Q&A with Todd Haley 11/17

Posted Nov 17, 2010


OPENING REMARKS: “We started to prep for the Arizona Cardinals. We got a bunch of base work, regular Wednesday stuff; we’re in pads trying to really just get back to fundamentals for our team – fundamentals of doing things the right way in all areas, offensively, defensively and special teams. I thought we had a good days work and I thought we made progress. This Arizona Cardinal team, obviously myself and some other guys on staff and some players have some familiarity with the team. They’re an explosive team offensively. They have one of the best receivers in the league in WR Larry Fitzgerald, another guy in WR Steve Breaston that in my mind is one of the best receivers in the league. They’ve got some good young tight ends that are able to make plays. They’ve got some good young backs in (Tim) Hightower and (Beanie) Wells that are different types of runners but both run the ball really hard and can run it well. They have a big, physical offensive line that’s pretty familiar to me and a couple quarterbacks that I don’t have a lot of familiarity with other than seeing them around the league.


“Defensively, they are an explosive team on defense – as explosive of a team as we’ll see, starting with S Adrian Wilson. He’s a big, physical presence that’s all over the field, a run-and-hit guy that will make big plays. DT Darnell Dockett up front, one of the most active inside linemen and one of the best inside lineman, in my opinion. Then they have some backers that can rush the quarterback and play the run in Clark Haggans and (Joey) Porter and inside, they’ve got one of the big guys on their team, one of the heart-type individuals in number 54 (LB) Gerald Hayes coming back for them I know is a big thing. We’ve got our work cut out for us, we’re going to have to do everything we can though to just continue to make progress and worry about the Kansas City Chiefs because that’s really what it is about for us, just making progress and getting a little better every day.”

Q: How much have they changed since you left?

HALEY: “You see a bunch of things that you recognize and yet you see a bunch of thing that you don’t recognize. Defensively, they’re still doing a lot of similar things that I’ve seen a bunch of but there are a bunch of new wrinkles also and same goes for offense – you’ll see plays develop and you’ll have a clear-cut vision of what it is and other plays that you know are something new. It looks like they’re doing a lot of the same things.”

Q: It appears you’ve struggled offensively in the first half sustaining drives and have done better on it in the second half. Is there a reason for that, have you seen that on film or that just an anomaly?

HALEY: “I think there are reasons for it when you don’t sustain drives, we’re probably getting behind on first and second down, probably not executing on third down, you’re asking for a specific reason why?”

Q: Why do you think you’d struggle more in the first half than the second half because that seems to be a trend?

HALEY: “Offensively, maybe a little but overall as a team I feel like where we’ve tried to put an emphasis is on improving and getting stronger in the second half. Obviously last week was not how you can play ever and you can’t start like that in general. What I’d like our team to do is start fast and finish strong and I don’t know that I have an answer for you right now on that trend but I know that it all happens for a reason and it’s just matter of us coming out as an 11-man operation and executing. When we do that, we’re pretty effective and efficient as an offense and when we don’t, we’re not. Why it’s happening in one half over the other I don’t know that.”

Q: Is QB Matt Cassel going to be on your injury report when you release it today?

HALEY: “No. Matt had a full practice today. He was out there practicing and I thought he had a good practice at that.”

Q: Do you look at this game any differently because this is a coach and a team that you worked directly before you took this job?

HALEY: “No, I think every game is a big game and every game is a game we have to win. Any time you have a lot of ties on a another team, I can’t say it changes how you prepare or do anything, you just always want to win and any time you can beat your friends it feels a little better. That’s what we’re trying to do every week, I just happen to know a lot of guys on this team.”

Q: You said you went back to basics. Is that something you normally do or don’t have to do just past the halfway point in the season or is that a sign that you haven’t kept the same pace of progress that you did early on in the season?

HALEY: “I think that you monitor your team and you do the things that you feel are necessary, you work on things that you feel you’re lacking in or you’re maybe not operating quite as efficiently as you want to but when you have a check-up type game like we did last week, it may be multiple times in the season where you say we’re going back to the basics. The good thing is we had a mindset going into the off-season, we had a mindset in the preseason, throughout training, we kept that mindset and for whatever reason it feels at least last week, I don’t know that I can lump the week before into that, that there was a slight change in mindset. You have to scout yourself in a number of different ways and attitude, all those things, and like I’ve said in here, when you start to have some success winning football games, sometimes that can be deterrent to what you’re really trying to get done which is make daily progress. If nothing else, it was a wake-up call to us as a coaching staff that we have to get back to the mindset that was allowing us to compete and be in games because we were in every game up until last week and last week was really the wake-up call game that we can’t play games like that. They happen, they occur, you saw some others in the league over the weekend, but they can’t happen to us the good thing is we can prevent those games from happening as long as we are doing the things that we know we have to do to not allow it to happen. That’s really all that going back to basics is. The good thing, like I said, we were in pads as much as anybody else in training camp, we stayed in pads off and on – we’ve had weeks like the Indy week where we were in pads three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We’ve had short weeks like the Cleveland week where we weren’t in pads. We’ve had some other back-to-back weeks where we were having some success that we weren’t (in pads) but we’ve stayed in touch with the pad aspect. When I say back to fundamentals and basics, I always think pads and I think our guys understood that, understood why we were in pads today and I thought we went out and got a good day’s work.”

Q: Have you given any thought to the rest of the week yet?

HALEY: “We’ll see. We decide that each night when we have our staff meeting.”

Q: You’ve given up some big plays in the secondary. WR Larry Fitzgerald may be the best in the league, how do you go about defending him differently, if at all, and does your familiarity with him help?

HALEY: “Well, you’re right; he’s one of the best in the league, if not the best. I have a great amount of respect for Larry. You just have to play defense is number one. There are different ways to defend people and we have to look at this team just like we look at any other team and look at their strong points and look at the people we can clearly say ‘We’re not going to let this guy beat us and we’re not going to let this guy beat us.’ That goes for offense and special teams also. You have to figure out where you want to defend and how you’re going to defend it but then it comes down to just playing the defense the way it’s drawn up to be played.”

Q: How much does weather start to factor into preparation, game planning, and anticipation of opposing teams’ adjustments as weather here could be changing dramatically pretty soon?

HALEY: “I think that any of us that have coached in potential bad weather areas and you’re playing a bunch of home games in potential bad, you always have your bad weather package and it’s something that we probably started working on weeks ago just because we had that rain game early against San Diego that wasn’t something that was real predictable and you’ve got to have an answer when weather like that comes up and obviously where we are, you can get all sorts of weather. We’ve had a bad-weather package going here for a good part of the season that we’ll practice, practice, throw it in there and you’re mixing it into your regular practice so that as you do run into some more difficult weather, you have a way and a plan that you want to play.”

Q: Is it a myth that a strong running team has the advantage in nasty weather?

HALEY: “I don’t know. I think that the team that plays the best technique and understands the schemes and how they’re working together to block the plays, that’s who will run the ball the best. That’s the way it is, it’s a lesson that our team’s learned the last couple weeks that just because you’re a low-penalized team or you’re not turning the ball over or you’re not giving up sacks or you’re not giving up big plays that that won’t just continue because that’s the way it’s trended. You have to make it continue and you have to do it each and every week and you have to understand that clearly and like I said, this is a very good test for our team, our young, developing team to go through a period like this. The good thing is we’re in the present tense, the past games are behind us, we’re into the third quarter of the season and we’re trying to get to three wins. Right now we don’t have a lot of margin for error so we need to come out and do the things you have to do to win football games this week.”

Q: You’re in a different position here but have you sensed or recognized any similar experience that you’ve had here as you did there? Team building and moving up to a point to where you can get to a Super Bowl?

HALEY: “Oh yeah. Like I said, I’m grateful for all my experiences, I’ve been in some real unique situations going all the way back to the Jets and teams that hadn’t won a lot of games that you were there as they started to turn and win a bunch more games. I had that experience in New York, I had that experience in Chicago – they’d won only four or five games the year before I was there and we won 13 pretty quickly. Then Dallas was really a part of it and Arizona. Those are great experiences to have under your belt and experiences that I draw from on a daily basis as you monitor your team and try to put your finger on the pulse and figure out exactly what you need and how you need to go about doing it to get to your desired goal.”

Q: You’re clearly hurt, what happened and why no scooter?

HALEY: “I’m clearly hurt, yeah, we got our butts kicked, clearly hurt. You’re going to rub it in, rub salt in the wounds?”

Q: People are going to be curious, you don’t have to specify the injury, your leg is injured, you’re walking differently, you’re not wearing shorts, do you want to clear that up for us so we all know?

HALEY: “I don’t talk about injuries. I was full and there wasn’t even a limited or doubtful. Full go.”

Q: No thought about going to a rascal (scooter)?

HALEY: “What’s a rascal? You’re a rascal (laughs). You could’ve been one of the Little Rascals now that I think about it. Anybody remembers the Little Rascals, he’d be a perfect one. I’ve got one in mind, I won’t say, but I’ve got one in mind for sure.”

Q: As you’re going back to the basics, is that the answer or do you also have to make adjustments as teams study you?

HALEY: “I think it’s a good question Karen. Back to the basics is technique and fundamentals but the process and the evolution of the season is one that people do, they get more and more work on you and you get more work on them or you get more information on teams and you have to adjust because as teams figure out what your strengths are they’re going to try to obviously do things to stop them also, just like we do. That’s all part of the process of the season and I think the teams and the staffs that do the best job of making those adjustments usually have the most success. I’ve got a great deal of faith in our staff and what we’re doing but the bottom line is our main focus is just trying to improve because generally what I’ve seen as the head coach, when we do things fundamentally sound and the way that we’re supposed to do them technique-wise and understanding our assignments, we’ve played pretty good football. That’s what we have to be doing is fundamental work, basics and our staff then has to devise a plan that they think is the best plan for the opponent we’re playing and then it comes down to execution.”

Q: What are you seeing from their quarterback play in Arizona?

HALEY: “Obviously they’ve had some injury issues, they’ve been trying to figure out who the best guy is to run their offense and that started way back in training camp when they made some major changes and any time you lose somebody like a Kurt Warner it’s going to have some effect on your team. What I do see are a couple of quarterbacks that when they’re in there and when they’re doing things the way it looks like they’re supposed to, they’re pretty good. I know QB Derek Anderson is a big, tall, strong guy with a good arm and can stand in there and make every throw there is. They’re kind of going through their own process of getting more and more comfortable with their players because like I said, there are a number of players that are the same but a number that have changed. When that quarterback position changes, it has a big effect on your team and you’ve got to make the necessary adjustments which they’re working on every day.”

Q: How do you successfully weather the highs and lows of the season and since it’s Arizona week, what do you remember about that team losing to New England and then picking it back up to make a playoff run?

HALEY: “We went back to basics. We clinched early that year, we played really well in the first half of the season and put ourselves in a real good position and then maybe started reading too many of our press clippings and thinking they were a little better than we were and things would happen on their own. That New England game was a wake-up call for our team that year, I know that for sure and we happened to come back after that game, probably a day much like we had today out here, as bad a day as I’ve seen in Arizona or in Phoenix and it was miserable and it’s cold, your blood’s thin, you haven’t built up your cold-weather tolerance yet, we had a miserable day out there, I’ll never forget that day, but it was a turning point, we went back to basics, we put the pads on and figured out what we wanted to do and from that point forward, we did a pretty good job. That comes under learning from experiences and you do get in some similar situations, though not ever exactly the same, that you can hopefully learn and draw from and make progress with where you are then.”

Q: Was the cold weather tolerance an issue for road games since you didn’t have to deal with cold weather too much in Arizona?

HALEY: “I don’t know, I would say time change was probably more of an issue for us than weather, generally speaking. That’s what we put more time and effort into trying to figure out of what the best way to operate was. Weather is just a mindset, you have to set your mind to it and you’ve got to make sure you have the right equipment and all those things for wherever you’re going. The equipment guys in this league are all really, really good and they all talk and they do a good job of taking care of the equipment. Then you just wear shorts and no sleeves.”

Q: You’ve experienced being both a head coach and an offensive coordinator over the past four years and you and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt have both been the head coach and offensive coordinator at the same time, can you talk about those experiences?

HALEY: “When Kenny hired me as the offensive coordinator, we were pretty clear on how the setup was going to be that he was going to call plays starting out and then when he felt comfortable enough with me doing it we were going to switch over which occurred somewhere in that first year and I think that as the head coach, you’ve got to have a feel and a trust and a bond formed with whoever that is calling the plays that you feel like you’re on the same page. That’s what the whole week is for and it’s tied into the quarterback because you’ve got a lot of different people putting a lot of trust in each other that the quarterback hears a voice coming into his helmet that’s giving him a play that he’s got to trust that the person on the other end has his best interest in mind and so forth and the same thing goes with the head coach to the coordinator – you’ve got to have a great deal of faith and trust in each other and more than anything, you’ve got to be on the same page with how you want to attack the opponent so that throughout a game, as the head coach offers thoughts up to the coordinator that there isn’t a disruption or any kind of distraction.”

Q: How often, if ever, does a head coach criticize a play call or say that was a blankedy-blank play?

HALEY: “I’ve heard it a bunch. I’ve heard it a bunch. I’ve probably said it but I’ve definitely heard it a bunch, even when I wasn’t calling the plays I still would hear it from certain people that I won’t name names. Nobody in recent history. I’ve heard it after games from my wife also. That just comes with the territory, that’s a big part of the game and it will always be scrutinized by everybody involved – and that’s all the assistants on the staff, anybody who hears the play call has an opinion, just like I did when I was a receiver coach and would mumble under my breath that I thought it was a ‘blankedy-blank’ call.”

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