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REX: Muhammad Wilkerson Wins Team MVP

Posted Dec 24, 2013

Transcript of the Jets head coach's news conference Tuesday afternoon.

We do have the awards for team awards. We had the Dennis Byrd Award for Most Inspirational Player went to Demario Davis [voted by teammates]. Kyle Wilson won the Marty Lyons Award for community service. Tommy Bohanon won the Bill Hampton Award, and that’s for a rookie that acts like a professional in the locker room. That was by the equipment staff. Isaiah Trufant won the Ed Block Courage Award, voted by teammates. We had the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award. I think we had a solid choice here. One guy on the list for us, Nick Folk, just kidding. Folk Hero won that one. And then the Team Most Valuable Player, voted by teammates, was Muhammad Wilkerson. Those are the awards and with that, fire away please.

Okay, off of a win I understand all the great questions, “What was good about it [joking]?” Well, let me tell you what was good about it. I appreciate you bringing that up. What was great about it was we’re down 10-0, then to come out 24-3 from that point on, I think showed how much better we played. Obviously, we were struggling early in that game, but that jumped out at me and that was a good thing. But facing this team, we talk about and I talk about how this team has improved. I see this team going in the right direction and I think this is an opportunity to see how accurate that statement is because the Miami Dolphins [played us] at home, we’re 6-2 at home, 9-2 in the preseason and they whipped us pretty good. When you look at everything we talk about that’s important, runs and completion, 62 to like 34 or something like that, almost doubled us. Turnovers three-to-one. Quarterback passer rating three times [ours]. So it was ugly, without question.

We have to go to their place. We understand what’s on the line for their football team. But this will be a great opportunity for us, albeit we played them four weeks ago or something like that, but we’ll see if we’re better and we’ll see how much better we are. I’m confident that our football team is better, but the challenge in front of us, I think, is obviously going to be big. So you’ve got a talented football team we’re up against, both offense and defense, and special teams for that matter.

On Sheldon Richardson’s health…

He looks fine. We’ll have the injury report tomorrow for you, but I think Sheldon will be fine.

On if Geno Smith’s play early against Carolina was his best road performance…

Yeah, I think the best road game for everybody was probably the Atlanta game. I think Geno in particular had an outstanding game. Certainly, I think we see us making strides on the road and things. And Geno did, obviously, [have] that pick six [which] wasn’t a good play. We’ll see how we do. I like the fact that this game, you’re going to have a playoff-type atmosphere on the road because this team is obviously competing to get into the playoffs. So I think that will be a good experience. I hope it’s a good experience, but it’s going to be a challenging experience and we’ll see how we react to that.

On if pulling Smith during the last Miami game has helped him…

I think it may have helped him just because sometimes you sit back out and you have a chance to see it from a different perspective and you know how hungry you are to get back out there. I think that was it. That day we were struggling as a football team. That might have been the low point, and we’ve had some low points, but that might have been the worst one because we really got it handed to us.

On if Wilkerson has ascended faster than anticipated…

I think, number one, it starts with the individual. To make that kind of improvement, to get to that kind of level, it starts with the individual because he’s got to have the commitment, the work ethic, all that type of stuff, to push himself to be a great player. And so it starts with the player, certainly. But he’s had help along the way. I think we’ve got a great defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar who I think has done an outstanding job with him. I think Mo will tell you he’ll get pushed by his teammates. I think they challenge each other over there. It’s a great group. It’s a young group. They’ll push each other to try to be the best, even the young guy like Sheldon Richardson, with Snacks [Damon Harrison], with Kenrick [Ellis], with all those guys. I think they really push each other and I think that elevates guys’ play as well.

On if there can be satisfaction in knocking Miami out of the playoffs…

No, because if you’re not in it, it really doesn’t matter. We’re playing to see how we stack up, to talk about, “we’ve improved,” we need to see that. And that can be measured statistically, but let’s see where we’re at. I think that for us is it and we want to go out and we want to win. We haven’t won two games in a row all season. We’ve struggled on the road. We want to see if we can’t get that corrected, obviously against a good football team in Miami. That’s what we’re looking at. It’s not so much about knocking somebody out of the playoffs. I think the fact that you’re not in it is painful enough. You’re not going to derive pleasure from knocking someone out. We’ll get pleasure from winning if that’s the case and that’s certainly why we’re going down there.

On how Richardson’s presence has made Wilkerson a better player…

I just think that he’s a ball of energy and I think that’s good for everybody. We saw it right away when you put him in there and I think people are looking, it’s like, he runs to the football, he loves to play, he’s got great passion for it. And obviously so do the other guys. But they push each other. I can tell you this though, when somebody else, they make a sack for instance, those guys are always celebrating as if they had made the sack themselves. Sure they want it and they want to [say], “Hey, I got that sack,” or whatever. You can see how tight this group is and how much they care about each other and they’ll sacrifice for each other as well. But the presence of a guy like Richardson, the kind of motor he has and stuff, I think has been good.

On if he still thinks the team’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts…

I don’t think we’ve achieved where we would want to, obviously, in the win-loss things. But yeah, I do. I do believe it’s true because how close this group is and how they push each other, how we work on the practice field and in the classroom. I’d say that’s a true statement. Now, we don’t have the win total, obviously, that we wanted. That’s for sure. So we probably come up a little short there. But I would say that’s true in the fact, as we mentioned and gave the example of Mo and everybody else, that we push each other and we’re making each other better.

On if he is satisfied with the progress the team has made from the beginning of the season…

Again, I think we have made progress. I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think we’ve made progress in the classroom. I think we’ve made progress on the practice field. Sure, I’d like to see the win total keep going. I think this week will be a great testament to that. Let’s see where we’re at and obviously it’s a huge challenge to be a team like Miami on the road with all that’s at stake for them.

On how he defines a successful season…

Well I think wins and losses is the only one that matters. But there are other things too. There’s how the team is. Is the team getting better? Are the study habits getting better? All these types of things that will definitely lead to wins and losses but maybe haven’t gotten there just yet and I think we’re there, but again, wins and losses are obviously the thing that matters the most. I’m not saying it doesn’t because it does. I understand that’s how we all get evaluated. I get that, no question about it. But I think there are steps to it that I think we’re attaining. We haven’t gotten the wins just yet, but we understand we have one game and we’ll see what happens in this game.

On if he has improved as a head coach this season…

I think you improve through experience. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think that’s probably the greatest thing that you learn as this thing goes on. Maybe things that work for you that maybe don’t work for others or whatever. You try different things. I’m always a guy that’s not about me. It’s about the guys that I work with. I’ll lean on guys that I work with and I think I have a great staff, so I think they’ve done a great job.

On how successful he sees the team having been over his five years as head coach…

Well, obviously we’ve had a lot of good moments. We’ve had some down moments. I don’t like the fact we haven’t been to the playoffs for three straight years. That’s a huge thorn in my side and everybody else’s, this team’s, even our building. The reason I say it represents the commitment the organization has and the goals of the organization, the goal of the organization is to win championships and multiple championships and we haven’t done that. I haven’t been successful at doing that yet. I understand that. We’ve had some moments where we’ve been close but we haven’t gotten there. The biggest disappointment is the fact that we haven’t gone to the playoffs in three straight years.

On if he is upset the front office has not given him a vote of confidence…

Guys, again, I think organizationally from top to bottom it’s about this specific game and we’ve stayed to that course the entire season and that’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s going to be. We’ve got this game and believe me, we’re going to get everything we’ve got. We will give it and, like I say, wins and losses, we’ll find out, but I know this football team’s coming out and we’re going there for a reason. We’re going to go there to compete and try to win, and for ourselves, not to knock somebody out, disappointment or whatever. No, it’s about us and I think that’s how we’re taking this trip there.

On how different the conversation would be this season if his first four years happened in a different order…

It would probably be a lot different. Again, it’s just the way it is.

On why it’s important to him to have a relationship with all of the players on the team…

That’s easy, I was a very average player. Alright, I was below average as a player. Everybody is important, that’s what makes a team. It’s not just the top guy on the roster, its all of them. I think when we talk about our whole being greater than the sum of our parts, that’s what we get at. Everybody is important, everybody has a role. Guys’ roles change all the time but the role of an individual, from the outside might not look that important, but it’s huge. [Saalim] Hakim, his role is, alright he’s been activated these past few weeks, he’s going to play Ted Ginn one week, he’ll play Mike Wallace this week on the practice field. That’s a big role because without effort and all that, you don’t get guys ready to play games. I think everybody has value, I don’t think there’s any doubt. I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of the way each guy has contributed to our team. Collectively, I understand, we have not come close to what we wanted to do as a football team. Believe me, I get that. I’m still proud of the effort that our guys give, I’m proud of the effort we give in the classroom and on the practice field every day. 

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