Head Coach Robert Saleh, 4.22
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Hey, Robert. I think this is the first time that we’re talking to you since the Sam trade went down. I know Joe (Douglas) has already discussed it. But can you just go through what that process was like for you, when you guys kind of came to the terms, and kind of how, I guess, challenging it was for you to let go of a player that you spoke highly of?
There was a lot of discussions going, that Joe, his staff, and our staff, we all had. And there was a lot of evaluation that took place. I’m excited for Sam. It’s a great opportunity for him to fulfill what he’s capable of in being the number three pick. So, of all the things that have transpired, I’m most excited for Sam and him getting the opportunity to do great things in Carolina.
Joe Mauceri, PIX11: Coach, looking at the draft, I’m curious how much does fit in your system matter as compared to talent at the available pick when you’re making your decision along with Joe, obviously?
There’s always trying to have a cognizant feel for fit, obviously. With regards to scheme we’re a 4-3 scheme, so you’re not going to take an inside backer from a 3-4 scheme to try to fit them into a 4-3 scheme. So, there is some. But at the same time that most of the positions are universal. So, if you’ve got a freakish talent, you just don’t pass those up. But like I said, Joe and his staff, they’ve got a great feel for the draft. They’ve got a great feel for the scheme that we run. They’ve got a great feel for all the players that are entering the draft. So, we’re excited to go through the process with him as he leads the way and excited for Thursday.
(follow-up) And if I could just follow up on that, how about just culture and character too, in terms of that fit?
I’ve always believed that if a player loves football, they’ll usually protect football off the field. They’ll do everything they can to prepare, to be the best football player they can be. They’ll prepare off the field, on the field, in the meeting rooms, whatever they have to do. So usually for us, we judge players by whether or not they love ball and how much that love is. And you can tell through the process, and that’s where I think our scouting department has done such a great job in really digging into the character of these individuals and finding out who they are and where they stand. And so, from that part of it, you always find the more they love ball, the harder they’ll try for it.
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY: Robert, what’s the risk for you putting in a new system and building a new culture with a rookie quarterback, as opposed to you obviously could have had someone with three years of experience? And also, how comfortable are you with whoever it is you know you’re going to get at the number two pick?
I don’t think there’s risk. It still comes down to having a good football team and building a good roster around everybody. There are players here that are talented. There are rookies that are going to be coming in that are talented. The expectation is that they’re one of 53 when it’s all said and done, and they’ve all got to perform their best to create a great football team. And so as far as pressure’s concerned, there’s no pressure on me. There’s always pressure. There’s always pressure to put together the best football team we possibly can, regardless of who’s playing. So, I’m very comfortable with every decision that’s made and it’s our job to get them to put them in the best position to be successful. And that’s not just the quarterback, but every single player that takes the field.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Hey Robert, I’m just curious, everything’s very new for you right now, obviously. Could you characterize your excitement level to have this number two pick? Obviously, you’re a defensive guy, but to shape this offense with a new quarterback and shape it in Mike’s (LaFleur) system and whatnot? And just, what’s your level of excitement for that?
This is cliche, and I’m sorry, Mark, but I’m excited for every single pick we have, because I do believe that Joe and his staff have such a great beat on the players that are entering it, that we’re going to have some really cool players that come into this building. And so the level of excitement for every single player, even our players to get on the grass with all of them, to kind of shape them all into our schemes and to see how they all fit and to see how they all work within it. It’s an exciting time. My excitement goes beyond just the number two pick. It goes to the 23rd, the 34th, 66th, 86th. It goes to all of them. And then including the players that are currently here and the opportunities that they’re going to have. So not to bore you with cliche answers, but I’m excited for all of it.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Throughout your coaching career, whether it be with David Carr in Houston, Russell Wilson in Seattle, Blake Bortles in Jacksonville. You’ve always been a part of organization that’s had either a young quarterback or a rookie starting quarterback. How much of that experience will aid you and your staff in developing this rookie?
Yeah, that’s a great question, DJ. I never really thought about it. I actually have had a bunch of young guys along the way, and we’ve seen successes with Russell and we’ve seen things not go so well at Jacksonville. The one thing that I can attest to is from a schematic standpoint, the scheme that LaFleur is bringing is the best scheme in the world from an offensive standpoint, in my opinion. Defensively, we’re a lot further along with regards to how we’ve evolved since those Seattle days back in 2013. So, it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. So, we’re very confident in the systems that we’re bringing. And we’re very confident in our ability to develop and help players reach their maximum potential.
Kim Jones, NFL Network: Hey Robert, I just wondered coming out of free agency and now going into the draft, how would you define, perfect’s a bad word, but kind of the perfect player that you want on your roster?
Oh, man. They come in all shapes and sizes, right? A lot of different positions. Like I said earlier, their love for football first. You always want to bring in great people who absolutely love football. And then from there, depending on the position and the fit with regards to what we’re looking for with regards to scheme and the talent level, there’s a million ways to skin a cat. Like Aaron Donald, a lot of people thought he was small. Well, look back at it, everyone would take him first in the draft. Calais Campbell is twice the size, but everyone would agree that he’d probably be the number one pick in his draft class. There’s a million different ways to skin a cat. It’s just about getting them into the building and developing them the best we can.
Kim Jones, NFL Network: If I can follow that up. In free agency, in particular, a lot of the players talked about playing for you as being a draw for the Jets. I just wonder how you would react to that, that this might be your first time around as a head coach, but you got players lining up to want to be under your tutelage.
It is cool. It’s more of a testament to the players. They want to play. They see the things we’re doing in this organization. You could always beat the narrative of “Same Old Jets,” but it’s not. And what Joe’s already been able to establish with the foundation and bringing in certain players and guys who love ball. And when you look at that free agency class that we’ve been able to bring in this year, you can talk about their talent levels all you want, and you can plus, minus whatever you want. But the one thing that you can’t take away from the men that were brought into this building is their absolute love for football. It is a tremendous group of leaders, a tremendous group of characters. And what Joe and his staff have been able to do from a foundation standpoint, the reason why these young men love to play, they love to play. And that’s all you want. Whether it’s for whatever their “why” is. It doesn’t matter. They just love ball. And so that’s what’s cool about the free agency class. And really the guys that are here and being able to have conversations with all of them, I don’t think people give enough credit to the people that are here already in terms of their love for football and what they want to achieve.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, when you mentioned about those players that you guys had brought in, in the scheme, I think when you look at the one positional group that maybe you guys didn’t address too much in free agency this year is the cornerback spot. And there is still a player out there who you’re familiar with, who could from… I mean, it looks like he might be able to help you guys, in Richard Sherman. Is that something that you would like to explore after the draft? Is that someone that you kind of have talked to Joe about potentially bringing in here to help the team?
Obviously, you guys know I love Sherm. There’s a lot of things that I’ll leave for Joe with regards to that. There’s a lot of things that go into play and that’s probably more for Joe’s alley to be honest with you guys.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Hey Robert, you’ve mentioned a few times on this call already that you want guys who love ball, that love football, and I’m sure being a good teammate is important. How do you square that up with the guys who opted out of college football last season when you’re evaluating that draft? Because somebody out there could make an argument, well, did they love football if they were willing not to play? How do you square that up in your mind? And then I had one follow after your answer.
That’s a great question, Brian. There is that question and that’s where I think our scouting department has done such a great job of trying to unpeel the onion and just peeling it away and trying to figure these kids out. Because a lot of kids opted out for serious issues with regards to family and they deserve that right. And then there’s some kids that used it to take advantage of the situation to be able to opt out. And so that’s where I think our scouts, Joe and his staff, have done such a great job kind of bringing that to light and figuring all that stuff out so we can discover or figure out whether or not that love for football is real.
Brian Costello, New York Post: And my other question was more about the guys already on the team. This week, you finally got to talk to them. I know it’s through the computer still mostly. I’m curious when you’re delivering your message to them, how do you sell this team right now in this division where Buffalo just went to the AFC Championship game, Miami won 10 games and they have a bunch of draft picks. New England has spent a billion dollars to improve their team. How do you sell them that they can contend in this division right now?
I’ll say this first and foremost, that it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do every day to get better. And that’s first and foremost. That’s the main focus. And with a great respect to Buffalo, Miami, New England, always, but our focus is in-house and what we got to do to get better every day. And whatever the results are, we’ll be happy with it because we’ll put our best out there.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, when you guys signed Jarrad Davis, it sparked a lot of speculation about C.J. Mosley’s future with the team. So, I’m wondering, does he fit into your plan this year? C.J.?
C.J., I think he’s one of those players that it really doesn’t matter what the scheme is, he’s going to fit. He’s been a fantastic player his entire life and that’s not going to change just because a new coaching staff has come in. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s a tremendous football player. He hasn’t played in a couple of years, so you know he’s just chomping at the bit to get back onto the football field. And so, we’re excited to get a chance to work with him and to help him get back to playing every day and being the star that he’s been.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, how you doing? How do you about, speaking of free agency, what you guys were able to do on the defensive line?
Oh man, it’s a cool start, that’s for sure. Getting Carl Lawson obviously, and adding him with Sheldon Rankins, and then adding those two with Vinny Curry also. And getting them adding into Quinnen (Williams), and John Franklin-Myers, and Foley (Fatukasi) and (Nathan) Shep(herd). And obviously there’s a couple of rookies and players that are also here. But it’s a cool group. It’s a really good start and it’s got a chance to be pretty, pretty disruptive. And we’re excited to get on the grass and work with them. It’s a different style then they’re going to be used to. I think Vinny’s is the only one that’s been in our style of play at Philadelphia with (Jim) Schwartz. So it’s going to be a little bit different, but I think they’re going to be really, really excited once they hit the grass and they feel the techniques and they’re able to go through it all and really expecting it to be a cool experience.
Robert, there’s a dispute going on right now between the union and the NFL about the spring program and your players are among many teams that put out a statement that they… Many players will skip the voluntary workouts. What’s your feeling on that? Especially putting in new offense, new defense, it feels like spring practice is as important to you as anyone right now.
Yeah. You know what, it’s always been voluntary. It’s been voluntary since I’ve been in the league. So, I always respect their decision on whether or not they want to show up. But we’ve had such a strong presence here, much stronger than I had anticipated. And they’re going to benefit, the ones who are here are going to benefit from it. And like I said, we’re excited to work with all of them.
Robert, last year, the cornerback spot, the Jets struggled a little bit at that spot. So, when evaluating cornerbacks, whether it’s size, ball skills, or their foot work getting in and out of breaks, what do you look for specifically?
First and foremost, whether or not they can win in man coverage. That’s the big thing. Every single game comes down to a one-on-one situation. And so obviously foot speed and all that stuff. There’s a million different ways to skin. A cat like Richard Sherman is 6-3, 32-inch arms, or 33-inch arms, whatever it is. And you guys see he’s a big lanky guy. And then you’ve got Jason Verrett, who’s this little itty-bitty guy, completely different body types and skillsets, but they both win in man coverage. And then Emmanuel Mosley, who we had in San Francisco, was in the middle of somewhere. There’s a million different ways to skin a cat. But the end result of winning in man coverage and getting off (the field) on those money downs are what’s important.