Q. Was it just a matter of like a bad bounce? Not a bad bounce, like the bounce you weren’t expecting for that not getting pulled off? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know what, that whole thing, once again we felt really confident doing it, especially out here. We spent so much time. I would never want to put the team or these players in a terrible situation like, ‘Hey, I’m going to just go out there and just do it.’ We had spent time doing this.
What was kind of shocking — once again, Allegiant Stadium is a beautiful place and everything. The field is a lot harder than we expected. When [K] Jake [Elliott] hit it, he hit his perfect ball, and it’s just one of those — it’s football. It took a weird bounce on him. If you watch it again, like he’s right there, and you just see his eyes open up, and the ball just kind of gets outside of his fingertips, and the guy makes a heck of a play.
It’s one of those things where it’s football. You’re not going to get mad at it.
Q. Because the field was harder, did you test it out before the game and say, ‘Okay maybe this is not something we should do’? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: No, it’s not one of those things where it’s concrete or AstroTurf or anything. We still felt confident. It has nothing to do with we didn’t execute it because of the field. It’s one of those things where we thought we had a good shot at it, just the ball bounced a little higher than we expected. It’s nothing that we took anything part of or like that, ‘Oh, it’s way too hard. We can’t do it.’
We felt 100 percent confident going through it, and they gave us a look, and we went with it.
Q. At what point did you decide you were going to go with it? Because you had a long time to make that decision. (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: We wanted to see the picture. Obviously, after we scored after our first drive, we kicked a touchback, and we wanted to make sure they were still giving us the same look we’re looking for.
We got on the sideline. [Eagles special teams quality control coach] Tyler Brown upstairs had a look at it. They gave us the same look. We were upstairs to start the half. They gave us the same look again, so it was on at that point. If they had changed something, we had a check to kick it out of the back of the end zone again.
So, it was one of those things where they gave it to us again and we went for it.
Q. Is that something you saw pregame and you saw it originally? Like did you see it going into the game, then you saw the look you wanted to see, or was it something you saw in game? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: No, this was something that we had seen in the previous games, where it was just something that was just odd. It was one of those things that, as you keep watching the film on the opposing team, this just seems a little off, seems a little odd right there. It kept showing up for previous weeks, so one of those things where you never know in the game-type situation when you can steal a possession.
We felt like, hey, this may be an opportunity. Obviously, you saw we had an unfortunate fumble as a team going into that two-minute drill, so that gave them an extra opportunity to go up ten points. If it was anything closer, like 10-7, 3-3, it’s one of those things like, ‘Yeah, let’s just keep playing ball.’ Well, they caught that extra possession on us, so we saw the opportunity like, ‘Hey, let’s try and steal a possession here.’
It’s just one of those things, the ball didn’t bounce our way. There were a couple plays in the game, if you guys — it was 30-14, and they throw in their field goal team, and [DE] Derek Barnett got through and tipped the ball. Shoot, we would have loved to have blocked it, scooped and scored, and now it’s possibly a 30-22 game.
So just one of those things where the ball just didn’t go our way. Hopefully in the next couple weeks, when we do have something happen where it’s a big return or maybe a block somewhere, it goes our way, and we give energy to the rest of the team right there.
Q. Looking at the Lions, I think their last game, they tried an onside kick and a couple fake punts and everything like that. Does that kind of like raise your radar a little bit, like this is something we’ve got to watch for? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: Obviously. When some team does a couple fakes or a surprise onside kick, you always want to be aware. You don’t want to be the next week and do the same mistake like that.
Once again, the Lions did a heck of a job. They converted on three of theirs. So, we’ll be ready for it. Obviously, during the scouting process, what we’re doing right now as coaches, so we’ll be ready for anything they try to give at us. We’ll try to give them a couple looks that may deter them, but for the most part, we’re going to stay within ourselves and be ready for our next opponent.
Q. The process of green lighting the onside kick, how does that go? Is that during halftime you and Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni are discussing it and he green lights it, or how does it work? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s more of a discussion throughout the game. Obviously, we got the first look like, ‘Hey, all right, they gave us the first look.’ Then going into the halftime, talking with him, talking it through, ‘Hey, what are the situations? What’s the scenarios?’ It’s not just me and Nick. I ask my assistants, Joe P [Eagles assistant special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio], Tyler [Brown], say, ‘Hey, do you guys feel confident about it? I feel confident about it. The players felt confident about it.’
It’s just one of those things where, once we got the green light, hey, I alert the guys that this may happen. This may occur. Let’s just be ready for it and try and execute it. It’s one of those things where we didn’t execute it at that point. It’s something that going back on it I wouldn’t change anything going forward. It’s one of those looks. It was a premium look that we liked. You never know when you get that look. Shoot, it could have been a 17-7 game the entire time and never had another kickoff.
It was one of those times, ‘Hey, this is a controlled environment. We know we’re getting a kickoff. Let’s go for it.’ Like I said, the ball didn’t bounce our way, and it’s part of the game.
Q. What’s the Monday post-game coaching staff meeting like after a loss? How does Nick Sirianni hold you guys accountable as a whole? What are those conversations like? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think it’s so — how would I put it? It’s all position-based. There’s offense, defense, and special teams. So, he kind of comes in, he hits us up in the special teams room, and we go over the film, what we did good, what we didn’t do good, what can we get better at. Are there any questions that may arise? Are there any penalties? It’s kind of a thought-out process.
It’s one of those things where we always want to put our best foot forward regardless of the outcome of the game. Obviously, we love to win. That’s our number one goal on special teams. Shoot, we could have a terrible game, but if we win 7-3, everything’s fine. From a special teams point, not so fine. But regardless, we always want to win. That’s the number one goal in this league is always to win. It’s a well thought out process of what we did well, what we didn’t do well, what can we get better at, are we using our players in the right manner.
So, Nick comes in and gives us what he felt like. It’s been all very positive in terms of that.
Q. Do you find that players in this generation maybe, as opposed to when you first started with Chip Kelly, take better to the personal one-on-one time as opposed to maybe being called out or held accountable via fine or anything like that? Like how do they respond to more of Nick’s style as opposed to maybe a disciplinarian? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: In terms of that question, I guess it varies. It’s a case-by-case study. Some guys may like getting called out. Maybe that lights his fire. I don’t know, it all depends on the personality you’re dealing with.
But for myself personally, I try to get these guys to understand the big picture, the why. Why are we doing this? Why do we think we get an onside kick? Why are we running a scheme to take out one of their best players? I think, when you get people like that, that understand the why regardless of the disciplinarian act or helping somebody else, positive reinforcement, I think that’s how we get, at least in the special teams room, guys playing at the level that we need them to play at and to be receptive.
These guys have been outstanding. They were all in the room yesterday, wanting to see the onside kick, wanting to see the possible blocked field goal, wanting to see our kickoff return, that one that helped our offense with the 33-yard drive start in the first half right there.
So, these guys, the mood, I guess, I would say is everyone is still trying to get better and better because you never know what’s going to happen. Yes, we’re 2-5. Yes, we’re not where we want to be. But in this league, you never know what can happen. You can rip off a run real quick and be right in the thick of things.
Q. If you think about former Eagles and current Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, what’s the biggest thing you learned from him? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: First of all, I have the utmost respect for Dave. He got me in this business in terms of special teams business. I learned so much from him. And what Fipp does really well is he’s very good at the basic stuff. He makes you respect the basic stuff because they’re going to be really good at it. Then he’ll throw in a little wrinkle, and it’s one of those things where you’re either caught off guard and you’re hit in the mouth at the 15-yard line.
So, it’s one of those things that every time Fipp has a unit out there, they’re playing fast, they’re physical, they know what they’re wanting to do, and they’re going to try and implement that as best as possible. With Fipp, it’s just making sure we’re on our stuff and understanding that they’re going to be really good at the basic stuff, and they’re going to will their way to being a very good special teams unit.
Q. What about former Eagles and current Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, Duce is a great person. I enjoyed my time working with him. I don’t know what he’s doing in terms of the special teams out there, but Duce has always been fine with me.
Q. Didn’t he handle the returns for you guys a lot of times? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: In 2015 it was more myself and Dave, and Duce would help the returners in terms of individual-type stuff. I don’t know schematically what he’s been doing lately. Duce in general is a great person. I love working with Duce and getting to see him whenever I can, usually at the combine. It will be nice to see him down in Detroit.
Q. You mentioned the why before when you’re communicating with players. Nick Sirianni mentioned that a couple of weeks ago. You’re still a young guy, young coach. When you started until now, have you noticed a difference in players in general? The old days, they would say why are you doing this? Coach told me to. Have you noticed sort of that shift to where players are more like why are we doing this? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: That’s a very good question. In terms of the why, I think it’s just myself, my whole coaching philosophy, I guess, coming through Chip [Kelly] and Kyle [Shanahan] and Nick [Sirianni], when a guy understands why we’re doing it and they see the whole picture instead of like, ‘Hey, you’ve got this guy, you’ve got to do it.’ Instead of saying, ‘Hey, you get this guy, and this is why we’re doing it, why we’re opening up this lane, why we’re doing this punt rush,’ I think it opens up their eyes like, ‘All right, I can get behind this and be fully invested in it.’
So, understanding why we’re doing things here for us in the special teams room, I think has helped us improve somewhat of a young group to play fast and physical and understand why we’re doing this, why we’re going to help the offense, why we’re going to help the defense, and the whole team aspect. So, I think the why reason for these guys is really just getting them to understand it and be fully committed.
When guys are fully committed, it’s easy to play fast. When they’re kind of on the fence a little bit, that’s when they get injured because they’re not going 100 percent. These guys on the other side are going 100 percent because they understand the why.
When they get the understanding of why I’m doing this, why we’re doing this, why we’re doing this scheme type of blocking, they play at 100 percent. They play fast, and they’re a physical bunch. So, I think the why is a huge important piece to getting us going.