Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.31
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Opening Statement: Good morning everybody. Jamison Crowder, less than 50 percent. He’s going to be listed as doubtful on the sheet. He won’t practice today. Still hopeful maybe getting him out there on Sunday but it’s not looking good. C.J. (Mosley) looks good. (Sheldon) Rankins look good. (Elijah) Riley, he’s been full participant coming back from concussion. We’re hoping to get back Quinnen Williams, (Tyler) Kroft, Bryce Hall, LaRoy Reynolds, obviously they still got to go through some final tests. They’re not 100 percent by any sense of the imagination, they just got to go through protocols as it pertains to COVID. So, those are the next guys that we’re hoping to get back and we’ll know more tomorrow.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what’s it been like for the guys coming back from COVID, just in terms of their stamina and just getting back into things? Are they feeling kind of after effects of it at all?
For the ones who haven’t had symptoms, they’re slipping right in and they look fine. The ones who’ve had symptoms, obviously, any time you come back from an illness, you’re going to be, whether it’s the flu, cold, COVID, you’re going to have a little bit of conditioning that you’ve got to get back in touch with just with the beating your body takes. For the most part though, these guys are young, they’re resilient, so they’ve been pretty good.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: So, with Elijah Moore, it seems kind of obvious now that probably not this week, right?
(follow up) Still hopeful for next week, perhaps?
Hopeful for next week. I plan on having a conversation with him this afternoon just to see where he’s at mentally, and hopefully we get him back for next week.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: Robert, with Tom Brady, obviously you want to stop the run against any team, it’s essential, but with him, if you give him those play-action opportunities, how much more lethal does that make him if they run the football?
Man, if you give him anything, he’s pretty lethal. But Leonard Fournette has been doing such a good job with the run game, they’ve got a really good offensive line, lot of respect for their center. I think he’s one of the nastiest, one of those guys you hate when he’s on the other team, but you’d love if he’s your teammate. Just all in general, when everything is clicking, especially for that team, you get big Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) running over to the middle of the field on play-action pass becomes a big problem because of all the different things and all the different weapons he has. Any offense is humming when the run game’s going and obviously with a guy like Tom Brady, makes it even that much more lethal.
Conor Orr, SI.com: Robert, throughout your career, whether it was with Houston or Michigan State or Central Michigan, did any coach at the end of a difficult season do anything meaningful to kind of spark something in the players that might have resonated with you, something that you kind of still carry with you now?
The fifth time that I’ve been on the front end of a rebuild and the biggest thing I think a lot of these guys understand is that while we haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted this year, there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a lot of people here who are the foundation of what’s going to be a pretty cool run. There’s going to be guys here next year, obviously, it’s not like every player’s going to get turned over. No team is exactly the same from year on in and year on out in the NFL. But there’s a foundation that’s been laid here and we’ve got tremendous character guys, we’ve had a tremendous 2021 draft class, we’ve brought on some really cool free agents and we’re going to get guys healthy for next year and we’re going to add to it and that stuff. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that that first year is so big in terms of just setting a foundation and a culture and a standard of what you’re trying to accomplish day in and day out. I feel like we’ve done that, and I feel like these guys that Joe (Douglas) has brought in and the character that Joe’s brought, matches the direction that all these great organizations go when they get to the top. Not to shorthand your question, but year one is usually, this is about what it looks like, at least in the four other experiences that I had.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Hey Robert, just wanted to ask about Connor McGovern. I mean, we haven’t even really talked about him this week, he’s a guy that played pretty much every snap for you this year until he got hurt, and so how does not having him, I’m assuming (Dan) Feeney will start, change the dynamic and, most specifically, how does it affect Zach (Wilson), because they were working together so long?
That’s a great question, Rich. McGovern has had such a really nice season. Obviously, the best you can be, I’m messing up the saying, but available is the best thing you can be as a football player. He is definitely always available, that’s talking about McGovern. Really felt like he was coming on to his own here over the last half of the year, really starting to understand John Benton and what was being asked of him and we were having a lot of continuity on the offensive line, too, as it pertains to AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) on his left and then either GVR (Greg Van-Roten) or LDT (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) on his right. Obviously, tackles, but knock-on wood for him that it’s an MCL, not an ACL, but at the same time, it’s going to be an adjustment for Feeney and the quarterback and the rest of the offensive line, but Feeney has been dying for this opportunity and it’s an opportunity that I think he’s really excited about over these next couple weeks.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, how are you looking at tight end right now with all the guys you have down?
They got beat up these past couple weeks, Coz, but again, you got Daniel Brown, you (Kenny) Yeboah, (Conor) McDermott, obviously, showed some flashes. (laughter) We’ll hopefully get (Tyler) Kroft back. If we do, that’ll piece together our tight end group. Again, we’ll know more tomorrow on Kroft, but regardless, someone’s got to step up. And, again, it’s another opportunity for those guys, whether it’s Yeboah, Daniel Brown, even McDermott to get some tackle-eligible stuff. It all matters, so there’s going to be opportunities to be had out there.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, we pay a lot of attention to San Francisco now since you’ve been here, and when you watch them, (George) Kittle obviously jumps off the screen. I realize he’s a freak player that you can’t really compare people to, but your system, does it need that kind of production at tight end? Maybe not what Kittle does, but is that position critical in your system and is that what has kind of contributed to his success out there?
It goes back to, I think Dan (Leberfeld) had asked the question with regards to the play-action pass game. It’s one thing to be a tight end who doesn’t really add anything from a blocking standpoint, there’s a lot of tight ends like that in this league who are just kind of glorified receivers, but then you also get a guy like Kittle whose ability to capture edges in the run game and just absolutely dominate one-on-one’s in the run game. And then, work the play-action pass in the middle of the field. And then on third down, create to win one-on-one’s. So, he’s dynamic, he’s special. He’s going to be good in any offense. It’s a combination of their ability to run block and be able to work the middle of the field in the play-action pass game that makes those guys so dynamic in this offense. Third down for Kittle, that just happens to be a bonus. There are guys out there, there’s plenty of guys out there and it’s something, obviously, that we’ll look into along with a lot of different other spots on our roster.
Mark Sanchez, New York Post: Hey Robert, I got a big picture one for you. You’ve said you guys are going to win or lose buy your defensive line. I’m wondering how you kind of grade them this season where it started off as such a strength and I realized recently there have been guys out, but it seems like there’s been less pressure as the year’s gone on.
You know, you look at the games that we’ve won, and obviously there are four of them. But you can look back to our offensive and defensive lines winning football games. So, if you look at the Tennessee game, our defensive line was absolutely dominant, if you go to the Cincinnati game, our o-line and our d-line were pretty dominant in that game. Go to the Houston game, our offensive line was absolutely dominant in run game, same thing with Jacksonville. And then in Houston our d-line was pretty good too. And then last week, obviously our offensive line just paving the way for 273 yards rushing. So, football is a simple game. Sometimes we try to complicate it, but it always comes back to the interior of our o-line and d-lines and then from there, it’s your playmakers on the outside. As far as grading them, I’m always going to hold those guys to the highest standard. I’m very vocal about it to them, I’m vocal about it to the team, I’m vocal about it to you guys that we will win and lose games with our defensive line. So, if that’s the case, same with our o-line, we won four games, so it’s not good enough. And for us, we got to find a way to be better in both those categories and continue to improve not only schematically, but the way we coach and then obviously the way we execute.
(follow up): With the d-line, in particular, do you think you’ve got the personnel to sort of build around, or do you think that you need another big guy there?
I’ll save that for self scouting. We’ll get Carl (Lawson) back, really happy with the way (Bryce) Huff came along, JFM’s been battling injuries so helpfully we get him back from being healthy, Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, Foley (Folorunso Fatukasi), Shep (Nathan Shepherd), I mean we have really cool group of guys. You’re always going to try and add, that’s every position, you never want to stay stagnant at a position if you don’t have to. And if you ever have an opportunity to add somebody who’s going to elevate the entire room, then you don’t hesitate. But really like the foundation of that group. It’s a very deep group, it’s a good group. Obviously, like I said, we got to be better, but at the same time, it’s not a group that I’m looking at where I’m like, ‘God, we got to redo the whole darn thing.’ It is a really cool foundation of players. Health will help with tremendously, continuity will help it tremendously, and then obviously just execution will help them.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, is it kind of nice, you know at safety this week you go from having no guys to having five I think healthy? Do Ashtyn (Davis) and (Elijah) Riley move back into those starting roles this week?
Yeah, Elijah obviously for sure, we’re still working on Ashtyn because he’s dealing with other stuff aside form COVID. But really excited about the group. (Jason) Pinnock, he’s had an outstanding week this week, having Will Parks here, proving that he deserves a role and continue to see what we have in him. And (Kai) Nacua did a nice job. So, knock on wood, it’s a good group. And really excited to continue to work with those guys.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: (Nick) Bawden, is he a guy that fits into the fullback/tight end situation that he can help you out a little bit this week there?
You know, ever since he’s gotten here, he’s done a lot of great things, especially from a special teams standpoint. Obviously, we’ve gotten away from a lot of the two-back stuff that we were running earlier in the year. Obviously, it fits more to our personnel than what we’ve been doing. But with a full offseason and chance to really grasp the offense and really work with the timing of OTA and training camp, for sure there’s definitely a role to carve out for him. But yeah, he came in so late, for him to accomplish what he has is a testament to him and really looking forward to working with him more this offseason.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I realize Richard Sherman is not quite what he once was and he’s not playing as much right now for them, dealing with injuries and things. But what has he kind of meant to your career, working with him in Seattle and then in San Francisco?
I can’t say enough things about him. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion. A lot of people really misunderstand him in terms of, because he’s so vocal, a lot of people mistake him for just a loudmouth player when really he’s probably the more well-spoken, smartest individuals you’ll ever meet. Just being with him in San Francisco, it’s one thing to be a quality control where I didn’t have as much interaction with him, but to be a coordinator in San Francisco with him and having him in meetings and just talking ball with him and really him taking on a different type of leadership role, because it wasn’t like it was, he had the Legion of Boom and all that where he was one of a bunch of guys, like he was the voice when we were turning things over in ’18 and then in ’19 when it took off. So, he’s incredible, there’s a soft spot in my heart for that man and appreciative for everything him and his family, his beautiful wife, all of them. A tremendous man.