St. Louis Rams head coach Jim Haslett addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, October 22, 2008.
Q: The Rams have looked pretty good in the last two games. What do you think has contributed to the turnaround?
JH: I just think more than anything [it's] just the players wanting to get the job done. They've been practicing well and they've been into it and we just tried to get them to understand that we're not as bad a team as everybody thought. You just have to try to do things right.
Q: Did I read correctly that you gathered not just the players, but everyone in the organization as the transition took place from former head coach Scott Linehan to yourself? Is that true and if so, why did you do that?
JH: I just thought there was a separation in the building between football, business, management and marketing and as long as I'm here, I just thought that somehow you have to try to come together and be one. So I opened up practice for those people to come out to practice, to eat with the players and to do different things. Obviously if we win games it helps all of those people and the more they can do to help us the better. It was one of those deals where I just wanted everyone to be positive and feel good about the team and try to come to grips with [the fact] that we're 0-4, but we're going to fight to do whatever we've got to do to win some games.
Q: How much is the mindset of the team better and how much of that correlates on the field?
JH: Obviously winning a couple games you always have a better mindset than when you lose four in a row, so from that standpoint it's a lot better. I guess you've got to talk to the players on this. I just think the mindset obviously is much better when you beat two teams like Washington and Dallas. Guys at least start to feel good about themselves.
Q: Was that daunting when you took over? You had the bye week to get everything worked out, but then you have Redskins, Cowboys and Patriots.
JH: Yeah, and after that it's not easy either because we have Arizona and then we go away versus New York [Jets] and San Francisco, so besides playing good teams we're playing a lot of them on the road. Again, I don't really look at it that way. I just look at it like you're playing one good football team and [you] do whatever you can to try to win that game and then go to the next one. If you fail or you have some adversity then you move on and just keep trying to plug away here.
Q: Do you admire how the Patriots have always handled adversity?
JH: They've done a great job. Bill [Belichick] is one of the best coaches that has ever been in the game and he does about as good a job as anybody doing that. I mean, you lose a quarterback, you plug in a guy that didn't play much in college and you don't miss much. They're still 4-2 [and] they've got a great defense. He's lost numerous coaches over the years and players over the years and they just keep having success, so he's probably the master at it.
Q: What type of progress has Chris Long made and how is he being utilized?
JH: Chris has really tried to step forward the last couple games. Here's a guy that was a two-gapper in college and has moved to an outside defensive end position he's never played. He's moved farther away from the ball, but I think Chris gets better and better every week. I thought he had his best game last week. He didn't have the sacks but he had a bunch of quarterback hits. He's very active and he's always going to be very active because that's the type of guy he is. I think every day he's out on the field he gets better and better.
Q: Was the move back to Marc Bulger a no-brainer?
JH: To me it was, but everybody looks at it differently. The thing I like about Marc right now is I see great ownership of this team. The guy has really taken the leadership role; he's talked to the team, he runs the sideline, he handles the offense. When I took over I told him "when you became the quarterback you had Marshall Faulk, you had Tory Holt, Isaac Bruce and a line that had been together for five years, so you were the youngster. Now it's kind of flipped: you're the old guy and you've got a bunch of young kids around you and a line that hasn't played together for that long, so you need to step up and be that guy." And I think he's done a great job.
Q: Do you believe in momentum? Does beating Washington and Dallas help you prepare for this week in any tangible way?
JH: I don't know. I think it helps; it sure doesn't hurt. To go up there is a great challenge. You're talking about going up to a place that's a hostile environment, and the weather conditions, and playing a team that's got a ton of Super Bowls and a great coach, so we've got our work cut out for us. Hopefully we just go out there and play as well as we can.
Q: Oshiomogho Atogwe seems to have a pretty good nose for the ball. Can you explain that?
JH: He's got a great nose for the ball. He's a guy that when we got here, he wasn't playing much and we just kind of stuck him in there based on what we saw in college. Besides having a great nose for the ball, he's an excellent tackler, he's a guy that's always trying to get the ball out, he's extremely fast, he's extremely smart, he's a great kid. I was disappointed he didn't make the Pro Bowl last year with his eight interceptions. I don't see why he wouldn't make it this year because the guy is one of the best safeties in the league.
Q: Do you think Steven Jackson and Orlando Pace are still on target physically to play Sunday?
JH: Pace will play this week. Jackson will be day-to-day, I'm not really sure what he'll do when it comes to Sunday. He didn't do anything today and he'll start working a little bit tomorrow and we'll see where he's at.
Q: I believe the Patriots looked at you for the head coaching position before Bill Belichick was ultimately picked as the coach. Do you remember the process when you came up here to interview?
JH: I didn't come up to New England to interview. I think Bill had that job. I was with the Steelers then and I interviewed—I can't even remember where I interviewed—Philadelphia, Seattle and I think Chicago was the other one.
Q: What are your thoughts on when the Dolphins came in here with the Wildcat plays and have you guys tried that at all?
JH: We don't have anybody who can do that, to be honest with you. Ronnie Brown is a guy that can really throw the ball and he can run that offense. They've got a coach on their staff, David Lee, who was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas, so it's easier to implement. We can tell those guys we're not going to run that stuff because we really don't have guys that can do that. But they did a nice job. We watched the game and they did a nice job with it. I think it just caught New England by surprise more than anything.
Q: How did going through 2005 with the New Orleans Saints and being displaced by Katrina help you as a coach deal with any adversity you face now?
JH: This is easy compared to that. Taking over a team that's 0-4 is a lot easier than the things we went through there. I don't have enough time right now on the phone to describe what I went through with the players and the hurricane and the loss of families and lives and homes, but it was something you hope no one ever has to go through again, I promise you that.
Q: What were your impressions of the way the Patriots dispatched the Broncos on Monday night.
JH: Well that was…I couldn't sleep. I watched it on TV. Just the way they played up front and the way Sammy [Morris] ran the ball and I thought the quarterback was poised and did a nice job on the offensive side. And on the defense they got big plays and turnovers. Brad Seeley is one of the better coaches in the league and he's always had good special teams. It was hard to sleep that night, but this will be a great challenge for us. We've done a good job the last two weeks, but to go up there and to play this team in those conditions will be a great challenge for us.
Q: Do you have any philosophy on deferring or accepting the ball at the start of the game?
JH: I'm not really sure, to be honest with you. Last week we deferred because the quarterback wanted to defer, so I'm not really hung up on either way, one way or another. I talked to Marc [Bulger] before the game and he wanted to come out in the second half and have the ball so that's why we deferred it.
Q: How different is it taking over a team in the middle of the year versus when you first got a head coaching job in New Orleans and how is the challenge different?
JH: Well, honestly it's a lot of challenge because I don't have enough time to change everything that you want to change as a head coach. You come in the middle of the season and take over a team that's already here; the players are already in place. Their values, everything that you do, the practice schedule, everything is already in place. You don't want to differ too much and obviously you're not going to change players, so you kind of roll with what you have and try to make it better. Like I said, I don't know if it will be good enough for me to keep the job, but I will say that we'll practice harder, we'll play harder [and] we'll be better on the field. Will it be good enough? I don't know. Down there [New Orleans] we had a little more time to turn it around.
Q: Could you tell us what Mike Vrabel was like when you coached him in Pittsburgh?
JH: Mike's a guy that kind of got stuck in the numbers when I was at Pittsburgh. We had a bunch of great linebackers and I just tried to find ways to get Mike on the field. We had Carlos Emmons, Joey Porter and I can't even remember everybody, but we had an endless amount of linebackers, so Mike was kind of like our third or fourth outside linebacker. I played him at inside tackle on third down [and] outside defensive end; we kind of moved him around just because he's such a good athlete. Obviously that was a great pick up for them [New England] and he's been really successful and I'm glad for him. He's a great kid and a heck of a football player.
Q: Did you see pass rushing greatness in him right away?
JH: Oh yeah, I'll never forget: we actually played New England in a playoff game and he got a sack at the end of the game to win the game—I think it was 9-3, we won the game. And we went on to the AFC championship game because of that play.