COURTESY OF CINCINNATI BENGALS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
When did you know Joe Burrow was going to be the pick?
"We wanted to go through the process and utilize all the time that was allotted to us. We wanted to research and get to know everyone. We had a lot of confidence these last few weeks in who we were going to select. There was nothing that was going to happen to make us change our minds."
Why is he the ideal quarterback for your offense?
"He's a proven winner. He throws with anticipation. He has a great football IQ. He can diagnose defenses as well as anyone we've studied. He can create off-schedule plays as well. He does a great job keeping his eyes up in the pocket and eluding defenders. They have great coaches and players at LSU, but there are some times where a defense gets you. He still had the ability to create and extend plays. Those are traits you can't pass up."
Are his intangibles part of what make him so special?
"He gets the most out of those around him. He has the respect of coaches, teammates and everyone he's played with. You talk to anyone at LSU or OSU, and they all love the guy. We're excited to add him to the building; that's the type of character we're trying to add as we grow this thing. He understands the platform he has being the No. 1 pick playing in his home state. He understands the attention that brings and how to handle himself. We're excited to get know him even better and work a lot more closely with him."
Conceptually, is he the most ready to transition from college to the pros?
"There's a lot of carryover there. Maybe conceptually they're named different, but certainly a lot of things you see on tape carry into our offense. He'll be able to get up to speed on that quickly. They did a great job at LSU of putting him and other players in great positions. Those guys took ownership of the offense, starting with Joe. It will be exciting to integrate him into what we want to do."
Did you guys entertain trade offers for the No. 1 pick?
"No. Once we made the decision to take the guy you're taking, it further confirms what you're thinking. We'll keep that within our own building. We were steadfast in who we were going to take. We believe in the guy, and there was nothing that could make us trade that pick away."
Numbers aside, it seems like he can bring a lot to the culture you're trying to build…
"All the pieces fit together. Not only the stuff you saw on film and the field, but the leadership and work ethic he brought to the program. Talking to those close to him, he brought a lot of intangibles to the table. Then you turn on the tape it verifies everything you've heard. He's worthy of the first pick, and we're excited to get him into the building."
Is there enough to do virtually to get him to speed?
"You can install the plays. That's really the extent of it. It looks like we'll have plenty of time to do that, and show him tape from last year and what we will continue to do in the future. We quiz our guys on that stuff and make sure they're confident in what we're asking them to do, and know the ins and outs of all the schemes. But at the same time, it's on the players to manufacture the physical reps. They won't be able to throw passes or work as a unit, but you have to find a way to get in your backyard and get reps in. Whether it's telling your girlfriend or mom where to line up, or how many steps to take on each route — just make sure you know it inside and outside. We're going to challenge our guys to get creative, to make sure that when we do get a chance to practice that we hit the ground running and are prepared to win football games."
How big of a moment is this for the franchise?
"We will never pick No. 1 again. We don't want to pick in the top 10 again. We're looking at this as the only time you're ever going to get a player of this caliber and add him to the program. That's a big deal. There's a lot of expectation that comes with that. We're going to challenge him just like the veterans, and just like the guys we pick the next two days. They're all on the same playing field, and they all have great expectations for themselves and the team. We will hold them to a high standard and make sure they're up to speed quickly."
What did you say on the call to Burrow tonight, and did you make him aware he was the pick earlier?
"We never told him outright, but he probably had some strong indications we were leaning that way. I said on the call that he should be proud of all the work he's put in at this point. He was a championship caliber player in high school and college, and he's helped those teams play in the biggest game there was. That expectation does not change now that he's a Bengal. We expect him to come in with that mindset. Everyone we bring in that building will be held to that standard."
Were you able to install anything with him over the last few weeks?
"We kept everything in the evaluation phase. There are ways to test him, giving people things you're comfortable with and see how quickly they can retain and have a command of it. That's all part of the process we went through with him and all the players we look at in all the rounds. He showed great ownership with what they did at LSU and OSU, and with what he can be asked to do at this level."
What impressed you the most about him during this process?
"He has an earned confidence. It's a confidence he's earned because he put the work in. He's achieved success on the field with a national championship. I can tell he doesn't take that for granted. He knows that he has to continue to work even harder than he ever has before at this level. There's new challenges he hasn't faced before. You can tell he's very comfortable in his own skin, and comfortable with what we're asking him to do."
Did you feel like you had to sell him on Cincinnati at all?
"He's got relationships with players already in the building here. They did a great job communicating to him. They'll feel the second they step into this building what kind of vibe and energy we have here, and what the expectations are. There was never any concern about that."
He's had a lot of adversity. Do you like that aspect?
"You grow the most from the adversity you face. We've all been through that, whatever career you're in. It's not always roses; there's adversity that knocks you down. You learn the most from those periods. I learned the most I ever have from this last season. I'm sure Joe's no different going through that process at Ohio State. It's only going to serve him well in the future."
Did you talk to those people in the building that knew him already, including his former Ohio State teammates?
"Absolutely. With any player we look at, if we have someone we're close with and we feel like we can get good information from, you use it during the draft process. We did that with the guys that had played with him at Ohio State."
There seems to be a lot of people in the building who have relationships with him already in place …
"It's great. There's some comfort when he comes in already. When you talk to those players and hear the same thing, the respect for the guy grows. Especially coming from a place he transferred out of. It shows how highly they think of him, and that they've maintained that relationship the last few years. It just further confirms all the things we had heard."
Do you expect him to compete for the starting job? Is that the expectation?
"Yes it is."
What will you be looking for from him when he arrives in May?
"The physical part of things. That's identifying the defenses we'll face, and the speed of the game. He faced some pretty good talent, but when you put him with a unit of 11 guys that are all in the NFL, it's a step up. That's a challenge for everyone we pick — getting used to that and getting comfortable with how quickly you make decisions. We selected him because we know he can handle all of that, it's just a matter of accumulating reps."
Will he be the opening day starter?
"We won't get into those predictions now."
From this point forward, your legacies will be connected with one another. Do you look at it that way?
"I don't think of it that way. I can understand that. We're focused on winning as many games possible this year. We think adding Joe will help us do those things. All I focus on is the immediate future, and how to get this team running when we're playing football games. Last year was unacceptable, and so we feel like he's a good piece of the puzzle to add as we look to compete for championships."
Have you thought about getting a receiver now?
"I think we're in a really good position to see what happens at pick 33. We didn't pigeonhole ourselves into a particular position. It's exciting for us to get a chance to regroup in the morning. We've put a lot of work into potential scenarios, and we'll get a chance to run through it one more time. I'm sure people will be excited to see how it shakes out, but we'll have plenty of time tomorrow to sort that out."
You've evaluated a lot of quarterbacks in your coaching career. Is this one of the cleanest prospects you've ever evaluated?
"Yeah, he's pretty dang good. There's not a lot of warts to it. Nobody's ever perfect, and everybody's got things they can improve on – there's no doubt about it – but it was exciting watching his tape. It seemed like he got better in every single game he played. He started off fast in the season, but the stage just kept getting bigger and bigger, and he and all of his teammates continued to raise their standard of play one notch higher, which is pretty hard to imagine. That was a pretty special run to watch all of these guys have – Joe included.
Burrow is from this part of the country and is pretty much a local kid. How big is that for you all and for him?
"It's cool because he's been in the area, and he knows what we're all about. Obviously there's probably people in the area that know him well, and will be drawn to the Bengals that maybe weren't already drawn to the Bengals. That's not an intended consequence of drafting a guy, but it's a pretty cool scenario that's taken hold here. It's just really exciting for the whole state of Ohio."
If there was one discussion point when it came to evaluating Joe Burrow, it was his arm strength. Is that concerning at all to you?
"No. I look for the decisions, the timing, the accuracy. Sometimes you can get that much more out of your arm when you know exactly when that ball needs to come out, and you're throwing with a lot of confidence. The hashes are wider in college than they are in the NFL. I've seen him throw plenty of comebacks where you're not going to have to throw at that distance in the NFL. We've got full confidence in him in this building."
Through the vetting process, was there one thing somebody told you who knows Joe that really stood out?
"No, just because everybody was really preaching the same thing. He's a different kind of competitor – meaning that in a good way. He pushes everybody to their limits just because that's the standard he's set for himself. That's just expectation for everybody around him. And that's why he played for a state championship in high school, and that's why he played for a National Championship at LSU. That's probably why he went to Ohio State, because he knew that they were going to be playing for national championships as well. Everybody's really given us the same feedback."
Did you talk to any of your wide receivers to get a sense of what they thought about Joe Burrow?
"No. We spent a lot of time looking at his coaches and scouts. I'm sure players always have opinions on guys they want to play with. Unless they've got a relationship with the guy and we feel like we're going to get pretty good information out of it, it's usually not something that comes up."
How important is the swagger factor at that position in particular?
"It's not swagger that's important. Like I said earlier, it's that earned confidence in guys that aren't trying to manufacture some persona because they think they know what it's supposed to look like. They put in the work, so there's no guesswork. You're not hoping you're going to get the job done, you know you're going to get the job done because you put in the work, and you've got full confidence in your abilities, and you help raise up the level of play of those around you. So when you walk on the field, 'swagger' is not the word I'd use. It's a confidence you've earned where you know you're going to go out and execute to the highest level, and that's what he's proven to do."
People have referenced that he's one of the first guys in the building, and one of the last to leave. Are all these things an important part of the evaluation as well?
"There's no question about it. He certainly had a great plan in place with how to attack the game week at LSU, and he put himself in a position to be prepared on game day. That's really all you ask for out of your starting quarterback – really all of your players. He did that when he was a starter there at LSU, and we'll continue to hold him to that standard in our building."
If Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa didn't have the hip injury, would you guys still have picked Burrow?
"We evaluated all of the quarterbacks that had a first-round grade, and ultimately we decided that Joe was the best pick for us. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about those other guys. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out and where they all head. Just because you did the work on them, you're interested to see where they shake out. All I can say is we decided to pick Joe as the quarterback, and I'll leave it at that."
You still have Andy Dalton on the roster. Do you expect conversations about him to accelerate after the draft, when you see how it all plays out around the league?
"Yeah, I think we'll get through the draft and revisit that to see where we stand."
Joe was an effective passer under pressure last year. How important is that?
"It's not always going to be a clean pocket, regardless of how good your offensive line is, so you've got to be able to throw in tight windows. You're not always going to be able to see – you're going to have to trust. And there's times you're going to have to create on your own and be strong in the pocket. One thing that stands out with him is you always preach (keeping) two hands on the ball as you're making moves in the pocket, and keeping your eyes downfield. That's something you can tell he really takes to heart. He's really strong, and he's ripped himself away from some tough defenders and can create plays on the move. Again, throwing under pressure is a big part of the game, especially in the NFL – that's what you're going to see on third down. He's obviously made really good strides in that area so far."
Is it safe to say that when you bring in that guy, who had that hype, in this season, under your wing, that the pressure is all on you now? Do you feel like all pressure shifts to your shoulders at this point?
"I think that we love the pressure – that's why we're in this game. If you don't like pressure, then you definitely shouldn't be a part of the NFL. That's probably what draws us to this profession. We're not good enough to play, so the best way to simulate that feeling is to start the coaching side of things. Whether we had the No. 1 pick or not, I'm always going to feel the urgency that you need in order to put in the work to be successful."
Do you recall the moment during this process that you realized you wanted Joe and that he was your guy?
"It's hard to peg. There's so much work that's done over the past four months or so that it's hard to pinpoint an exact moment. There's probably a lot of signs that we thought to ourselves that this guy was a great fit. There was no need to rush into that decision. We've been on the clock since January. We had plenty of time to make that decision. We weren't going to rush into it, because there's no reason to do that. We gained no advantage from declaring him the first pick of the draft on April 1 compared to tonight. We just did our due diligence, and I think everybody in the building's approach was the right thing to do to make sure we vetted all these prospects and that we were using all of the time that we were allotted. In the last couple of weeks, we just made the decision that we've done all the homework and he's the guy."
He has sent out his first tweet since being selected. It reads "Enough talk. Time to get to work." Is that about right for Joe Burrow?
"That's good to hear. That's good to hear. Yep, that's the expectation we have."
He played against high-level competition in college. The fact that he's faced adversity, does that give you a sense of comfort?
"It does. Like I said, with guys that have been through adversity and faced some challenges, you learn the most from those experiences. He's obviously played in some pretty volatile stadiums and environments, and on some big stages. Not just last year, but the year before too. I'd be willing to bet there were probably seven or eight top-10 teams in 2018 as well when you look back it at. Now it's just time to put in the work."
How hard did other teams go after the first pick and try to get you to trade out of it? What sense do you have about what other teams in the league had about what Joe is going to be able to do in the NFL? "We'll keep that to ourselves. But again, any thoughts teams had is just further confirmation that it was a guy that they obviously thought highly of. Again, we didn't really entertain it. It's a guy we believe in, and if you believe in the No. 1 pick and you believe he's going to be the right fit for your franchise for a long time, then you take him. And that's the decision that we made."