“Offensively, explosive. Defensively, there are a lot of talented and skilled players across the board. They’ve always been one of the best defensive lines that you’ll see. The linebacking group I think you could put up against anybody and then some experienced secondary players led by number 20 in (Donte) Whitner, (Terrence) McGee and Drayton Florence, you have a pretty formidable defense. As I mentioned special teams, they have a punter that can boom it, they’ve got a young returner in (C.J.) Spiller as a kickoff returner that looks like he can score any time that he touches it and (Roscoe) Parrish has shown that, 1,500 return yards in his career for a 12-yard career average and multiple touchdowns, I think three or four. It’s hard to explain. I think it points to how hard it is to win in the NFL on a week-to-week basis in addition, what I would say about this team is they appear very well coached, they don’t give you much, they’re a low, low penalty team – I think second in the league right now, ahead of us – and they will not give the ball up, although in the last game that obviously hurt them but not something they do on a regular basis. We’ve got our work cut out for us. This is a team that plays hard, plays physical and we’ve got to figure out a way to get better each and every day this week to go out and to play our best.”
Q: What do you see for LB
HALEY: “You know we made a couple changes here in the last week and I’ve said that before, that we’re going to continue to always be working the roster and working it to try to be proactive at times and that’s probably more what this is about and trying to make sure that we’re getting better at all times. Obviously he’s an experienced guy in the league that we’ve worked out a few times that we thought could come in and create more competition.”
Q: He had a two-year layoff. Is all the rust off?
HALEY: “I don’t know. We’ll have to see. We worked him out multiple times, we’ve got some coaches on our staff that have been with him, not that had anything to necessarily do with the decision but again, no different than the receiver move, we’re trying to get better at all times. If there’s somebody out there on one of our lists that we think can help us do that, we’re going to take a look.”
Q: Is this a leadership thing too, locker room guys as opposed to what he does between the lines?
HALEY: “No, Randy, I think you said that. What I’ve been very clear about is anybody that comes into this building as a player, it’s about playing first. The character aspect and we’re looking for certain types of people, dependable people on and off the field, but that is always the next step in our evaluation process, or the parallel step. But playing is a mandatory requirement. We’ll see. The opportunity to come in here in a little more proactive position from a staff standpoint and we’ll see if we can make progress.”
Q: Do you foresee him being active Sunday?
HALEY: “We’ll just have to see how the week goes Randy.”
Q: When you decide to go for a fourth down, regardless of situation, how much of that is feel for you and the staff and how much of that is scientific?
HALEY: “If I understand the question clearly Kent, I would say it’s a combination but never on a whim, so-to-speak. Without giving away any kind of competitive advantage or disadvantage, depending upon whether you get it or you don’t get it, it’s thought out during the week and it’s thought out within each and every series, and there is some feel involved within the series for sure, or at the start of each series. It’s not ‘it’s fourth and this; I think we can get it.’ It’s a little more thought out than that, but there is some feel involved.”
Q: How much do you study statistics and probabilities? I don’t know what you studied in college but there are some ways to sort through that.
HALEY: “Please do not go back and try to find my grades for every year, Kent. I think it has a factor in our games so I think that you better be paying attention to and be at least aware of some probability and odds, so-to-speak, as you head into games. But again, like I’ve said many times, it’s not computer versus computer and there are a lot of guys that I think make that mistake. There is some feel, a great deal of feel involved within a game and in my opinion and the coaches that I’ve seen and the guys that I watch and tried to learn from, that feel or instinct is better than a lot of guys around them. I think that’s one of those things that you probably develop you have, you don’t have. I think a lot of it’s probably personality-driven also. As we used to joke in my family, there were box people, we had box people in our family and those were people that were within the box and we had outside-the-box-people. My mom was a box-person. The bed had to be made a certain way every day.”
Q: Do you subscribe to the belief that the conventional way of thinking, like punting every time on fourth down is outdated?
HALEY: “I’d probably choose not to get into that Kent, I appreciate the question, I think it’s great talk, but again, for us and what we’re trying to do, I’d prefer to just keep my thoughts, decisions close to the vest.”
Q: Do you discuss it every week with your offensive staff? During the game, as it’s evolving, do you discuss it with the offensive staff?
HALEY: “Again, I think there is some competitive advantage/disadvantage to this conversation and I appreciate the curiosity and the need to know but at the same time, I will say that none of those decisions are ever made on a whim. However you see that, I would say there is week-long discussion that generally involves everybody because I think everybody’s involved, offensive coaches, defensive coaches and special teams coaches, and the players most importantly. So I think that it’s something that I think everybody has to understand, be aware of and buy into or believe.”
Q: So that’s something you actually discuss with players at some point during the game?
HALEY: “Yeah, but I wouldn’t put too much into that. I talk to the players about a lot of things, especially game situations and that goes all the way back to last year in that we want to eventually be a situationally-smart football team. I think situationally-smart football teams win more games in a league that right now, games decided by seven points or less is over 50 percent, meaning that games are coming down to a play here or a play there, a situational football play, decisions, reactions, all those things. I think if you have a situationally-smart football team and over 50 percent of your games are coming down to seven points or less, then you have a chance to take advantage and probably win more than you lose.”
Q: When you worked with someone who is now the head coach of another team, is there any insight that you take away from that?
HALEY: “You know Karen, I think it’s kind of like that player discussion when there is a player from one team to another. So much changes on a year-to-year basis but even on a week-to-week basis and teams are adjusting and figuring out what their guys do best and how they do things and what works best for them. I think a great deal of that is overrated. That being said, Coach (Chan) Gailey has been a head coach a lot longer and in more places than I have, no different than any other of these head coaches, coordinators that as a coordinator, you would study and keep a book on and know things they like to do but what you find out with that most years, even teams within your division is they change. People self-scout, they do a great deal of self-scouting on a quarterly basis, week-to-week basis, whatever everybody decides to do and the reason for the self-scout is for that, to make sure that there is no major tendency. The Bills obviously do a bunch of that and you see enough change, especially as they find out what kind of team they’re going to be.”
Q: You talked last week about getting WR
HALEY: “I thought that Dexter, really along with every other offensive player, when you have that kind of production and he had some carries which I was excited about, that’s something that I really wanted to see happen because I think that when you have some real good running backs like we do, somebody with some maybe different abilities could get lost in the shuffle. What I was most excited about was we were able to get him in the backfield and carrying the football and he was successful and did that pretty efficiently. He, along with everybody else on offense I thought did a terrific job executing the game plan for the most part and being part of a real good team win.”
Q: You’ve been very judicious with how many times he touches the football. That’s obviously planned on your part because he’s not a 6-1, 230 pound back?
HALEY: “Yeah, like I said, when he came into the mix in training camp, I thought that would be one of the head coaching decisions to monitor, whatever the word is, would be an important part of his development was making sure that not only we didn’t do too much but that also we do enough. That’s the thing that sometimes comes into question is where do you set the bar on any player. I’ve talked about it with RB Jamaal (Charles), I’ve talked about it with Dexter (McCluster), where do you set the bar, what’s too much, what’s not enough? The good thing is he’s getting better every week. Our offense is getting better every week because there are a lot of other guys like him that are making progress and that’s what I’m absolutely most concerned with, that each side of the ball, special teams and then us as a team as a whole are making improvements each and every day and obviously, most importantly each and every Sunday.”
Q: We saw that WR Dexter McCluster was watching drills at practice today when we were out there after he came out of the game late Sunday. What can you tell us about his status for this Sunday?
HALEY: “I will tell you what I saw, you have very good backwards walking ability in addition to the most interesting tripod/camera setup that I’ve seen. I’m not going to talk about any of that. Like I said, all these guys here, they’re not going to feel any better than they did yesterday. That’s just the way it is. We’ve got a bunch of guys fighting through a lot of things and I’m sure Dexter’s no different than everybody else. That’s part of the NFL, that’s part of becoming part of a good football player.”
HALEY: “That word is bothersome to me, again for some of the reasons that I stated early on, it’s hard to win in the NFL. Our team, the good thing about what we’ve gone through is that we’ve played better than our opponent on four Sundays and we haven’t played better than our opponent on two, so we’ve seen both sides of the coin and I think our players have done a very good job of understanding each and every week their opponent and they’re learning how important that is and how important that film study is from a group standpoint and an individual standpoint. That’s one of those areas when I’m talking about getting better, that’s one of the areas I’m talking about is our team’s ability to study the opponent that we have this week and that they understand last week has nothing to do with this week. This week stands alone, it’s on an island. We’re playing the Buffalo Bills, and thankfully they’re coming here which I’m much more excited about than having to go there. Having been on the teams I’ve been on I’ve had to go there way too much. It’s fun, other than some of the best junk food in the world, in my opinion, which I enjoy very much.”
Q: As you prepare for this game, do you draw on last year at all when you guys were still winless and you couldn’t get over the hump and then, when you did, how that felt, how you played and that maybe they’re not as bad as their record says?
HALEY: “Yeah, I think that I have. I talked a little bit about us going on the road and going to Washington and one of the good things we did that week as a team without getting too caught up in the past is that it meant a lot to us as a team to get better. And one of the signs of getting better and the reward to hard work and sacrifice would be coming out of there with a win, which we were able to do. I talked about some of those things but most importantly I think it is about understanding who your opponent is and what their strengths are and it doesn’t take much time in the film room to understand that this team has a lot of weapons across the field offensively, defensively and on special teams. Like I said, that is a good thing for me as a head coach because I think the more your players understand, especially here the last two weeks having played a Houston team that I was very clear on how explosive they were and there are some similarities between the two teams. Houston was a team that could run for a TD from 80-plus yards out, they could throw it, they could run by you in the passing game for a TD, they could return one for a TD and this team has some of those same characteristics. They have a quarterback that is playing at a high level much like Houston’s quarterback was and that is a dangerous combination in addition to a pretty balanced attack, 50-50 run/pass team on first and second down. They have backs that can really run the football.”
Q: What do you attribute all of this early success to?
HALEY: “I think it is a combination of variables. Number one, what I have said, what I know and what I believe is that you must develop the players on your roster, especially those first, second, third and fourth-year guys. What we have been able to do with some of these fourth, maybe fifth year guys that have made progress. Even guys that have been in the league longer than that have made progress. If you don’t develop the players on your roster you have very little chance of being a successful team, especially year-in and year out. Player development is absolutely critical along with player acquisition. Free agents, rookies that you draft, rookie free agents, bringing in types of guys that fit in with what you are doing and knowing how you want to do it but most importantly having the skill to do it. We have had a bunch of new coaches come in that I have had a great deal of experience with in the past so we have been able to efficiently continue moving in the direction that we started last year. We are in the foundation laying process and that started last year. It went on all of last year and continued through the off-season and it is continuing now. That foundation is being laid by some of those things that I just talked about.”