General Manager Joe Douglas & Head Coach Robert Saleh Breakout Sessions, 1.21
General Manager Joe Douglas
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I was wondering if you could kind of just go into detail as far as the early conversations that you and Robert (Saleh) have had regarding the quarterback position and Sam Darnold, and if things are kind of progressing with you guys at all now that you do have the coach in place?
Yeah, I mean, right now the conversations that we’ve had about Sam mostly happened during the interview process. (Saleh) has been in the trenches making sure he gets his staff situated, and I know that there’s still a few more spots to fill. I think the next step for us is going to be to get together with him and his staff and then our entire personnel staff, and to just go through every single position, step-by-step, player-by-player. So, we’re excited to get together as a group and evaluate our entire team.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Joe I know you talked about the vision being aligned and things like that with Robert and everybody. I mean it’s to win, but can you say specifically what impressed you about what he told you about his vision for the team?
Yeah, I mean I talked to you guys earlier a little bit about the process and what we were trying to do in terms of creating critical factors and we had specific criteria. Early in the process we could see and hear that he’s extremely thoughtful, he’s an unbelievable teacher, his teaching methods are outstanding. He had a plan from the very beginning. He had a plan for what the identity he wanted this team to look like. He had a clear plan for the path to achieve that. And then just the stories of him connecting, engaging, creating buy-in. It was very impressive in both interview settings.
Darryl Slater, NJ Advance Media: Hey Joe, following up on what Robert talked about with not calling defensive plays, I was wondering did he bring that up in the interview? Did you guys say, what’s your plan for calling defensive plays? And he said, I’m not going to do it. How did that come about? And what was the discussion like in the course of the interview about why that was a good thing, do you think it’s a good thing? Could you walk us through that?
Well look, there’s a lot of different ways to manage a team. When we talked to Robert, we specifically asked him what his plan, his thoughts were on the day-to-day management of the team. That was what he had laid out, that it was important for him to not be bunkered in with play calling, but to be present, to be a part of every aspect of the team, to manage his staff, give his staff the ability to coach their positions. And he trusts the people that he brings in. So, we were impressed with his plan for managing, not only the team and the locker room, but his staff.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, I know you’ve been around for a portion of it, but in the time that Christopher has been running the show here it’s been a pretty rough go. He thought he made the right choice with the last head coach, didn’t work out. Can you speak to his passion to get this right? I know we as locals have spoken to him a number of times about how badly he wants to win for Jet fans and whatnot, but can you just kind of speak to, what you’ve learned from him and how desperate he wants to get this right?
He is fully vested into turning this program around, 100%. His passion, him in this interview process, how important it was for him and all of us to have a very thorough, organized process. He loves us franchise and he cares deeply for everyone in it, staff, coaches, players.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: I mean, I know it’s not been easy on any of you, but have you been able to kind of just see the difficult effect this has had on him, the losing and whatnot and how it’s affected him?
Back to your question. Obviously, the last few years have been difficult for everyone here, and Christopher had to make a tough decision recently and we certainly didn’t back down from that responsibility of that decision. We’re excited about the process we had that led us to Coach Saleh, and we can’t wait to get our sleeves rolled up and get going with him and his staff.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, I have a question. You guys have a ton of cap room and it might be first or second most in the league, somewhere in that neighborhood. And I’m sure that was a pretty attractive little carrot for the coaching candidates to have that much cap room, but given the shortfall in revenue due to the pandemic, I’m wondering if you will have any cashflow restrictions regarding spending when free agency starts?
February 2nd, we have a labor seminar with the league, so we’ll have a better range in term of what the cap is going to be for this upcoming year. But I feel we’re well positioned for this year and for future years, and like I said before, we have a lot of flexibility.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, I know you said that Robert’s not done compiling his staff yet, but he’s got offensive/defensive coordinators. Can you talk a little bit about how convincing that was when he started telling you guys about the people he had ready to join him, or if it eased your mind at all in hiring him?
I think the most intriguing thing, one of the most impressive things through the interview process regarding Robert and his staff was just his thought process on the composition of the staff and how he was thinking about different personalities and different roles. And you really walked away saying, ‘Wow, Robert has really thought this out the right way.’ I would say that was as impressive as any name that he brought up. And then obviously when you bring up the coaches that he brought up as coordinators, it’s exciting, and you feel good about guys like Mike LaFleur and Coach (Jeff Ulbrich) and the reputations that they have around the National Football League. That was definitely one of the more impressive things through our interview process.
Mike Vaccaro, New York Post: Joe, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a coach answer a question quite as honestly as he did talking about how he connects with players. He talked about basically wanting them to get paid as opposed to hiding behind typical coaching platitudes of making them better men, wanting to win on Sunday, yada yada. I’m curious if that’s reflective of a broader attitude that attracted you and impressed you with the way that he was describing his approach to doing the job.
You guys might’ve heard me say this in previous press conferences. Ultimately, part of our job is to serve the players, and part of that process is holding them accountable and setting standards and expectations. But a big part of it is what Coach Saleh laid out in terms of connecting with these guys on a personal level, engaging with these guys, creating the buy-in, letting them know that we’re here to help them reach their ultimate goal. And so, I feel like if you talk to people that have been around the best organizations in the National Football League, they’re going to say the same thing to players basically. If we develop you and our goal is for you to be the best you can be and maximize your earning potential, and if it’s here, great. If it’s elsewhere, great, we’re happy for you. And so, I think that mindset and that mentality are going to really help us moving forward.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Joe, I know that trading period has not begun yet, but there’s a ton of speculation about Deshaun Watson. Can you speak in general terms, and you’re well positioned salary cap wise and draft pick wise, just speak in general terms of being aggressive in this kind of situation with potentially someone like that available out there?
Yeah, I can’t get into any discussions about a player that’s not on our team. Like Coach (Saleh) alluded to and I’ll say now, our next step in the process is to get together as a staff, go over all the guys that are on our team, really get their perspective from watching the tape and include the perspective of the people that have been here the last few years. And it’s going to be a really great meeting that really sets the foundation for our offseason.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, when you did the press conference a couple of weeks ago, when you guys first launched the coaching search, you compared this to scouting, scouting for a coach, you made that comparison. But when you’re scouting Mekhi Becton, you’re not scouting him to play cornerback. He’s going to play tackle. How do you project an assistant coach to becoming a head coach? What about Robert makes you think he can make that jump where others have failed?
I think it just goes back to the criteria. In the draft, you’re projecting how a college player is going to do in the pro level which isn’t always an easy thing to do, as you guys know. There are always different things that you can say, ‘Okay, there’s positives here, there’s negatives here,’ but it goes back to the criteria that each individual team sets. I feel like when we were able to get together as a group and Hymie (Elhai) and Christopher and we were able to really talk about the best criteria for the New York Jets, and it was clear very early in the process that, like I said, Robert checks a lot of his boxes.
Pat Leonard, New York Daily News: My question was, how involved was Woody Johnson in the dismissal of your last coach and in the specific interviewing and hiring of Rob?
My interactions with Woody have been very limited. I’m excited for this transition. I know, like Christopher said, he’s traveling from London today. Excited for the transition. I really expect it to be a smooth transition, and I’m also thrilled that Christopher is going to still be a big presence here in the day-to-day operations of the team.
Pat Leonard, New York Daily News: Is it fair to say from the leadership end, the interviewing and hiring of Robert was led by Christopher since he was currently at that point in the role as principal owner or acting principal owner?
That’s certainly accurate. The primary people in this whole process have been Christopher, myself, and Hymie.
Zack Rosenblatt, NJ Advance Media: Back when you were on the Eagles, you talked a lot about the cohabitation matrix that you guys used, digging into the past of people that work for you and finding players and bringing them in like that. Robert obviously has had a lot of stops. A lot of players have talked about how much they like playing for him. Is that something you intend to mine when you dig into free agency and start looking at players to add to the roster?
That’s a good nugget, and yes, the cohab matrix did make its way up North. Like you said, there’s going to be a staff full of guys that have been at different stops around the league, which means a whole new set of connections. Yeah, that’s going to be a valuable resource moving forward.
Head Coach Robert Saleh
Brian Costello, New York Post: Christopher (Johnson) said Woody Johnson’s on a plane coming back right now and he’ll have a role soon. That’s kind of a strange situation to be coming into, where you’re interviewed with one guy and you’re going to be working for another. How do you feel about that situation and have you had any conversations with Woody Johnson?
Haven’t had a conversation with Woody yet, really excited to get the opportunity here in the near future. I’m not concerned at all, especially when you, like I’ve said, when you talk to Joe (Douglas), Christopher, and Hymie (Elhai), the collaborative effort that’s trying to be accomplished here, I’m really excited about the opportunity and to build a relationship with Woody.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, at what point would you like to know exactly what you’re going to be doing at quarterback? Is it during free agency? Is it in the couple of weeks? Is it before the draft? I mean, at what point will you make a decision on Sam Darnold?
To set a timeline would be unfair to the entire process. There are so many different moving parts to this whole equation, where you look at the quarterback, running backs, receivers, whole line, then you get to the defense, special teams. There are so many different discussions. There are so many different evaluations that need to be made to every position, and so, quarterback obviously being the most important one, but to give you a timeline on that one would be unfair.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Robert, I understand you have liked playing chess for a number of years, and we talk about coaches playing chess on the football field. Is that a fair metaphor for your situation, because you do have to think several moves ahead, and as it relates to every decision, I guess starting at quarterback. Is it helpful for you as, as a football coach?
I think so, anytime you can put yourself in the strategic mindset. Obviously, football is the ultimate game of strategy and scheme and obviously connection with players and all that, but there’s a slow type of game with regards to chess, and then there’s speed chess. And so being able to do both, I’ve always enjoyed both of them, but I do think there’s a correlation just in how the mind works and how the mind thinks and how the mind makes decisions and the speed at which it can under duress, if you will. So, is it the only thing? No, but I do enjoy the game and I do think there’s a correlation, at least with how the mind thinks.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: We’ve heard some stories that you’ve had a really high rating and chess. What was your highest rating?
I don’t know if it’s high. I think I got to around 1800 or something like that, which is pretty good. I’m no chess master, but I don’t know, I’m pretty good I guess, but (not) to say I’m an advanced player or anything.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, one follow-up on your coaching staff. Do you know who this special team’s coordinator is, and also are you going to retain any of the coaches from the previous staff?
Working through the special teams aspect of it all, I know Brant (Boyer) has been here. So many people have called in on his behalf. He’s held in such high regard. The focus right now has been on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. There are obviously the DB coaches from a year ago that I’d still want to continue to speak with, and again, same thing, a lot of people calling on their behalf and holding them in high regard. So, I do want to get an opportunity to talk with them. But we’ve kept some of the defensive and offensive assistance, Todd Washington, Mack Brown, and Chip Vaughn. And like I said, there’s been certain individuals that have had a lot of great things said about them from outside the organization. So obviously we’re not done with the staff. There’s still a lot of discussions to be had. And so that’s going to take some time.
Mike Vaccaro, New York Post: I’m fascinated by one of the answers you gave in your larger press conference, in terms of how you connect with players. You talked about wanting them to maximize, obviously their ability on Sunday, but also their ability to get paid. I mean, it doesn’t sound like an answer Vince Lombardi would have given in 1967 necessarily. Is there one guy or a series of coaches you’ve worked for who kind of instilled that in you as a motivating factor that would work in 2021 and beyond?
I don’t know if it’s a coach, you just put yourself in the player’s shoes. They get drafted. They need a personal investment made into them so they can develop into being great football players, so they can get to their second contract and be rewarded for what they’ve gone through, and so players should expect that from their coaches, and from the organization. They’re drafted, they’re developed, and that’s the reward. It’s no different than business. You come in as an entry-level, you worked your tail off and you go through the process and you get promotions and pay raises and there’s an investment made in that person as they grow within an organization. Same thing happens in football with a player in that same mindset. They come in raw, you invest so much time into them. You invest so much effort into him on the practice field and rehab, and you’re doing everything you can to help them get better. It is an absolute joy to see them hit the pinnacle of their career, where they get to those second contracts and they get rewarded for it. To give that and understand that part of just the players, is just being human to me. And so, to make sure that they understand that that’s our goal as coaches is to help them get to where they want to go. Just the overall servant leadership mindset. That should be the goal for everyone in this organization moving forward.
Darryl Slater, NJ Advance Media: Robert, you were alluding earlier to not calling defensive plays, so what sort of defense will you have? I’m presuming it’s going to be very similar to what you ran in San Francisco, a lot of Cover Three. Could you kind of walk us through what the plan is defensively, and with you not calling plays, what will that be like on game day because it’s obviously a little different than what you did in San Francisco.
Absolutely. It’s our system. (Defensive Coordinator) Jeff Ulbrich is familiar with what we do. Obviously when we went to San Francisco, we evolved it a little bit more than what I think he’s used to. We’re going to make sure that we still have the same fundamentals and all that, but I do want him to add his little wrinkles to see if we can make it even better. I think we should always be thinking, evolution should be at the forefront of our minds on every aspect of football, even (Offensive Coordinator) Mike LaFleur coming on over. I get Kyle (Shanahan) has done things a certain way, but how can he take Kyle’s and make it better without disrupting the flow and the principles behind the scheme? Same thing with Jeff, take what we did on defense and make it better without disrupting the major principles of the scheme that make it work. And so, those are the discussions we’re going to have, along with free agency, along with scheme evaluation and player evaluation, all of it. Those are all going to lead all the way up to when the players show up for their first practice. So on game day, I’m sure I’ll be on the defensive side of the ball, encouraging Jeff to make a certain call, but there’s a lot that’s involved in terms of making sure that the vision and the controllable aspect of football, (that) we’re keeping everyone connected to that aspect of football and all the different moving parts, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, analytics, situational football, and being completely locked in and geared into that part of it. We’ll consume a lot, and to be able to have that focus on all aspects of a game, maintaining our vision and maintaining the standard of which we play is kind of the role I see a head coach take.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: I’m just curious when you met Christopher, specifically how did you connect with him? I mean, obviously it’s been a rough go here for a number of years as you well know, and just kind of his desperation, or for lack of a better word, to deliver a winner here. How did you connect with him and what did you observe out of his desire and passion to try to get this right?
You meet Christopher, I mean, such a genuine human being. I’m sure all of you have had the opportunity to meet him. He’s such a genuine well-hearted individual who displays an incredible amount of humility. And he has, obviously, a tremendous amount of passion to get this organization moving in the direction that we can all be proud of, and when you sit and talk with him, you can feel authenticity. Authentic people who have heart to do things that are right, and to have the humility to listen to and implement different ideas. It is hard to fail. I just believe in my heart that is hard to fail when you have those qualities as a person. It’s people that make things work, and it starts at the top. And Christopher, Joe, and Hymie are some of the best people that I’ve been around in this entire profession. And so, I’ve been blessed, I’ve seen the formula work in different locations, in different stops along the way, and just being able to interact with those three, it was very, very clear that this organization is going in the right direction.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Just as a quick follow-up, completely unrelated, off the beaten path. I understand you like to play a little bit of golf. What’s your handicap?
Oh, man. It depends on what time of the year you get me, man.
(follow-up): Not in football season…
Not in football season, towards the end of the Summer, I’ll get it down to about low 80s, high 70s.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, could you just talk a little bit about Quinnen Williams, because I assume you guys probably did a little bit of research on him when you were with San Francisco when he was coming out, just what you’ve seen from him from afar, and then also what you believe he can accomplish in this new defensive scheme that you guys are going to implement?
Absolutely love Quinnen. I’m really excited to get the seatbelt off his harness and let him go in this scheme, to get him going vertical, to get all that mass moving in the direction that it needs to go. Really excited about the potential that he’s going to have. Loved them coming out, obviously, we took (Nick) Bosa. He was right there as part of the discussion, I can assure you that. But, with regards to that young man, his mindset, his athleticism, his power, his love for football. Really, really excited to see him in our system, especially up front in the way we designed with that attack style in regard to penetration and all that stuff, so excited. Obviously, he’s got to do his part and put in the work, but everything I know about him and everything that we’ve studied with regards to draft and what I’ve heard here is he’s going to be up to the task, and can’t wait to see what he does.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, how are you embracing this challenge. I mean, obviously everything that’s been said here is the Jets haven’t been good for years, all that stuff. How much you embracing that, that you’re going to be able to try to turn this thing around?
I do. You can’t hide from the past, but you can encourage people to judge you on the future. And from this day forward, and what we do, and how we operate as an organization, and the words we say, and the things that we do moving all the way forward. Obviously, there’s going to be an investment that has to be made. An investment from everybody, in terms of getting connected to the players to help them find ways to get better so on Sunday they can display their best version of themselves and within the standard and the style at which we want them to play. And so, I do. We’re up to the challenge. And this organization has had many years of success. It is a very prideful organization and it has a rich history and tradition. So the goal, like I said, we came to win championships, and when you talk to Christopher Johnson, and Joe and Hymie, there’s no doubt that that collaborative effort and the way they want to communicate is, in my history here in the league so far, it’s been brief, but it’s a winning formula. And like I said, people win, and that’s how I feel.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, you talked about connecting with players and investing in them and kind of that relationship. Usually a new head coach has an extra mini-camp, he gets some time with the team. We don’t know what you’re going to face this spring in terms of the virus and if this is going to look like last year. Have you thought about that and just kind of what kind of challenge this might be if you’re not physically in front of your team until maybe August?
There is a concern, obviously, but do I think that it’s impossible? I don’t. That’s why the reciprocation goes both ways. Reaching out to the players and inviting them back to the facility, finding ways to get face-to-face and have them feel the energy and the sincerity and authenticity back and forth. And so, there’s obviously a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of opportunities to get face to face with the guys, but when you do have those opportunities, there are no wasted moments. And it doesn’t matter how much time you may or may not have. When you have those moments to meet and have that face-to-face interaction with those players, you take advantage of it, and it goes both ways, but you can still connect through Zoom. I get it, it’s not as strong, but you can still make those connections, and I’m excited to get the opportunity to do that.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Do you look at this defense as, I know you said how in, San Francisco, Seattle scheme, but specifically in terms of an alignment, is it 4-3, 3-4, or can you do San Francisco/Seattle things in a 3-4 defense?
So, we’ve evolved past the Seattle stuff. I know people will try to compare us to that. This is our version of what we’ve done. We are more of a four-down front, let those d-linemen go get vertical and, with three stack (line)backers, with the main intent to get as much speed on the field as possible, and at all three levels. And so, to answer your question, you will see a couple of 3-4 principles in there, but the majority of what we do is 4-3, and we can build it the opposite way from there.
Pat Leonard, New York Daily News: Robert, piggybacking on Brian’s (Costello) question about the offseason and evaluating players if they’re not in person. Specific to Sam Darnold, will that make it more difficult on you as a new head coach coming in, evaluating a new quarterback, if you’re making a decision about whether to move forward with him or move on, does that make it much more difficult on you to make a definitive decision on a player and that position that’s that important?
I don’t think it does, to be honest with you. I mean, the reality is that the draft usually happens right around the second week of OTAs anyway, before you ever get your hands on the player anyway. So, the amount of communication, the process of going through, we know what Sam has done. I know how people around this building feel about him and a lot of positive things. I mean, people love him in the locker room, everybody sees his talent. And so, we’re just excited to be able to have any kind of communication that we can with them. And as we continue through this process, just being able to work with them, and again, just through communication with Joe and his staff, making the best decisions for this organization. So, to answer your question, it’s almost irrelevant to a degree, just because of the timing of the draft and OTAs anyway, so I don’t think it will be difficult at all.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Robert, what do you know about Marcus Maye? You guys obviously have a decision to make on him coming up, but what do you know about him as a leader, as a player, and how do you think he’d fit into your defense?
I know Joe holds him in very high regard. I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece. And so again, I’m going to get a chance to really dig down deep and study all these guys at every single position with the staff and have those conversation with Joe and his staff over the coming weeks and see where that fits, but I do know Joe speaks highly of him and I trust that.
Dennis Waszak, Jr., Associated Press: Robert, I just wanted to ask if you got a chance to speak to any of the players since you were hired? Are there rules against that or are you able to kind of check in with some of the guys?
I reached out to all of them via text. Some have called, some have, who have been here to get in rehab, they’ve come in to say hello, and so open door. You’re allowed to say hello. And I love when they come into the office so I can get some face time with them, but yeah, just slowly but surely. I’ve reached out to all of them in some capacity, but to have them come through is as always the bright parts of the day.