Head Coach Robert Saleh, 1.26

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Brian Costello, New York Post: Why was (Nathaniel) Hackett the guy?

Really excited about it. We casted a wide net like we said we were going to, we interviewed well over 15 different candidates for this position, went to college, went to different schemes, talked to different people. A lot of really, really good football coaches out there, but when it came back to a certain checklist that I was trying to go through, just checking boxes on what we were looking for with regards to this next offensive coordinator, just kept circling back to him. He checks every box that we’re looking for, I’m not going to get into details of it, but really, really excited about this and being able to get Nathaniel here.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, obviously things didn’t go well for him at his chance in Denver, with your digging and whatnot, what did you unearth out of that because obviously on the surface everybody’s looking at what took place in Denver, but there’s obviously more to him than that?

Yeah, and you got to own it, right? It’s part of the resume and I get it, but you got to have the discipline to look past recency bias, you got to be able to look past the, whatever you want to call Denver, but the fact of the matter is that he got to Denver, and he had that opportunity because of his life’s work as an offensive coordinator and all the different things that he’s done in this League and how much respect he’s garnered throughout the League, and all his different spots, and all the people, all the players he’s developed in his career and the people that he’s worked with. So, I get it, I get the sentiment from all that stuff, but you just got to be able to have the discipline to understand, like he was, it was a celebrated hire when he got hired at Denver and it just didn’t work out and sometimes things happen that way, but like I said, super excited about him being our offensive coordinator and giving him an opportunity to work with our young guys and all the things that we’ve got going for us.


Rich Cimini, EPSN.com: Robert, in the process how important was getting an experienced play caller and if you could just specify just some of Nathaniel’s strengths as a coach?

Yeah, for sure, we went into this feeling like it was important for us to hire an experienced guy, someone who’s put it together several times, not at just one spot, but several spots, but it didn’t close the door, we interviewed a lot of potential first time play callers too that were very impressive, but when you look at Nathaniel and this team, we know we are going to have basically a revamped offensive line, we’ve been talking about getting a veteran quarterback in here if we can, we’ve got a really young group of skill guys, so it was very important for us to have guys who have done it before because of the conviction because of the philosophy, and then having the recall and the scars, if you will, to be able to build what we think can be a really special offense, but Nathaniel, one of the great strengths is that he is a west coast guy with regards to scheme, so there’s going to be some continuity there. He’s got a proven history of being able to develop a heck of a run game in every stop that he’s ever been in, he’s got a proven track record of tremendous relationships with all the quarterbacks that he’s ever worked with and he’s gotten great, had success with all the quarterbacks that he’s worked with. So, there’s a lot of strengths with him, his commitment to complimentary football, the experience, he’s an innovative teacher, he’s got a laundry list of stuff that we’re all really, really excited about.


Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, obviously we can talk about, you can’t name specifics because a lot of guys are under contract with other teams, but did you, and when you were interviewing Hackett, did you guys lay out what your plan is for a veteran quarterback? When you were discussing his potential hire did you say like “look these are the guys we’re going to try to go and get?”

No, the quarterback position, obviously with all the different interviews was the number one concern, and rightfully so, and it was simple, we’re committed to finding a veteran, we didn’t get into names. I doubt that he’s even studied those guys yet, which he’s going to start next week, but we didn’t get into specifics on names, but it was talked about that we do plan on bringing in a veteran quarterback if we can, we do want to continue working with Zach (Wilson) and continue to develop him.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, what was your relationship like with Nate when you guys were in Jacksonville?

Yeah, he’s an unbelievable person, first and foremost. He’s got tremendous character. Obviously, he’s got an electric personality. I think it’s well known throughout the League that he’s got an unbelievable ability to connect with people. He’s got a personality that’s magnetic, and people will gravitate to him. Loved his teaching style when he was there and just talking to him, it’s evolved even more. So, he’s very innovative from that regard. So, while there was a relationship, he was very well deserving. He’s done a lot of things, and he’s had a lot of growth over the last four or five years. Again, just really excited about this hire and really excited about getting him in the building, so we can get to work.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: You’re not going to mention specifics, of course, but in the back of your mind somewhere through this process in hiring Nate, did you connect or think about his connections to any particular quarterbacks that might become available?

No, it’s all surface level stuff, Rich. It doesn’t matter what the connections are. Everyone’s got a connection to everybody in this League. The most important thing was finding a guy who we felt could continue developing our young guys at a very high level and a guy who’s done it before, a guy who’s had success in this League with a variety of different quarterbacks. Like I said, after every interview, I went back to my list and review where we stood, and Nathaniel checked every box. We’re really fortunate how much he believes in us as an organization. He could’ve sat on the couch for four years. His excitement to be here is reciprocated. Like I said, really, really excited. This is a really good hire and really excited about the direction that we are going to be able to go.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Even though it is, obviously, very early. It feels like the season just ended, which it did. Where are you guys at with the veteran quarterback search and assessment, and what kind of input will Nathaniel have in that?

That’s probably going to be more of a Joe (Douglas) question. I’m going to go on vacation here tomorrow — need it. When we get back to work, we’re going to take next week to kind of just let everybody start travelling and get back in town. We’ll start that process next week. As a coaching staff, Joe, I’m sure he’s got something to say, too, but whatever they do upstairs, we haven’t been connected to that.


Ian O’Connor, New York Post: Given that your goal, obviously, is to win a championship, when you look at these veteran quarterbacks who might be available, how important is it to you that person you ultimately sign has winning playoff experience on his resume?

Obviously, that’s something for sure. You got to look at the whole thing. We look inward, first. We believe we have a top flight defense. We believe we have young, skill guys that are continuing to develop that haven’t even hit their ceilings yet. We’ve got an unbelievable running game with a running back — and a couple of running backs, actually — that are going to come back strong next year. We’re going to build our offensive line. So, it’s more finding the right guy that we feel can lead us in the direction we need to go and play complimentary football with us. So, there’s a lot of excitement here. We feel like we’ve got a really good football team. Like I said, there’s a lot of attention on the veteran, but there’s also Zach and the people that are in this building, too, and we want to continue developing those guys.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, you guys also hired a new offensive line coach, Keith Carter. Can you talk a little bit about what you liked about him, and how that process kind of went along finding that guy?

Yeah, was shocked he got let go at Tennessee. Obviously, philosophical differences, and not to speak for them, but really excited about Keith. Continually in his time at Tennessee, even with Derrick Henry out, they were still able to spit out top 10 run games, been very effective in the red zone, running the football, getting the ball past the goal line and all that good stuff. Hard-nosed, hard-charging football coach that we’re really excited to get, so this combination, again, there was a lot of things going on with the o-line coach and the coordinator and just trying to make sure that we paired up the perfect team. Like I said, feel like we hit a home run, and just very excited about them and their ability to work together, and get us in the direction that we’re hoping we can go.


Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, you’ve spoken a lot about the run game, and whether it’s (Keith) Carter, whether it’s with Hackett and his proven experience with that. How important is it for you guys to build this from the run game, around the quarterback? Because you kind of, around the NFL a lot of people talk about the quarterback, and building it specifically around the quarterback, but you guys seem like you’re putting the focus heavily on the run game?

For sure, obviously, the quarterback we’ve said it before, he’s the head of the snake, but you still want to make his job easy. There’s only two or three guys that you can put the entire game on their shoulders, and ask them to go win a football game, play in and play out. At the end of the day, especially in the East where, we can use the Cincinnati-Buffalo game as an example. Cincinnati ran for over 200 yards in the snow and bad weather, and that’s what it’s going to take to win in this part of the country. Especially, if we want to host playoff games, we’ve got to be built from the ground up, so just really excited about again, the combination of guys and their proven history and their proven track record of being able to build and establish run games that I think complement who we are very well.


Connor Hughes, SNY: (follow up) So, you said a cold weather quarterback is a priority?

(Laughs) You know, I don’t know about that one. We’ll get into all that hopefully next week.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, could you describe just how you, you told Nathaniel and the other guys you interviewed, what do you want from them with Zach Wilson? What is their task with Zach right now? Because it’s kind of a unique situation where he’s been here for two years, he’s played for two years, but you guys are going to go for a veteran quarterback. What is the task with Zach right now for your offensive coordinator?

Feel like it’s the same thing that we’ve told all of you guys. We’ve been transparent through the whole thing. Zach, we still have a lot of faith in him, he does things with the football in his arm that you can’t teach. He’s still young, he’s only 23 years old and he’s already got two years under his belt in this League. So, we just want to make sure that we give him every opportunity to grow and develop, so the expectation is to pour your heart and soul into that young man, just like you will every other player on this football team. The definition of a football coach is developing the players to the best of their ability, and finding what their ceiling is. We’re very confident in Nathaniel and his ability to do that, and again that’s something that we talked about with everybody.


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, you talked about maybe adding like a senior offensive assistant, that kind of thing. Is that still in play given Nathaniel’s experience? Is that something you’re kind of putting to the side now?

No, we still want to do that. I still want to recreate the same format we had when we first got here, with God rest his soul, Knapper (Greg Knapp), but I still want to do that. I think it’s a good working dynamic when you look across the League and just that role, I think is becoming something very important.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I just, when you were asked about Denver before, you kind of said recency bias, but outside of that one year in Jacksonville the numbers for Nathaniel Hackett’s offenses are not great, with Jacksonville, with Buffalo, I’m excluding Green Bay where he wasn’t the primary play caller. What is it beyond the numbers, because that’s what we have right now in front of us, is the statistics. What is it beyond those statistics that you see in him?

Like I said, his ability to connect with his players, and teach, and get people on the same page, and the innovation at which he goes about things, his style of coaching, the philosophy he has with regards to scheme. I could argue on the flip side that the places he’s been, players had their best years with him, so you take that for what it’s worth, but he’s a fantastic football coach and well respected around this League and we’re just really, like I said, really happy that we were able to get him.

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, what are the advantages of having a guy even though it was a short period of time in Denver, who has run an entire operation as one of your assistants?

Give it to me one more time, Mark, I’m sorry.

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: (follow up) Even though he wasn’t in Denver for a long time, Nathaniel. What are the advantages of bringing a guy in who has run an entire operation as your coordinator? Does that help you in other areas as well?

Yeah, Nathaniel just talking to him, I mean it’s going through the year he had a year ago, there’s a wealth of knowledge you can gain from it. Like I said, you learn through adversity, you learn through struggle, and just talking to him in what he’s learned through the last year, not only from an organizational standpoint, but from an offensive standpoint and the things that he wishes he could go back and fix. I think there’s so much value, I know it’s hard to look at because it’s so recent, but the amount of growth and learning that you can get from that experience, especially if you attack it with a great spirit and a great mindset, you can have a ridiculous amount of growth as an individual and just speaking with Nathaniel, you can feel that he has learned a lot from the last year and that learning is something that we’ll be able to lean on.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, where are you on wide receivers coach?

We’re still, once Nathaniel gets here, we’re going to give him the ability to talk to everybody on the staff and continue to fill in those positions.


Ian O’Connor, New York Post: Robert, if you sign a veteran quarterback, that’s obviously going to be a significant financial investment in that player. Is it a plausible scenario that a veteran quarterback could go to camp, have an open competition with Zach, and lose that competition, where Wilson is your starting quarterback? Is that plausible in your mind after you have made that financial commitment?

I don’t know about that one. Let’s go through that process, you can ask me that one before training camp.