December 17, 2011 at 09:01 AM EST

When we knew that it was going to be the final season of the show, the one image I had in my mind throughout the series was that the show would end with the Taylors driving away from Dillon, moving on to the next town. Of course it didn’t end exactly like that, but it was them moving on to the next thing. I liked that idea because it felt bookended to me. The pilot episode started on [Coach Taylor’s] back as he’s walking on to that field and it was implied that he was just coming to this town, that it was a new place. It felt right and real that the life of a high school football coach is: You come to a town, you make that your home, it seems like it’s the only town in the world, then you go to the next town and do the same thing. I thought that idea was very moving.

The more the series went on, the more the Taylor family, to me, became the center and nucleus of the show. Because of the nature of the way the show worked, these football players and these students would wind up graduating and moving on. Lyla and Smash and Saracen, they all moved on. Even the school didn’t matter, you could move them from one side of town to another, to a different school, and it really just showed that the heart of it was that family and that’s who you were really following. Which is why we really wanted to make sure in the final season, we were telling a story about that couple and that marriage.

It was definitely hard to say goodbye to those characters, but it was hard to say goodbye to the whole show. There was something so unique about the show and this world, this fictional town of Dillon, Texas, that felt so real. I know it felt that way to the people who watched it, but it felt that way to the people that worked on it as well. Truthfully, I’m really happy with the run we had for five seasons, which is far more than any of us expected to have, but on the other hand, we could have kept going. We never felt like we ran out of stories to tell. It was bittersweet at the end.

I remember when I first watched the director’s cut of the final episode, just feeling really proud. There was so much pressure, I felt, to make the final season of the show really great and that final episode as satisfying as we could. Even though the show never had a huge audience, it had an incredibly passionate audience and they deserved a great ending.

For more on the Best and Worst of 2011, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, on stands now.

Read more:

‘Friday Night Lights’ series finale review

‘Friday Night Lights’ ends after five heartbreakingly good seasons

‘Friday Night Lights’ exec producer Jason Katims talks plans for a(nother) big-screen movie

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