Head Coach Robert Saleh, 11.23
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I know you guys are all here for the injury report. Kenny Yeboah, he’s not going to practice today — we’ll see how the week goes, day-to-day. (Sheldon) Rankins, not looking good for this week, either, but he’ll be out. Duane (Brown) will have his normal week. Ahmad (Sauce Gardner) is dealing with a calf, he’ll be limited. Quincy (Williams) is dealing with his ankle, he’ll be limited. Herby (Nate Herbig) will be a limited participant today, but we feel really good about Sunday. Corey (Davis) will be a full participant, so he’s back at practice. And we’re opening up George (Fant)’s practice window.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Who’s your quarterback, Robert?
We’re going to roll with Mike White.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) Why?
It’s the same things we talked about when we elevated him to the second spot. It feels like three or four weeks ago. We know he’s fully capable. He’s started in this League. He’s won games for us, and we just want to give him an opportunity.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What does this mean for Zach (Wilson) as you go forward?
So, the big thing I want to make sure I address on this one, just want to make sure you all listen to this carefully, please. Zach’s career here is not over. I know that’s going to be the narrative. I know that’s what everybody wants to shout out, and that’s not even close to the case. The intent, the full intent, is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field at some point this year. When that is, I’ll make that decision. I’ll take that day-by-day. The biggest thing with Zach and the same things we’ve talked about is, the young man needs a reset. His decision making has been fine. His practice habits have been fine, but there’s some basic, fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him, and this is an opportunity to sit back, focus on those things, find a way to reconnect to all the different things we fell in love with during the draft process. It’s something that I feel like he’ll be able to do. I think to ask him to do all those things while preparing for a game is unfair, but at the same time, it’s something just talking with Zach that we’re all excited to attack. Like I said, is it a small step back? Absolutely for him. But do I think it’ll be a great leap forward when he does get a chance to reset himself? Absolutely. So, this is not putting a nail in his coffin. This is not that, not even close to that, but I do believe at the end of this is going to be a rejuvenated, renewed young man that once he reconnects to all the different things that we’re trying to reconnect to, he’s going to show why he was the second pick.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: If Mike White plays well, why would you go back to Zach?
I’m going to go day-to-day on this one. I don’t want to get into all the hypotheticals — I know we can create and conjure up a million of them. Not to disrespect you in any way, but I want to make sure we focus on every moment. For Zach, it’s about focusing on himself and finding ways to reconnect all the basic fundamentals that we’re seeing in the game that’s been showing up for the last four or five weeks and practice, but, for Mike, it’s obviously a great opportunity for him, and I know he’ll attack it.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How much of a factor was the off-the-field stuff in the manner in which Zach handled some of the scrutiny in the press conference and the possibility and concern that he may have lost the locker room?
It’s my opinion, there’s always going to be that discussion of, ‘He’s going to lose the locker room, Zach doesn’t have the locker room.’ Players go out there and we play for one another, we fight for one another, we do that, but at the same time, I don’t think a player is going to play any less harder because he doesn’t like his teammate. He’s playing hard for his family, he’s playing hard for the guys that he loves on the team, but he’s not going to turn it down because he doesn’t have love for somebody. With that said, I think I’ve said before, I think guys have empathy for one another when it comes to how difficult this job is and the heat of the moment and being at the end of the game and the way we lost and the way we all played. For Zach and his teammates, maybe there was a little irritation at the moment, but I don’t think there’s a grudge, I don’t think there’s hate, I don’t think there’s lingering effects when it comes to that. So, to answer your question, it had no bearing on this decision.
Bruce Beck, WNBC: Does this give the team, in your mind, the best chance to win? Is that what you’re looking for when you’re making this move?
Yeah, the biggest thing in just evaluating over the last few days since the game, this isn’t just a Zach thing. Our receivers need to get better with alignment. Our receivers need to get better with route running and consistency. Our run game needs to be more consistent. Our o-line has got to be better in protection. As coaches, we’ve got to be better with regards to scheme and play calling. We all have to be better. We’re not going to become the Greatest Show on Turf because we’re changing out one player. It’s about everybody understanding that we’ve all got to get better. We’re afforded the opportunity at quarterback because of the faith we have in Mike and Joe (Flacco), and allows Zach to take a step back, reset, get your mind right, we’ll get you back in the lineup, and we’ll get you ready to roll, but none of that is going to happen if the rest of us don’t step it up. Those are the facts. Standing up here on the podium with myself and for the quarterback, you take every single bullet — good or bad. You get too much credit, you get too much blame. That’s the reality of it all — the perception, I should say, but the reality is, we all have to be better. There’s a lot of things with the offensive side of the ball that we can be better at to make this thing work at quarterback.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Why do you think Zach will respond to this positively? You seem pretty confident in that.
Obviously, he’s going to be frustrated. Not going to get up and lie and say, ‘Hey, it was a party.’ He’s just got the right mindset. You guys talk to him everyday, and you see how important this is, and sometimes he does wear it on his sleeve, but at the same time, the guy works his tail off. He works as hard as anybody. I know that we’ve got a great plan for him with regards to practice and what we’re trying to get accomplished, and I know he’ll attack it.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Two questions, Robert. One, will Zach be the backup quarterback on Sunday? And in hindsight, do you believe it might’ve been a mistake? He came here and he was anointed the starting quarterback. Should he have competed behind the veteran guy from the very beginning?
Question one: Joe will be the backup. Zach won’t be active on gameday. To the second question, you can always go back and play the hindsight is 20/20 game. You do what’s best for the team at that very moment. It’s a developing roster from a year ago, and he went out and played with a bunch of young guys that were developing, and he made strides. I still think he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he was a year ago, and there’s just a few things in his game right now — and this is one man’s opinion — that I think will just continue to deteriorate if we just keep throwing him out there. Like I said, we just got to give him a chance to reset. Hopefully that answered that question.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: You called it a temporary reset for Zach, but this organization drafted him second overall, paid him a fortune, built everything around him. Do you understand the message it’s sending is that you don’t think this guy can do the job for you right now? That’s a pretty profound message.
Yeah, I get from messaging. I get what it says in the moment, and you’re probably right in the moment — it’s just not good enough to win football games, and it’s not because he’s not capable. He’s capable of so much more than what he’s playing at. The issues for him are so fixable, but I think he just needs to be able to reset to get those things fixed. We haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of this franchise. We have not. Like I said, we have every intent to get him back on the football field at some point.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I don’t know if it’s recent, it was a week or two ago, you were saying he was being held prisoner for four or five bad plays. You were defending him after the game Sunday saying ‘furthest thing from my mind’ was a quarterback change. How did you get from there to here?
Obviously, after a game, you haven’t had a chance to watch everything. When you look at it from last game and you see some of the things that were popping up, again, it’s not just Zach, just as an offense all together. The simple running, blocking, passing, catching, the simple fundamentals and the simple basics that need to be executed, it’s our job to take a step back and you start watching. You go back and you watch all the practices, and you’re just trying to absorb as much information as you can. For me, it was, ‘You know what, this young man needs a reset.’ There’s just a lot of things going on for him and for the offense, and it’s just in my opinion that he needs a chance to go off to the side, catch your breath, and he’s got to reconnect to these fundamentals, otherwise it’s just going to keep going, at least in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that we’ve lost faith in him. It doesn’t mean we’ve waivered off where we think he’s going to go. Consider it a slingshot — you might get pulled back a little bit, but I think when we let go, it’s just going to takeoff.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You may have seen how Justin Fields might have apologized to his team for the way he played. Has Zach done that to the defense, and does he need to do that?
Zach spoke to the team. He already had his conversation with the team, so I’ll let them handle that from a locker room standpoint.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: You’ve talked a lot about how young players develop at different rates, and I’m just kind of wondering, there’s many — maybe not you guys — that didn’t expect you to be the hunt 10 games in, is there to some degree that he’s a victim of the fact that everyone else around him has developed a little bit quicker and this was supposed to be a developmental year for him?
The reality is there’s guys — maybe from a defensive standpoint you can look at it. There’s a lot of guys on the offensive side. The offensive side is where a lot of our youth is, so they’re all developing. Like I said, it’s not a Zach thing. Garrett’s (Wilson) got to be better. Elijah’s (Moore) got to be better. (Denzel) Mims has got to be better. Corey’s (Davis) got to be better. Our two tight ends got to be better. Our backs got to be better. Our o-line has got to be better. Our coaches have to be a lot better. So, it’s not just a Zach thing. When you do mix in a bunch of guys that have to develop, there’s going to be some chaos in there every once and a while. Like I said, with regards to Zach. It just felt like it’d be a great opportunity for him to get the reset while everyone else gets to work on their craft.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, I know that you’re saying you believe the future is Zach, you believe he can still do it. But statistically, I mean he doesn’t align with a quarterback that is moving forward. I mean even now, this is year two, 20 career starts, I mean it’s historically bad numbers. Why do you believe he’s going to turn it around, aside from his work ethic, what do you see that says ‘no these numbers are wrong, he can still be a franchise quarterback?’
Well, you have to include work ethic, you got include everything within his body of work. You see him at practice, I mean he’s got tremendous arm talent, he’s very good in the room and talking to him with regards to football and watching tape. There’s a lot of flashes that happen that you know that normal quarterbacks can’t do, can’t make. It’s just a matter of him regaining that consistency and with regards to the basic fundamentals, and at the end of the day, the truth is no one ever knows anything, but at the same time, I got faith in him, I think he can do it.
Connor Hughes, SNY: (follow up) Do you have an example of a, I mean I don’t know if you talked to Matt (LaFleur), I don’t know if you talked to Kyle (Shanahan), anyone that you’ve known throughout your career, of a time where you took a quarterback and you said ‘take a break and then get back out there’ and it worked?
Personal experience? Just going across the League, and I mean I still talk to a lot of people in Seattle and ask them about Geno (Smith) and the way he operates on a day-to-day basis, but just through my career and just watching different guys like Alex Smith, Rich Gannon, there’s so many that have, I was watching a couple of weeks ago, Kurt Warner’s story. I mean in a way he took a reset and ended up having the career he had. You just, you just never know, and I’m not saying it’s going to be years of a reset, but I do think that Zach has the ability to just sit back and look inward, I do think that’s one of his greatest strengths, and it’s just an opportunity for him to attack all the little details that are required to make a quarterback great.
Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: With the decision-making process, how involved was Joe Douglas in all this, and did you guys feel the need to consult Woody Johnson because obviously it’s a big decision?
Yeah, Woody and Christopher (Johnson) first off are phenomenal, with regards to letting Joe and I work. You know, they’re there, they support us, I get perception and all that stuff, but whatever we decided, we decided. In that regard, just like Joe gives us as a coaching staff, the floor to speak about college players and free agents and all that stuff, Joe and his staff will always have the floor to speak about personnel, and so that respect is mutual, so Joe is always involved with everything, and vice versa.
Joe Mauceri, PIX11: Robert, you mentioned some frustration, what was Zach’s reaction when you gave him the news?
What you would expect from a player that, he’s not ready, or not that he’s not ready but it’s like, ‘Why now? Why me? I want to play’, and obviously, but you expect that, but after a great conversation I think we’re on the same page. Does he want to be on the field? Of course he does, but I know if there’s going to be anyone on the sideline cheering and rooting his teammates on, and hoping Mike White freaking dominates, it’s going to be him.
Joe Mauceri, PIX11: Will he practice today?
Yeah, he’ll be out there.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Mike White, what gives you faith in him, why him over Flacco? And I just wanted to slip in a quick one, you mentioned Sauce, is he okay for Sunday?
Damn, I lost a bet. (laughs) I said you guys wouldn’t ask about the injury report. Mike White for all the same reasons I’ve talked about. Like I said, he’s won games with us, he does a great job in practice, he’s done a great job in games for us. He’s extremely competent as a quarterback and he’s got the ability to make all the throws on the football field, and run the offense in the manner that we need to. You know I said it three weeks ago, whatever it was, that he’s going to be next to get an opportunity, and that opportunity is now.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) And Sauce?
We’re not worried about the game.