Head Coach Robert Saleh, 10.31
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Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: We’ll start off with a couple of quarterback questions. What a shock, right? Is Zach (Wilson) your starter this week?
(Follow up) What’s your confidence level in him being able to rebound from yesterday?
I’ve got full confidence in Zach, we all do. It’s not like he hasn’t had bad games before, and he’s stepped up and followed it with good days. The way he preps and the way he practices and the questions he asks, we have faith that he’ll continue to find ways to get better.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: The last two weeks, Zach has said something along the lines of sometimes he gets tired of throwing the ball away because he just wants to make a play. Obviously, you want him to want to make a play. What’s the balance there of if there’s nothing there, just throw it out?
That’s a good question. So, Friday, let me fill you guys in on this one. So, Friday after practice, C.J. (Mosley) broke the team down, and I thought he said something that was profound, and I thought it was very interesting. He said, ‘We can’t get bored with being bored,’ in terms of executing the techniques and doing the small things over and over. You can’t get bored doing that. That’s just one of those things where, yeah, it is boring. He does an unbelievable thing of getting out of pressure and finding space, and he looks downfield and there’s nothing there. That’s OK, let’s go live to play another down, keep the ball in our hands, we’ll play the field position battle, our defense is playing really well, we can run the ball, we can do all those things. For him, it’s just a simple reminder that it’s ok to be bored, and just to remember that you have a bunch of guys in that locker room that are pretty good at football, too, and they got your back.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You’ve said that several times, ‘Live to play the next down,’ like you’ve brought it up many times to him. What do you think it’s going to take for Zach to realize this isn’t BYU anymore, this is the NFL?
Time on task, reps. It takes time. Not that he’s pressing, I want to make sure I say this right. He’s a young man that wants to prove his worth. To be honest with you, you can prove your worth by executing and doing your job to the best of your ability, and we’ve got full faith in his ability to make off-schedule throws. He made that heck of a throw to Garrett (Wilson) to start the game, I think it was a 54-yarder or whatever it was. He’s shown, he got one with Corey (Davis) on the boot against Green Bay. So, he’s capable, but knowing that you don’t have to do that all the time.
Brian Costello, New York Post: You had a pretty good formula there against the Dolphins, Packers, Broncos, good defense, good running game, Zach makes a couple plays a game and doesn’t turn it over. Do you feel like you guys got away from that yesterday? I think you had 15 rushes in the game.
In normal game situations, you always do a self-evaluation Monday morning. It was 15-13 run to pass in normal football. So, first and second down, it was 15-13 run-pass before the end of game situation where we’re down two scores trying to play catchup. You can throw in a couple of those passes were RPOs, so they were designed runs. So, you could easily say 17-11 if he hands the ball off. You always want to run the ball. It will always be a common question when you’re losing, ‘Coach, why didn’t you run the ball?’ Well, that was a question in Week One, that was a question in Week Three, no questions over the last four weeks because we’re in the lead and we’re able to just run the ball. So, whenever you’re losing in the fourth quarter and you got all those two-minute plays, we had a two-minute situation at the end of the half, too, where we’re throwing the ball. So, it’s always going to tilt it. Ideally, to go back to your question, Brian, is that run game, defense, special teams, those three have got to be the most consistent part of any successful organization. Yesterday, our run game wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be, and we got our butts kicked on special teams.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, I was wondering if you could maybe clarify something from last night a little bit. Could you explain again the thought process behind moving Mike White up to second quarterback and Joe (Flacco) becoming the third and all that stuff?
I’m going to try to explain this one, so don’t beat it up too much. Mike White is one of our young guys on this football team and we’ve seen Joe (Flacco), we know Joe, we love Joe. Hopefully Zach does not get hurt, but in the event he does get hurt, Mike White is going to get the opportunity because we need to know what we have in Mike. You’re still trying to think globally for the organization and all that stuff and, between Mike and Joe, both have had success. Obviously, Joe has had way more success, he’s a veteran, he’s won a Super Bowl MVP, all that stuff. Where Mike has shown a lot of promise, had really good success against Cincinnati, had a really good first quarter versus Indianapolis before he gets hurt, so you just want to see what else Mike has in the event that opportunity presents itself. Hopefully it doesn’t and Zach stays healthy, and he continues to improve and all that stuff. But rather than keep him as the third quarterback, as an inactive quarterback, where he knows he’s not going to play, we wanted him to get those second team reps, let him know that he’s next man up. There’s a human element to it, you always want to prepare like you’re the next man up, but when you’re not the next man up, it’s different. So, now that he knows he’s the next man up, we feel like he’ll be able to prepare the way he needs to.
Brian Costello, New York Post: So, is it about practice?
It’s more about practice. I’m going to go hypothetical for you guys, let’s just pretend for a second, Zach gets hurt in Buffalo, or not Buffalo, we come back from the Bye Week and it’s the next New England game and Zach gets hurt, God forbid, and Mike White’s inactive and then all of a sudden, the next week, he jumps all the way up to number one. We want him to have some weeks where he can at least prep and prepare, so in the event that did happen, he can be ready to roll.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: I understand what you’re saying about that Robert, but it almost sounds like, you know you are 5-3, you’re in a playoff race, and every game is critical, it’s not like last year where you’re trying to develop young players and you would maybe give a guy like Mike White extra reps and so forth. So, that’s why it seems a little bit unusual, you know what I’m driving at?
No, I can appreciate that, Rich. The amount of faith we have in Joe, we have the same amount of faith in Mike and just giving him that opportunity to run this football team if that opportunity presented and that’s really about it. Mike had success running this offense too last year and if he gets the op, he gets the op, but this is more about, just from a coaching standpoint, what we wanted to do and what we made the decision when Zach came back, and we just felt like it just makes sense to get him going as the second quarterback moving forward.
Al Iannozzone, Newsday: Robert, was there any thought in bringing Mike (White) in yesterday when Zach was struggling in the second half?
Brian Costello, New York Post: Jermaine Johnson being inactive yesterday, was that a medical decision or a football decision?
A little bit of both in that he’s just had a couple of weeks, rookies, you guys would be surprised how much they forget when they miss a week. So, hopefully he puts together a good week of practice and we can get him back out there Sunday. We’ll see how this week goes.
Brian Costello, New York Post: And where’s Corey (Davis) at with his knee?
We’ll re-evaluate him on Wednesday, it’s getting better every day, but we’ll see. He’s going to be more day-to-day.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: What about Max Mitchell, I think he’s eligible to come off this week, is he any closer to returning?
With regards to everybody on IR, that includes George (Fant), no one is scheduled to come off until after the Bye Week.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, just expanding a little bit there off of what Al (Iannazzone) had just said, where he had asked basically if there was any consideration to going to Mike (White) yesterday in lieu of Zach’s struggles. Is this something where moving forward, for the rest of this season, whether Zach is playing really, really well, or whether Zach is playing really, really poorly, Zach is going to be the quarterback from the first snap until the last snap, unless he were to get hurt?
Correct. Is that what you’re asking? Yeah, Zach is our quarterback.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, trade deadline is in about 24 hours, do you anticipate you guys being active before the deadline?
Joe (Douglas) will always take phone calls, I know that. But as far as activity, I guess it depends on what the other person is saying.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Do you expect Elijah Moore to still be here tomorrow?
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Can I follow on Connor’s question about Zach? You said he’ll be your quarterback for the rest of the year, unless there’s an injury of course, but I’m wondering as a coach how you balance that? It seems like a slippery slope, because you are in a playoff race, and you are 5-3, and your locker room absolutely wants to win now because you have a chance. What if his turnovers become so debilitating that it’s preventing the team from winning now?
Well that’s hypothetical, right? So, I’m going to go off of past, and that we are 5-3 because he’s done a great job taking care of the football and getting us in the position to win football games, along with good defense, good run game, good special teams. There’s been a really good formula. And so there is no reason why he can’t continue that. The guy is 4-1 coming back as a starter, he does have a lot to do with that, avoiding all the sacks, being able to throw away the ball, keeping us on track, keeping us on schedule. There’s a lot of things that don’t blow up the stat page, but from a coaching standpoint, there’s a lot of things that he’s done to keep us at least from imploding. Yesterday was not a good game, in terms of just from a decision-making standpoint. He did a lot of good things in the game, too, there was a lot of explosive plays that he had, and a lot of good things, but those three critical mistakes were back-breaking, which he recognizes. Those are the areas where, alright let’s hit the reset button, let’s talk about what we’re good at, and just make sure that we’re taking care of the football at all costs and being good decision makers. It’s one thing to turn the ball over in the manner which we did yesterday, it’s another one where you’re just trying to rip a skinny down the seam, and the safety plays it unbelievable, steps in front, and steals one. But to answer your question Rich, Zach’s a big part of the reason why we are in this position, why nobody would’ve had us at five wins at this point, to start the season, and Zach’s a big part of that.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth or anything like that, but it sounds like kind of what you’re saying with regards to sticking with Zach moving forward, no matter what, is because you don’t necessarily foresee the struggles that happened against New England coming back again, his play is going to improve and that’s why you can’t imagine moving on?
100%. I think Zach is going to continue to get better, I think he is a lot better than he was a year ago like I’ve told you guys. Like everyone, we can all look in the mirror and look at the decisions that we’ve all made yesterday, we all took turns, whether it was an ill-advised penalty, whether it was special teams play, protection. Whatever it was, we’ve all got to get better. Zach obviously is the quarterback, he’s got the ball in his hands, he’s the most obvious in terms of being critical on, but he’s gotten a lot better, expecting him to continue to get better. Do I expect it all to be clean? No, every quarterback has their days, but he’s our quarterback because we think he is going to get better and he is going to continue to prove why he was the number two pick.