Q&A with Todd Haley - 9/22

Posted Sep 22, 2010


OPENING REMARKS: “We started preparation for the San Francisco 49ers. I think it’s to anybody that tuned in on Monday, which we were able to do a little bit of which is always a good thing, I think to watch a game on TV, in addition to the tape. You could see that they are a good football team, extremely physical.


“On offense, I though QB Alex Smith played a really good game – I think the statistics show that. I think he’s mobile, he runs fast, he can throw on the run, he can throw outside the pocket and he can run for yards. They’ve got three receivers, wide receivers including Crabtree and Morgan that can hurt you in a number of different ways – they can both run vertically, catch the ball in traffic and run after catch, which is the theme all these guys that catch the football, receivers, tight ends and backs included. I think they’ve got one of the best tight end duos in the league, from what I’ve seen in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker that can really run and can really stretch the field and create some matchup issues as we saw the other night. The offensive line is big and physical. Like I said, the quarterback does a very good job of locating open receivers and getting the ball out and at the same time pushing the ball down the field when he needs to. Last but not least, this running back, in my opinion, Frank Gore, is one of the true top running backs in the league. We had the misfortune to have to see him a bunch out in Arizona a couple times a year and he’s a heck of a football player. He can hurt you as a runner, breaks a ton of tackles, he’s a strong runner, physical runner and yet also catches the ball very well and as I said, everyone of these guys, run after catch is an issue that we will have to do a very good job of in this game to be in a position to compete with these guys.

“Defensively I know this staff’s been together one way or another for a long time. They have a bunch of players that are real good players, some of them that are true veterans and some that are developing into that role that know how to play the defense. Starting up front, this Justin Smith is one of the great motors in the league, on top of being strong, quick, fast, so he is a full-time job. They’ve got a very good front three, throw the whole seven in, including #52, LB Patrick Willis who is a truly great player or becoming a great player in the league at his position that covers the entire field. I told our players today about an overtime game in Arizona that we had a receiver running with the ball from his own 20 that looked like a sure touchdown to win the game in overtime and Patrick Willis, from the line of scrimmage, with a slight angle, ran him down, tackled him and we missed the field goal and lost in overtime. So I know this player, he’s very good along with Manny Lawson and the rest of the linebacker group. In the secondary, they’ve got a bunch of good young players and CB Nate Clement is one of the real good defensive backs in the league, in my opinion that you have to be aware of where he is. They’re well coached, they’re tough, they’re physical, they play football the way you like to see it played and it will be a big test.”

Q: It looked like there were some problems or issues with communication and getting plays in at Cleveland. Can you expand on that and to the people who aren’t familiar with the process of getting plays in, how that works throughout the game?

HALEY: “Yeah, really the last two games. I’m being made more and more aware of some issues that multiple teams have been having with the communications. We’re out-technology-ing ourselves. They said something about so something about so much HD in the building that it is having some sort of effect. Again, I don’t have facts on it other than know that two games in a row, one I attributed to weather and one this week that there wasn’t much to attribute that we were out of communication. I like our system of sending the plays in. I think it’s a tried-and-true system that works. Whether we’re calling plays from the box, the sideline, whatever we’re doing, with or without a headset, it is really very simple. The plays are numbered and the quarterback gets the number. That being said, I agree, you just don’t always know for sure when the quarterback is hearing what’s being said so sometimes when you’re unaware of that and somebody doesn’t see it early enough, which generally is a quarterback coming out of the huddle doing that (hand motions), then you can get pressed for time.”

Q: It wasn’t a problem with understanding what the play call was, it was more technology?

HALEY: “It was technology-based. Like I said, you would have no idea how much it’s been out on both sides of the ball really in these two games. I’m disappointed that anybody would even know because I’d like to think our system of doing it is pretty good and eliminates delay of games for the most part. But it does happen.”

Q: In your system do you use a backup all the time, in addition to communication do you do signals all the time?

HALEY: “No, no, no, offensively, and again everybody’s a little different – some people signal no matter what, some people won’t, but when it is functioning it is pretty smooth. The key is knowing exactly when the quarterback’s not hearing what you’re saying so time doesn’t become an issue and you can signal, which again is a pretty simple process – it’s not rocket science, for us coaches can (holds up hand) one, four, when you do numbers. If you weren’t doing numbers it becomes a bigger process.”

Q: Would you rather have your team approach this as we’re 2-0 and one of the best teams in the league or we’re not as good as our record shows?

HALEY: “I’m not thinking that way, so it’s impossible for me to answer that questions. What I’m worrying about is just this team continuing to make a little progress every day, to be better than we were last Wednesday on each Wednesday and so-on and so-forth, but really just each day, try to make a little progress and keep working and keep doing the things that we know give you chances to win. I know that it’s generally not going to be pretty with our group and I think it helps to be aware of that. When you do have a small margin of error you need to have fewer penalties and not turn the ball over and really operate on the basic fundamentals of football, which in this first quarter of the season and through the preseason we were one of the least penalized teams. That’s why we have to be in condition, we’ve got to think when we’re tired. We are in the middle of the foundation building and I’m happy that the players are able to see some of that reward, which is winning.”

Q: You’ve talked about winning ugly. Is there a part of you as a coach that likes doing it that way or does it bother you – would you rather have a prettier win?

HALEY: “I just want to win. And we haven’t won enough. Like I just said, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of work for these players, it’s a lot of work for these coaches, it’s a lot of sacrifice. The only real reward for that work is winning games and that feeling of coming into the locker room or walking off the field knowing you played better than your opponent that day and when you haven’t had much of that reward, it’s good to see some of it again. I know this is a results-oriented league and that number one result is winning, not losing. Through this first quarter we got two, three just got bigger.”

Q: Would it feel any different? It would certainly look different, but you talk about building the foundation, but if everything goes the way you want it to, would it eventually feel any different?

HALEY: “I understand the question Sam. I think though that we are in, I know I use the word, but we’re in the process of trying to turn a team and an organization around. It’s hard work, it’s not fun, it’s not easy. That’s the way it’s been to this point but I will say that when you are able to get that reward of a couple wins, it helps ease some of the transitioning. We’re in the middle of it and I’m just happy we’re making progress, and that‘s really the name of the game. When we do have success, when we do, which I think is down the road, how much and how that looks, there will be a lot of factors involved.”

Q: There have been a lot of questions about how RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones were going to split carries. He’s pretty much gone out and said he’s the backup. How has he embraced that role and how does (Assistant Head Coach) Maurice Carthon deal with the rotation of the running backs during the game, what are the deciding factors on who goes in and who goes out?

HALEY: “First off, you said that about Jamaal declaring, I’m unaware of that. Like I said, one of our ways that we are going to continue to work and become a team is for all these guys to understand that any one of these 61 guys and most specifically once we get through a week of practice the 45 that we determine the best chance to win have to be frontline contributors. That’s not easy. It’s easier on some teams. Right now, as I’ve said a couple times, from a depth standpoint, we don’t have a ton – I think we’re developing and guys are getting better and we’re making progress but one of our deeper positions is running back, so that means we’ve got a couple real good players, in my opinion, maybe three, maybe four, we’ll see as we go forward, that some way we need to figure out a way to contribute. RB Jackie Battle is playing 19, 20-some plays a game on special teams. We saw him in the preseason and he clearly looked like he was making progress and has got a chance to be a running back in this league, but right now it’s those 20-some plays that he’s contributing. Not to say that he won’t have some plays on offense that contribute. WR Dexter McCluster, he’s contributing some returns on special teams, he’s playing some receiver, he’s playing some running back, so he’s able to contribute. Now you get into the other two, Jamaal and Thomas, I think that we need to do similar-type things because we feel like they’re two of our real good players that have the chance to be real good players and that have proved it at different times in each of their careers, one a little longer career than the other, we’ve got to utilize the weapons that we have. Those guys are, in my opinion, both weapons. I think you’ve seen a little bit of that from both of them that have contributed to helping us win. I think that’s part of this process we’re in of figuring out what each week gives us the best chance to win. So far, through two games in the first quarter of the season, I would rate us successful because of what we talked about earlier. We have a clear-cut plan going in of kind of how we want to do things with each guy, but this is a fluid game that there’s a lot of variables involved – we saw some weather in the first game, we saw different conditions in the second game and different situations, so you must be able to adjust in the way you see fit that gives you the best chance to win. I’ve been with Mo (Carthon) for nine different years in four different places. He, in my opinion, is the top running back coach that I’ve been around. Now there are some real good running back coaches in the league. This group has one. He does a tremendous job of understanding where guys are throughout each game and kind of what mental and physical state they’re in.”

Q: You probably didn’t see Andy Reid’s press conference today about QB Michael Vick and there were a lot of questions about how could he change his mind from Monday to Tuesday. One of his replies was that he didn’t consider it a problem; he considered it a phenomenal thing to deal with. Is that what you’re saying about the running back situation?

HALEY: “It is in no way a problem for us. I will say the more and more signs I see form these players here that are working together and working hard, worked real hard today, that we’ve got more and more guys that are understanding that it’s not about who starts, it’s not about who finishes, it’s about the result and what they can do to help that result and heck, that is what it’s about. That’s what it’s been about since any of us have played or been a part of a team. I’ve heard some rumblings about that situation. I have a great amount of respect for Coach Reid and I’m sure he’s going to play the guys that give them the best chance to win each week. That’s his decision but that’s what I’m worrying about.”

Q: Do you and (Offensive Coordinator) Charlie Weis coordinate in terms of which guy is in the game for which plays Charlie might want to call?

HALEY: “Yeah. I would say offensively that’s a group project. These offensive coaches and defensive coaches spend a lot of times in their own meetings with each other. That’s one of the hard parts of this job and why having some common thought processes really help 16, 17 grown men sitting in a room for hours and hours and hours and some of those are always interesting through the years. That is a discussion amongst the coaches all week because you have to rep, you have to practice, you only get so many practice reps. Today we had 37 plays or 36 plays of team reps. You can’t just do anything you want, you’ve got to have guys ready to go. You have to figure out who’s going to be at the game and who’s not and you’ve got to get them reps to know how, what, where. That’s all part of the process. Then on game day we could throw it all out the window and say ‘Well, there’s a monsoon. I’m going to do this.’ There are a lot of variables. I think teams that are successful over time, generally they make better decisions than others.”

Q: TE Tony Moeaki didn’t play a whole lot in the preseason. He lost one game to injury, but were you just trying to keep him under wraps a little bit?

HALEY: “I would have a hard time doing that Adam. He lost more than a game. I’ll say this, tight ends in training camp are lumped in with offensive linemen – generally they’re not going to feel very good. That’s just the way that it is. That mentality is critical to the success of tight ends and Tony is developing that and he’s got a ways to go but I would say there are some encouraging signs about him but I would never keep somebody that could be a part of this team (out) – you’ve got to get ready, you’ve got to get ready to go and you’ve got to utilize every bit of time you have because that’s a difficult position, -- you’re learning run and pass routes, steps, adjustments, all those things, which is a big job.”

Q: Is he ahead of where you anticipated him being at this point?

HALEY: “This whole rookie group, from the start, has stayed a little bit ahead of the curve. That’s what I know I’m excited about but I also know this is a long season, longer than they’ve ever experienced. If you coach long enough you see guys react and respond differently and there are guys you’re excited about that tend to wilt and others that keep getting better and better. All we have is what we know to this point and I think they’ve all shown enough to be excited about but at the same time, the good thing is they’ve got a ways to go, which is a good thing.”

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