Q&A with Todd Haley 11/30

Posted Nov 30, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “As we talked Monday, had a chance to kind of move past the tough result to Pittsburgh. During that span of time I believe it became apparent to us as a staff and to me as a head coach that there are a number of things really in the last couple of games that have kept us from winning those games, but at the same time I think it’s important that when you have games, losses, tough losses specifically, I’d even reference the San Diego game early in the year that we had lost but felt like we had learned a lot from, that you understand why you lost the game, you understand there were a lot of good things in the game that were done that gave us a chance to win in the end on that last possession but you try and eliminate the things that were getting you beat and keep building on the things that you are doing that are better and giving you a chance to win against good teams. I think that is kind of an important message for us and as a team going forward. We haven’t really been in this situation yet since we’ve all been here but were to that point in the year where we are in it, we aren’t one of the teams that are out of it and we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s basically a five game season for us and we’ve got to make sure we are doing whatever we have to starting this week, which we always have to but a little different mentality to knowing that we have to win this season and it starts with a very difficult Chicago team.

“A team that the core is still in place, a couple of key, key guys from my time there as receiver coach. Brian Urlacher was there and we drafted Lance Briggs and [Charles] Tillman and that’s really the core of that team. It starts around 54, they are a heck of a defense, they are not complicated, they are totally different then last week’s defense but equally as good. They pretty much tell you what they are doing and they try to keep you out of the end zone. They are not afraid to let you move the ball a little but they do a very good job of creating turnovers, and not just creating turnovers but scoring points off those turnovers instantaneously. I think they’ve scored five defensive touchdowns. So it starts there, tough, formidable group that we’ve got to be ready to go on.

“Offensively they are obviously kind of in a somewhat similar situation to us in that they’ve got a younger quarterback in there playing and he’s doing a lot of good things and he looks like he has a chance to be good. He’s having some of the issues that you see young guys have at times but he’s obviously going to be a great challenge because he’s not afraid to take off and run when it’s not the way that it needs to be as far as the pass goes whether it’s protection or receivers. That’s a dangerous, dangerous deal there with this Caleb Hanie. [Matt] Forte is as good as they come, he doesn’t just jump out at you because I think that’s a testament to his great athletic ability and feet so you don’t maybe recognize that he’s quite as fast as he is, but he is fast. He is a very good runner, great vision, he’s a very good receiver out of the backfield, they’ve thrown it to him, or attempted to throw it to him some 70 something times so he’s very good, they know how to use him. I know Marion Barber was there when we drafted him in Dallas so he’s a move the chains back that you better bring everybody to the party to get him down because he’ll keep those big thick legs churning for yards and doesn’t go down until he absolutely has to. And then they’ve got a bunch of receivers and a pretty good tight end that they spread the ball around to so it’s a challenge for our defense. We’ve been doing a good job defensively like I said but we’ve got to build on it and this will be a great challenge.

“And then last but not least certainly special teams. And you’ve got to start that conversation with this number 23 [Devin Hester] and he is something else. Three more touchdowns this year, you just don’t want to be that guy, you give him an opportunity to beat you. They understand what their team is and Coach Lovie [Smith] and their entire staff does a great job of playing to their strengths and he’s definitely one of them and they count on some points or field positions or big plays from him and they’ll put him in on offense whatever they’ve got to do. But on special teams we’ve got to make sure that this guy, that we contain him as best you can contain him and to me that is the number one, don’t let him into the end zone, don’t let him have it as much you can and it may go in an opposite order, you may list those in opposite order if you choose. So that’s where we are, big game for us obviously and these guys are up, ready to go and we’ll be out there practicing and trying to get better.”

Q: So are you going to push aside the quarters and you’ve now made it a five game season?

HALEY: “Yes, I think, like I said we haven’t been in this situation since I’ve been here because the first year obviously we were out of it by this time for all intense and purposes and in the second year you’ve got to just stay focused on the present tense which is still what we’re doing but at a point in the season, at least in my past experiences, obviously you’ve got to take it one day, one play, one game at a time but there’s worse positions to be in. We’re not excited about the position we’re in but at the same time we have an opportunity, we are just going to have to play the way we need to play and the way we are capable of playing.”

Q: How are you going to handle the quarterbacks this week in practice?

HALEY: “Like I said Monday, Tyler [Palko] is our starter; we are getting Kyle [Orton] ready to play. He’s not like a guy that’s been here for a couple of years. It’s a different situation that way so we are getting him ready to play. He might have to play and he might not but we’ve got to get ready to win a big game. We’ve got to do it by whatever means possible and if it takes playing three quarterbacks and going wildcat 20 plays, we’ve got to do that and then the week after this it’ll be a similar deal.”

Q: What does Kyle need to show you to make you feel comfortable with him playing this week?

HALEY: “We’ve got to get him ready to play, and that process has already started. Obviously get him out there and he’s got to get reps to get a guy that hasn’t been here ready to go and he’s going to have to show some of those things I talked about the other day. An ability to understand the offense number one, and how we speak in the huddle, how we speak in the line of scrimmage and understand his personnel because that’s always a little bit of a trick but it’s very, very important. It’s not something that just happens overnight. Understanding the personnel as a quarterback I think is a critical, critical factor to being successful and understanding what each and every one on your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and that includes everybody on offense. That’s one of the more difficult things. He’s a bright guy, he’s on it and I don’t think learning it will be an issue.”

Q: Is it more important to have a real good grasp of the playbook or be able to read the NFL defenses?

HALEY: “I think probably equally the same, and at the same time, and different thing within season that gives you a chance to know what’s going on, and people always say learn the playbook, but we game plan each week and a smart guy like Kyle, that game plan is something that he probably had close to memorized and figured out here pretty quick. So that part’s not the issue but even if you know the game plan and how runs and passes go together, again that’s not the issue. It’s getting in sync with the guys you’re playing with and as we’ve seen that’s a difficult task around the league. Anytime you see some of these new guys have to kind of step in, specially new guys that haven’t been around the team that their on and it takes some time to get a feel for what guys do well because all these quarterbacks have the ability to throw the football, it just comes down to where the ball needs to be and who responds to what type of throws, and how this half back runs our strong side zone play and their all a little different and it takes time and it takes feel because some of those things you take for granted, like center-quarterback exchanges, each center is different , those are all different variables, each halfback, fullback’s different, all of those things come into play and makes for a pretty difficult job, especially for somebody that’s coming into a new situation with all new variables.”

Q: Did you think the snaps will be split 60-40 getting ready for Chicago?

HALEY: “I think it’ll come out somewhere in there. But again, I think the No. 1 task is to get Tyler to continue to improve and eliminate some of the things that he’s done that need to be better, and at the same time, get Kyle ready to go in a limited amount of time in this offense and with these offensive players specifically.”

Q: Is that kind of split enough work for either guy?

HALEY: “I obviously picked it for a reason. We need to get done what I said. We need to get Tyler to continue to improve, and we need to get a new player integrated into our system and offense pretty quick. They’re both equally important.”

Q: Last week you more or less indicated that the job is Palko’s to lose. Is it fair to say that if Orton shows you what you need to see that he’ll be your guy on Sunday?

HALEY: “Like I said, we’ve got to get him ready to play. He may have to play and he may not, but our No. 1 goal here is to figure out a way and do whatever we have to to win. Obviously, in any particular area where we feel like a particular player gives us a better chance to do that – whether it’s in a full-time, part-time, limited or backup role – we’ve got to do it, and that’s across the board. That’s where we are. That’s pretty much how we operate on a full-time basis.”

Q: When do you anticipate making the decision on who is going to start?

HALEY: “I think I just said Tyler is the starter and we’re getting Kyle Orton ready to play. At the same time, I don’t want to leave Ricky Stanzi out of the equation. He’s got to be ready to play also. There’s just not enough reps to go around always. It’s a big challenge, a great challenge for us, but I think it’s one that we and our players are up for. This is going to be a big game for us.”

Q: Orton hasn’t played in almost two months. Is there a knocking off the rust factor?

HALEY: “It’s a great challenge to integrate any player into your system, let alone a quarterback in a short amount of time and have him in a position to play football or run the offense for you. That’s what we’re working on. Like I said, we’ve got to have him ready to go in any capacity.”

Q: Is there anything he can draw from his time in Chicago that can help you guys against the Bears?

HALEY: “The Bears have been – even though they’ve changed coordinators – there’s been great continuity there as far as how they play. I think that’s the goal of what they’re trying to do and what most coaches try to do, and that’s to be able to keep that continuity and plug in parts when parts are missing or parts leave or parts are unable to perform at the level they need to. Like I said, that starts around Brian. Kyle is a smart guy that has a lot of experience, and he’s an asset to our team any way you cut it because we’re missing a guy that really started to really gain experience and Matt [Cassel] can’t obviously be out there. Kyle is an asset to our team. He’s been around, he’s seen the defense and played against the defense that Chicago is playing right now many, many times, as we’ve coached against that defense or others very similar to. Like I said, Kyle is an asset to have here, and I think the quarterbacks are doing a good job – as they always do – of working together to be ready to go and to add in to that mix wherever they can.”

Q: What have you seen out of Tyler these last two games that gives you optimism or hope?

HALEY: “Specifically in this last game, we had the ball in the final couple minutes with the chance to win, and as far as I recall he was playing quarterback the whole time. There’s decisions and results that he and we would like to have been different, most specifically at the end, obviously, because we had a chance to win until that first-and-15 at the 37[-yard line] or wherever we were, and we didn’t win. At the same time, he was playing quarterback and we had a chance to beat a pretty good team on the final possession. I think whether you play your best game, average, in-between, if you’re playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and are in a position to win, you’ve done some things well. I think he’s a young, developing player at a difficult position. He’s got to continue to get better this week, and he understands that. There are some clear-cut things that our coaches feel like that if he does will help him eliminate a couple things that hurt his chances to help us succeed even more. He did a lot of good things in there and that’s not in defense or there other. It’s hard to complete 67-, 68-percent of your passes in the NFL and be 40-plus percent on third down against a couple of these defenses we’ve had to play. There’s a number of positives, we’ve just got to figure out how to get the ball in the end zone and eliminate mistakes that keep us from doing that. If we do that, the name of the game is scoring more points than your opponent. I feel like our defense is making progress, our special teams is going to be greatly-tested this week and our offense has made progress and continued to be consistent in some areas, but obviously not in the points scoring area or protecting the ball are directly-related, generally. We’ve got to get that better here this week.”

Q: How much did the false start factor in Jared Gaither’s release?

HALEY: “None, I’d say. In fairness to Jared… I think I said it in the press conference, but if you come in after sitting on the bench for a couple hours in the cold and then you’ve got to go out and block a couple of the guys who are coming around the corner there for the Steelers, that’s going to be a tough, tough situation to be in. Again, not making excuses, but just in fairness to him. We had high expectations and it’s just one of those deals that didn’t work out the way any of us really wanted it to. It was really no specific fault of anyone. It just didn’t work out. Jared was a class-act, professional and was a part of helping us continue to make progress and withstand some tough, tough terrain here throughout this up-and-down season to this point. I wish and we all wish Jared the best. He can play, it just didn’t work out.”

Q: You’ve left yourself with little or no experience in the backups on the offensive line. Does that concern you at all?

HALEY: “I think it’s concerning, but at the same time, we feel like with where we are right now that it gave us the best chance to continue to make progress and have a chance to win. We wouldn’t want anything to happen, period. We’re already fighting through some of those situations. We’ve got a good group. We showed the ability for [Rodney] Hudson to step in for [Ryan] Lilja, and I thought for the most part, he played good, like I told you all. We were able to keep making progress in some of those areas and we’ve still got to continue to get better. I think [Steve] Maneri has made progress for us, and he was able to dress for us last week, so that meant he got a lot of reps. He’s making progress. [David] Mims is a guy we’ve spent a lot of time with and has obviously made progress through the year also. The name of the game is scoring more points than your opponent, so everybody on this roster has to be a part of that.”

Q: Was Mims attracting some interest from other teams? Sometimes a guy gets promoted because you didn’t want to lose him to other teams.

HALEY: “I think it’s more that there’s an opportunity here for him. We thought that now was the time to put him in a little more of a potentially featured role.”

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