Labriola On

Tomlin on mobile QBs, Minkah, trades

Q. When you were asked about what you did during the bye week, you explained it was a time to look at trends around the league, look at some things "that are going around in the game of football." And then you mentioned specifically looking at quarterback mobility and its impact in situational football. What did you learn from that?
A. It's not anything earth-shattering. From my perspective, it's something that's been trending, and trending for a number of years. And it's just the number of quarterbacks who come in with mobility as a weapon, who come in with experience of utilizing that mobility in game play from college that's just really permeating the league. And you're really seeing it affect situational football, not only in terms of the quarterback run component, but I really think that it has a lot to do with the increased number of fourth down attempts. Quarterback mobility is a weapon that allows people to be more aggressive as well in four-down football, and so it's impacting our game in a big way. Situational plays are weighted differently, they're different than first and second down, they determine points or continued possession of the football. And so, the use of quarterback mobility in those spaces are a significant component of what's going on in football today. It's something to educate ourselves about. Obviously, quarterback mobility is not a big function of how we work offensively, but it is something to remain cognizant of. It's also something to remain cognizant of and be prepared for, obviously, from a defensive perspective.

Q. Did you get the sense that the NFL is trending away from what might be called the "pure pocket passer?"
A. No, and I say that because quarterback mobility, while attractive comes at a cost, and the cost is injury. Time will tell if that remains a significant component of if it is culture, maybe more long term, or is it just something that's trending at the moment.

Q. A lot of things related to the game of football start at the lower levels – high school and college – and then trickle up to the NFL. Is the next trend the necessity for quarterbacks to be mobile? Is there a difference between what quarterback mobility is in college football vs. what it is or can be in the NFL?
A. It's really about the talent source. And you know, when you start talking about people who have talent – like the Kyler Murrays of the world and have unique arm talent and the unique leg talent, or are you talking about guys like Lamar Jackson, who has unique arm and leg talent? It's just a scarcity of that talent. The talent availability dictates whether or not we're looking at something that's long-term or, or real, or whatnot because you've noticed there aren't a lot of guys who come with those skill-sets.

Q. On Tuesday when asked about Minkah Fitzpatrick's lack of takeaways, you expressed some confidence that it would change. Why are you confident that it will?
A. I've just been around him enough to know that playmakers make plays, and it's only a matter of time before we realize his fortunes because there's not anything mystical about it. He creates his fortune with quality detail and play-instincts and intuition. And that's not something you lose. He's been here a very short period of time, but it is has not taken a long period of time to realize that's a component of his game. And it is, and so I'm not gonna be surprised when it shows up here in 2021.

Q. When dealing with a player with Minkah's skill-set for finding the ball, are there things a coach can do to put him in better position for takeaways, and are there things an opposing coach can do to minimize those opportunities for him?
A. From our perspective, from our side, if you move him it not only includes him, it includes someone else. And so, those decisions or discussions don't happen in a vacuum. You might strengthen his position or ability to do something, but you might put someone else in uncomfortable circumstances. There are usually more complexities to that move than meets the eye because it always involves others. From an offense's perspective, I'm sure that they're cognizant of where he is, and they exercise extra precaution because his reputation precedes him. But that's not anything earth-shattering, either. We did some of the same things when Baltimore had Ed Reed standing back there in the middle of that secondary. We just didn't want to add to his highlight reel, because you trusted and believed in his reputation and the fact that it was real.

Q. In terms of teams' execution of the process, is there a difference between the in-season trading deadline and the trading that might go on as teams are initially forming their 53-man rosters?
A. The in-season trading deadline is usually trying to fill holes or needs based on the things that have transpired after opening day. Usually it's the attrition associated with play, trying to mend gaps created by injury and so forth, so that's generally the guiding force in terms of movement that happens at the trading deadline to insulate yourself or to stretch yourself for the second half of the season.

Q. But what about the process within the league, the respective teams' personnel departments having guys checking around the league, or having guys from other teams checking with you? Does that happen at this time of the year with trades, too?
A. Oh, certainly. That's procedural. You know, you always want to know what's going on around the game. Personnel departments communicate, that's just part of them doing their due diligence to hear what's potentially out there, whether you're a window shopper or whether you're just a spectator. That's just due diligence in terms of trying to track and forecast some of the movement that happens in our game.

Q. Are teams ever looking simply to unload players at the in-season trading deadline?
A. In some instances, yes, but it's about things that have transpired in play. During the course of the season, maybe someone's role has diminished, maybe their skills have diminished, etc. But those are usually less likely circumstances. It's not necessarily about the seller. It's about the buyer. The buyer dictates the market. People have some needs, they're going to address those needs, and that's what drives the market.

Q. Do you get complaints about playing time from players as often as the issue seems to be reported in the media?
A. Not hardly. You know how it is, people like bad news. Sometimes those things get more attention than they deserve in the big scheme of things. That's a minimal component of the things that we deal with day-to-day to be honest with you.

Q. How do you/would you handle complaints about playing time?
A. On a very individual basis based on the man and the variables at play. There's really no cookie-cutter way to deal with that. You're dealing with individuals, with people, with men. It requires communication, first and foremost. Communication is talking and listening, and I try to do both.

Q. Today's opponent is the Cleveland Browns, and in terms of schematics, what kind of running game do the Browns employ, and what areas or positions on your defense does that scheme stress the most?
A. Probably the challenge of them is that they're equally good at two real critical, or structural ways to run the football. They're a good zone-scheme team. They're a good outside-zone team, they run the stretch extremely well. But they're also a very good gap team. They can block down and pull people. So the power game is a big component of their play. They're equally successful at both, and that's one of the things that makes them really challenging. They have a veteran line coach and run game coordinator, Bill Callahan, and he's the kind of guy who makes that happen. There are guys like him around the game who have been around the game. They got real good quality backs, and so they know what it is they're doing. They get hats on hats, and they got real good quality runners, and that's part of the reason that makes them a difficult nut to crack.

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