Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.9

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Opening Statement:

Good morning. We’ll go injuries real quick. Micheal Clemons will not practice again today, he’s still dealing with an illness, his status for the game is questionable. Everyone else is going to be a full participant.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Can you talk about what happened with Max? I know his dad talked to ESPN, I’m just curious if you shed some light on the timeline, when you guys found out, or anything like that?

It was after the game, and again as far as details, if the family and Max want to talk about it, they can and get more details, but it was a non-football injury and it’s very unfortunate, but thankfully he’s got a chance to get healthy and get ready for next week.


Connor Hughes, SNY: What is the diagnosis of that like? I mean does he come to you? When you hear blood clots it isn’t exactly like a sprained ankle.

Well, it’s the whole medical staff, you have your medical meeting in the morning, on Monday morning, and they dish out the news and you look at the depth chart and get rolling.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Is that scary when you get news like that? I mean that’s not like normal football stuff.

Yeah, I can imagine. I mean a doctor will have a lot more knowledge on that, in terms of life threatening.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: (follow up) I mean when they come to you and say like this is what’s going on with Max?

Well, it’s shocking because you’re not expecting that, you’re expecting something completely different, but just thankfully for him, he’s got a chance and we’ll get him back soon.

John Pullano, New York Jets: Solomon Thomas was named the Jets nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year, can you speak to his character and who he is as a player?

Yeah, Solly, he’s phenomenal. His family too, his mother, father, such an amazing human being. He’s always team first, very thoughtful about people around him. I can’t say enough about Solly, obviously we drafted him in San Francisco, so we’re a little bias, but his character, not just as a football player, but just as a human being and how he cares for the next human next to him, he’s awesome and deserving of that recognition.


Andy Vasquez, NJ.com: You’ve been aggressive on fourth downs, as you’re getting late into the second year being a Head Coach, how is your evaluation and decision making on fourth down evolved over the last year plus?

Well, this year I feel like we’ve had more opportunities. Last year, it felt a little more obvious, you’re trying to play catch up. This year’s been a little more calculated. There’s a faith in the guys that are being asked to execute, not only just from an offensive standpoint, but defensively to stand up if it doesn’t go the way we want. There’s just been some good opportunities, (Mike) LaFleur and his staff, projecting confidence, ‘hey, did you like your fourth down call?’ Just the amount of communication, talking with Smash (Dan Shamash), and just the situation of the game, some of it has been easier, some of it’s been difficult, some of it I look back and I’m like “God, I don’t know if I should’ve done that.” Some of it I look like “Damn, we got lucky,” but it’s still a role of the dice, but still try to take, not only the information that you get from a number’s standpoint, but also the information of the game and where we’re at and how we’re moving the ball, how we’re playing defense and just trying to make the best decision possible.


Connor Hughes, SNY: When it comes to fourth downs, generally you see defensive guys, like they’re not uber aggressive. It’s almost like put it in the defense’s hands and let them play, so is there a point where you were like ‘I’m going to be more aggressive, or I want to be a more aggressive coach on fourth down?’

I did play offense, and then I did start my coaching career on offense. No, I get the stigma, offense, defense, all that stuff, but I just feel like there’s a global aspect to it in terms of it’s not just, I get it sometimes as a play-caller, if you’re the actual offensive play-caller, the instinct is well of course I can get it. You’re biased towards your own decision-making, of course I got a play that’s going to get a first down and we should get it, so you see offensive guys probably going for it more, where on the defensive side the mindset is “Well, they can’t drive the ball the length of the field, so if I’m sitting at midfield, I’m going to try to pin them inside the 10, we’ll get it back at midfield, and we’ll roll,” and so there is those, the two different biases, so you just got to be able to step outside the box of your personal bias, and look at it from a global standpoint, in terms of all the information that you’re getting and whether or not this is what is the best decision for the team and I feel like with Smash (Dan Shamash) and just communicating with all the coordinators that we’ve been able to do that this year.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Since the last time you guys played the Bills, both teams have gone through a lot, or got a lot of guys back, you guys changed quarterbacks. Does it kind of feel almost like a different animal this game just because they got all these guys back on defense, you’re playing Mike White?

It’s a division game, so it’s always going to be a bear to play a division opponent. Schemes are schemes, the guys they get back like (Matt) Milano, (Jordan) Poyer, they’re special, in every sense of the imagination from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, I feel like they’re pretty healthy, they were healthy back then, they are now. It’s going to be a challenge, to play a division opponent twice, it’s hard, it’s hard because you’re trying to come up with schemes that keep them on their heels, but at the same time there’s a balance, in terms of how you do things, but they’re uber talented, again, they’re on 10 days rest, playing at home, it’s a great opportunity, big time division game, so it’s going to be fun. I imagine their fans haven’t seen them since God knows when, since that big ol’ snowstorm, so I’m sure they’re going to be excited to see their team again, so we’re excited for this challenge, it’s going to be fun.


Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: Second week in a row you’ve faced a team that had 10 days rest, does that change anything that you do, or how does it change?

No, you step up to the challenge. The schedule, however the schedule comes out, that’s how you got to take it, but I know our guys have a lot of juice this week, yesterday was a really good practice, lot of juice lot of energy, lot of jawing between receivers and defensive backs, which is always fun. I think we’ll be ready to go.


Connor Hughes, SNY: When you were in Seattle, that was kind of when Richard (Sherman) was really coming into his own. You guys played the whole ‘one guy on each side’, did he ever go to you and say hey, I want to shadow, like let me shadow? Or was he open to this is my side of the field, I’m going to shut down my side of the field?

So, in Seattle it was more, I was a QC (quality control), I left when Sherm was really starting to ascend. I wasn’t there, so I can’t speak for that one. We got to San Francisco, I think Sherm has always taken pride in the understanding of left and right. There were times where you saw Sherm travel, and from a competitive nature, Sherm always wanted the absolute best, he always wanted those opportunities, but I think what was great about Sherm is how respectful he was to the entire process and the entire scheme and understanding and having confidence in his teammates, that they can execute just like I can if we all know what we’re doing, we’ll be able to execute just as well as the player on the other side, won’t matter.

Connor Hughes, SNY: I wasn’t sure if there was an overlying situation, but could you foresee something down he road when he starts coming into his own, Sauce (Gardner), as a guy you let shadow?

We have a little bit. We shadowed the tight end in Week One. We did a couple of things for him, but to be honest with you, there’s different philosophies, and not to say it will never happen because you’re always going to try to do what you can to win a football game. It was funny, I was talking to (Darrelle) Revis about it when he was here. The easy part is getting him aligned. That’s the easy part. It’s the other seven guys in the backend who not only have to find a way to get aligned, but now they’re in a different position than they’re normally in, and they’re having to execute a technique that they have to execute. So, what is the opportunity cost there? Is it worth trying to create a sideshow where all the other guys are just a little bit uncomfortable? So, there’s different philosophies. It’s been done, so it’s not like it’s impossible to do. Our philosophy has always been: We got really good football players, so if we just let them play football and get out of our way as coaches in terms of trying to be gurus, they’ll make it work. So, we do our best to put them in the best positions possible. Keep it consistent, keep the messaging very consistent, and teach a viable aspect of what’s happening to them and we can spend less time trying to teach them what they’re supposed to do play-to-play and we can teach them more about what the offense is about to do. Again, different philosophies and different styles of play on football.


Andy Vasquez, NJ.com: You talked about the receivers and defensive backs going at it in practice. I’m sure Sauce and Garrett (Wilson) match up at times. How much do you think they kind of pushed each other to be better this year, and how much do you think they benefitted from those matchups in practice?

For sure, and it goes all the way across the board. It was funny because yesterday, you saw E (Elijah) Moore — it got so amplified, E Moore and Garrett jumped in to take some of the show team reps and (Denzel) Mims was taking some. It was fun yesterday. Usually, in the NFL, it’s hard for people to believe this, but it’s the DBs and the receivers that make practice go because o-line and d-line are like, ‘Hey, hey, hey.’ You don’t have pads on. They’re not banging. So, it’s not like everything is loud. So, the best teams I’ve ever been on, whether it was San Francisco, Seattle. Seattle it was the Legion of Boom yapping all day, and then in San Francisco it was Deebo (Samuel) yapping, Kendrick Bourne yapping all day. When they’re jawing at each other, it brings practice to life. It makes it fun.


Mark Sanchez, New York Post: Sauce has gotten so much praise and rightfully so, but do you think that D.J. (Reed) has been overlooked a little bit? 

For sure, I do. Sauce deserves all of the praise he’s been getting. He’s been having a heck of a rookie year. D.J., I’ve said it before, he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level because we are left and right, he sees Stefon Diggs, too. He sees Ja’Marr Chase. He sees Justin Jefferson. He’s gotten action on all those guys, too, and he’s played at a very, very high level on all of them. He’s made some big plays. He’s made big tackles. He’s been so sticky in coverage that there’s nowhere to throw when you see his side of the field. He’s been fantastic, his communication. His off the field stuff that people don’t see, with regards to how he’s bringing along that young secondary, and talking to Michael Carter II because he played nickel, and talking to Sauce not just about football, but taking care of your body and how to be a pro. He’s been everything we’ve hoped for.


Connor Hughes, SNY: (follow up) He is a good player. I mean pretty much everywhere else he’s been at; I don’t know if he ever played at the level that he’s playing at this year. Have you seen something that’s changed, like something he’s doing better now than he’s ever done before?

No, I’ve talked about this. I screwed up when we tried to make him a nickel safety. He goes to Seattle, and he plays corner for about a year and a half, so he’s really only in his second and half year playing corner in the NFL. So, he’s getting better, and he’s super young, and he’s still honing in on his craft and I think what we’re seeing is a young man who’s still continuously finding ways to get better because the position is so new to him.


Denis Gorman, Newsday: So, circle back about your decision making whether to go for it on fourth down or to punt. How does having Greg (Zuerlein) effect your decision-making process? If you’re in a position where it’s like fourth and five at the 45? 

Yeah, well he makes it easy that you always have a fall back to go get points, which is a big part of it. So, you know throwing him out there for the 60-yarder, I didn’t think twice about it until he lined up and I looked out there and I was like damn, it’s a long one (laughter), but it was good because offense was, again, that was a really cool situation where we get up to the ball, and they burn a timeout, so there’s no more timeouts left, so it made going for a field goal easy because you knew if we missed it they wouldn’t have enough time to get in field goal range. The half was pretty much going to be over after one play, maybe a Hail Mary opportunity, but at that point it was still a hard decision like shoot if we kick a field goal here, they have a timeout, all they need is a 15-yard completion. So, he makes it easy, obviously he’s having a hell of a year, but again, he’s a part of the equation in terms of trying to make a decision that’s best for the team.