What value do you place on experience in so‑called big games?COACH KELLY: A lot.
A lot. Is it something, how does is it ‑‑
COACH KELLY: NFL games, I put none, because this is the big one for us. I mean, it is what it is. I think everybody understands what's at stake. It's the first game of the playoffs for us and for them. If you win on Sunday, you get to play again and if you don't win on Sunday, you go home.
How much importance do you put on Tony Romo's injury for how you prepare for their offense?
COACH KELLY: I don't think this changes their offense much just because of who the backup is. I think they are going to stick to what they do. They obviously have got playmakers in Dez Bryant and [Jason] Witten. They are going to run the ball with DeMarco Murray who didn't play against us in the first game.
Usually when you see if there's a contrast between the styles of the two quarterbacks, I think Tony has got 20 carries for 39 yards or something. I don't anticipate Kyle [Orton] coming in and they are going to start running the option up‑and‑down the field. I think they will stick to their plan in terms of what they do and they have got a really good scheme offensively so I don't think it's going to change in terms of what our approach is going to be.
Have you done any type of back research with Orton on other teams?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Billy [Davis] and those guys have looked at him when he played with Chicago and Denver and then he was with Kansas City for a little bit but they have got a good feel for where he is.
Is that who you are on anticipating be the quarterback on Sunday?
COACH KELLY: I don't know, you just listen to reports, I think if Tony can go, he will go. If he can't go, then you know, the one thing ‑‑ the first thing that came across my head was [Romo’s] performance against the Redskins was pretty special.If he did what he did and had the ability to bring them back and win that football game, I'm sure the one thing you know about him is he's an unbelievable competitor and he's going to do whatever he can do see if he can play in the game.
Would you anticipate if it had to be Orton they would do anything differently offensively, run the ball more?
COACH KELLY: You just adjust as the game goes along. It's not, you don't come in and say, hey, they are not going to throw it, they are going throw it. He's a proven NFL quarterback that's played over 70 games in this league. I don't anticipate their mind‑set is going to change any.
Is that a conversation that you have with the team about the quarterback situation, something that you have to address?
COACH KELLY: No. I mean, those guys are smart enough. They study film. They watch. They tune into you guys so they know what's going on.
How much of a benefit was it playing a team like Chicago on Sunday that does a lot of similar things to what the Cowboys do going into this game?
COACH KELLY: I don't know how similar they are. I mean, I think there are some similarities but it's not totally the same thing.
You know, I think it's really, our whole thing is about what's our weekly preparation in terms of getting ready for the Cowboys and studying every game we've played since the last time in terms of is there anything different that they did to us in the first game that they had not done and where we are in their last couple of games in terms of what they are trying to do offensively.
But I think we have got a pretty good grasp of what they are doing. It's just who executes the best is going to win on Sunday.
How close will you monitor what's happening down there as far as the quarterback situation, practice, all the different scenarios ‑‑ do you want you and your players just to try to block it out?
COACH KELLY: I mean, we watch it but it still doesn't affect our preparation. It's not like we have got a ticker going on in the office trying to figure out who is the quarterback is and who the quarterback isn't.
Again, I don't think the offense changes or will change drastically if Kyle is changing, as opposed to Tony.
Do you look at preseason tape of Orton?
COACH KELLY: Our defensive coaches have looked at Kyle running their offense.
What about the defensive side of the ball, Sean Lee had a really good game against you guys and it seems he may not play, does that change anything?
COACH KELLY: He's been out for a little bit. He went down in the Chicago game and DeVonte Holloman has been playing so you have tape on what they are like when Sean is not there but he’s obviously one of the top linebackers in the game and nine games he's got 99 tackles and four interceptions and seeing him up close and personal when we played them in October, he was all over the field.
You know, he’s as good a linebacker as there is in this league but you have tape on what their defense is like without Sean in there because he's been out for a little bit here.
You have a lot of guys who have not been in this situation, winner take all type game. Are you curious how your group will respond to this situation for the first time?
COACH KELLY: I don't think curious is the word. I think excited is the word. I think we are all excited about going down there and what's at stake and what we can do. But I'm not Curious George wondering how we're going to show up or if we're going to show up. Just we are excited about playing a really, really good team who beat us the last time we played them. And obviously there's a lot at stake.
You talk about how different you guys are from the last time you played the Cowboys.
COACH KELLY: I have? I can't remember that far back.
Well how different are the Cowboys?
COACH KELLY: Well, they are different just because of the injuries. They are banged up in a lot of difference places and there's a lot of new faces we'll see. DeMarco Murray didn't play the last time we played. Maybe the running game is a little bit different because of his production and he's had a great season. So does Tony play or Sean Lee ‑‑ I think they are a lot different in some aspects.
You've said for weeks, talking about the season as a whole and look at where you are on December 29; did you have the same approach in Oregon and was it like, reset the button for a Bowl game?
COACH KELLY: That's exactly what we did.
And what is the thinking behind all that?
COACH KELLY: Because all the speculation about what you're going to do and where you're going to be means absolutely nothing till the season's over. You can't talk about what Bowl game you're going to when you're in college in the middle of October because you have a lot of games to play.
And you can't talk about where you're going to be in the playoffs until you play the last game of the season and find out if you're in the playoffs, and if you are in the playoffs, where are you seeded, are you playing, are you going on the road, are you at home, are you a wild‑card team, did you get a week off, there's a lot of different variables that if you try to plan all those things out, we have a plan for every situation that will get into ‑‑ that we can get into from a scheduling standpoint. But we won't know if we do make the playoffs who we are going to play until all those games are played on Sunday anyway.
What happened to
COACH KELLY: Julian tweaked his back. We have got a couple more days here so I don't know exactly what his status will be but we've got some other guys. Evan [Mathis] has played center before, so we'll see how it goes. We'll see how he is. I think he's working hard in rehab so we are hopeful that we'll have him back for Sunday.
COACH KELLY: He's been good. He's been a full participant in practice all week.
If somebody said to you at the beginning of the year, this is your outcome, one game from the division title, would you have taken that right then and there?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't think that way. That's just hypothetical things. I don't know, do you know somebody that can do that? (Laughter) Because I'd like to meet them. I mean, that's a pretty good deal. But I just ‑‑ I don't think that way. So everything is a weekly basis and I think nine times we've been happy and six times we haven't been happy.
COACH KELLY: I'm confident but I'm also confident based upon being around him because we've really been in this situation for a long time after being 3‑5, we didn't have much wiggle room. We've been kind of on the edge since we went 3‑5. So I'm confident how Nick will perform and I think the one thing you see in him is you just see improvement on a weekly basis.
You've got two guys in LeSean McCoy and
COACH KELLY: They are really good players. You know, we knew that coming in. I think they are both talented. You can see that the first time we stepped on the practice field with them for a training session. They both have got a real unique skill set that not a lot of people have in this game. It's a credit to those guys in terms of what we've asked them to do and how they have been able to flourish in what we are doing here.
Nick's got ‑‑ you look at his numbers, he's having an all‑time season ‑‑ 25 touchdowns, two picks with one game to go. He's having one of the greatest statistical seasons any quarterback has ever had. Do you ever look at the numbers, and go wow and just marvel at what he's been able to do?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, late at night. (Laughter) I stare at all that stuff.
COACH KELLY: No. I mean, I just ‑‑ (Laughter) I'm joking.
I’m trying to salvage something --
COACH KELLY: You can salvage whatever you want. He's having a heck of a year and it's a credit to him. That's one thing about him is each week he keeps improving and he does little subtle things where you're like, ‘Yeah, he's got it.’ He did a couple things yesterday in practice where you just get excited to see him play again. I think he deserves the credit for what he's doing because I think he is having a great year.
There's also a report that Dez Bryant may have tweaked his back in practice. There's parallels you can draw to the Minnesota game in some respects with the injuries and possibly facing a depleted team. Is that a blessing do you think in disguise in some way that you had that experience so recently?
COACH KELLY: No, because I think ‑‑ I don't think that was our mind‑set going in. I thought we had a great week of practice and as I said before, I think you've got to give [Vikings QB] Matt Cassel a lot of credit. Go back and watch the film of how well he played in that game and they made plays and we didn't and that's what it is. I don't think anybody in this group was like, ‘Hey, we don't have to get ready this week because such and such and such and such isn't going to play.’ I know this team is not going to fall for the banana‑in‑the‑tailpipe trick. We are not concerned with that stuff.
There are certain weeks where you reference how the team looks in practice. In these past two days, what did you see?
COACH KELLY: I thought they have been really, really good. They have been really focused. We had a really good practice yesterday. I thought, obviously with it being Christmas and little bit different schedule and getting out of rhythm a little bit in terms of what we did, they came here and they knew exactly what they had to do and we have been good. I think part of it is the overall health of this team is that everybody practices. I think that's always been a bonus for us and a lot of times when you have injuries at certain positions, it makes it difficult to get through a practice just because of the limited amount of numbers that you have anyways. The fact that we have had all hands on deck has really been a bonus and that's why we've had really good practice sessions out there.
I think you've probably touched on it, but coaches in the NFL try to, in this case, the Cowboys try to create the illusion that Tony Romo could play. Now, it doesn't look that way, but what they are trying to do is cause problems for the other team, I would assume in terms of their preparation. How much does it really take away from any of your preparation, whether they say what they say or the reality is that Kyle Orton could be the quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Our whole philosophy has always been about us and how do we train and what do we do. So as I said earlier, we are not ‑‑ we get updates, but I don't see their offense changing drastically. Obviously, there may be a couple route combinations that Kyle likes better than Tony if Tony doesn't play but that's not a big deal to us.
Doesn't take away from any of your preparations?
COACH KELLY: No.
During the bye, did the coaches self‑evaluate, or was that just ‑‑ that you used that time off to look at the team as a whole?
COACH KELLY: What do you mean, self‑evaluate?
Did you look at yourself and the job you've done to that point and your staff and how they have done to that point and did you kind of make evaluations?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we always do that, though. We self‑scout every week. So that's not ‑‑ that's not a, ‘Hey, let's wait till we get to the bye and look at what we are doing in certain situations and what we have been efficient with and what we have not been efficient with.’ That's a weekly basis. We self‑scout on a weekly basis.
Up to that point, the entire ‑‑ 11 games up to that point, the entire 11 games, that was still ‑‑ just an individual thing? Week‑by‑week thing?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we do self‑scout on a weekly basis.
The Pro Bowl teams are announced tomorrow night. Your defense, you might not have a Pro Bowl guy on defense yet and obviously the defense has played very consistently and very well. What does it say about that group without a real superstar? A few have had really good years, but seems like it's been a different guy standing out each week. What does that say about the group?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we've got a group that buys into the total team defensive philosophy. I think I'd be disappointed if some of those guys didn’t make it because I think it's deserving but I also, I don't even really know how the process is. I know the coaches had to vote and the players had to vote and the fans do and all that, but I don't think our guys ‑‑ I mean, it's a nice reward, but I think that their focus and attention is on what's going to go on this Sunday.