On Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett addressed the media after an afternoon practice at Redskins Park in Ashburn, VA.
On his reaction to linebacker London Fletcher announcing his likely retirement:
"We didn't discuss it but you kind of had a feeling that it was coming, but what a great football player. The guy has done it for years. It's been a great pleasure to coach the guy, probably one of the best I've ever been around, probably a Hall of Famer. You can't ask any more — he's a great person, great family man, he's a great leader on your football team, an unbelievable skillset. He's a guy that you love talking to football-wise because you could talk to him and five minutes later he takes the stuff on the field, so it's easy communication. It's like talking to another coach. For him to go out and execute and play as many games as he's done over his career, and consecutive games playing that position, because I can tell you playing that position that usually you're going to get beat up, break something – fingers, hands. So to me that's incredible what he's done over the 16 years he's played."
On if has been around a player like Fletcher that can diagnose plays before the ball is snapped:
"A few, but not like this. I've been around guys that played with guys like that, it's just — even today he said, 'Watch the draw! Watch the counter!' I mean, he kind of knew exactly out of those three formations you were going to get these three plays, so like I said, his preparation is better than anybody I've been around."
On Fletcher's legacy:
"Well, he leaves, one, with a Super Bowl ring, which they're hard to get. The second thing is he's a guy that's played more consecutive games at that position than anybody. I don't know anybody else that's played to his age besides Matthews, I think it was Clay, he was 42 I think when Clay was playing. But it's remarkable that a guy can play that position, inside, Clay played outside, play inside and have the consecutive streak. I've seen a guy get nicked up, beat up, have a high ankle sprain, and go out and play, not practice all week, and play at a high level. I think it's incredible what he's done."
On how what he had heard about Fletcher compares to what he has learned about him since becoming his coach:
"I'll say this, when I was in New Orleans as a head coach, London was in St. Louis and we used to be great rivals and I used to watch him in that system and I thought the guy was unbelievable that he could run and do the things he did from a skillset-wise. Then for whatever reason he ends up in Buffalo and he does the same thing, and then the Redskins were lucky enough to get him and finish it out here which, it's just remarkable that he can play at that high of a level in consecutive games and everything for that length of time, it really is, for that position. I don't know anybody who could do that. I got about five in and I got beat up."
On if he has seen Fletcher be frustrated or worn down by how the season has gone:
"I think everybody, including him — London is the kind of guy that he gears up. Wednesday he's focused in on the game plan and he's taking notes, probably the best note taker I've ever been around. He mentally gets prepared for practice on Wednesday. Thursday, he comes in, he's a little more grumpy because he kind of knows what's going on. Friday, I don't even talk to him because he's got the focus on ready to play the game on Sunday, so if you're going to communicate with London, you've got to do it on Wednesday or Thursday because Friday and Saturday he's geared in on the game — so it's something. I just love the way he prepares and the way he takes coaching and he's one of the best ever. It's amazing."
On if he has been thinking about the changes that may come on defense in free agency:
"That's something that happens when you win three games. It's something that you prepare for. We've got a lot free agents on that side of the ball and on this side of the ball. It's something you'll deal with but it's not uncommon in the NFL."
On if Fletcher should go into television or coaching:
"He could do either. Knowing London, just being around him and he sees the hours that the coaches work, I think he loves that part of the game but I don't think he wants to stay here from 4:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night when he has young kids, so I would probably say the other way if I'm a guessing man."
On linebacker Brian Orakpo having more responsibilities than "elite" players at his position, leading to lower sack numbers:
"I don't know what you're calling elite, but I'll say sack-wise, numbers-wise, he's got 10, and you've got [Green Bay linebacker Clay] Mathews has 16 who rushes every down, [Rams defensive end Robert] Quinn who has 15 I think, he rushes every down — I don't know who else is in between — but I would say that's fair because he doesn't rush every down. He rushes every time on third down or nickel, but he does drop into coverage. He's really good in the run — I think him and [linebacker] Ryan [Kerrigan] are two of the best I've been around at covering people, so I don't think it's fair. He's not a true four-down lineman. Now, that being said, there's other guys that have made that transition to a down lineman and they're not that successful because it's hard to do it every single snap. It's a little bit of a different breed down there."
On if he would vouch for Orakpo being equivalent to those other elite players:
"Yeah, I would. I think the guy is a heck of a player and I think he showed what he's worth to this organization over the four years. He's been very successful, obviously he's a heck of a rush guy, but the other things he does besides that he's outstanding, you know, covering tight ends and backs to the flat and in the run game. Him and Ryan are the reason we're so successful in the run. It's hard to get outside because of those two."
On how to force Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo into late mistakes:
"I tell you, people or the media or whoever, overdoes it with Tony because he'll make a bad decision or something will happen and he'll get an interception, but they don't see like the Minnesota game where he takes the last two series and drives it down the field to win the game. So I look at the positives. I see a guy that is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, he throws for 5,000 yards almost every year, makes plays with his feet, stays alive, runs the offense, does a little bit of everything. So I see a guy that to me is one of the elite quarterback in the league. If you're going to throw it 60 times a game, yeah, maybe something bad is going to happen, maybe someone's going to drop a ball or it's going to get intercepted or something, so I think it gets overdone with him because of the situation. I think he's one of the elite quarterbacks in the league."
On what went into the decision to make safety Bacarri Rambo inactive versus Atlanta:
"Just because we're getting other guys up and giving them an opportunity. We played [safety] Jose Gumbs in third down situations last week — wanted to see what he could do. Just trying to find a situation where we can find a safety that can be consistent."
On what changed after allowing a long touchdown drive on the Falcons' first possession:*
"I think we were 0-3 on that first drive on third down and we just didn't execute to be honest with you. We had opportunities to make a play, I think the corner and the safety were right there and just couldn't make the play. And then after that, we didn't change anything. I actually stuck to what we were going to do and I told these guys to make some plays and they did. They went 0-8, the next eight they were 0-for and we did a nice job in the run game which was number one, and then we got some heat on [Falcons quarterback] Matt [Ryan]. And then I thought the guys covered after that first series. We did a nice job, especially on third down."
On defensive end Chris Baker:
"The reason he played so much and we started him is because we thought… you know, it's been a growing process with Chris. He came in, you know everybody knows the background, a little bit immature, kind of grew up, got better and better every year. He was a guy when we first got here if the phone went off in a meeting it was probably Chris. You don't see that now. He's grown up from the standpoint he's focusing on football which I think is important to him now, and I think he's playing at a high level. Obviously he's very athletic. He's 6'3", 330 lbs. He's very athletic, can run, powerful, and I think last week was his best game. We gave him the opportunity to start and I thought he did a nice job, probably his best game he's played, I think he had seven or eight tackles, a couple of pressures, on the goal line stand he was the reason why we made the fourth-and-1 stop, he knocked the guard back about five yards in the end zone, so I think he's come into himself and hopefully he can continue to keep growing and become the player that we think he's going to be."
On if he prefers the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense:
"It really all depends on the personnel you have what you want to do. If you have 4-3 people, you better have good edge rushers and you better have a three-technique that can get upfield and do a lot of different things, have a nose [tackle] that can handle the middle. A 3-4 is a little bit different, you have two outside linebackers that can do what Ryan and Rak do – they've got to be able to rush, they've got to be able to beat up tight ends in the run game, and they've got to be able to cover in the flat. We don't ask them to do a lot of covering, but the covers part of it is the easy part. You've got to have a great nose [tackle], and then whether you're in a 4-3 or a 3-4, the inside guys really don't make a difference because the coverages are all the same."
On how he deals with the "noise" over the last few weeks:
"To be honest with you, everybody hears about it sooner or later or on your plane or whatever. I don't really get concerned with it because, like right now I'm just worried about one thing and that's Dallas. The players, the same thing, I think the players are excellent. When we get in the meeting rooms and on the field, they've done a great job last week, at least the defensive guys I'm talking about. They did a good job focusing on what they have to do. So from a coach's perspective you really don't see it because I come in at 4:00 in the morning and you're watching tape and getting ready for meetings and all that stuff and then you leave at 11 and you really don't hear about it that much. Obviously, when you get on the plane after the game you hear some stuff, but it's kind of over then."