Head Coach Robert Saleh, 3.27

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Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what can you tell us about the possibility of adding Aaron Rodgers?

To be honest, I got nothing on that one guys. Obviously, he’s still with another team, so I’m just not going to talk about it.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, did you think you would have had your quarterback thing resolved at this point in the offseason?

You’d always like to. It takes two to tango, so it’s just a process. We respect the process, and whenever it gets done, it’ll get done.


What was your reaction to him saying pretty forcefully that he wants to play for your team?

I mentioned it yesterday. We’ve come a long way in two years, and to have a guy of his caliber and really, there’s a lot of guys offering. A lot of guys have wanted to come here and play, and there’s a lot of excitement around the organization and it’s a cool thing to be a part of, so hopefully we can just continue moving forward and capitalize on the momentum.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: When in your mind is the cutoff point to where you want to have your starting quarterback position solidified?

As a coach, I would’ve said about three years ago, but it is more of a Joe D (Douglas) question in terms of how they’re approaching everything, but a coach always wants things done yesterday.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Realistically, Robert, if you added a veteran quarterback who knows your system, could he come in in training camp? Does he need to be there for the Spring?

For sure, if there’s a great rapport with the coordinator, there’s really no urgency. The quarterback is, if he understands the system, if the quarterback knows it, it’s just a matter of just refining skills and doing all that stuff, so there’s no hurry on that right now.


Robert, did you speak with Zach Wilson after the Pat McAfee show?

I’ve been in contact with Zach since the end of the season.


(Follow-up) How did he take that?

He’s been great. I think he’s in a great mental state. I know he’s been working his butt off back home, and he’s got a lot of things that he still wants to accomplish, and I still think that he hasn’t even come close to sniffing his ceiling, and he’s got a lot of room to grow, and we’re excited to continue working with him.


Dianna Russini, ESPN: In terms of preparing for the season coming up, just getting ready for offseason workouts, how are you guys preparing on the field as to who your quarterback is?

You know what, you have a system. You have a core philosophy of a system with regards to the offense and so you’re really just building that system and then whenever the quarterback shows up, whoever that might be and obviously we’re hoping that things get done, but you have certain tweaks that you’re going to make for that quarterback, so you have a base installation, and then the things that evolve off of it with regard to your players and it’s not just a quarterback, but you have to think about the offensive line that we’re still kind of revamping, and then the skill guys. We just got Mecole Hardman, so there’s going to be things that we’re going to want to do with him and there’s (Allen) Lazard, Corey Davis is still there, so there’s a lot of different tweaks, but right now, OTAs is really about base fundamental installation regardless of player.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: One of the things Aaron was pretty passionate about in his interview with Pat was about Nathaniel Hackett. He passionately talked about him as a coach, not just as a guy who is friends with Aaron Rodgers. What was it like seeing somebody talk about a coach in that way?

No, I’ve said it before. I think in this fast-paced world, you can be held hostage for something that happened in the immediate, and we tend to forget why Nathaniel was given that opportunity. He earned the opportunity in Denver. He’s a fantastic coordinator, fantastic human, an unbelievable teacher. Brings a lot of juice, a lot of energy, so him being in New York is really a good thing for us, and I didn’t think we’d even get him off the couch. He could have sat at home for another four years and collected a paycheck from Denver, but he’s excited to get after it. He’s already brought the juice to the building, so he’s exactly who we all thought he is. Obviously, I was with him in Jacksonville, so he’s been great.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert, if for some reason the current quarterback force that you’re on, the plan that you’re on does not work out, what’s your fallback option?

I can give you Joe’s number (laughter).


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (Follow up) What’s your opinion?

No, I don’t have one. I’d say we’re grinding right now and Joe’s taking care of that part of it.


You’re very close with Matt LaFleur, obviously. How much have you talked to him over the years about the reality of coaching Aaron Rodgers? Have those conversations picked up in the last few weeks?

Matt and I have been respectful of this whole process. We’re really not talking about it. We’re still just talking about family and all the different things that he and I talk about is that we’ve been talking about since we were GA’s together at Central Michigan, so we’ve agreed not to talk about it, just let it be and let the general managers handle it.


Dianna Russini, ESPN.com: Robert, you just touched on it a little earlier, but how would you describe the state of where it’s actually at right now, between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets getting this deal done? Where is it at right now?

Joe D question. You know what, I can give you my thoughts, but again, Joe’s the one that’s kind of working in the trenches with Gutie (Brian Gutekunst) and again, he’s the one that’s handling it. I’ll defer to him.


Connor Hughes, SNY: Robert, using the way that Rich described it, the trajectory that you guys are on with the quarterback situation. Is there any doubt in your mind that it’s going to go through?

Well, you guys know me. I’m a positive thinker. I’m sure eventually they’ll figure something out.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, the changes at wide receiver, was that something you guys prioritized in the offseason? Do you want to make changes in that regard?

Just opportunity presents itself. Obviously, with a guy like Allen Lazard, he’s so big, so strong, so physical, tremendous red zone target. Just adding him, especially with what we want to do in the run game with bringing in Keith Carter from Tennessee and the system that they run. There’s familiarity with Corey, so he can still do what he does and then with the opportunity presenting itself, didn’t think we’d be able to get a guy like Mecole Hardman, so when he was sitting there and just the amount of speed and the different things that he does, it was just a no-brainer for Joe, for us to add him and then obviously once that happened, there was a lot of different phone calls for Elijah and not that we were ever shopping him, but obviously Joe was given something that he felt was really, really good, and he took it. So overall, you go in with a plan, but sometimes you just got to be ready to pivot.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Talking about the receivers, is there interest in Odell Beckham Jr.? Have you had conversations with him?

Yeah, there’s always going to be interest with any great player. Obviously, things have to work out. Obviously, there’s a whole lot of different things. And again, I apologize, I’m deferring to Joe a lot, but those are things like when you start talking money and all that stuff, it becomes something else, so that’s again something, I’d have to defer to Joe on.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, you guys signed Allen Lazard who’s similar in a lot of ways and skill sets to Corey. You mentioned Corey a couple times. You still think Corey’s going to be a part of this team? Is that something that you want to see?

For sure. Corey’s a big, solid receiver. He’s done a lot of really good things for us in two years, and definitely somebody that we want to keep and his leadership, his work ethic, the way he approaches every day, absolutely.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: I mean you have some pretty good receivers on the roster now. Odell hasn’t played in over a year, he’s got two ACLs, why the interest?

It’s ACLs, nowadays those are easily fixable, but he’s been a fantastic receiver in this League. Everything you hear about him, he’s a phenomenal person, but again, it’s just something that you’re always going to turn over every stone, cross your T’s, dot your I’s, just make sure you’re not missing an opportunity to add a great player and there’s no guarantee anything will happen, but to go in there and talk about it, and again, if Joe’s had other conversations, that’s again for a Joe conversation, but we’re always going to study every player on the market to make sure that we’re not missing out on an opportunity to add a good player.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (Follow up) How much of that is Rodgers? Because I mean, we know that they have a friendship, and he made it clear. He recommended him.

Again, before any of this even came up, you’re given a free agent list from our scouting department and Joe, and he’s part of that free agent list and you go through and you study every single player, so all these thoughts and ideas are formulated well before any of this happened, so you study it, you look at it, you try to formulate a plan to build a team that compliments one another. Hopefully that answered your question.

What did you like so much about Lazard?

Yeah, I mean if you see him in person, the guy is just an enormous person. He’s got good ball skills. He’s a really good target in the red zone. From everything I’ve heard, and I’m one of those guys who just loves guys who’ve come from the bottom and made his way up. I’ve always made the comment that you want to be careful who you give your money to in free agency, because a lot of complacency can set in. He’s a guy that’s kind of scratched and clawed his way through, and you’re just very confident that if you give him that money, he’s only going to get better. Similar to D.J. Reed, another guy who scratched and clawed, you weren’t afraid to give him the money because he knew he’d capitalize on it, so with Lazar, there’s a lot of different things he does very, very well, but his leadership, and his mindset, and his grind is hopefully going to continue to flourish.

Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: You guys are in a position where you’re going after free agents who can help you win. Right now, it’s a different position than you’ve been in the past. What is it like to be in that position? What’s your pitch to them?

Young roster, very young roster, so it’s okay to add a few veterans. To be honest with you, the guys we’ve added are pretty young, but you always want to have that mixture of really good, solid veterans who’ve done it the right way, who’ve still continued to work and appreciate this and love the process from rehab and all that stuff, working out, meetings, practice, so you always want to build that mixture of veteran leadership along with that youthfulness of athleticism and juice.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, with Elijah (Moore), is there any frustration that you guys weren’t able to make it work with him? Because when you drafted him, you had pretty high hopes for him. I know you got an offer you guys liked, but after two years he’s gone now. Is there some level you wish it had worked out a little better than it did?

You always do. You always look in the mirror if it doesn’t work out with the player. As a coach, you just want to always go back and just try to figure out what went wrong, what could have been better, but Elijah had a really good second half of the year last year. I know that everyone’s going to talk about the first half and the trade demands, but he’s a tremendous young man, works his tail off. Got a lot better as the year went on and regained all his speed and was very productive for us, so there’s no doubt. Cleveland got a really good receiver, and he’s going to be good there for a while.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, you talked about wanting to keep the defense together. How do you plan to do that?

We’ll keep looking. Like I told Joe, we still have Quinnen (Williams). He’s pretty good, so we want to add those pieces and Sheldon Rankins is a phenomenal football player, did a lot. You guys know how much I love Shep (Nathan Shepherd), going to New Orleans and getting what he got. Really excited for him, but we’ll be alright. We’ll figure it out.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I need to ask, you were very young the first few years. It feels like since you got here, this is the year you’ve been pointing to, year three. You’re building it the first few years. Is the expectation this year playoffs?

Well, the expectations every year I feel like are always to every team win a championship. You guys know me. I’m not going to put mandates or expectations. We’re always expecting to win, we’re always expecting them to go as far as we possibly can, but once you set expectations, well what now? What now is the moment? And so we just got to stay focused in the moment, find ways to get better, maximize every single day that we have and whatever happens, happens. It felt like we got close a year ago. Obviously, the back half of the year didn’t go the way we wanted to, but we’ve got a really good group and we’re excited about the season and hopefully everything pieces together the way we want it to.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Robert, you added Chuck Clark during the offseason. Let’s talk about what he brings to the defense.

Chuck, another one of those guys who just freaking loves ball. Eats it, lives it. Got a tremendous mindset to him. Fights through pain, fights through injury. The guy’s got an Iron Man streak, I don’t know what it is, over a 1,000 plays in a row or something like that. Just an incredible talent, tackling machine, so he’s getting into a safety room that we’re really excited about. I think Jordan’s (Whitehead) going to be a lot better playing his second year in the system. We got some young guys that with Ashtyn Davis and TA (Tony Adams), they’ll hopefully take another jump, so it’s a really good group. He’s going to add veteran leadership to that group. Again, he’s coming from a championship organization to bring that championship mindset and we’ll see if we can grow off of it.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: How do you feel about how you guys are at with center right now? Connor (McGovern) is a free agent.

Yeah, obviously it’s a position we want to continue to address. The entire offensive line, we still want to address and make sure that we’re maximizing that group. Again, those are things we’re studying. We’re still looking at all the free agent lists. We’re going through the draft to look at what’s available, and so, there’s still some work to be done there.


Connor Hughes, SNY: Ben Jones is one of those free agents out there at center, and he’s got connections obviously to you. Is that somebody that you’re exploring?

Yeah, for sure. Again, part of the free agent list that we’re all looking at and just making sure that we’re crossing all our T’s and dotting our I’s.


Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Same question. Are you guys meeting with Calais Campbell this week?

You know what, I haven’t talked to Joe on that one yet. If Joe reported that one, or if it came from us, then we are, but I haven’t met with, he’s again somebody that with our defensive tackle, having two spots available, somebody that we’d definitely talk to.

Brian Costello, New York Post: How do you look at your tackle position right now? Because you have three guys, Duane (Brown), Mekhi (Becton), and Max (Mitchell) who are all coming off injuries, significant. So, are you counting on two of them or how do you approach that?

I’ll start with Duane. I got to start drinking the water he’s drinking, because I have no idea how he’s rehabbing and progressing the way he is. He looks fantastic. I see him in the weight room every day. Freaking love that dude. Mekhi, I mean I know he is posting videos. I mean he looks good, man. He’s doing all the right things. His mind’s in the right spot. Then Max, very confident that Max will come back fully healthy and ready to roll. Again, we’re still looking at that group and making sure that we cross our T’s, dot our I’s. There’s still the draft, there’s still free agency, and so we’ll continue to grow off it and continue to study all of it and make sure that we’re making the best decisions for the organization.


Robert, last year at joint practices, Zach (Wilson) had some lengthy conversations with Aaron, just about quarterbacking in the NFL. What can those conversations do for a young quarterback and their growth? Especially getting that experience during training camp?

I think anytime you have a young kid, not just a quarterback, and you have veteran leadership in that room, it can only help him. Especially if the veteran is the type of guy that you’re trying to follow. The guy that comes in early. The guy that takes care of his body. The guy that eats right, rehabs, does all the right things because it can go the other way where you’re looking at a veteran leader who’s kind of made it in the League, but he’s really doing the bare minimum. He can because he’s kind of gifted, where it can lead some of these young guys astray, so if you have the right leadership in there and a young guy has a chance to attach to that veteran’s hip, then it can only help.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Is Zach definitely your number two?

As of now, for sure. And again, like I said, we’re really excited to work with him. I want to make sure I rephrase that. When I said “as of now,” I know that’s going to be the headline, but he’s our number two. I really still think Zach has a future in this League to be a really good quarterback. I really do. He has the work ethic. He has the mindset, and he’s coming in here to attack it, but yeah, we’re counting on him to be a fixture here for a while.

Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Robert, speaking of that, Mike White ended up going to the Dolphins too. Let’s talk about how different it’ll be to see him in a Dolphins uniform, along with Braxton Berrios and Dan Feeney as well?

You guys know I love Mike, Braxton, Feeney, three guys that represent what you want with the mindset, the attitude, the commitment to the organization, their work ethic, all of it. To see them in a different uniform, you kind of get used to it after being so many years in the League. We’re all renters, as they say, so we all come and go.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, in the time you’ve sat down, Lamar Jackson has requested a trade. Is that an avenue you’re exploring?

He’s a heck of a quarterback, but again, that’d be more for Joe.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, you’ve talked lot about the young core. You guys haven’t been as active in the free agency as in past years. I’m curious how much of that is because you want to see these guys get a chance to keep growing and staying?

It is, for sure. We’re excited about the group that we have. Last year, our defense, for the most part, we’re bringing them all back. We still need to take care of our defensive tackle positions, but offensively, we love Garrett Wilson, love Corey Davis, love the two additions that we made with Lazard and Mecole and there’s a bunch of young guys. Hopefully (Denzel) Mims takes another step forward. Irv (Irvin Charles) takes a step forward, so there’s some young guys back there that we’re excited to see grow from the receiver standpoint. Running back wise, I’m expecting great things from Michael Carter. I know he had a down year a year ago, but I think he’s got a chance to come back strong. That usually happens where year three is a trigger for those young guys. Obviously, Bam (Zonovan Knight) finished the season strong, get Ty Johnson back and then Breece (Hall) looks fantastic, so we just have a really good mixture of young guys right now that we’re excited to grow and continue to work with. We’ll fill the needs where necessary.

Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: You guys have obviously done a lot of joint practices. Do you plan on doing more? I know you said with the Giants there’s interest.

For sure. We’ll see how the schedule comes out. We got the Hall of Fame game Week One and then we have a Week Two, depending on who that is. Hopefully, that’s a situation where we can have a joint practice.

Connor Hughes, SNY: What do you think of Carl Lawson? Is he going to be on the team this year?

I’ll speak for Joe on this one. You know pass rushers, they don’t grow on trees. Carl has a commodity in this League that’s gold, and so he will be here as long as he can walk and play, and rush the passer and affect it the way he does. He’ll be here.

Brian Costello, New York Post: With AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker), he showed his versatility last year before he got hurt. Is he back at right guard now?

Hopefully. Definitely, we think he’s an All-Pro caliber right guard, and I think he can be a heck of a tackle too, but he is an elite guard. Somewhere where we would love to keep him.

Brian Costello, New York Post: Can you describe what it’s like? I mean you’re in a weird spot with the Rodgers situation, because you think you have your quarterback, but yet you don’t officially, and there’s really not much left in free agency, so you’re really out of options. I’m wondering as a head coach, what kind of emotions, what kind of anxiety level you have? Because you’re this far down the road. It’s pretty much no turning back, and yet you still don’t have him yet, so what’s the anxiety level from the head coach?

Honestly, I’m not hitting the panic button. I’ve talked to you guys about it before. I worry about the things I have control over. That’s something I have zero control over, so I’m just going to focus my energy on the things that I do. It is what it is. I’m confident and I think that things are going to work out. You guys know me. Again, I’m a very positive person and optimistic, so I’m confident that things will go the way we’re hoping, but at the same time, it’s not going to eat at me at night.

How would you describe your meeting when you went out there?

It was great. I’ll keep the conversation to the sanctuary of his own home, but thought it was really good.

Connor Hughes, SNY: Are you going to do a darkness retreat?

I’m kind of intrigued by it. I’m not going to lie to you. Just to get away from cell phones. I love you kids, you guys know that, I love all of you, but four days of just sleeping on it, it’s got some pluses.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: He did say on the McAfree Show that you were pretty intrigued by it.

Well, I was just kind of curious. It’s easy to mock something that’s different. That’s kind of the trend, or whatever it is in this day and age, to mock something that’s a little bit different, but when people do things that are different, I’m more fascinated by it to figure out exactly what it is, to see if there’s something I can learn from.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, you’ve talked about how you’ve had players wanting to come to the Jets, and how that’s a sign of things going in the right direction. Is this what you’ve had as your vision, when you came here, by year three, people are going to look at the Jets as not the same old Jets?

Yeah, the idea is to, at my opening press conference, the plan was to win multiple championships, so again, to scrub the dirt off the organization, and to help, along with Joe and our coaching staff and all the players that are in the locker room, and everybody that walks in. There’s a lot of really good people in that facility. To change the narrative, to change the view of the organization, that’s always the vision. The only way you can do it is with winning. I feel like we’re going on the right track. I know it didn’t finish the way we wanted to a year ago, but I think there’s a lot of excitement on what we can be. We just got to continue attacking this offseason.

Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Robert, I just asked Mike McDaniel about the state of the AFC. He pretty much said iron’s going to sharpen iron. What is your assessment on how the division has gotten better? It seemed like Miami’s there, Buffalo’s still there, and then you still have the Patriots.

For sure. I feel like when I first got in the League, I was in Houston with Peyton Manning, and Tennessee was rolling, and Jacksonville was really good and then I go to the NFC West, and it’s Seattle and San Francisco, and Arizona was really good and then I go to Jacksonville again, and it’s same thing. You got Indianapolis had, who’s the other quarterback? Andrew Luck. Tennessee was still rolling, and Houston just got Deshaun Watson. Then I go back to the NFC West, and it’s arms race again with Seattle, San Francisco and the Rams, so I think I’m used to being in divisions that are absolute ball-busters, if you will, but it’s fun. It makes it competitive, and you know that if you can survive your division, you can survive anything.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: There’s been some conflicting information on just how interested if at all you guys are in Ezekiel Elliott, so can you clarify that for us?

We love our running backs. I’ll leave it at that.

Hey Coach, can you tell me what charities and causes you’re passionate about?

My wife, God bless her, she has a charity, Sanaa’s Stars, that is focused on attacking and helping those who have been sexually abused, children who have been sexually abused. She’s working on that thing with seven children every single day, and I’m proud of her. She does such a good job with it, and something that I support greatly.

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, coming off the first year, and the defense was 32nd. Obviously, you guys knew you had to do big changes. How different is it when you’re coming off a season when you’re the fourth defense? What’s the analysis like in terms of do we just make no changes because we were fourth? Or are you still tweaking everything and changing scheme and things, that kind of stuff?

We’re trying to find ways. You’re always going to add to the scheme. Again, maintaining our philosophy. We look back at the second half of the year. We got to get the ball. Second half of the year, we weren’t able to get the ball and takeaways. I know we attack it. I know we’re trying to disrupt it the best we can, but the set-up, score on defense, find a way to draw the ball loose. I think we saw the third-most runs in the League a year ago, which again, it’s hard to get the ball out on a running play. You want to be able to get some interceptions and all that stuff. We’ll be a lot better. We’re looking for ways to close the door. How can we be better when our offense scores, to slam the door shut on the opposing offense? There’s things that we got to get better. Some things that we’re going to focus on. Again, you’re always going to try to evolve your scheme to match what’s happening around the League, so it’s something that we’ll be always, always trying to evolve.

Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: Speaking of Garrett (Wilson), how do you think he can benefit from a veteran quarterback?

I think everyone can benefit from a veteran quarterback. When you’re a young guy playing, young guys make mistakes. To be able to work with a veteran who can get you steered in the right direction, and not just for his group, but you look at what Garrett has now with Lazard and Corey, he’s got Mecole Hardman coming in who’s also a veteran, so he’s got a lot of really good veteran talent around him. The same thing goes for Mims, to see these guys, these veterans. Same thing with all the other young guys we have at receiver. Just being surrounded by veterans, whether it’s quarterback or somebody in your own room is always beneficial.


Brian Costello, New York Post: What do you feel like Hardman adds to the offense?

Gas. I know he ran a 4.3, but he plays 4.3. He’s got elite, elite field vision with the ball in his hands. I think he’s second in NFL in YAC (yards after catch), behind only Deebo Samuel. He can blow the top off the coverage. It is very easy to get him the football with regards to jet sweeps, and screens and bubbles and all that, but I think he’s an underrated route runner. Something that we’re going to try to help him get a lot better at. I think he’s still has a lot of juice and a heck of a higher ceiling to reach as we develop the intermediate route running skills of his. He’s again, one of those guys, if you could just get the ball in his hands, he’s going to make something happen.

Do you get excited about the quarterback or are you more like I don’t want to talk about it until it’s official? Whatever official means.

Yeah, obviously you’re imagining a world that you have a quarterback, but you just got to stay focused in the moment and focus on the things that you’ve got control over and continue to work in the direction that you want with regards to the install and all that stuff.

Brian Costello, New York Post: What’s your opinion on the sneak play that the Eagles popularized in the playoffs with the push?

As long as no one is getting hurt, I don’t care. It’s a cool, little play that they have going and I’m sure you’re going to see 31 other teams doing the same thing.


Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) How about defending it? From a defensive perspective?  

It’s hard. They do such a good job, just getting so much push. Just watching the Niners game, they had a couple of them, and I’ve got so much respect for that Niners d-line (defensive line). The amount of push that they were still generating. It’s a heck of a little deal, and I know they got a bunch of plays off of it. So it’s a good, it’s a cool scheme that they exploited.

Connor Hughes, SNY: Have you guys heard at all about Hard Knocks? You’re eligible.   

We’re eligible. We’re eligible, but you guys, I’m a coach, I don’t want to know. I’ll leave that one alone.

Have you all made any contact with Ezekiel Elliott?

No, again, he’s part of the free agent list that we all studied, but when you look at Breece, and Ty Johnson, and Michael Carter and Bam Knight, the guys that we have in that room, we’re really excited about the guys that we have.