By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, September 24th, 2009 at 1:26 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders passing game coordinator Ted Tollner was available to the media Thursday and gave a thoughtful, detailed analysis of the Raiders’ issues in the passing game. Rather than pick and choose, I’ll just post the entire transcript:
Q: JaMarcus’ accuracy problems due to receivers, mechanics?
Tollner: I think what Tom (Cable) said is right. We’re working through trying to get a confidence level with everybody involved from routes, from his footwork, his decision-making, the protection and all of it right has left us all extremely disappointed because it’s very easy to pick one guy. It never is quite that way. It’s a package of things. For his position, when you’re playing as poorly as we did last week, a lot of it falls on the quarterback.
That’s what happens in the game. They get, you know the whole theory, they get more recongition when you win but he’s going to get more if it. And his numbers are not impressive. We don’t like ‘em, he doesn’t like ‘em and we’ve got to do something about it. All we can try to do is clean up all the areas around that support him to be more productive and then he’s got to make the play at that point. So at some point there’s a play to be made and we’re not making it just because it wasn’t accurate.
But there’s a lot of other factors that lead to that that we can’t say that’s the only reason. That’s why we try to look at it as a whole not one individual. And we try to evaluate ourselves. The package of plays that we have in these situations, is it enough to defeat the defenses that we’re going against? Do we have people open? Is it a sound structure for the defensive structure. So we’re examing ourselves too. Then there are times where we say no, we didn’t like that play right there against that defense. They outguessed us. But more times than not that has not been the reason. The reason has been the overall situation of all the pieces fitting right.
Q: He struggled in OTAs and minicamp, got better at end of training camp, are you surprised to see JaMarcus regress?
Tollner: That’s an accurate assessment because we really felt like we were making some real strides and the area was anticipation and turning the ball loose and trusting. Are they going to be where they belong? Can I turn it loose when the coaches want me or do I have to wait and use my big arm? We were making some real strides along those lines because you have to at this level. You can’t wait til people are open. We made strides and last week we fell back in all those areas. That’s disappointing to all of us and we’ve got to get back on track.
The answer, I don’t have the answer other than what I just said. It’s a number of things that happen and there has been a major emphasis on him, on JaMarcus, `we’ve got to give you a foot rhythm that allows you to turn the ball loose on time and you need to buy into that.’ And he has, to repeat myself, we were making strides and ‘Bam’ we stepped back and I don’t have the answer other than what I already said.
Q: How has JaMarcus responded to all this? Is he as determined to get better, just as confident?
Tollner: I think more determined but confidence comes with success. We can kid ourselves all we want but if the production isn’t there, it’s hard to establish confidence so that’s what steps you back a little bit. Then all of a sudden, we didn’t make any progress last week. It was not good at all. And so that, you reestablish that confidence by hard work and then producing on Sundays. Until we start producing on Sunday, the confidence level won’t come back.
His attitude has been good. He’s bought into what we want to do. We were making progress and then there’s a big bump in the road. And I really do think that part of it is, we’ve got some talented people but when you really look at the pieces . . . there’s never an excuse but we are young. We have to be patient. You can’t be. You have to judge the results. We judge them too but we have to be somewhat patient with, how much playing time have these guys had on the road, in the NFL and how long is it going to take them to grow? Now they have to grow fast if we’re going to win so that’s our job is to get them to grow fast.
Q: Why is he more accurate over the middle and less so on the sidelines?
Tollner: Well I think defenses control that to so degree. Some defenses they play you where they’re going to give you the balls that are outside the numbers are the ones you have to complete. Some defenses the structure is hey, they’re going to defend outside the numbers, you’ve got to make plays inside. To be any good, you’ve got to be able to adjust to all that because every defensive coverage package is going to have both those. If you’re hurting them here, like you look at the game last week, Zach had six catches for 96 yards against the Chargers, they’re going to double him early. They doubled him early which means you’ve got to get the ball outside. Well, we didn’t do a very good job of that.
Q: Schilens had ability to go up and get Russell’s passes, how much did his injury in camp hurt him?
Tollner: When you lose a player that has played, not that he’s a veteran, but he’s played, and he was having a heck of an OTA camp. Confidence comes with production, the two of them were having a real good camp until he got hurt against the 49ers, so you talk about confidence earlier, it hurts when one of those guys you’re building confidence with, because it all takes time, he has confidence with Zach, he was building a repore with Chaz, and then all of a sudden Chaz is down, and then the guys that are playing now are basically new, so you have to work through the grind of what’s happening, and it’s not fun for anybody.
It always hurts to lose a player, especially one where your quarterback and he have a confidence in each other, and there’s a trust that’s involved. He’s going to be where he belongs, I can throw the ball, and he’s going to make a play for me. And that’s what JaMarcus has with Zach. They established that last year in being productive. We can’t create that. We try to create that out here, but it’s not really, truly created with a legitimate confidence until we make it happen in a game.
Q: In your experience, how long does it take a rookie receiver to develop?
Tollner: There is no time line. There really isn’t. It’s like a rookie quarterback. Some of them, depending on what’s around them, go faster. And some it doesn’t matter, they just take time to do it, and some, right now, they get it. And right now, I think it’s too early to decide, do we have some guys that are going to really establish themselves sin the next couple of weeks, or is going to take them a first season. But I know this _ the guys that we are playing that are young, they’re not afraid to work, they’ve great pride, they want to be good, and they want to be coached, and they have ability. So our job is to make that happen fast. And that’s the frustration for us, is that sometimes it doesn’t happen and you get angry to some degree.
But you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to let ‘em grow, but there’s a sense of urgency if you’re going to win. So we have to be careful how we approach that, but put some heat on them so that we try to get them to grow and be productive as fast as they can. I can’t answer a timeline. I just don’t have an answer for you.
Q: Can a young quarterback get so overloaded with footwork, fundamentals and minutia that they just don’t turn it loose?
Tollner: That’s why Paul spent so much time in the offseason and the OTAs. When you get to now, you don’t get much time for that. Now is, OK, what are the coverages we’re going to see, what are our pattern packages for first down, second down and third down, goal line, red zone, and know what to do with the ball. We can’t be spending much time now, you have to get the footwork solid, so it’s hard to commit, if all of a sudden things are a little bit out of rhythm, there’s not time in the practice session to do it. It has to already be established. And we made some progress there. Are we where we want to be? No, but now we have to emphasize other things more because we have to play the game. There isn’t time to spend all day out here on footwork. Paul gets five minutes on that now, where he was getting a couple of hours before.
Q: It’s said you can work on footwork and reads, but accuracy isn’t something you can’t teach. Russell’s college career his accuracy was better . . .
Tollner: I don’t know what his percentages were, but I would agree partially with that. Accuracy can come with repetitions and confidence. It can. But when guys are open, you’ve got to hit ‘em, whether your footwork is right or not. We’ve all seen the unorthodox guy off balance, make a great play and throw it accurate, and his footwork is all out of whack. Part of what you say is true, and part of it is, when somebody’s open, you’ve got to make a play. Whether your footwork is right, whether you’re off-balance, whether there is some pressure, this is the NFL and that’s the standard we’re trying to get to.
Q: What is Mike Nolan doing, took some heat here with SF, but seems to have Broncos turned around . . .
Tollner: First of all, Mike’s a heck of a football coach, I enjoyed the short time I was with him. Actually parts of two different seasons I was with him over there. He believes in variety, and he’s an emotional guy, he has them playing hard. They have a lot in their package, from a front standpoint, from a pressure standpoint, from a coverage standpoint, and they have so much that at times they might have a little leak there, but you’d better find it fast because there’s going to be some pressure on you. So this is a real challenge because they’re playing hard, they’re playing with confidence and they’re playing with great variety in their packages and what they’re doing in pressure and coverage.
Q: Any benefit that you’ve been around him and have some idea what he likes to do?
Tollner: You kind of know, but in the end, it helps in preparation of what you want to have in your packages to attack it, but once the game starts it doesn’t matter what I know about Mike Nolan. It’s what their guys do and what our guys do. So it’s not much of an edge, really.
Q: When was the last time you had a situation like you have with JaMarcus now? Someone who lost a little confidence, struggling . . .
Tollner: I think almost all of them have periods of it. Ours just happens to be lower than the low that any of us want. The percentage, the number is no good. We’ve got to do something about that and we’ve got to address all the areas. That, I can’t compare to. But every quarterback goes through a down cycle where all of a sudden their confidence might be a little shaken. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Jim Kelly and Steve Young and Jeff Garcia and a lot of guys that have been in the Pro Bowl, and they go through periods like that, too. But if they’ve established enough over a period of time where they are successful, it doesn’t bother them as much and they get out of it faster because they know they’ve done it for a long period of time. I think the younger you are and you haven’t had the kind of success you want overall, it makes it a little more difficult.
But he’s a confident guy. He’s confident in his ability and he wants to do the right thing and he’s willing. So that’s where we are right now. Again, we need him to come out of it right now, his part of it, and then the rest of it around has to, also. I don’t want to sit here and say it’s a one-man deal, because that’s wrong. It really is flat wrong, if someone takes that approach, and yet, we as coaches and he as a quarterback, you’ve got to accept that, because that’s the way it is, but there is more to it.”
Q: For all his struggles, twice in two games in the last drive inside of three minutes he’s put the ball in the end zone . . .
Tollner: That’s the part that to me is the most encouraging, because when you’re stuggling in a game and things aren’t going your way, if you don’t have what it takes, you’re going to crumble. But if there’s something in you that allows you to keep playing, which he did in both those games, and regardless of what has happened, to have that short-term memory, ‘OK, maybe I haven’t done as well as I want to today, but we still have a chance to win this game and I’m going to do it,’ and he’s done that.
So that’s a big plus to hang on him right now, that we’ve been able to do that and the people around him made plays for him, too. Again, it wasn’t just JaMarcus. The people around him made some plays. But the most important thing, I think, in that question that you ask is that, the negative things that happened, we hung on in both those games and now it’s time to win it and he went out and gave us a chance to win it. We won one, and one was a little better as far as the overall play, but the bottom line is regardless of how that game unfolded, when it was time to win the game he did what he had to do to give us a chance. And that’s a big plus, I think.
Q: Ryan, Flacco last year, Sanchez this year… Surprised to see rookie QBs play so well?
Tollner: They are doing extremely well, no question about it. I was not surprised with Ryan and Flacco, just from judging them coming out of college and really evaluating them, you said, ‘Hey, these guys are ready. The system they came out of got them ready for it.’ They were in a dropback system and all that. And they were in a team that was having a little more success. Baltmore’s had some success. Atlanta, in their case, he helped turn them around. That’s the question that came up earlier; how long does it take? Some guys it happens fast, they make the transition. A lot of times it’s the people around them also, and sometimes it takes longer. Our frustration obviously is that we’d like to be in a situation they’re in right now and not sitting here now talking about what’s wrong but what’s right. At some point we’ve got to go try to fix what’s wrong and move on.”
Q: Chaz and Louis play the same spot. Would it be difficult for one of them to see time the other spot?
Tollner: Our ultimate objective is always, let’s get the best players on the field. So that will shake itself down. Chaz had a great camp until he was hurt. Louis is showing that he’s real close to being ready to play at a top level on a regular basis. Now, he’s got some growing to do to. In the end, when you have more players that are productive, that’s a nice thing to have. We have to figure that out now so that we get them the playing time so that we can be successful. It’s a little premature to worry about that right now.”
Q: Not impossible for them to play the other spot?
Tollner: No. It’s very easy, and to ask one of them to do more than one position – like we’ve already asked Louis to start being the inside guy on our three wide-receiver package so that he can flip from an outside, strong, flanker ‘Z’ position to an inside, what we call a ‘Zebra’ slot position. And again, you’ve got to be careful how much you give a rookie because then they overload and they’re not productive, because they don’t know what to do. That issue is a good one. We have to figure out a way to make sure the best players get on the field.”