClain) would be here to. I've known John for a long period of time. You can see how old I am, I think he started reporting on teams when I was in high school, so he's meant an awful lot to our business, and he does a great job. He will definitely be missed. It's awesome the wall that we have will honor him up here every time you come up in the press box.
There is a lot going on for us this week. Offseason program right now. Only thing we've been able to do is meeting and strength and conditioning, lifting and running. It was good to get out there on the football field. It's kind of tempting to jump into training camp mode when you put a helmet on. We are easing into it. We are just excited. When workouts are voluntary in the offseason and guys show up each day to get better, it's pretty special. We have a lot of work to do but it was good. Good for some of our new coaches to get out there for the first time. I got my cheat sheet for the first time out there. Getting the numbers down for all of the guys. I don't know the offensive players as well as I know some of the defensive players so a lot of good stuff going on out there today. There was some good teaching going on. We have that going on and improving the veteran crew of our team. Also excited about the draft coming up. Going to flip into that draft mode a little bit. Feel like we are prepared. We have a lot of great options no matter where we pick."
After the addition of DB Steven Nelson, how much better do you feel about the cornerback position? Are you where you need to be at that position?
"No matter who we have on our team, we are always going to try to improve. That will always be the case. We are better with Steven out there. He's proven. He's been a good football player in the league for a while. I thought he fit the profile that we are looking for. When we brought him and in got a chance to spend time with him, check out his football knowledge all of that says that it could be a good marriage. It was good to see him out there for the first time, but we are better at the cornerback position now."
Whether it is through the draft or the undrafted free agent process, how important do you think it to add another quarterback to the roster?
"As a general rule, I guess you can have four. Some teams have four. I think once you have three quarterbacks on your roster you should feel pretty good about that, and we do. We keep all options open, but we feel good about our quarterback room right now, leading off with Davis Mills. I've talked about him and our feeling about who our leader will be."
Do you feel that pass rusher is a position you might look at in the draft?
"I'm not trying to run away from your question, but I think the draft is pretty deep at most positions. Defensively, yes. It doesn't matter who we have on our team, we are always looking for rushers. You can not have enough defensive lineman. There are a lot of good defensive lineman, inside defensive lineman and guys on the outside that know how to rush. It's kind of simple as that. There are linebackers that we love. There are DBs that we love. I think the draft after it's all said and done will say that."
At what point in your career did you realize how involved a head coach needed to be in the Draft and the personnel acquiring process?
"I think right away. I became a head coach in the NFL in 2004. I was involved then. I had a great working relationship with Jerry Angelo in Chicago. He's a football guy. We were on the same page. We have profile at every position. Very involved then. Very involved with Nick (Caserio). Now, I get a chance to be around another good football guy. We see eye-to-eye. I was here last year so we got a chance to re-analyze the type of athletes we are playing with then. So, that transition has been a lot smoother."
You've seen a lot of good defensive players but when you are scouting offensive lineman, what are some traits that you look for? What are some intangibles that you need to have on your roster?
"You are right I have seen a lot of good defensive players, but I've seen a lot of the good offensive players too. My time up north, I had Olin Kreutz, a center who played the game tough, what you wanted to be. Got a chance to see him every day, how he prepared through the week, how he played. I know how important it is on both sides. It is about the trenches on both sides. In order for us to have success, you have to play good defensively. It's a lot easier to score on the offensive side even though our goal defensively is to score too. It starts up front. That's why a guy like Justin Britt is so important and the rest of our offensive lineman. We have a few high draft picks on our offensive line, but you can never have enough and in order to have success, we have to be good there."
When you are evaluating the prospects, how much are you balancing the fit in your specific scheme versus the talent of the player?
"I don't think you have to adjust your coaching an awful lot. I think no matter the scheme that you are playing, you won't with a guy with a whole lot of skill. Simple as that. Defensively, we would like to have 11 athletes on the field that can run. Some things are important. Guys that can jump high, that can run fast, that are tough and physical, and I think our scheme is flexible enough to if you are a good athlete and you like to play ball, you can fit in it and have a lot of success. The athletes we are looking for, I think they will fit in with what we are doing."
What are you intangibles you look for when the drafted players walk through the door? What do you want to see as a coach?
"By having the third pick, you are expecting an impact player. No matter what position, you are expecting an impact player. With the thirteenth pick also. Last year, we went in the third round. Whenever you draft this high, you expect it. Not just in the first round, but others. We have a lot of picks. Seven in the top 108. We expect the guys to come in. Most of the players that we drafted last year, lower round guys, came in and made an impact. We are expecting whoever we bring in to mix in well with a solid core of athletes that we have right now."
Are you seeing what you hoped from the second-year players?
"Yes, the first step to getting better is to show up to voluntary work in the offseason. Our draft picks have been here through out. Some of them, it seems like they never left. We changed from the 2021 season to the 2022 offseason, and they never left the building. Normally, you can make a lot of gains from year one to two and those guys realize that. That last class did some good things, and they are going to be a lot better this year."
When you take a look at where this team is standing right now with two first-round picks, is there a sense of urgency to replicate the same success from last years' the draft picks?
"Oh absolutely. We like what we did last year but we have higher picks this year and we are expecting to add impact players from this draft. I think there are a lot of impact players in this draft. I know our fourth phase, the fans, are pretty excited about the draft and we are too. We know that we are going to get some good football players that we are going to add."
What have the conversations been like with General Manager Nick Caserio about potentially trading picks to acquire more for the future?
"It's important for the future but it's about now. We talked about picks three, thirteen and others that we have and that just says that everything is on the table. Moving back is on the table. Everything is on the table as we go. When you are getting ready for a draft, you look at all possibilities. That's what you do and that's what we've done. There is a lot of time when you analyze everything. This isn't my first rodeo, but I can't remember when we've had two first-round picks. I know I like that position now. Didn't like it an awful lot last year when we were losing some games, but we like it right now and again, we are expecting to get impact players."
Does the versatility factor go into your decision of the type of players that you want in your locker room?
"Yes, I would definitely say so. Tytus Howard, he can play tackle, he can play guard. The more things you can do, absolutely, the more valuable you are to us and for your stock in general. I think if you have your profile right and you are picking big athletes, small athletes, guys that with a certain skillset, they can do more than one thing. So, that's definitely the case."
Is OL Tytus Howard going to play right tackle or is that something you guys are still figuring out?
"I probably shouldn't have even brought that up. That probably wasn't a good move. That's the good part about the offseason. First off, you have a player that is a team guy where it doesn't matter, like Tytus. Our conversations, 'Where do I need to play to help the football team?' We have two outstanding coaches that have been doing it for a long time with a great coordinator. We will figure it all out. I'll just tell you he will be out on the field somewhere. Excited about the year. Guys working hard. Talk about those big athletes? He's a big athlete. If we had five guys like that, we would be pretty happy. If this is a problem, we like this problem that we have."