Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey (2.5.24)
Kevin Stefanski: “Okay, going to introduce Ken Dorsey here in a second. I just want to address some of the changes we’ve made to the offensive staff and talk through that. I’m really proud of the things that we’ve accomplished the last four years and I just want to address T.C. McCartney, Stump Mitchell – huge parts of that success. We did a lot of really good things over the last four years together and I’m proud of that and they’re big parts of that. Alex Van Pelt, you guys know how I feel about AVP. The person, the coach. Very happy for him to be able to run that offense in New England. I know he’ll do a great job. Bill Callahan, very unique situation there to go work for Brian (Callahan). Not with Brian. He’s going to work for Brian. I can’t wait for Brian to boss him around. The dream of every kid is to boss their parents around. So happy for those guys. Again, I think organizationally we realize that’s a unique situation and did not want to stand in the way of that. So excited – for certainly Brian and Bill down there. You know when we made this decision very early on, Ken was a guy that we identified that could help us, help me, be an integral part of this offense. And Ken and I have known each other for a little while. We’ve kind of come up in this profession together if you will. Just watching Ken in college, in the pros, having success as a player, having success as a coach. He really fits who we are culturally. He’s a family man. His daughters are very important to everything he’s doing. He’s been in, I think, how many volleyball games this weekend? Yeah, quite a few. But a smart person who fits us from a culture standpoint just has had a ton of success really every stop along the way and really pleased to add Ken to this group. Play calling, which I know everybody wants to talk about. We’ll get there. It’s February 5. What’s most important, what I’m looking forward to the most is putting this offense back together with Ken really leading the charge. And that’s why he’s here and really pleased to have him here. And with that, I’ll introduce Ken Dorsey.”
Ken Dorsey: “First and foremost, I just want to thank the Haslam family, Andrew Berry, Kevin, and everybody here for this opportunity. This is really for me one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had to come back here, be a part of this. Not only because of just the opportunity to coach here, but how great the organization is from a human being standpoint and a person, people in this building standpoint. So I’m very excited about that I’m extremely excited to work with this offense, especially Deshaun (Watson) and him being one of the top quarterbacks in this league. The opportunity to really go out there this season and help him prove that he really is a top quarterback in this league that can operate and help us win a bunch of football games. So I’m super excited about that opportunity and really looking forward to this challenge and not only with him, but this whole unit that has clearly done a lot of great things throughout Kevin’s time here and really evolved into a special group that can really go out and show that we could be a top offense in this league.”
Ken, first of all, welcome back.
Do you have any flashbacks coming back into the building or Berea?
“Not really, since it’s changed so much. I was telling people that I think the only thing that stayed the same was the staircase in the front and the door I walk through. Other than that, the place is completely different and in a great way. Just walking in here, it’s like the vibe is just so much different than when I was here as a player. And that’s the fun part about it for me. It’s just like when you walk into a building and you’re excited to come into work every day, that’s something that’s invaluable and just a very welcoming thing for me.”
You were a former quarterback, obviously, played at the highest level, had success in coaching quarterbacks. Initially, what is kind of your role? You’ve mentioned Deshuan before, in kind of getting him to be the player that everybody hopes he can be here.
“One – it’s just, it’s working together hand in hand. I think the first thing is we go through it and we evaluate the season and we have honest conversations and, hey, we look at tape and we watch what we did on the field and say, ‘Hey, this is our standard and this was good enough and this maybe didn’t live up to our standard.’ And I think that’s the exciting thing about Deshaun, is from everything I’ve been told from Kevin and the guys here, he wants to be coached. He wants to be pushed and driven. And I think I’ll be able to pick up where the staff has left off on that. And I think they’ve done a great job here throughout time. It’s clear what we’ve been capable of doing in the past few years. And now to pick that up with Deshaun and really get going and obviously evaluate those things and then go and let’s build a great base of fundamentals that we could depend on throughout the year and make sure we’re doing those things that come the fourth quarter of our games, we’ve still got a great base that will help us be accurate, and when things get a little messy, we could still rely on those things and deliver accurate throws and make great decisions. So that’s half the battle. Our job in the quarterback room is to go out, score points and help us win football games, whether it’s one point or 20 points or whatever. And I think when you got a guy like him, he’s going to help you do that.”
You have experience with dual-threat quarterbacks. Two famous ones, exact opposite of the way you played the game.
How have you been able to take advantage of those two quarterbacks?
“Yeah, I think the understanding of those guys can do things that a lot of people can’t. And look at the same time, there’s going to be sometimes, and I’ve been through it with Cam (Newton) and with Josh (Allen), where they’re going to make unbelievable plays, that everybody’s going to be like, that’s amazing. But then there’s going to be times that, hey, we scramble around, and we might take a sack or something like that and it’s like, well, just throw the ball. Well, sometimes there’s a give and take there, but it’s the understanding of, okay, we’ve got to make sure we’re playing smart, not conservative in terms of what we’re doing and we’re taking chances and we’re extending plays and we’re doing things in a way that isn’t going to be detrimental for us as a team and us as an offense. It’s a balancing act there with those guys. But the understanding of knowing that these guys can do a lot of things that other people can’t. And there’s some give and take there when those things happen. And you know what? Hey, if there’s a bad play, hey, okay, wash that one. Let’s move on to the next one. Not only him, but the whole offense. And that’s offensive football. It’s a long game and there’s going to be good and bad. It’s, hey, let’s focus on this play, every single play and come back and get this one.”
Ken, what happened in Buffalo this past year?
“I mean, look, at the end of the day, the head coach decided to make a change and that’s something that I’ve turned the page on. I’m really excited to be here and more focused on this opportunity than what happened there.”
Follow up on that. So what do you take from that? It looks like that’s the first time you’ve been fired I guess, so?
“Carolina. I got let go in Carolina.”
What do you take from that that you bring here?
“Well, I think one of the big things was that it gave me time to kind of go back and look at, okay, here’s what we’re doing schematically and how we’re utilizing our personnel and really evaluate what we were doing. And when I did, I felt like there was a lot of great things that we were doing. And yeah, there’s always things that, hey, maybe I’d do this a little bit differently kind of moving forward. But again, when you make those decisions, every opportunity is very unique as well, too. So, hey, no matter what, when I’m coming here, you’re going to evolve and do some things differently because your personnel and the system and the different things are also changing. But I think you look back and you say, okay, were we on the right track? Were we doing the things that I felt like at the end of the day, as the leader of the offense and the play caller was giving us the best chance to win. In a lot of cases, there were a lot of yeses, and sometimes it was in certain situations, maybe I would do something a little different here.”
How important is play calling to you? And if Kevin retains that chore, how can you impact the game?
“Play calling to me is not as important as winning football games. To me, it’s more about, all right, what’s the decision that we feel most comfortable about moving forward to help our team win? And I’ve been in my career more interested about, okay, what can I do to help this team win more so than anything else. And that’s the only thing that matters to me. So, whether Kevin’s calling it, I’m calling it, that’s to me, the most important thing is us as a team. So now Kevin’s calling, what can I do? I could do my job to as high of an ability as humanly possible. I could get Deshaun ready to play each and every week. I can get our room ready to play each and every week because we have got a great room and I’m sure we’ll add to that. And then I could help develop a game plan that’s going to help us be multiple, attack a defense in different ways, be aggressive, and be elite in what we do. And that’s the most important thing to me, just doing that to make sure if I’m in that role, hey, I’m going to do that at an extremely high level.”
Have you spoken with Deshaun since you’ve been hired?
“Yeah. So I was able to have a conversation with him and it was great. We’re in the phase, obviously, in the offseason of just more getting to know each other and that type of thing. So it was great to talk to him. I look forward to having more conversations. Just get to know him, get to know the guy, get to know the person, and a lot of these guys in the building. But it was really good to get him on the phone and just kind of initial conversations, and I can’t wait to get to work with him. Because, again, he’s one of the premier quarterbacks in this league and from everything I’ve heard about him, a really quality human being. So I’m just excited about that opportunity.”
How do you think your time with Cam and Josh, with the ability to run, how do you think that can help Deshaun? I know they’re not exactly the same body types, but how similar do you think they are?
“I mean, that’s the thing. Every quarterback is – people looked and saw Cam and Josh and said, ‘Oh, they’re the same.’ They are very unique and different players in a lot of ways. So, every one of these guys is so unique. No one’s the same guy, whether it’s the mental kind of how they see the game versus how they play the game versus kind of just their personality. So, everybody’s unique in those types of ways. But some of the things that you can do stay the same. Their ability to get outside the pocket, create, make plays, third down, extend plays and put a defense in a bind. There’s some teams that affects kind of how they call the game and how they game plan their rushes and their blitzes and those types of things. Because you got a guy that can hurt him if he gets outside the pocket or breaks contained. Again, every one of these guys is very different, but I think there’s things you could take away, whether it’s the run game, the zone read game, the RPO game, because all those things, a lot of times you can’t necessarily teach them. It’s a natural feel that these guys have. And watching Deshaun, he clearly has a great feel for a lot of different aspects of football. Whether it’s scheme wise for us, instincts of what he sees on the field in terms of the defense and adjusting things. But I think that’s the exciting part about working with him, is getting back to the elite level of who he is.”
Ken, how do you view the state of the offensive system as you come in here? How much of an overhaul do you think you and Kevin are going to be working together on this offseason to bring out more from Deshaun than we’ve seen so far?
“Well, I think, I mean, that’s part of the excitement for me coming here. I mean, you watch this offense on film and there are a lot of exciting things about it, not only from a player standpoint, but what we’re doing and creativity and different ways to attack a defense standpoint. So, I think there’s a lot of exciting things that we’ve done. And then obviously every year, whether it’s me coming in new this year, but every year, you look to evolve and to evaluate and change. Hey, do we like this? No, take it out. Do we want to add this? Yeah, add it. You know what I mean? There’s always that evolution that you look to try to stay ahead of the curve. So that’s going to happen. But I think that’s the exciting part to come in now is to be a part of that and blend these kind of two different philosophies and incorporate different things that maybe we did in Buffalo or Carolina or whatnot. And then obviously, we’ve got some other coaches who are coming in who are going to be able to add from their experiences as well. And that’s the exciting part. I mean, that’s what makes ball fun, is to come in and really kind of roll up your sleeves and say, ‘Okay, where do we want to go?’ And then the course of the year, you’re still learning yourself in training camp throughout the offseason program and into training camp. And really the first couple of weeks of the season, that’s when things start defining kind of who you are from an identity standpoint. Because when you look at free agency, draft and all those things, it takes time to work all those pieces. Are we going to be an 11-team, a 12-team, a 21-team [personnel]? You don’t know that. You can’t say that right now because we don’t have the roster. And that’s the fun part about the NFL, is you got time to figure that out. And there’s going to be a process that we go through to do so.”
Can you talk about Deshaun’s feel for the outside game? Do you think he has a feel for protecting himself? Can you help him with that?
“Look, I think all these guys are so competitive. I mean, look, I’ve been through this a few times now, and these guys are so competitive. They want to win. Deshaun wants to win, and he’s going to do anything humanly possible to help this football team win games. And sometimes that’s putting your body on the line to do so. Now what we got to do is make sure we’re evaluating when we’re doing those things. Is it first down and we’re scrambling? We got a first down already. Get down, get out of bounds and save yourself the hit. And those types of things, those are all things that we’ll look at because clearly this team is at a different level when he’s on the field. And that’s the thing that we want to do as a staff, is make sure we’re communicating to him and him communicating with us, kind of what he’s feeling, what he’s seeing, and making sure we’re doing everything possible to keep him healthy.”
When you watch your film, if you didn’t necessarily see a bunch of motion in Buffalo or whatever the case may be, if you tried to identify your trends and traits by watching your previous film, does that necessarily inform what you’re going to be like here and what new and fresh ideas will you bring?
“Yeah, I think when you go back and watch some of the previous film, especially as the season went on, I think that there are definitely going to be some things, yeah, that we’ll do, but then there’s going to be definitely some things that, yes, we would be doing differently. And obviously, that’s the exciting part with working with Kevin is a lot of that communication between him and I, just in this short span of time, I think there are a lot of philosophical things that we’ll see eye to eye on, and then there’s going to be some things that we’re going to hash out and we’re going to say, ‘Hey, this is what I think.’ And then Kevin (Stefanski) will say, ‘This is what I think.’ And we’ll end up going in whatever direction we feel like is best suited for us as an offense. And at the end of the day, obviously, Kevin’s the head coach and if that’s the decision he makes, then we’re full bore in that. But to answer your question, yeah, you go back to the film and there are times where I think we’re really utilizing motions and shifts and doing some things extremely well, whether it was shotgun, under center, play action, those different things. But I think it always helps to weigh and kind of see where we’re at from a personnel standpoint, where we’re at from a draft standpoint and all those different things before saying, ‘Okay, this is for sure. Hey, we’re going to be a twelve team or we’ll be an eleven team. But yeah, I think there are certain things from a shift, motion, all those different aspects that we’ll always try to incorporate to put pressure on the defense. ”
Coming in with a new set of eyes to mesh with Kevin, that one of strengths would be to see how this team finished with a traditional drop back passer, very explosive in the passing game, and then mesh that together with the skill set of Deshaun Watson?
“Yeah, I think we’re always going to evaluate those types of things to make sure we’re doing the best thing for us as an offense and us as a team. So, we’ll look at those things and say, obviously there’s some things that I’ve done the past from to your point, maybe specifically a drop back aspect of things and say, ‘Hey, here’s an area where we can expand some things and do some things and look to add,’ or ‘Hey, here are some things from a play action standpoint that are also good. So I think that’s part of the offseason is to really sit down and evaluate what we feel like is the best direction moving forward,’— whether it’s drop back, play action, whatever it is, to really help us take the next steps, because that’s what it’s all about, what can we do for us as an offense to take the next steps to help us get where we want to go and get some home playoff games late in the year? I mean, that’s what it’s all about for us. So the drop back could be part of that, but the whole offense is on the table. Like Kevin referred to, we’re going to look at this thing from the ground up, from cadences to formations to how we’re calling things, our terminology, we’re going to go through and make sure all that stuff is in the best interest of us as an offense for every single guy that steps foot on the field for us.”
This team had some issues with ball security and turnovers and I know you guys kind of had similar issues in Buffalo for at least part of the year. What’s your philosophy on having a quarterback who likes to improvise and take chances and ball security?
“It’s funny you asked, because we just literally had an offensive staff meeting and that was one of the factors that we talked about. We have some critical factors on offense that I believe in, and I think Kevin believes in them as well that we talked about this morning and one of them is protecting the house, we as coaches and players we pay our mortgage by winning football games. And so in order to do that, the best way to win games is to protect the football and make sure we’re doing the right thing. So however that’s got to get done, we got to get it done and to your point, wasn’t good enough in my time for a stretch there in Buffalo and then for us here. So that will be a point of emphasis for us to make sure we’re doing the right things to protect the football from an offseason emphasis standpoint.”
One of the strengths of the offense has been the offensive line here, and one of the key concepts has been using guards to pull and get to that second and third level of the defense, with the change in O-line coach, do you bring those same philosophies here? Is that something you want to keep continuing doing or do you feel like the blocking up front and the techniques that you want to employ will differ?
“Well, first and foremost, you can’t help but get jacked up about this opportunity because of those guys up front. You watch them on tape and you can’t help but get excited about the guys that we got up there and what they’re able to do because they’re diverse in what they can do. To your point, you got a group of guys that can pull. You got a group of guys that can be zone-blocking scheme guys. You got a group of guys that could come out and get movement at the point of attack in gap schemes and duo schemes. So that’s the exciting part for me, in terms of scheme moving forward, I think that’s why it’s so important. And the thing I respect about this organization and Kevin the most is how thorough they are in making these decisions. It was darn near like a root canal to get this job, I mean you go through a lot of testing and I met more people in this building than I have in any building I’ve ever been in. Just in the interview process, which is awesome as somebody coming in, that’s what you want. So that’s the exciting part for me in this process now of being a part of this, of hiring an offensive line coach, is there’s an intentional way of going about it and the way we’re doing it because let’s face it, to Kevin’s point, Bill is one of the best out there. So in order to replace him, we’ve got to make sure we’re intentional with how we’re doing it and making the decision that’s in the best interest of us as a football team. And in that regard when we do make that hire, obviously there’s an evaluation process there that he has to go through because he’s the one coaching it. And teaching it. But to your point, I think in offensive football, all right, how are you successful? Let’s evaluate what our players do well and make sure we’re maximizing that.”
When you looked at, you said you it was like getting a root canal. How much tape did you watch of Deshaun and the Browns?
“As somebody going in for a job interview you want to make sure you’re prepared as possible. And that was a great opportunity for me to be able to watch some tape and things like that, but obviously in the short amount of time you have to get ready. It’s hard because it’s one of those things where things happen fast in the process at the end of the season.”
Do a couple things jump out about Deshaun that you’re aware of that really caught your eye?
“I mean, I think we’ve all talked about, obviously, the physical skillset which he has. That’s the first thing that jumps out at you. And then on top of it when you’re watching tape, and again, I wasn’t involved in the offense in the past – but when you watch it there are little intricacies of the position, whether he’s adjusting protections or making checks at the line of scrimmage and things like that that you really see kind of pop up. So just from the outside looking in, the ability to kind of handle the offense and do different things I think is pretty impressive.”
You played in this division a while ago, but it doesn’t change much. Do you think this winning in this division requires a different running game than in Buffalo or Carolina?
“I think that in this division, right at the end of the day, there is definitely some carryover. One, you’ve got to obviously protect the football because we’re playing great defenses. And then two, you’ve got to be able to be multiple in how you’re attacking these defenses. You know, when you’re playing Pittsburgh and Cincy and Baltimore twice a year, you might have to evolve from game one to game two, whether it’s running the ball, whether it’s throwing the ball and how you’re attacking them. But to your point, look, at the end of the day, I think there might be a misconception out there. I think that to be able to sit there and be able to put pressure on a defense by running the ball is a darn good thing too. There’s nothing wrong with scoring points by running the ball, there’s nothing wrong with scoring points by throwing the ball. It’s ‘Okay, well, what’s going to allow us to win a football game this week?’ Yes, there’s going to be things where we have core identity type of things, and again, that evolves as the season goes on and as you go through camp and whatnot. But I think that you’ve got to be able to – as good as this division is and as good as those teams are on defense, we got to make sure that we’re attacking them in different ways.”
Deshaun recently said that he does not like scripted plays. So my question is then, do you have a conversation with him about that? How do you address the fact that he doesn’t like that? And what can you do about a quarterback that doesn’t like scripted plays?
“That’s a great question. I think one, as a coach and player relationship, there are some things that are non-negotiables where it’s like, ‘Look this is the way we’re doing it,’ and understand there might be some pushback, but this will help us at the end of the day, this will help us win football games. And then there are some things that you communicate with them and ask what are you comfortable with? Where are you at with this? Because there’s the factor of yes, if he feels comfortable with it, but then there’s also a whole offense you got to consider with that stuff as well. So, there are some things that we’ll go through and say, ‘Hey, if you’re not comfortable with it, we won’t do it that way.’ Or there are some things that, ‘Hey, look, this will help us better on offense we will do it this way.’ But there are conversations to be had in that regard down the line. In terms of that, we’re not quite there yet. There will definitely be conversations about things like that down the line. But that’s step 75 or so and we’re on step five. But yeah, obviously, if it’s something that he has a conviction about, then we’ll talk about it and make sure we’re doing the right thing for us as an offense moving forward. And obviously, a key part of the offense is the quarterback playing at a high level.”
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