Head Coach Robert Saleh, 6.17
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Obviously, now we’re going into training camp, you’re first time as a head coach. So what will be different from your viewpoint going into this training camp?
From my viewpoint, obviously there is a more global aspect to it all, with regards to scheduling, and being part of those. Trying to divvy out the day to make sure every position group is getting their time along with each unit, coordinators, making sure players are getting their time. So, really the big difference is going to be scheduling.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: This is just note keeping but, we noticed that Chris Herndon wasn’t out at practice yesterday. Was he in the building rehabbing? Could you provide any update there on him?
He was good. He came out to practice, he felt a little bit of tightness, went in. He’s perfectly fine. Wasn’t something that we wanted to push yesterday, but he’s fine.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Tightness in his hamstring or something?
Rich Cimini, ESPN: More of a big picture question. Now that your first offseason is essentially over, what do you think the biggest thing you guys got accomplished?
Each phase brought its own objective. With phase one, the big objective was to try to introduce ourselves to each other, players to coaches, coaches to coaches, coaches to players, and vice versa. Phase two was when we really got a chance to get on the field with the guys for the first time and really re-introduce and execute all the football 301 things that we talk about, with regards to techniques and fundamentals. Then phase three, with all the practices, we wanted to establish the speed at which we operate, and the standard at which we practice in all three phases. We felt like we got all of it accomplished. We felt like it’s been a very productive spring, we’re healthy, which is the most important thing, and we’re looking forward to training camp.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I know this is your first year as a head coach but, how beneficial do you believe having this offseason was? Last year there were no OTAs and minicamps, can you tell a difference in terms of preparation for the guys that were here, having this program, compared to last year when there was no program?
Last year was their second year in the system, so I can’t speak to last year, I could only imagine, for all the first year coaches that had to deal with no offseason, and then come in to training camp and try to install things. When you look at our group, from the first practice, all the way to the last practice yesterday, the improvement has been awesome, it’s been great to see. There were some hair pulling moments, even for myself–
(follow up) Hair pulling?
Not my hair pulling, maybe on my arms or something. (joking) I just tried to put myself in the shoes of all the first year coaches from a year ago, the angst they must have felt during training camp when they’re a week into training camp and they’re like, “Oh my god, we’re so far away,” because, after the first week of OTAs it’s like, ‘Jeez we’re so far away.’ But, to see the improvement, I think it’s priceless. Call me biased, I think football is impossible to get better at on your own. It has to be played, you can’t find a pickup game of basketball, you can’t find a batting cage to go to, you can’t go to batting practice. It’s something where it takes all 22 people, it takes work, it takes people working with one another to get better. Unless you’re doing it in the offseason as a team, I can’t imagine what those coaches a year ago went through.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: You talked a lot when you were introduced about establishing an identity and a culture. How much of that do you think you got done during the spring, and how much of it needs to get done when you’re in pads at training camp, like you’ve talked about before, going through some adversity?
Culture, I know that word does get thrown around a lot. I believe the culture is basically created by the people that are brought into it. That goes back to all the discussions in this offseason, everything Joe (Douglas) and his staff have done, the collaboration that has happened throughout the year, with regards to bringing in men of tremendous character, men who want to play football, love football, want to get better every single day, and just have that mindset. As far as the identity goes, touched on it a couple of times, our identity is not going to reveal itself until we see adversity. When things are good everyone loves being part of winning, everyone loves being part of the good things. The whole disease of me, of course things are going to be good but, what’s going to happen when you hit adversity, when things aren’t going your way? How are you going to look, not only as an individual but as a team? Those moments have to reveal themselves. Like I’ve said a million times now, we’re going to have a lot of ebbs and flows. There’s going to be a lot of great moments, there’s going to be a lot of hair-pulling moments. At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to shape this football team.
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY: What do you want that identity to be when it starts to reveal itself?
It’s hard to answer that question in this regard. You look back and at some of the great coaches in the history of this league. You go back to Don Shula, he was smashmouth football, great defenses, and then Dan Marino comes around and the identity of the football team switches. Bill Belichick had the same thing, he shifted the team’s identity when Tom Brady got better, it went from defense to Tom. The identity of the team is going to happen organically, and if you try to force feed an identity, it just because of what you want it to be as an individual, sometimes you counteract what you’re trying to get done and that’s an organic identity that will flow a heck of a lot more than something that’s force-fed. I do think that this team is built in the way that the identities can be something that we all are excited to watch on Sunday.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: You said that you wanted to give all the young corners all the reps that they could during the Spring, that’s why you didn’t bring in a veteran. How much of an improvement have you seen from those young corners?
We’ve seen some good improvement. Joe and I were just talking a little about it today, we’ll talk more obviously in the next couple of weeks, we were just talking about some of the rookies and the improvements that they’ve made. We talked about the guys who have been here, and the improvements that they’ve made, and the excitement to get them to training camp, to get them against other receivers, to see them against the receivers that the Giants have in the first preseason game, and to see them against Green Bay and Philadelphia. These are going to be really great moments for those guys because we are going to be able to see what they are capable of doing. There has been some good improvement and there’s a lot to look forward to.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: What did you learned about Zack (Wilson) over the last two months?
Zach loves ball, that’s one thing that I’ve learned. He’s unflappable in the sense that he doesn’t care whether something went good or bad, He wants to know why it went good or bad, he wants to learn from it. He is wired exactly the way you want all players to be wired, so now it’s just a matter of him getting as many reps as possible, to go into as many situations as possible, to see how much he can get better.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: As you know, the league put out new COVID vaccination protocols yesterday, from a head coaching perspective, are you comfortable enough, with how you guys are now, so that when you get to Training Camp, you’ll be able to run a camp without having disruptions and distractions from guys who aren’t vaccinated?
Comfort, discomfort, honestly Rich, I don’t know how to answer that question. It still comes down to personal choice. There’s still going to be protocols set down by the league, there’s still going to be things that we have to work around, whether you’re vaccinated or not vaccinated, there’s still going to be a lot of things that we have to do to make the operation work from a day-to-day basis. So the comfort lies in preparation and making sure that we’re scheduled the right way and that we have things blocked off so there’s no hiccups, and if someone has to sit out, we can keep the operation moving without having to move the entire organization somewhere else. To answer your question, I’m very comfortable in the way that we’ve been able to take what the protocols have been given, and to make sure that the scheduling fits in a way that we shouldn’t have a hiccup in the way that we prepare on a day-to-day basis.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: What do you want to see from Zach Wilson while he’s going through his first training camp?
The same thing I want to see from everybody, to get better. You’ve had all of them, not to deflect Zach, they’re all the same to me in the sense that they’ve done a great job establishing a foundation here in this phase three, they’ve done a great job doing that. They’ve all got a little bit better, they’ve all, at least grasped, what’s trying to be taught schematically offensively, defensively, and with special teams. There’s 30-40 days where they have off and they’re going to be presented with a million opportunities and a million decisions to either capture what they’ve accomplished and build upon it, or let it go and go do something else. We really want these guys to really grab hold of what they’ve been able to accomplish here in the first couple of weeks of phase three, take it into these next 40 days, and to see if they can find a way to start a little bit better in training camp than when we leave today. That’s exactly what I want to see, and I want to see everyone get better.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Touching on that corner position again, Robert. After seeing these guys throughout OTAs and minicamp, I remember you had said you wanted to assess the young guys and then see where you guys were. Are you confident with just that group or would you like to add a body there?
I’ve said it before, I think, the difference between player A and player Z in the entire league, I’m not talking about superstars, I’m not talking about the Aaron Donald’s of the world, they’re unique. But the difference between player A and player Z is minimal and the only thing that keeps player Z from becoming player A is an opportunity and reps. Let’s see what happens. Does it always happen? It doesn’t, but unless you’re willing to be bold enough to coach your tail off and to invest as much as you can into these young men and give them the opportunity to be seen, give them the opportunity to get reps, and give them the opportunity to get better, you’ll never know what you might find. So, that’s just the belief and the philosophy of not only our coaching staff but the entire organization and that’s something we’re committed to.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Obviously, you have a really young team. You could have at least a half a dozen rookies playing prominent roles this coming season. So, I’m wondering as a young coach yourself, how do you feel about the prospect of relying on so much youth and inexperience in the season?
Pete Carroll once said, “You can’t be afraid to play young guys.” They’re hell on wheels and they’re fun to watch. It could go either way, just mentally there’s so many things that they can learn, but there are going to be ups and downs, that’s part of youth. But if you coach and you invest and as a player you reciprocate and you invest back, especially when you’re youthful and you’ve got juice in your legs and your still running that 4.4-forty that you ran at the combine because you’re young and you can get your mind to a veteran’s frame of mind as fast as you can then that’s where you become an explosive team in a hurry. But to get to that point takes some trials and tribulations, some bumps in the road and some headaches. You can’t, as a football coach, be afraid to go through those bumps because there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a freight train or it’s actual light, but it doesn’t matter, we’re going through that tunnel and you just got to go. It’s an exciting time for these young guys, it’s an exciting time for this organization and we’re just excited to see how it plays out.
Kim Jones, NFL Network: Hey Robert, I was asking Greg Van Roten the other day about the change in the building. He’s been a veteran in this league, I thought he could speak to it pretty well and he did. He said it’s as if hope has come back into your building. If you accomplished that this spring, how satisfying in a way would that be for you knowing the team and the record of the team you took over, and the fact that some of these players in some ways mentally as much as physically almost needed to be rebuilt a little bit?
It’s never easy. I’ve been fortunate and unfortunate. I’ve been a part of Super Bowl teams, I’ve been a part of teams that have gone 2-14, 1-15 the very first year I was in the league. It’s not easy, especially when confidence is a very hard thing to regain and to be honest with you, when you talk from a confidence standpoint, it’s not even back yet. It’s like this is the world’s greatest honeymoon. Whenever a new group comes in, there’s the benefit of the doubt, but adversity will be the cement that solidifies everything that’s been built, going through those tough times. It’s been a great offseason, the guys have been incredibly receptive. We talked about this the other day, their resolve during the end of the season last year to go find two wins in remarkable circumstances speaks to the character of the individuals that are in the locker room. But when we get those adverse moments in the dog days of summer and we’re in preseason games and we might have an injury or we’re down players in a position group and some guys have to take extra reps. These moments, they’re the moments that are going to define this team, shape the leadership of this team, shape the identity of this team and propel us into the season. And, we’ll see more adversity during the season and how we handle those moments is what’s going to build us for not only this year, but the years to come. So, it’s cool that there is a positive outlook, it’s exciting that there’s a positive outlook, but we haven’t even scratched the surface yet in terms of what the overall outlook of this organization will be, for again, not only this year but the years to come.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: As a coach for the next six weeks, what do you do to get ready for the upcoming season and how much of what you’ve learned over this spring informs how you’ll prepare for training camp?
There’s seven kids and a beautiful wife waiting for me to come home. They haven’t seen me in a little over a year, if you think about it, dating back to last year and starting the new job. So, I’ll be spending a lot of time with them. When they shut it down during the day, I’ll probably turn on some film and try to create some cut-ups and do some things from football. Look at schedules, make sure things are good. Check with our chief of staff, (Steve) Scarnecchia, on day-to-day operations, make sure we’re doing good. But speaking personally, I need to hit the golf course and the swimming pool with the kiddos.