Q. This is the first time you have had a losing season as a head coach. How has this journey been for you emotionally and mentally along the way to get to this point?**
COACH KELLY: Honestly, I am not thinking about my record or where that is, it is just where we are. And our goal was to make the playoffs and we had an opportunity on Saturday to do that and we didn't do it. So that's the part that you think about. I don't really look at what the record was, where or all that other stuff because that really doesn't mean anything. All that stuff's in the past so I haven't looked at it. [We are] just disappointed as a group that we didn't fulfill our goal and our goal was to make it to the playoffs this year.
Q. With the way the season has gone, do you regret any of the moves you made in the off-season?
COACH KELLY: No, I'm not looking at it that way. I'm looking at it as we've got to finish out the season the right way. We'll have a thorough evaluation when we're done in terms of how we do everything and be very meticulous and detailed in terms of what we're doing in terms of moving forward. I was asked that question the other day. We are not looking from long term what the season was about, all those other things. We still have a game to play against the Giants and that's what we're going to prepare to do.
Q. You've had kind of a soft underbelly in the middle of the field defensively as far as covering tight ends and running backs and mismatches. Did you foresee that when you entered the season with the personnel that you had? Because a lot of the linebackers you have on this roster have a history with covering tight ends and running backs pretty well. What do you think is the disconnect?
COACH KELLY: I just look at the last game, when we were in some of our zones early in the game that's when they found Reed [Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed]. When we went to doubling Reed, that's when they found the running back. That's kind of that cat-and-mouse game that goes on within the game, when you're trying to take away multiple weapons like they had, you've got to kind of go in and out. You just can't stay in one coverage and say, 'Hey, we are going to eliminate this one guy,' because the other guys can hurt you. And that's what happened and [Washington Redskins QB] Kirk [Cousins] did a good job of finding those matchups and exploiting those matchups.
Q. How do you go from Top-10 defense going into Carolina to giving up 38 or more points in four of the last six games?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it's disappointing. And it's varied. Some games, again, you look at how do we play against Redskins in rush defense; we did a really good job in pass defense, not a very good job at all [in rush defense]. In the other games, it's been Tampa Bay, it was a run game. We got the ball -- Arizona, we got the ball run on us. So it's different in each game. You're trying to take one aspect away, you do a good job taking one aspect away, but you have to take more than one aspect away to beat good football teams, and that's the frustrating part for us right now.
Q. What happened with T Jason Peters, from your point of view, at the end of the game?
COACH KELLY: We were just told he couldn't go any longer. I know he got banged up early in the game, I think it was an elbow. He has been playing hurt all season long. I don't think people realize what he has gone through to get out on the field. But again, when I'm told on the sideline, I never say, 'Hey, explain to me what went on.' I know he went out and missed a couple of place early in the first quarter and I was just told he was done and that's why [G/T] Dennis [Kelly] was in.
Q. Was it a player's decision or a trainer's decision to keep Peters out?
COACH KELLY: Again, it just wasn't relayed to me that way. It was just relayed as Jason's out. So I didn't get into that.
Q. If other guys are playing hurt, obviously at this time of year, a lot of guys are, why is it okay for him to --
COACH KELLY: Again, I don't have that answer for you. What I know is that I was told he was out, but I know a lot of guys -- and to look at one guy's injuries compared to another guy's injuries isn't really fair to anybody. I think for one guy to say, 'Hey, my ankle hurts compared to what he hurts,' I think everybody at this point in time is banged up and everybody understands themselves. But we are certainly not going to tell a player that, 'No, you're not hurt and you have to go back in the game.' I've never done that, never will do that. That's not how we're operating. In terms of Jason as a person, he has played through a lot since I've been here in my three years here and I will never question his toughness.
Q. Have you found that having a dual role of being the personnel decision and having the final say on that and being the head coach has been more taxing, more time spent, and been different than just being the head coach?
COACH KELLY: No, not at all. And again, I'm not the general manager, so I don't run our personnel department. I'm not in charge of scouting. I didn't tell our scouts where they are going. [Vice President of Player Personnel] Ed Marynowitz does a great job with that. The only difference is I was in control of the 53-man roster and now I'm in control of the 90-man roster, but all of those decisions made in season, we always went over who was available for putting a guy on IR, we all understand that. My job has never changed. To say I'm a head coach and a general manager, I am not the general manager. I don't do anything -- I don't negotiate contracts. I don't do any of that stuff. I just have a say of who is on the 90-man roster, as opposed to the 53-man roster. But once the season starts, I have always had control of the 53-man roster. So that has not changed at all, nor has there been any more time devoted to any of that because that's not the way it's set up here.
Q. In terms of the approach to Sunday's game, why not look at younger players for the purpose of evaluating the going forward?
COACH KELLY: Well, we've had an opportunity to evaluate those guys all the way through and if they were good enough to play, they would be on the field right now. So it's not like we are holding guys back from opportunities. I think everybody has an opportunity on a daily basis to show us what they can do and whether or not they merit playing time. But it's also not fair to a guy that's playing and saying, 'Hey, you're not going to play just because I want to take a look at this other guy.' They have a chance to show us every single day. We were in the same situation last year. If we have a game and it's a competitive game and it counts, we are going to go play, and if you couldn't go play, maybe that says something to you.
Q. You said you are not the general manager but you have the say on trades, free agents --
COACH KELLY: I have the say on the 90-man roster, yes.
Q. And that would be trades and free agents, so is it fair to say those are --
COACH KELLY: That's the 90-man roster, yes.
Q. When you look at the tape, are you seeing the same mistakes being made over and over again?
COACH KELLY: No, and that's the frustrating part. Like I said earlier, in the Arizona game we got the ball run on us. They did a really good job of running the ball on us. In this game, we did a good job on run defense, but we didn't do a very good job at all on the pass defense, especially versus their tight ends and their running backs. So it has not been the same consistent theme, so there's not one thing to say, 'Hey, we need to fix this, then we're going to be good.' And that's the frustrating part. That's the part that's aggravating to be honest with you. There's not just one thing.
Q. Is it talent or coaching that --
COACH KELLY: I don't think it comes down to a talent thing, no.
Q. From the outside, it looks like since it has trended that you allowed more yards, points, everything, late in the season, the outsiders are going to say the defense is worn down playing 34, 36 minutes a game. Do you think --
COACH KELLY: We ran more plays then them, so we can argue that all the time. Our offense was on the field for more reps than their offense was on the field. When you look at plays run, time on the field, we've had that conversations. Just because they are standing on the field, it's really plays run. Have there been games where we didn't run enough plays? Yeah. But there have been other games, we played Miami and ran 90 snaps but we lost that football game. So I think sometimes we still get caught up in that. I don't -- I'm not a time-of-possession guy; I'm a plays-run guy. Did they run more plays than us? Then we didn't do a good enough job offensively to stay on the field long enough.
Q. For guys like DT Bennie Logan and CB Byron Maxwell, do you shut them down now?
COACH KELLY: Again, those are medical decisions and I haven't met with the training staff in terms of where we are from that point.
Q. Is it important for your overall vision to have control of the 90-man, and are you open, if the owner decides that that is no longer the right setup, are you okay with that?
COACH KELLY: The owner decides whatever he wants. It's his team; he can do whatever he wants. It's always been that way.
Q. Do you have a sense of how disappointed Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie is right now? I know you're doing evaluations after next week, but do you have a feeling --
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he's very disappointed. I think we all are. I don't think there's anybody that's excited about the situation right now. So that's where everybody in this league, if you don't make the playoffs, there's a huge disappointment. Because that's what everything is geared to do is trying to get into the playoffs and see what you can do in the playoffs. I'm sure he's disappointed just like everybody else in here is disappointed.
Q. Has he expressed any specifics at this point?
COACH KELLY: No, we always -- we'll talk about it after the season just like we always do. We have a week to go here. We have a game, we are going to play a game this week and we are going to get ready for that game this week.
Q. When you bring S Malcolm Jenkins down to play the slot in base or whatever --
COACH KELLY: In nickel -- yeah.
Q. Does that appreciably weaken what is behind him because he's such a good and experienced --
COACH KELLY: I think he's a really good nickel player and I think the closer we can get Malcolm to the ball, the better. It just depends on how offenses are going to deploy themselves; are they going to play in 11 personnel or 12 personnel or 13 personnel, whether we are in base or whether we are in nickel. But when Malcolm is close to the ball, I think he's a really productive player.
Q. Have you seen the growth from a guy like LB Marcus Smith that you kind of expected to see this season?
COACH KELLY: I think [LB] Connor [Barwin] and [LB] Brandon [Graham] have played so well there, I think it's one of those, who are we taking off the field [situations]. And then when you get into nickel situations, sometimes we keep three D-linemen and the outside linebacker on the field as our fourth rusher as opposed to taking two D-linemen off the field. I think it's more of how well [DT] Bennie [Logan] was playing and Fletch [DE Fletcher Cox] was playing. When you're trying to get -- when we're in nickel, which we have been more in nickel than we are in base, just who are the four best rush guys out of that and I think that's just kind of where we are at that situation. He's still behind Brandon and Connor in those situations.
Q. The reason I asked that is because I know you said a little earlier, if these guys were good enough to be on the field, they would be on the field by now. Would you like to see him on the field in the last game?
COACH KELLY: I want to see anybody that's productive and that can help us beat the Giants.
Q. Would you like to have more and more rotation at the outside linebacker spot? Would you like to see Smith push for more playing time?
COACH KELLY: Ideally, you want everybody to be able to contribute but you're also not going to just say, 'Hey, we are going to put this guy in the game and then take out a guy that's really productive, too.' You get in that, how come this guy doesn't have as many snaps, when you have players like that. It's tough to get Brandon and Connor off the field because of what they do for us.
Q. What about the inside linebackers? What would a guy like LB Najee Goode have to do to get out there?
COACH KELLY: Najee has done an outstanding job for us on special teams and there's a guy that I think maybe would warrant some playing time. We'll take a look and see what he can do this week.
Q. How have you opted for LB Kiko Alonso instead of Goode up to this point?
COACH KELLY: Just because of what we've been doing package wise and where they fit into the scheme.
*Q. Where is DB Eric Rowe and WR Nelson Agholor this week right now compared to where they were three or four weeks ago? It seemed like it started to clip for Agholor and then, obviously, Rowe hadn't played. *
COACH KELLY: I think Nelson is getting more comfortable. He did miss a stretch there. Didn't miss a lot of playing time, but with that injury it's tough to play through and I'll give him credit for his toughness in terms of playing through it. He didn't have the ability to get in and out of cuts the way you would like to with the type of injury he had. I think he has improved here in the last couple of games and hopefully he can continue. I think Eric has gotten better in every game that he's played. The more playing time he's gotten, I think you can kind of see his confidence grow and that's a good thing to see from those guys.
Q. QB Sam Bradford said after the game he would like to come back here. He feels in the second year, he can continue to grow. It's really the first time we've heard him say that, is that important for you to hear?
COACH KELLY: I know where Sam stood the whole season and I know -- we are on the same page in terms of where we are. It's just we don't negotiate during the season with anybody. So that wasn't a, 'Hey, we don't want Sam back.' That's just the way it is. A player shouldn't be worried about a contract while the season is going on and that will be something we will adjust after the season. That may be news to you guys, but it's not news to us that Sam is happy here.
Q. Is that a personal philosophy of yours?
COACH KELLY: No, it's just the organization's and I agree with it. I don't think any player should be worrying about -- they shouldn't be going out on Sunday worrying about do I have a contract or not have a contract? That's not what it's all about. I think most teams that you look at in the NFL are not negotiating with guys in season. There's a beginning of the season and an end of the season. A lot of times, there's a, 'Hey, once we get to this point, we are not going to negotiate anymore.' The player understands that, the agent understands that, we understand that.
Q. So it's just a contractual -- that's really the only part of the equation that has to be determined; is that fair to say?
COACH KELLY: The only part? I think that is the part, isn't it? I mean, if he doesn't have a contract, he's not coming back.
Q. He has to want to be here and you have to want him, it seems like that's
COACH KELLY: Again, we wouldn't have traded for a guy if we only thought -- we didn't trade for him to say, 'Hey, we want to get one season out of him and then we are going to go into different direction.' That's certainly not the case.
Q. But there's also the side where he has a decision to make, too, because he's a free agent and he can get other offers and sign somewhere else. But it just seems like that part of it is -- he seems comfortable to be here.
COACH KELLY: Again, to me, he's always seemed comfortable being here. It may be news to you guys but not news to us when you originally asked the question.
Q. Are there greater risks when you let a person get to free agency, for instance, like with Kansas City Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin?
COACH KELLY: Again, and we are not going to discuss contracts, but it wasn't like the first time we talked to a player was when the free agency opened up. There have been discussions with a lot of the guys when the season ends but they didn't agree on a contract. I think you guys are painting a wrong picture that all of a sudden free agency opens up and we have never had a conversation with a player about where they stand. It doesn't work that way. It works immediately when the season is over, you try to re-sign the players that you currently have. And so they don't have to agree to the price tag that you give them, but it's not like the first time we ever talked to Player 'X' was the opening day of free agency. It doesn't work that way with your own free agent.
Q. There are examples of players who have signed during the season elsewhere in the past in this organization. Is that something you personally --
COACH KELLY: No, that's the way it was explained for me. I can answer it again for you would like that, but that's the way it was explained to me.
Q. Once the season ends, is it likely based on mutual --
COACH KELLY: There's nothing likely about anything in this league. So I'm not saying anything is likely. But again, that's why we don't discuss contracts.
Q. You said all year that you thought the personnel was good enough and that you had a good football team. Do you still feel that way? Obviously it's not going to be good enough --
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it didn't go our way but I don't think we're a bad football team, not by any stretch. I can point to plays, and I think we are not consistent and that we need to be consistent and we have not done a good enough job at coaches of putting them [the players] in position to make plays. I don't think we need to revamp this entire group of guys because I think we've got some really, really good guys.