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Q&A with Todd Haley 12/20

Posted Dec 20, 2010

Highlights

OPENING REMARKS: “As I said yesterday, it was really a big, big win for us to get to 1-1 in this quarter. I thought we worked really hard last week on understanding that we had to bounce back off of a difficult loss and I thought we were able to do that, that was big for us. I thought yesterday was a terrific example of complementary football, I talked about that yesterday, I thought that was really a great example. Some examples, early in the game defensively we allowed a long drive but were able to hold them to a field goal and there were multiple poor offensive possessions early in that game that the defense was able to stand up; had a string of three and outs; after the long punt return held them to a field goal; off of the turnover on the next series our defense again made them go backwards and held them to no points and really were able to play at a high level while the offense got itself calmed down and starting to function. Then late in the game after a long defensive possession for us that we allowed a late touchdown, our offense then came up at the right time with a big play. Overall throughout that game, some of the other complementary aspects of the game were just guys making big plays at critical times – whether it was RB Jamaal’s (Charles) run, S Kendrick’s (Lewis) interception, a great punt, great cover, one of those things, there was an excellent complementary aspect to that game which is what we want to be week-in and week-out. We’re trying to instill and create and lay the foundation of a tough-minded football team. I think yesterday you saw some examples of that, the most obvious of those being QB Matt (Cassel) but we had a number of guys banged up that fought to be out there, fought to practice to be a part of a big, big game for us. A lot good things came out of that game, in addition though, I know we know we can be a lot better in a number of different areas which is good also because we were able to get a road win and we’ve still got a lot of room for improvement and that’s good. Now our focus will turn to the Tennessee Titans and I’ll talk more about them Wednesday but we’re trying to get to 2-1 here at Arrowhead. One other thing I’d like to mention, I’d like to take my hat off to our fans. We had so many there in the stadium and that was just a big boost to the guys. There are a couple places now that we’ve been that there’s been a lot of red or a big red contingent on the road, that’s always big for us, and that’s a sign of your team getting better I think.”

 

Q: Do you think there’s a new respect for QB Matt Cassel, maybe even higher among his teammates and now definitely among the fans after watching how he inspired the team yesterday?

HALEY: “I can only speak for myself Karen, but I know that I have a great deal of respect for Matt and even more when you see a guy, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to play. We had to go through the proper procedures to make sure he was ok to play but he started saying it the day of the surgery once he was a little coherent, ‘I’ll be ready, I’ll be this…’ and he was saying it for last week. So I know I have a great deal of respect and even more because when you have guys that are fighting to be out there when it’s probably not the norm and then to go out and play the way that he played, though he’s got areas that he’s got to improve on – a little slow start – but to see him tuck and run when he could’ve been dumping it to backs and things like that, he’s playing fearlessly and that’s just such a sign of toughness and mental toughness number one. I thought he did just a terrific job and it was big for the team. I know the team, you could definitely feel an energy about it, especially when he made that one scramble, the longer run and got up fist pumping and all that. All of a sudden you could see the red jerseys in the crowd and the guys on the sideline and it was good. I was very proud of Matt.”

Q: They say that great players make the people around them better. Not trying to label Matt as that, but does he have that effect on his teammates, that he helps make them better?

HALEY: “I think it’s a little bit of both. I think the whole group is making each other better and that’s part of being a good team I think. That’s part of complementing, being a complementary team, not just offense-defense but within the offense, within the defense and within the special teams. But part of being able to be a good quarterback in this league is having that moxie, that leadership if you will, and Matt exudes confidence and leadership in the off-season, preseason, training camp, in season. That’s a critical element to have to you if you’re going to be a quarterback in this league, be a good one.”

Q: You’ve talked a lot about developing the bottom of the roster. Was there any guy when you got here that was closer to the bottom than DE Wallace Gilberry?

HALEY: “I won’t say that. Wallace is another great example of a guy that has bought in from day one and has worked hard, is very coachable, very passionate about being a part of this team, unselfish, kind of all the attributes you’re looking for in all of our players, Wallace has a bunch of them. He’s developed and has gotten better and yesterday obviously he had some real big plays for us. Then at the same time, it wasn’t about Wallace, you could tell that. He was celebrating with his teammates and was just fired up about helping us win and we’ve got a bunch of guys like that. He’s a great example of a guy that’s bought in and wants to be a part of it and then has developed in the process and is helping us win games.”

Q: The development of him as a second pass rusher, if you can call him that, how important is that for you guys?

HALEY: “It’s critical. I’ve said that. We’re trying to develop pass rushers, we’ve done a lot of things to try to help with that process and I think there’s been improvement in a number of guys, him being one of them. We’re working on it all the time because LB Tamba (Hali) obviously has very good pass rush skill and if you can have some other guys working hard and utilizing techniques and those things to create some pressure in addition, that just helps us.”

Q: How do you feel about your pass rush in general right now?

HALEY: “I think we’re getting better. That’s such a critical part, not the sack output necessarily, although that’s great, but it’s just creating pressure. One of our goals yesterday was keeping that young quarterback uncomfortable and I thought the guys, especially the guys up front really took that to heart and came out and understood their role and how important it was going to be in the game at first and foremost stopping the run which I thought overall the defense was terrific and then when they were throwing, making QB (Sam) Bradford as uncomfortable as we could was a critical part of having success defensively in the game. I thought the guys really across the board did a great job, whoever was rushing, whether it was S Eric Berry or CB Javier (Arenas) or the more obvious rushers in Tamba, Wallace, LB (Andy) Studebaker, DT (Ron) Edwards – Ron Edwards I thought did a very good job rushing the passer and moving the quarterback off the spot. DE Tyson (Jackson) created a hold by making a good move and getting around the corner. A lot of good things happened, those guys played hard, they got their hands up, we knocked down a number of balls. LB Derrick Johnson played a great, great game I thought. He was a difference-maker yesterday out there. He broke up four passes that had chances to be completions but worked the technique that we’re teaching and that enabled him to make plays on top of his ability. He was just all over the place yesterday. I thought he played terrific.”

Q: Was he spying RB Steven Jackson yesterday because almost all of his tackles came against Jackson?

HALEY: “A little bit, without getting into the details of it, he’s got such good ability and cover ability that you can use him in a number of different ways but there were a couple big, big plays in the run and then the hands up at the right time deflecting the ball, one that I didn’t even know he got a piece of but it was going to be a completion for a potential play but he did it well executed. He really helped to be a part of a very good defensive effort yesterday.”

Q: You had two reserve players make key plays early in the game. One was Gilberry’s sack after Cassel’s interception and the other was RB Jackie Battle picking up fourth and one near midfield. Are you feeling better about your depth now than you were in Week One or Week Two?

HALEY: “Yeah, I think we clearly feel a lot better. We still have depth issues but it’s a sign of good things that we’re developing players. RB Jamaal (Charles) has developed so much, I know I say that, but you see so many things in him that you didn’t see. Jackie, a couple huge plays for us, none bigger than the fourth and one but also some of the things he’s doing on special teams. One of the things going into that last week that I stressed was guys understanding their role on the team and that’s so critical to be a good team is guys really understanding their role – their role may change due to injuries and things like that but guys played their role yesterday, really did a nice job across the board in a number of different areas, Jackie being one of them, he knew what his role was yesterday and when he was put in position to make plays, he executed.”

Q: Is that a tough thing to get across, for players to know their role?

HALEY: “I think it’s an undervalued aspect of what we have to do as coaches and what players have to do. But I think the more they understand their role within the team and when it’s clear to them what they are supposed to do and then they execute and put their focus into it but they have to understand the role first before they can really focus on what they have to do in that role. I’m just seeing more and more guys that really get it, Jackie being one of them.”

Q: In judging this team’s ability to respond after a bad loss, what are you looking for during the week or during a game and when do you know that you’re going to be ok?

HALEY: “The first thing is that we’ve done it and that helps you when it occurs. You don’t want it to happen but when it has and you’ve shown that you can respond, though it doesn’t affect it, I think it gives the guys a little confidence or it gives you a good illustration to give them of hey, we did this at this time in the season, now we need to do things. You’re watching body language; you’re watching if guys are coming in to do extra work in here even though it may be their day off, are they working after practice? Our guys’ sense of urgency last week was terrific. You heard them calling out special player meetings, whether it was special teams or just the linebackers or defense and you hear them going through all those things, hey linebacker meeting at 2:15 or WR Terrance Copper telling everybody 2:30 special teams. You hear some things and you know they’re on it, they’re doing the things that you want to see them doing to give them a chance to respond. All that was going on and then it comes down to the game. We started slow, clearly, and I think some of that was an effect of getting it handed to us, which like you say, when you have a loss like that, you think how the heck are we ever going to win again and it’s just human nature and it’s the nature of the league. It’s hard to win each week. When you have a game like we had a couple weeks ago it’s even harder, but the guys responded.”

Q: In the first quarter, what do you do or what can you do as the coach to help turn that around?

HALEY: “We just keep talking to them and again, you’re watching for signs. Are they fighting with each other, pointing fingers or are they staying calm, sticking together? There was a good sideline confidence in my opinion and it affects some of your decisions, that’s a big decision to make that worked out and I thought Derrick gave us a boost but you don’t make that decision if you feel differently or if you’re more worried on the sideline or things like that. I thought the guys, throughout this year, are continuing to improve and understand what type of team we’re going to be and one aspect of our team that’s showing up is mental toughness, which in the face of adversity, being able to stick together and not make it about one person or two people, just make it about we’ve got to get our act together and get going.”

Q: So even as the first quarter was progression and St. Louis was dominating in time of possession, you felt like you guys were in the right frame of mind?

HALEY: “Yeah, absolutely. We just needed to stop doing a couple little things that we were doing that were hurting us and rely on fundamentals – that’s really what we talked about all week and we were able to come back to that during the game – fall back on your fundamentals of what you’ve worked so hard on through the off-season, training camp, why we’ve worked so hard throughout the year so that as you get into big games and things aren’t necessarily going exactly the way you want them to go, you have something to fall back on as opposed to just panicking or guessing or trying to do more than just your job.”

Q: You guys are the league leader in points scored with little time left in the first half. Is it a different mindset that kicks in, I know you practice that, but is there something else to explain that and is there a way to carry that over to the offense outside of two minutes left to go in the half?

HALEY: “I think it’s a good statistic to be up in the top end in but I think that we’re up there for a bunch of different reasons. I think guys are understanding situational football much better and you teach that full time. You watch the game last night, the Green Bay-New England, situations come up, situations come up in all those games yesterday and we’ll periodically pull tape up and show them situations so that we can learn from them. But two-minute is a situation, end of the half or end of the game may have different ramifications but end of the half, there are a lot of things in play: we’re getting the ball to start the second half; where are we on the field; how much time; timeouts. I think in addition, Matt’s very comfortable in that mode. Last year there were a couple big situations where he was able to move us down the field quickly, I think that’s a good trait to have as a quarterback – to be able to keep your cool in those situations and guys understanding what they’re supposed to do. I thought we had a chance yesterday to get something going there and it kind of backfired late. I think it’s a good stat to be up near the top because it shows your team’s probably thinking the right way and understanding situational football.”

Q: It seemed like he had to line up guys a number of times or move them to the right spots but he seemed to have a lot of poise in those situations. Can you talk about how he handled those moments and also what that means for the other guys that he had to move them around and make sure they were lined up properly?

HALEY: “As you watch that game, we definitely had more shift-motion type things than we normally do and when you’re on the road it’s always a little bit of risk-reward type deal but it’s something that we stressed all week that we had to be on top of and I heard Matt counting those times during the week, staying on the receivers and everybody, even during the week in private meetings about this is the week we’ve got a little more on our plate. We were not perfect, that’s something that we’ve got to get back to work on and make sure the guys understand but Matt again, I thought did a good job of keeping his composure through some rocky times, especially early and did a great job of leading the team.”

Q: That extra stuff was all based on the St. Louis defense?

HALEY: “Yeah, each week it’ll be a little bit different set of encyclopedias.”

Q: The year before you got here could hardly have been less effective. When you evaluated everything, was that something that you thought you should put extra focus on as you went about rebuilding here?

HALEY: “As I’ve said, it’s a big job for everybody involved and there’s a reason why there were jobs available, mine being one of them and it was a lot of work across the board but I think that pressure on the quarterback is sometimes more of a result of playing defense the way you need to play. Our vision of how we want to play defense is to be a defense that can create pressure, it doesn’t always have to translate into sacks, it has to translate into getting the quarterback out of a comfort zone when teams are throwing and disrupting the timing of the pass game. That happens for a number of different reasons and it’s the big picture of playing 11-man defense. If guys are doing it the right way, you should be able to create some pressure because of coverage, all different things.”

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