NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.
Head coach, Los Angeles Chargers
Born: Dec. 21, 1968
Experience: 17 seasons
It's one of the 32, and it's a privilege and honor to be one of the 32. When I got here and met with the leadership, the management upstairs -- their philosophy and vision for the Chargers and players, I couldn't have agreed with it more. When I asked them to identify what they were looking for in a coach, I felt like they were describing me. So I knew right away that this was going to be a good fit for me.
[The Chargers brass is] looking to put a product on the field that's disciplined, that's tough -- mental toughness, resolve -- put guys in an environment where they're going to do the best they can every single day. They always talked about competing, competing -- and I think it's so important to always compete on and off the field. I believe players should win on and off the field and be a part of their communities.
It means a lot [to be the first African-American head coach in franchise history]. But I didn't think about that initially. When I was told that, I was really honored. Especially with Martin Luther King Day being Monday.
This team plays hard, so I don't have to worry about the effort, and things like that, but we are always going to compete in everything we do -- in the classroom, on the practice field and, obviously, on game day. But I want to teach guys on a day-to-day basis to control the things that they can control. Eliminate the distractions. Let's focus on our preparation, our attitude and our effort. You get 53 guys doing that and that scoreboard will take care of itself.
I'm going to let my coaches coach. But I do have a defensive philosophy. We want to be an attacking-style defense.
It was brought up in my interview. I knew [the Chargers' move to Los Angeles] could happen by the end of the week, you know, the week I interviewed. I didn't really focus on that, though; it didn't have any input on my decision whatsoever. I coach football, and, like I said, we'll play wherever. I just looked at this organization and looked at this roster and just felt like this was a good spot.
In my press conference today I said, "San Diego Chargers" -- I'm so used to saying that. And I can understand their pain and their frustration. But if you're a Charger fan, we're just two hours down the road. Nothing's changed. And we're gonna do the best we can to put a product on the field that makes you proud.
I had a great talk with Philip [Rivers]. We didn't talk about football at all; we talked for about an hour. We were just kind of feeling each other out and getting to know one another. I believe that's important -- getting to know your players and connect with them.
I think he's a highly productive quarterback. I don't think there's any throw he can't make. But his intangibles -- and I didn't know this about him until I got here -- his intangibles may be even better than his talent. His leadership, his preparation is off the charts. And that's exactly what you want in a quarterback.
[Melvin Gordon is] a good running back right now. He's a sophomore going into his junior year. I expect him to take the next step. He's still learning. I'm going to probably put him in more schemes. We like to run the ball in multiple ways and put stress on the defense as much as we can, and he's going to benefit from that.
I want to get him through the line of scrimmage clean sometimes. I thought last year he did a heck of a job of creating yards after contact. I want to get him through the line of scrimmage clean and get him on the safety and see him win one-on-ones. Good backs in this league, they can take what the defense gives them; elite backs take what the defense gives them and then win their one-on-ones the majority of the time.
People ask me what is my coaching style, and I'm demanding but very fair. My mom would say "truth and grace." Well, I'm probably more on the truth side. I'm going to tell you how it is and I'm going to hold you to a standard. Rex [Ryan] would be more on the grace side. We kind of complemented one another that way. Rex taught me how to take care of my players, how to love my players. Because when you love them, OK, they'll run through that wall for you. His players played extremely hard for him. I took some of that from him. ... And when you get a good balance of that, then I think you have the best of both worlds.
That was hard. Plus, we didn't see it coming. [Rex's firing] happened on like [Tuesday] and we had a game on Sunday. And so it was very hard. A lot of emotions from players and the coaching staff. But it was another adjustment -- it had happened to me earlier in the year when I went from running backs/assistant head coach to OC, and here we go again. So I had to try to rally the troops and carry on.
[Rex] just told me that he was sorrythat he threw this on me so late. And he knew they were gonna come to me. But he told me reasons why he couldn't finish the season, and I won't go into that, but he was very encouraging. He was like, You're not going to be evaluated on this one game.
When I look out on the field, I want to see at least three things, and trust me, there's a lot of things I want to see, but I want to see at least three. I want to see a tough, disciplined football team. I want to see a smart situational football team. And I want to see efficient quarterback play. We improve in those three areas right there? Watch and see what happens.
Football is a relationship business. It's not a bottom-line business. Communicating and relating to the players and your coaching staff and building those relationships and trust, that's what this is all about. It really is. Xs-and-Os guys, but who can't communicate -- doesn't matter. You're never going to get the most of your players or your coaches. I just think that is so underrated in this league today.
Being in this division, John [Elway] was my quarterback when I played [for the Denver Broncos] and I have a lot of friends there. ... The new head coach, Vance [Joseph], was a teammate. So that's going to be fun.
The weather's not too bad, for one. I have family here, you know, my dad is here, and I grew up kind of between Dallas and Los Angeles, but mostly Dallas.
That I cared about people. That I was the head coach of the organization, not just the locker room. That I Did the very best that I could. And that I was successful.