With the exception of the Falcons’ shooting for a winning record, today’s game doesn’t have a lot of big themes or potentially surprising news stories in the way that the last few weeks have. Last Sunday, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner returned to the lineup (albeit briefly for Turner) and Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith had worked under and with his Jets counterpart Rex Ryan for several years.
So today’s approach will be more scatter-shot for the pregame blog post.
The first theme that comes to mind is the job that an interim coach can make. In the NFL, it’s not often that an interim coach takes over and makes a huge difference, although Mike Singletary with the San Francisco 49ers of last season comes to mind. And that’s because the systems that football coaches bring with them are so complex that coaches don’t have time to make drastic changes in midseason. The changes, then, are mostly about tone and the coach’s approach to teaching and dealing with players.
To that end, here are some of the things that were said this week about Buffalo Interim Head Coach Perry Fewell, who has the Bills 2-3 since taking over. (They were 3-6 under Dick Jauron.)
“He’s more of a loud, in-your-face type of guy,” running back Fred Jackson said. “Coach Jauron wasn’t like that. He was quiet and soft-spoken. Coach Fewell is high-energy, bouncing around on the sideline. In the huddle, he’s cracking jokes. He’s bouncing in the field house doing things like that. A lot of guys feed off his energy.”
For his part, Fewell, the team’s former defensive coordinator, said he has had “a ball.”
“This has really been fun for me,” he said. “It’s a great experience as a head coach, interacting with all the players – offense, defense and special teams-wise. This is what you want to do.”
Fewell also had a few other curious things to say, such as his views on wide receiver Terrell Owens’ leadership qualities.
“T.O. is a guy that — he’s a competitor,” Fewell said. “He wants to get it done the right way. He believes that if the ball is his hands, he can score and he can help us win. The thing about him is you want a guy like that on your football team because he wants it on his shoulders. And so we haven’t been able to do that with him this year but he’s man enough and he’s playing enough… He’s a heck of a person. What people really don’t know about him is he’s a great leader, too. He’s got great leadership qualities. I’ve enjoyed having him on our football team.”
I wonder if Tony Romo and Jason Witten and Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid would say the same thing.
Here’s what Falcons receiver Roddy White had to say in admiration of Owens’ skills:
“He’s big, strong and fast. It’s hard when you can run by people when they bump you at the line. He gets away from the jam and runs by you. He catches deep balls and turns them into touchdowns. He’s hard to tackle, too.”
Here’s another interesting item. Former Falcon Chris Draft, a member of the team that went to the 2004 NFC Championship Game, signed on with the Bills after getting cut by St. Louis earlier this season. The 11-year veteran has filled in at linebacker, as the Bills have had to put three linebackers on injured reserve, ending their seasons.
“He has been good,” Fewell said. “I’m glad that we picked up Chris Draft. Both of our starting linebackers were injured and he had to be smart and savvy to pick up where those guys left off. He’s been really, really good for us. Any time you have a guy who’s played 10 years, a Stanford guy, that only helps you.”
I also find it interesting when guys have played with each other. That brings a unique perspective. Here’s what Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said about Bills’ defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, the former University of Georgia player.
“I played with him for four or five years and the job he do, he’s probably not even aware of it,” Peterson said. “…You got a big guy, a big body. A lot of time you’re taking up space and linebackers are able to make more plays. He’s making plays and helping the defense out and he probably never know it.”
Well, that’s about it. Enjoy the game.