Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.28
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Opening Statement: Good Morning. Injuries, Jeff (Smith) is dealing his knee still, Jeff Smith. He’s not going to practice, neither is (Brandin) Echols, still dealing with his quad. Everyone else is either on limited or full participant. That’s George (Fant) and Duane (Brown) on their normal routine. Lamarcus Joyner will get back in practice, and Denzel Mims is on the final stage of the concussion protocol.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Is there hope for (Cedric) Ogbuehi?
Yeah, we’ll see how he looks today. He’s going to be a full participant today in practice also.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Has Mike (White) been wearing like a flak jacket kind of thing to protect his ribs?
I think they already do, all those quarterbacks do, so I’m sure there’s going to be something, but that’s whatever is comfortable enough for him to throw the ball.
Connor Hughes, SNY: There’s been other times where other quarterbacks sometimes when they’re dealing with rib injuries, they’ll add extra protection or different kinds of protection. I remember reading about that here and there over the years. Do you guys plan on doing additional stuff for his sides to protect him?
That’s going to be more of a question for Mike (White) and the doctors that he’s working with.
Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance: We talk about his toughness, but what do you guys need to do to protect him better, and what does he need to do to make sure he’s not taking those kinds of hits?
Yeah, it’s all encompassing. We’ve got to run the ball better, we’ve got to protect better upfront. It all starts upfront. We just have to be better, and the quarterbacks always going to get hit. You’d love for him to have a clean game, but it’s a little bit of everything.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, how much has he done the last couple of weeks? I mean I know he’s been limited, but how much has he done?
He’s been working. He’s been cleared to practice, so he’s been throwing, he’s been doing all that stuff. It’s just the matter of getting cleared for contact, so, like I said, obviously, he hasn’t really felt it, and again more questions for him with regards to that, but as far as from a practice standpoint, he’s always been cleared. He just hasn’t been cleared for contact.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, your numbers from last year to this year defensively are stark, obviously, in terms of improvement, but the last couple of weeks obviously, the touchdown in Detroit and the 96-yarder. How do you characterize what’s been going on defensively? Has there been some slippage the last couple of weeks?
I don’t know if I’d call it slippage. A lot of credit you want to give to Minnesota, Buffalo, Detroit, Jacksonville — they’re four pretty high-powered offenses coming in hot, top-10 offenses. So, anytime it’s going to be a battle. So, I always look at it in terms of if we were able to hold them under what their season averages would be. So, to hold Detroit who had been scoring over 30 points a game to 13 points and Jacksonville to 19 — or 16, one of them they had pretty much a “give me” field goal on a turnover. Buffalo, held them well below their season averages. Minnesota was probably the one where we gave up more points than we wanted to, but we were able to keep them at bay with regards to yards, all their yards came in that first half. I look at it like that. You got to give credit to the opponent, but I do think defensively, we’re playing these top-10 offenses, and those guys are doing a great job at least keeping them at bay and well below what their season averages are.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Just as a follow there, because the offense has been struggling scoring touchdowns the last month, does that put more of a magnifying glass on that one drive that you give up? For example, the other night.
What I do think is awesome is that the standard of our defense has gotten so good that one drive, one touchdown, we can kind of nitpick the defense in terms of, ‘God, they’re not playing as well as they have been,’ and you could, and it’s deserved, but at the same time, the expectations have gotten higher for the defense and we expect to put shutouts and all that good stuff. I don’t think it puts more pressure, I think the pressure is always on to play your absolute best. The objective of football is to score one more point, whether it’s 7-6 or 52-51, it doesn’t matter. We need to make the stops when we need to make the stops, and we got to make the drives when we got to make the drives. So, it’s a team game.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Last week, it seemed like offensively you guys were constantly in second-and-18, third-and-17, penalties, sacks. What led to that? Is it almost impossible to operate offensively when you’re dealing with that?
Yeah, negative plays on first down, they’re backbreaking. It’s not impossible to get out of, but if you make a living out of that, which has been a common theme for us offensively, whether it be penalties, TFLs, sacks on first down, TFLs in the run game. You’re putting yourself at such a disadvantage. It’s already hard enough to get 10 yards in three downs, let alone 12 or 13 in two downs. So, yeah, being more successful on first down, trying to get to third-and-manageable, we’re living in third-and-longs. All of it is all-encompassing, and just to be able to stay on schedule, run the ball, get positive yards whether it’s one, two, or three, pass the ball, and make sure that the worst thing that happens is incomplete. Efficiency on first down has got to get a lot better.
Connor Hughes, SNY: How much of the struggles you guys have experienced in the run game these last couple of weeks were a result of defenses loading up the box and selling out to stop the run? And as a quick follow to that, do you think having Mike back in there, you could potentially have the pass game set up the run game now by attacking teams a little earlier?
For sure, teams are stacking the box and daring us to throw it and beat them that way. Usually, that comes with the weather. It’s a lot harder to throw the football this time of the year than it is earlier in the year. You do, you got to earn the right to back them off. Does Mike help that? We’ll find out, but at the end of the day, we’re in Playoff type football — crappy weather, you’ve got to be able to run the football.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How challenging has this been to you having been in this losing streak?
There’s a lot of things that we’ve learned. You know me, I’m always going to go silver lining. We’ve played four teams that are all in the thick of the Playoff hunt — two teams playing for #1 seeds, two teams playing for that last Playoff spot. So, in my mind, we’re getting such valuable experience with regards to playing Playoff atmosphere football, and we’re about to do it again in Seattle on the road. It hasn’t gone the way we want it to, but the learning about us as coaches, the learning about our players, the things that we’ve learned about our schemes, just all-encompassing, there’s a lot to learn off of. Not all of it has been good. It’s always tough, but through adversity is where you find out the most about yourself and where you have the most growth, so that’s the way we’re kind of attacking it.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How’s Woody Johnson been during this four game losing streak?
Woody, he’s been good. He wants to win like all of us do. We’re all trying to search for answers.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: The Seahawks obviously have Tariq Woolen who’s having a pretty special season as a rookie. You guys have Sauce (Gardner). How hard is it to have a rookie come in and play corner at the level that these two guys are playing at? I can’t remember any case like this.
They’re both playing really well. Tariq has been playing really well. He’s a big, fast, long young man, very similar in the mold as Sauce. He’s doing a fantastic job. They’re doing a great job of putting him out there and letting him go play. It’s rare to come out and have the amount of success that they’re having. These are two corners that are going to be successful for a very long time.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Obviously, it’s a big game, but is there any extra meaning going back to Seattle the first time as a head coach?
When I was D-Coordinator, we played them four years, so that’s eight games. I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Fun place to play, and always appreciative of Pete (Carroll) and all the things he did for me and my family. The nostalgia of it all has kind of worn off.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How did that Seattle experience mold you as a coach?
Just being with that coaching staff when I was there, you had, obviously, Pete, you had Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn, Ken Norton Jr., even Kris Richard, and Rocky Seto, just very impactful people for me. I’ve said it before, for a young man, I was early thirties just begging for an answer, begging for a guide, to be flooded with those people, that staff, with the diversity of that staff and their philosophies, it was a Godsend.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What would’ve happened because you were between jobs at that point, right?
Yeah, the defensive staff had gotten let go at Houston and Gus Bradley, the connections to Gus Bradley somehow got to me, and I was hired as a QC (quality control coach). I had a three month old at the time, my wife and I, and she’s panicking because she’s wondering where our next meal is coming from because I didn’t have a contract, and the good Lord came off the top ropes and sent me a blessing.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: What are your thoughts on Geno Smith, the way he’s been playing? And also, I think you alluded to him a few weeks ago as an example of a guy who took a little while, like a late-bloomer?
For sure. One, they’ve got tremendous talent around him. They’ve got a lot of speed, K9 (Kenneth Walker III) is a really, really good running back — really good, he’s got a lot of speed. Obviously, DK (Metcalf), Tyler Lockett’s playing at a high level, Marquise Goodwin has Olympian speed, Noah Fant has a lot of speed. They’re really, really talented, and when you put in a veteran quarterback like him, you can see he’s grown so much with the ability to process, get the ball out of his hands, he can go off-schedule. He looks very comfortable and confident back there. You can see that he’s really taken off, and he’s comfortable in his surroundings and playing at a very high level.
Brian Costello, New York Post: He has such a unique style, Pete. He’s not the old-school coach. These two old guys tell stories about when he was here and playing basketball and stuff out there. How much of your coaching style came from watching Pete and seeing that you didn’t have to scream at players all the time?
In his “Win Forever” book, he talks about Rocky Seto — not many people know Rocky, God bless him. He was at USC and Rocky was just yelling at people because that was what a coach was supposed to be, and he sat Rocky down and was like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to yell. You can be yourself.’ So, being with Pete and him challenging us — along with Gus Bradley, just two philosophers, if you will — challenging us to figure out who we were as individuals and to be confident in your skin. One of the greatest learning lessons that I got is that I can be a little bit of Pete, little bit of Gus, Ken Norton Jr., Gary Kubiak, all the great coaches that I’ve been around, Kyle Shanahan, and I can try to mold myself into that. That will be great when we’re winning, but as soon as adversity hits, my true character is going to reveal itself, and if I’m not truly connected to that person that hits in adversity, there’s going to be a disconnect that breaks trust. To be in that building and to have the confidence that I can be myself and still be a good football coach, I don’t have to project as something else, is a tremendous tool that he gave us all.