Q&A with Todd Haley 9/14

Posted Sep 14, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “Alright, moved on now from that first game, 0-1 in the first quarter of the season. We’ve clearly had our focus here on the Detroit Lions, an up-and-coming team that rightfully looks like they’ve got some momentum going, and our focus has been there for the last couple days. I like our players’ focus here over the last couple days just as far as extra work and guys in here working, getting ready. It didn’t appear there was a whole bunch of continued suffering going on, so to speak, so that’s a good sign. We had a good meeting this morning, a good lift this morning and looking forward to getting out on the field and getting a practice under our belt. Detroit Lions, like I said, an up-and-coming team that gathered a lot of momentum as last year wound down. They carried it into this preseason and now into the regular season and they have a bunch of disruptive players across the board. As far as their offense goes, I think they’ve got one of the real good, young quarterbacks in the league that looks like he has a very good grasp of what the coaches are asking him to do. Calvin Johnson [is] one of the premier receivers in the league that can hurt you in a number of different ways. They’ve got a very good young running back in [Jahvid] Best that is quick and fast and makes a lot of plays on tape. [They have a tight end that they picked up in [Tony] Scheffler and [Brandon] Pettigrew, they have a nice tight end group. [They have a] number of weapons offensively and they’re very versatile and they can hurt you in a number of ways. And like I said, their quarterback looks like he is playing pretty good football and on top of what he is doing. Defensively, it starts up front with specifically No. 90 [Ndamukong] Suh, one of the really big-time inside players. But the entire defensive line, I think, kind of sets the tone for their defense and what they’re trying to do. They’re physical, they’re fast, they [have a] high motor, they’re not afraid to pressure, but yet, they play coverage and create some issues that way. They look like they’re playing good defense. They’ve got a real good returner and one of the top placekickers throughout the league. So, on top of that, having been in Chicago and coached there a few times, I know the fans are excited and the place will be loud and that will be a potential factor in the game that we have to make sure that we handle.”

Q: At first glance, it seems like a lot of Detroit’s strengths match up with some of your weaknesses. Do you look at them as a team that is good at what you need to work on? If so, how do you neutralize that?

HALEY: “Well, some of the problems that Suh presents, I don’t know that there are answers for, to be quite honest. You must – and I’m not talking just us, but I’m talking really a lot of teams – this guy is a dominant inside player that can really disrupt the game plan if you let him. You’ve just got to find ways to not allow that to happen, on both sides, running and passing the football. That’s a weekly deal though. We have a pretty good grasp of our weaknesses across the board, whatever those are. Obviously, I wouldn’t talk a whole bunch about them. And then, I think as you go through a week and you get ready for an opponent, especially an opponent like Detroit, they have a number of players that can hurt you. You go into the week really working hard to figure out who you most need to take away in all areas and you decide who’s the one guy that we can’t allow to be the difference maker in this game, and you’ve got to make some of those decisions knowing that there’s going to be some other areas that may suffer consequences. But, that’s what we do each and every week, and as far as the defense, like I said the other day, Eric [Berry] is an 1,100-plus play contributor for us and allowed you to do a bunch of different things defensively because of his skill set and I don’t think we’ll necessarily replace Eric with the next Eric. I think it’s got to be a collective effort of players and coaching that we figure out a way to best overcome that loss.”

Q: A lot of fans have asked, so I’ll ask you, can a guy like [Javier] Arenas or [Brandon] Carr go play safety?

HALEY: “Yeah, we have some crossover guys. I don’t know that it’s necessarily one of them. You don’t want to weaken one spot, an area of strength, to handle another. But, that being said, Donald Washington was a corner that has moved to safety, so he’s a guy we always think of as a player with versatility in situations where you may need to move guys around. Travis Daniels has played outside, inside and in the back end at a couple different stops. We’ve added Reshard Langford back on to the roster, that you see today. He, obviously, is a player we think a lot of, that was with us and plays the position. Again, I don’t think you’re going to replace Eric with the next Eric. You’re going to have to have a collective effort of players and coaches to kind of mask some of that.”

Q: After a game that doesn’t go well at all, what are the differences for you in approach to trying to get your team back on track?

HALEY: “I think one of the solutions is work. You just get back to work, and you work hard at trying to figure out what you did, what you can do and obviously, a lot of that revolves [around] your own team in addition to the opponent that you’re going to face. But, I think the key thing is that we’re 0-1 in the first quarter of the season, and why are we 0-1? And I don’t think it’s real difficult to figure out why we are. We did too many things too many times that you can’t do and expect to be in a game or be in a game late. Like I said, I have great faith, hope, especially off of what I saw on tape that with this group we’ll be able to bounce back. And that’s really the key. People have said it, five division winners from last year lost this weekend. And some of them have some similar issues to us. You’ve got one that doesn’t have a quarterback; you’ve got one that just lost a tackle. We’re all kind of feeling, going through the same thing. It doesn’t feel any different. I don’t think it matters who you are or where you are, but it feels the same. And then the solution is how do you not do the things that you did that got you in that spot and then where do you end up after this weekend is over? Are you in the category of teams that let it drag you down or are you in the category of teams that bounce back and showed some perseverance and resolve to come back and prepare during the week. And again, it starts with finding the solutions to the problems, and I think those are pretty obvious.”

Q: You mentioned why you’re 0-1 right now. Do you have a reason you’re 0-3 in your last three games when you count Oakland, Baltimore and Buffalo?

HALEY: “Some of the same things. The number one is that plus/minus category and you’d appreciate when I talked a little bit about that ’89 Steeler team and some say the greatest non-Super Bowl season in Steeler history, which I remember. That was a team you could say a lot of things about but they weren’t real good. They turned the ball over eight times in the first game but they managed plus-11 and they managed their way into the playoffs and managed their way almost really into a ‘shock-the-world’ situation. To me, that plus/minus is number one for us, both defensively and offensively. We need to create more turnovers and we need to protect the football. If you do that, just that alone, even if you have some struggles in other areas, you can win games.”

  Q: Do you do that practice-wise with ball protection, ball security and also creating turnovers?

HALEY: “Yeah, I think schematically, especially defensively, there are things you can do and special teams returns it really comes down to protecting the football with good technique. I do a little thing every week where our photographer gives me pictures – I always did it as a receiver coach – before we had digital it might be a picture in Sports Illustrated or the paper that somebody took and I’d cut it out and show a receiver looking at the ball or how he was carrying it. I do that throughout the building and there’s pretty clear-cut evidence of why the ball came out in most of those cases here over the last however many weeks. We put those up, we talk about it and I think you just keep harping, harping, harping until guys understand just how important is. I think a lot of them do right now.”

Q: How surprising was it to you that the passing game was so out-of-sorts this past weekend?

HALEY: “Without rehashing the game last week again other than just the obvious things that put us in a position to not compete, it’s hard for me to put a lot of judgment into a whole bunch of that game. It was a game we turned the ball over on the very first play, we change the entire energy of the building and though there were a few spots in that game where I believe we could have turned the tide, we were unable to do it. The passing game was just one of those areas. The list is long and that’s why we’re back to work and have been back to work trying to make sure we understand – from a priority standpoint of what we absolutely need to change – because a lot needs to get better here fast.”

Q: Looking forward to the Detroit game. Where is the passing game on the list of priorities of things to turnaround quickly?

HALEY: “I think I would lay them all along even other than turning the ball over. We’ve got to protect the football and we’ve got to create turnovers. That’s number one at the top of my list. Everything else we’re just going to continue working on and I feel like we will improve in all areas.”

Q: Can you talk a little more about Ndamukong Suh? He’s been particularly tough on quarterbacks. Some people say he’s a dirty player, some don’t. Do you think he is and how concerned are you with him getting his hands on Matt Cassel?

HALEY: “I am very concerned about him getting his hands on Matt, or really any of our guys because he’s a big, strong dude that brings it. As far as him as a player, I think he’s one of the bright, young stars in the league at a position that doesn’t always get a lot of notoriety. I love the way he plays. I love his intensity, his toughness, his ability to make plays. I won’t love it this week. This week we’ve got to make sure we’re not letting him change the game too much. I’ll be watching up close too. He’s a guy that [I] really loved coming out and you’d love to have found a way to get him onto your team one way or another but now we’ve got to play against him. We’ve got to handle him and he’s a force.”

Q: You said a lot of things went wrong in the game. But the play from the quarterback, completing 22 passes and having less than 120 yards has never happened in the NFL. What did you see in that game and the last three games to where it seems like the only offensive passing game plan is in the flats, short throws and not looking downfield?

HALEY: “I wouldn’t necessarily put that on the quarterback. There are a lot of factors that go into where the ball is thrown. But really what I’m focused on is I have full, 100 percent confidence in Matt and everyone of those guys, I’ve seen the core group of these guys do some things in the face of adversity, say for instance when really there weren’t a lot of people that thought we were capable of finding a way to win 10 games. So I’ve seen some of those signs of hope. I saw some of those signs of hope on tape the other day and like I said, the hope I’m talking about is the ability to bounce back off of a tough loss. There are four other teams that are almost in an identical situation to us, they got kicked pretty hard in the gut, and I think the key is how are you going to respond. As far as our abilities and what we’re capable of what we’re doing, I know we can do it and I know we can respond but we have to make some major progress this week and then we have to make major progress in the game. That’s really the focus. It’s the first quarter of the season. We’ve got a four-game quarter. We’re 0-1 and trying to fight like heck to get better and go play in a pretty hostile environment against what looks like a pretty good team.”

Q: Detroit’s two tight ends are pretty big, fast and athletic. Does it present a different challenge when you have two of them like that?

HALEY: “Yeah. We have some history with one of them specifically and they are athletic and they’re like extra receivers. Like I said, that adds versatility to their offense which I think they’re going a very good job of understanding and utilizing. Ultimately I think Matt Stafford is doing a very good job of understanding that and it looks like he’s got good command of what’s going on out there.”

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