I just want to begin by saying thank you. Thank you to Mr. (David) Tepper and Nicole Tepper for just an incredible opportunity to come back home to lead a team and a franchise in which we were here at the beginnings, but to take on new challenges and to take us to new heights. We know that's a collective process. I appreciate the opportunity to work under the leadership of an owner and his wife who have already accomplished crazy things in their own life. I want to tap into that energy. That expertise. That innovation. That creativity to be the best. As I went through the interview process, that's what I heard very clearly from Mr. Tepper. That's the standard. That's what we are reaching for. Nothing but the best. Let's be excellent. Let's have a consistency of excellence in everything that we do. To create a championship caliber team and a championship caliber organization. This is the NFL. The difference between winning and losing is really small. Every year we see it. We see teams go from big-time losing to big-time winning, even competing for championships all in the space of one year. It's possible. But how does that happen? How do you turn things around? The reason we see these things happen is because what we already instinctively know: the difference between winning and losing, it's in the margins. It's in the details. It's one player at a time. It's one play a time. It's one detail at a time. It's about focusing on getting it right. Not who is right. Not being right. We're going to get it right together. It's not a one man show.
You will see that as a coach and as a coaching staff, we will collaborate. We will collaborate with ownership, with Scott Fitterer, the GM, with Kristi Coleman, the President. The whole crew. We will collaborate together to create a championship caliber organization. We will collaborate with the players, coaches and players together. This is a player's game. If there's one thing I know being in the business as a player and coach for 30 years, this is a player's game. They're the stars, right, but we do it together as a team. There are no short cuts, there are no short cuts, it's all about the process, it's all about the people. So we are just going to focus on progress, getting better every day. There's a quote that's been on my desk since my rookie year in 1985. You will hear me say this a lot, and it says this, "No man becomes suddenly different from his habits and cherished thoughts." "No man becomes suddenly different from his habits and cherished thoughts." So we're going to be a team and an organization that is about creating championship habits. Championship thoughts. We're going to cultivate those. We're going to nurture those and those are going to grow. They're going to be infectious. We want to feel those and we want to feel that in the community. We're so excited to really partner with our fans because that is a very important part of the process.
My family has already been acknowledged, but I want to acknowledge them again. My wife Linda, we've been married 36 years. Partners for life. We're a football family. Linda and I, as we have moved around the NFL, we only know one way to do it. That's to dive all in. To dive all in. Obviously, I'm diving all in to the football process. Linda's leading our efforts as a family to dive into the community and what we do from a charitable standpoint to help serve this community. We commit to you and we promise to you we will dive all in. This is about football and this about winning. That's why I was hired, but it's also about doing it the right way and being part of something special. Of course, our daughters, Lia, Aviry and Hannah. I was mentioning early to a group that we're a football family. These girls, they all throw a pretty mean spiral. I taught them when they were young. I'm not sure they've still got that in their repertoire. We grew up. They know the X's and I use to take them on dates and teach them the X's and O's and the whole deal. Then of course our son-in laws Thomas, Brett and Andrew. When they met our daughters, I had to tell them, they're all are from North Carolina and they all had their Panthers gear, and of course when you were with other teams you had to tell them to put that all in the back of the closets. Well now I told them you can bring that Panthers gear and put it in the front of the closet. Put that back at the front of the closest.
Then I want to acknowledge my former teammates from that 1995 season, the first season ever. What a great experience to be a part of a team, the first inaugural season. Special memories for us as a team. Carlton Bailey, John Kasay, Pete Metzelaars, Mark Rodenhauser, Dwight Stone and Gerald Williams. Appreciate you guys being here. Then, of course, just the friends in the community. The support has been overwhelming in this short amount of time.
In short, as I wrap up, the vision is clear. As I talked with Scott Fitterer and Mr. (David) Tepper, it's to create a brand of excellence. Create this consistency of excellence that at the top end is championships and at the bottom end, we're a playoff team. Create that consistency of excellence that produces championships, that brings championships to the Carolinas. It takes four pillars to do that. If you're going to build that championship caliber team, it takes four pillars. It's ownership and the organization. I was telling a bunch of people earlier, through the interview process, to get to know Mr. Tepper and Nicole (Tepper) was very dynamic. To see and hear and feel their vision, but also to feel the conversation that we had, the partnership that you could start to feel as we went through the interview process. That's a big deal. Of course, it's not just the ownership. It's the whole organization. For me to get a chance, the most important relationship is really with Scott Fitterer, the GM. Head coach and GM, we've got to be like this. We've got to be together every day. We've got to, along with Mr. Tepper, come up with the blueprint of what this team is going to look like and who we're going to be. Really excited to work with Scott (Fitterer). Class act. We're going to fit together perfect as I'm getting to know him. His expertise is going to be a great asset to me and to our team. Looking forward to that partnership. Of course, with Dan Morgan, his assistant, I go back a little bit with him. And Samir (Suleiman.) Even working with Nicole (Tepper) on the business side and Kristi Coleman on the business side. For us, that's a very important part as well.
It's about ownership. It's about the players. That's the second pillar. The first is ownership. You've got to have the right ownership to get championships. You've got to have the right players. Really excited about the roster that we have and the roster that we're going to continue to build. This is what it's all about for me. It's about the relationship and connection with the players. We give trust to each other right away but then we continue to gain trust in each other as we work through and go through this journey together. Then it's about the coaches. One of the things that Mr. Tepper made clear is we're going to get the best of the best. He's willing to help support that effort so that we get the best. Not only the best but the best for our team. So we have the right mix of coaches. We will have a great coaching staff. Lastly, that fourth pillar is about the fans. We're at that time of year. There's nothing like seeing a football stadium rocking. When a team is having success and when we're giving the community reasons to be excited about, it'll be a special time to be in that stadium and to be walking around this city wearing the Panthers logo.
Those are the four pillars. Finally, this is really to the players. To the players that are here and to the ones who might tune in, they'll hear this soon enough. There's three primary principles, three primary principles that we'll operate by. First is a relentless pursuit to get better every day. We've got to have a relentless pursuit to get better every day. Nothing can ever get in the way of that. We're committed to that. To push each other in every way. We've got to get better every day. No one has all the answers. We work together. We collaborate. We push each other to be the best. The second one is that excellence comes through competition. We're going to compete in everything that we do. In meetings, in the weight room, on the practice field. That's the way you get to be the best. You have to compete against one another and bring out the best. Then of course, we'll enjoy competing against the opponents. That'll be a lot of fun. Put that on full display. Lastly, it's going to be about the team. The team. The team. The team. We will celebrate. We've got great individual players, they'll hit many individual milestones and goals and we'll celebrate all those, but the team always comes first. That's what we're going to be about.
Then in closing, I will just say this. We're going to bring a brand of football and a style of football that this city can be proud of. It's going to be exciting in all three phases. It's going to be innovative, it's going to be creative. We will always be working to get better. And then we're going to do it the right way - on and off the field. We want to make you proud. Thankful to be back. I'll open it up to questions from there.
RE: On his initial thoughts of Carolina's roster
I think the defense has been, obviously, a real strong suit. Been a top-level defense. We're always looking to get better, to be honest. Here's what a top five defense gives you an opportunity to do. Top ten defense is going to give you a chance in every game. A top five defense is what can really elevate you as a team. That you can not only be in every game, but you can find a way to win every game when you've got a top five defense. We understand we're in a league that's offensively driven in many ways. Kind of the secret sauce is create and build upon the momentum. The players. The roster that we have here on defense. Get the right coaches so we have the right scheme that accentuate their gifts. I'm not going to go through player by player. Scott (Fitterer) and I have sat down and started to talk about that. There's still a whole lot more study that needs to go. Obviously, that stands out. Offensively, was really encouraged as I've watched kind of second half of the season and dig into the tape a little bit. There' so much to build on. The offensive line. The running game. We got receivers that can get vertical down the field. The running backs were strong. (D'Onta) Foreman looked strong at the end of the year. That's going to be really important for us to get the ball vertically down the field. Continue to build this roster so that we improve in all three phases. Which of course, brings you to special teams. Which we're top ranked special teams this past year. That's an essential part of a championship caliber football team.
RE: On if he will call the offensive plays
As far as calling plays, I'm going to wait to see that we get the offensive staff together. I've always enjoyed doing that. Feel like I've had a good bit of success doing that. And enjoy doing that. Feels to me there's a little bit of a trend going away from that. I want to continue to re-examine that. It just depends on how the staff comes together and the coordinator thing. I'm excited about the prospects on some of the guys that are out there that could be our offensive coordinator. I'll wait to make the final decision on that. Part B of that question was?
RE: On if Indianapolis made him think differently about addressing the quarterback position
You've got to have stability at quarterback. You want to have stability at quarterback. The good thing that I've learned in my past experience here and the past experiences in the few years is we've learned how to adapt to different styles of quarterbacks but that's not the ideal situation. We, Mr. (David) Tepper, Scott (Fitterer), myself have to commit to, what's our blueprint? How are we going to maintain stability at quarterback? Make a plan and then execute that plan.
RE: On his memories with the Panthers and evaluating the quarterbacks on the current roster
The memories from that first season. Of course, we didn't play here. We played in Clemson. One of the memories is the bus rides. It's the camaraderie of the players. Your teammates. We've got home games that we're bussing to that are several hours away. Then traffic coming out of Clemson is always a little bit slow even with an escort. Those are great memories. I won't go into the details but some of the memories of our practice facility that year and the showers. It was a unique showering situation. I'll just put it that way. That was a unique memory. The touchdown pass to my friend Pete Metzelaars. Of course, first touchdown in Panthers history. As a career backup quarterback, I don't have too many highlights. To have the first touchdown pass in the team's history is pretty special. Then our first game in Atlanta. We're playing our very first game in team history in Atlanta thinking, are you even going to have a chance? We take the game into overtime. We ended up losing in overtime. I'll never forget that first game.
RE: On why he was drawn to Charlotte
Introduced our daughters. They were all raised here. We lived here for thirteen years before transitioning full time. One of our daughters, our youngest daughter, Hannah (Reich) was born here. They were all raised here. Went to school here. High school. The whole deal. This was instantly home for us. We had ten years up in Buffalo, which were an amazing ten years playing up there. Then I played for three other teams as I finished my career. When we were looking at, hey where is home base going to be long term? It was the Carolinas. It's always been the Carolinas for Linda and I. Like I said, we've been married a long time. When we started talking about where we wanted home base to be, we just fell in love with this area. With this city. This has always been a part of the master plan. Then to think I get to come back and do it as the head coach. That's insane to me. Let's go.
RE: On what he learned from building a staff at Indianapolis and how that will impact his decisions here
Thought we built a great staff. We had really good diversity of thought. Diversity of personalities. Diversity of coaching styles. I think that's important. The chemistry of the staff is really, really important. I think that's one of the lessons learned. A lot of those guys were very successful and went on to be head coaches and coordinators with other teams. Which I think is a good sign that we did our job the right way to start. Then you start losing those guys and you got to replace. This goes back to Mr. (David) Tepper's point. We had good coaches in all places. But there's still something about chemistry. There's still something about chemistry. That's my job as a head coach to make sure that's right.
RE: On his offensive philosophies
It's a passing league but you have to run the ball to be a championship team. There's exceptions to that. When you look at the analytics and the statistics over the years. You got to be effective running the football and efficient running the football. That's of the reasons I'm excited about this roster. I know we can do that. We'll get the pass game right. I know we can run the football and we're going to run the football. Because that just builds off the play action. Off the RPO stuff. All the movement stuff. That's what you want to build. What offensively you're always trying to do is to create conflict in the defender. Put a seed of doubt in the defender's mind. Is it run? Is it pass? Is it the RPO? Is it the first level RPO? Is it the second level? Are they going deep? Compliment everything together. It starts with running the football. Then the second principle is you have to get the ball vertical down the field. You have to get chunk plays. All the statistics. All the analytics. That's one of the reasons why I'm excited to work for Mr. (David) Tepper, because if anybody who knows analytics, it's him and all of his businesses. He gets this as much as anybody. It's hard to go 14 play drives all the time. You got to get chunk plays down the field. We need to be able to run the ball, have play action, get it vertical and have the kind of players and quarterback that can do that.
RE: On being fired at Indianapolis and if he has had time to reflect on that experience
I did. In some ways, if there was going to be a transition it was a blessing in disguise. It really did. We were talking earlier with a group of people. In the NFL, you're going to have ups and downs. You're going to have successes and failures. We had four good years of good success. Then you go through one year where there's a struggle. Now you have a chance to reflect on that and it's like getting an app. I like to talk to the players like this. In apps, you get version one. Then version two. I feel like this provides me the opportunity to de-bug some things. Make things better. Now come out with version 2.0 or version 3.0. It's better. It's cleaned up. The important thing though is that you're starting with a good product to start, which I know we are. Now we clean some things up. Like I said. Staff. Vision of the offense. Complimentary defense. That high-level special teams play. All the areas that we're really going to focus on, on a team. Then how to stay true to the process. Manage expectations in a way. Keep our team focused on the right things. Keep challenging and pushing. Challenging and pushing. Ultimately, it's got to come from the players. The head coach and the coaches can only do so much. The leadership has to come from the locker room. I got a role that I got to play. I'll do them my best to play that role. Ultimately, that leadership has got to come from the players as well.
RE: On what went wrong at Indianapolis and if there is any correlation between what has gone in with the Panthers over the past five years as to why the team has not been successful
In four year it was established that that team was running the ball well. We were running the ball well, like we're going to do here. Then as this year started out, the running game disappeared. Then we didn't get the ball vertically down the field a lot because of that and we ended up having some break downs. Now, that's on me as the head coach. I've got to get that right. The responsibility starts with me. When we don't reach our goals, it's under my leadership. That's why I have an opportunity to be here. Ultimately, I also feel I look back and I always feel like I've always had a good track record of the second half of the season as a head coach. If you go back and look at the record in the second half of the season. There's a little bit of side of me that says we've had a way as a staff of figuring it out. Even when you go over a few bumps, I think we're good at figuring things out. Injuries, things you have to get past, putting players in the best position. That's a lot of fun to do.
RE: Reflecting on Sam Mills and the legacy of Keep Pounding
Sam. The lifeblood of our team. He was the lifeblood of our team. That first year we knew that we were having a special experience. Sam was at the center of that. You knew when you walked in and Sam was in the room, you knew it. You felt his presence. You felt his leadership. He had very high standards. I think that's what stands out to me most about my memories of Sam. His standards were just so high personally. He drove himself. His work ethic. How he prepared. How he practiced. How he played. And then as you simplify that: Keep Pounding. Which to me, ultimately, is a sign about being committed to the process. Even though there's going to be some bumps along the road, if we Keep Pounding and we keep believing, then we're gonna get it right.
RE: On collaborating with his players and the field being artificial turf
If I'm not answering your question directly, it is my fault. Ask my daughters, they will tell you sometimes my hearing gets a little bit messed up. My fault. Let's just make that clear. The way I approach the collaboration piece with the players is, listen. We are going to collaborate but it's not a democracy. It can't be. It doesn't work well like that, okay. The players are going to feel like I will love and respect them. The coaches will love and respect them. They have all had a lot of great coaches and players that I'm sure have done that. They are going to feel my love and respect for them. They are going to feel that we are going to listen. We will listen to what they have to say. But there has to be a chain of command. The coaches have to be in charge. It's about the players but the players can't run the ship. It just doesn't work like that. That works for a very short time. If you want to have sustained success, it has to be the right kind of leadership from the coach, the GM, and the owner. The players are going to drive the ship but they are not running the ship.
RE: On what he wants his identity with the Panthers to be and if he has had the chance to sit down with the players yet
First, with the players. I've just started to reach out via text to make sure they all had my number. That when I call and try to connect. Obviously, it's been two days. Like I said, that will be the highlight to get with these guys one on one. To get with these guys together. (Now to the) first part of that question - five traits of great. What it takes to be a great player. Five traits of great. Number one is toughness. Mental and physical toughness. Number two is accelerated vision. What does that mean? That means you see the game so fast in your brain and processes information so quickly the game is slow to you. Like this is slow to you. This is easy. I know what they are doing. I know what that split means. I know what that stance means. I know what that backfield alignment means. I know what that release means. When you play with accelerated vision, you play faster than your timed speed and you are really good at situational football. Number three is footwork. Football is played from the ground up. We want our team to be marked with good footwork. It's all about fundamentals and technique. When it's good on good, and that's what it is every week in the NFL. It's good on good. Our players are good and their players are good. So, who is going to win? The guy with the best fundamentals. The guys with the best fundamentals. So, we are going to be good fundamentally. That's going to be a mark of the team. Number four is going to be playmaker. You've got to be able to make plays in the clutch, on third down, in the red zone, in two-minute when a game is really on the line. That's not just the quarterback. It's not just the receivers. It's the left guard cutting off a nose tackle on outside zone to the right. That's a playmaker. That's all across the board. Lastly, is the X factor. You got to have the X factor, right? We want to players who have that X factor. What does that mean? They are great leaders. They are great teammates. They love football. They love to practice. They love to meet. They love the grind. Those are the kind of players we want in the building.
RE: On his comeback in Indianapolis to make the playoffs and how that will help him in the coming season
It's all about focusing. One day at a time. A lot of teams use this, I know, even our team here. This was big this last year because it's true. It's got to be a 1-0 mentality. It's about 1% better. Get 1% better every day and be 1-0. Be 1-0 today. Win the day. I like to talk about, 'hey, guys' during the week, the way we practice, the way we meet, the way we prepare, we are going to put that all into a suitcase.' That suitcase is only so big. It has a weight limit that you can take on the plane or it is a 50lb limit when you pack it up and put it on the plane. You can only fit so much in there. But what happens is then when we get there on Sunday, we are going to pour that out there on the field. Our collective score, preparation. All those things. How we did it. We are going to bring our suitcase and the opposing team is going to bring their suitcase. On Sunday, those things are going to be dumped out on the field. Whoever has the best suitcase is going to win. Then, guess what. In the NFL, that suitcase is completely unpacked and then you pack it up the next week. That's the cycle of the NFL.