Q&A with Todd Haley 12/7

Posted Dec 7, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “We’ve continued on here with our preparation for the New York Jets. We’ve had a full line of meeting this morning and getting ready to go to the indoor this afternoon. Wanted to get on the turf once for sure since that’s the surface we’ll be playing on. We’ve moved on here from Chicago, getting ready for this team. Obviously when you go on the road to play New York you’ve got a lot of things, potential distractions any time you are headed into a big city like New York but I think having learned last week, or having seen how to have success that will help our team a bunch.

“The Jets are a team much like us; they’re fighting like heck to figure out a way to get into the playoffs. They’ve been in there a few times themselves and won a bunch of playoff games so we know this will be a great challenge for us. Offensively they present a number of problems, especially from a formational standpoint. They do a lot of shifts, motions, put guys in different spots so as a defense we’ve got to be ready to go, and be alert for where everybody is because they’ll put backs outside, inside, receivers outside, inside, in the backfield, a number of things, challenges that that creates. We’ve got to be able to stop the run and that starts with [Shonn] Greene who is another one of those strong, bowling ball, butcher knife type of backs that brings it and runs hard and then we’ve got to stop the passing game and that starts with the quarter back [Mark] Sanchez. We’ve got to be able to continue to create pressure without, or bringing as few of guys as we can. So that will mean we have to keep getting better up front and then in the secondary we’ve got handle some very explosive receivers and a tight end also that’s very explosive. They throw the ball a lot to [Dustin] Keller, they’ve thrown it to him 70-something times. [Santonio] Holmes, I know a lot about him going back a few years, namely the Super Bowl. He’s fast and he makes plays. And then Plaxico [Burress], another guy I know a lot about. I just got off the phone, talking about when I was with the Jets we had traded Keyshawn [Johnson] to Tampa Bay during the offseason and then in the draft I had gone and worked out Plaxico and that was the guy I thought for sure we were getting and the Steelers took him a pick or two ahead of us. So he’s back to where he might have been and I think a lot of him as a player. We’ve got our work cut out for us defensively.

“Offensively, we’ve got to build on what we’ve been doing, protecting the football obviously but running it efficiently and then just figure out a way to turn that into points, again knowing that the team that scores more points than the other team wins. So we’ve got to score some points. And special teams no chance to take a breath now. This [Joe] McKnight is extremely, extremely dangerous. Especially as a kickoff returner and he returns them from where ever he is as long as it’s in play. So we’ve got our work cut out for us but like I said, it’s now a four game series for us that starts here with New York and we’ve got to put everything we have into figuring out a way to handle this challenge which will be a great one.”

Q: Do you want to see Tyler Palko make some more plays with his feet?

HALEY: “Yes. It’s definitely a weapon that has been underutilized because he is fast and he is quick and he’s fast with the shoulder pads on. There are a lot of quarterbacks that when you watch them run the gassers and do agility and those things they look like they can really run. And then the pads go on and all of a sudden they can’t run. I always joke with Kurt Warner about that, without pads and playing basketball he runs like the wind and then those pads go on, it might have been because he has the biggest pads in the world. But Tyler’s not like that, his speed and athleticism translates and that’s all a part of the process. I think it’s easy for us to continue to push and say, and I’m talking about us as coaches, that when things don’t look good take off and run but when you’re sorting through trying to read, that’s one of those things that I really believe kind of comes with experience also.”

Q: Is that a baby steps kind of thing, don’t try and do it all at one time and you’ll get there eventually?

HALEY: “Yes, because you’ve got to do both. It’s much like a stiff-arm when I talk to the guys running with the football. It’s a weapon that everybody has, especially some bigger guys that have long arms and are strong but it’s not always utilized and it takes some time to get guys to use it but boy when you use it it’s a devastating weapon as a runner. So it’s just kind of working, going along here and trying to get better and that’s one of those things.”

Q: Le’Ron McClain seems to be one of your most optimistic players, how do you like to have someone like that on your team?

HALEY: “I’ll leave the predicting to him but I really like Le’Ron and he’s been a good addition to our team and part of that is just his experience of having been around a winning team. I think that’s real important because I think sometimes if you take that for granted, the ability to pass on that information or that just is there with young guys that are just coming into the league, it’s not and it definitely you know when you hear Kelly Gregg talk or Thomas Jones or Le’Ron McClain talk they are speaking from experience and they are doing things that have gone on in other places and I believe you have to be a glass half full person in this league, you really do. You can’t ever give up hope because you never know when you are going to start playing real good defense, or real good offense or get a couple of kick returns or blocks or whatever, or Hail Mary’s for that matter. I believe in optimism.”

Q: So that kind of thing can be contagious?

Haley: “I don’t know. I like Le’Ron and like I said he’s clearly brought veteran leadership to our team.”

Q: Someone from the organization offered to me that you cancelled a team meeting before the Bears game in Chicago, do you have any comments on that?

HALEY: “Really? We did not have a team meeting in Chicago, but there’s been a number of occasions where I haven’t had team meetings. They were right too, I was out, I went out with my wife and two daughters who came in for the game to have pizza but well after any internal meetings would have been or were over with.”

Q: What do you make of the fact that someone would want to offer that up?

HALEY: “I don’t know. You would have to ask that person. But they’re right.”

Q: So there was no meeting scheduled and cancelled, there was just not supposed to be a meeting?

HALEY: “No, we had our meetings and sometimes I choose to talk to the team and sometimes I choose not to. That goes on during the week, it goes on before the games, as a matter of fact I didn’t talk to them the night before the Steeler game either, or the morning of when we had that at least scheduled meeting. But we had our offense, defense meetings and we all just sat around and ate together and watched some college football as opposed to me talking more, which sometimes I’m sure I get talked out. Between you guys and…”

Q: You seem surprised?

HALEY: “I am surprised that it’s a story, that I’m answering that question. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Q: Do you feel a little pressure off you now that you’ve proven all the arm chair quarterbacks wrong and you can win with Palko?

HALEY: “I don’t know about the armchair quarterbacks but I know we needed a win desperately last week. And we were able to get one and it was a great team win for us on the road in December. Whenever you beat a good team on the road in December it’s good for your team and it’s a good sign. But it’s because of the work that everybody is putting in and the preparation everybody’s making and now that one is over and we need another one. I also know that you’ve got to keep getting better here down the stretch but that’s the name of the game.”

Q: With Tyler Palko finally getting a win, does that do anything for the guys in the locker room?

HALEY: “Again, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the other guys. It’s tough to play quarterback in this league, and it’s tough when your first couple games are what his have been, his first three, really, when you kind of put it all together and with the situation that we’re in. What he’s done is he’s gotten better every game, and he was playing quarterback when we won a big game, and made a couple real big plays for us within that game. The thing that has to happen is: He’s got to keep improving and keep building on the good things he’s doing and continue making good decisions and we’ll have a chance.”

Q: Where have you seen improvement from Barry Richardson?

HALEY: “Barry, I thought, was one of the underrated guys last year that we didn’t talk about a whole bunch, but was a part of us rushing for a lot of yards, more than anybody else and protecting our quarterback and doing all those things and a part of 10 wins. This year, we knew it was going to be a great challenge with the lack of offseason and those things that everybody has had to deal with. It hasn’t been a fast start for really any of us, obviously. As the year has gone on, everybody – including Barry – has found some footing and I think I do believe we’re getting more and more comfortable together with all the changes we’ve had to adjust to. He’s getting better like everybody else.”

Q: Was the thinking of not trying Jared Gaither in the starting lineup a chemistry thing?

HALEY: “No, no, and I’ll stay away from talking about guys that aren’t on our team anymore. I would say it really had nothing to do with chemistry. When you’re trying to figure out ways to win and get better and you haven’t played the way that you need to play in a consistent, consistent fashion, you have to… If there is a way to upgrade, you have to try to do it as coaches. It was more of one of those where it wasn’t working, and we worked a ton in practice trying to get it to work and it was just never at a point where we felt like it would give us a chance to be better with the circumstances as they were.”

  Q: What does Barry have to do to get better to close the season out?

HALEY: “He’s got to keep making progress. He’s doing a lot of good things. He’s like the majority of the other guys on the team. We do a lot of good things, but we do one, two or three things that if we can eliminate and have everybody eliminate, we’d probably have a much better chance to win on a weekly basis.”

Q: Can you talk about Justin Houston’s growth in the last four or five weeks?

HALEY: “I think it’s been more than that; I think it’s really been the entire season. Like I’ve said, we understood going into this year that we needed some of these young guys that we had kind of earmarked that we felt could help us at some point this year, that we needed that to occur for us to make progress from last year. Obviously, there’s been a lot of different things that have occurred that we’ve had to handle, but at the same time, I think Justin has really done a great job of making progress. Like I said after the game, I take my hat off to Coach [Gary] Gibbs and [Romeo Crennel] and the entire defensive staff for doing a very good job developing our young players on defense. Justin has been one of those that has done a little more than develop. We started him just in base, then we moved him over to sub, so I think by doing it in that fashion, that order without overwhelming him, we were able to get him a good feel for how he has to play in both segments of the game. Then, we just felt like it was time that he was ready to go, and he stepped in here, and he really has the last three games. He’s been a big part of helping us start to play better defense. Anytime when you have guys playing at a high level that have a lot of ability, it gives you a chance to be good and it gives everybody else a chance to be better. I think the defense overall is doing a very good job of understanding what everybody’s role is and then how we have to play defense to win, and that’s taken some time, obviously. I do feel like by staying relatively healthy here for this stretch and hopefully down the stretch that they will continue to build on it.”

Q: Is it nice to know a guy like Houston is still progressing even when he was not in the spotlight?

HALEY: “This league is about the players, it really is. You’ve got to have good players. When you see a young guy come in that you feel like had a lot of potential, but somebody didn’t take him first overall, so he was there when we got a chance to take him. We were excited about it. I think he’s excited about being here. But then, that’s all over with. It’s about trying to develop your players, and the quicker that happens, the better, and the better they are, the better. He obviously, here, at least as we’ve seen the last couple games, he’s got a chance to be pretty good it looks like. You can’t start fast and then let off. This is going to be a deal where we’ll know a lot more here as the season goes down the stretch if he’s going to continue to build on what he’s put out there so far because we’ve got four regular season games left and each one is going to be bigger than the last, so he’s got to keep getting better.”

Q: When you see a guy that is falling in the draft and you’re looking down the road, do you look into future rounds or do you just speak on the current round?

HALEY: “The way that we organize our board, it’s pretty clear where we have players rated, so that as names come off the board, it’s pretty easy to see the players that we still like across the entire board, offense and defense and special teams of who is still up there. As you come up on your pick, you’ve got to weigh all the guys that are up there and decide a bunch of different factors, where your needs are and all those things and what you think the top-end potential [is]. Can he help you now, later? Is he a project? All those things. You kind of weigh the guys that are available at that point and do what you think is best for the team.”

Q: Is Kyle Orton going to practice today?

HALEY: “I don’t think he is going to practice today, but don’t hold me to it. He’s still pretty sore, but we’re going to take him day-by-day.”

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