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Eric Bieniemy talks about Sam Howell and the offense struggling vs the Rams, Jacoby Brissett, and more

Eric Bieniemy speaks to the media before today’s practice

Eric Bieniemy

Opening statement:

Good afternoon. First and foremost, before we begin, I had a great discussion with an old mentor of mine, and he reminded me of something. It’s a person that I’ve known since I was in college, so, first and foremost, I want to apologize for my language I’ve used at times, and he just reminded me of the status that I’m in. And on top of that, just the people and the crowd that you can have a major influence with. You just want to make sure that you’re always presenting it and presenting yourself the right way, but always being a leader of men. So first and foremost, let me apologize for that.

Second of all, obviously, getting back to our business, we’re not playing very well right now. But one thing that I do appreciate, guys are playing hard. We’re just not executing. It’s not a lack of effort. We just need to play better. And when we’re playing pretty good collectively as one unit, we have a chance. We haven’t quite given ourselves the best opportunity over the past few weeks. So we got to continue chopping wood. We got to continue addressing those issues, and we got to continue making sure that our guys are going out there and executing exactly what we want. So, with that said, I’m all ears.

Offensive struggles:

Did Sam Howell see some things for the first time against the Los Angeles Rams?:

I think yes, there are some of those things, but on top of that too, you can get to a point where you can apply a lot of pressure on yourself, and you’re seeing a lot, but you’re not seeing anything. Sometimes that happened, and he’s a young kid and hear me when I say this, he wants to be perfect. He wants to be great. He can tell you everything that he did wrong, and he’s very self-aware of all the mistakes that he made. And he also understands his accountability and the lack of, that he didn’t have in that game. But he also understands how important it is for him to be decisive and right because it impacts everyone else. So, he’s still finding ways to grow, and this is a part of that growth process.

Sam Howell getting benched for Jacoby Brissett:

So I think another thing, I thought we did a great job when we pulled him because it gave him an opportunity to take a break, to sit back, inhale, exhale, and watch Jacoby play and watch Jacoby run a similar number of plays and how a veteran just handled a lot of the things that was presented to him. And I’ll say this, sometimes without any bad luck, we wouldn’t have any good luck at all because I think sometimes sitting back and watching someone else do it can have a major impact in helping him to continue to grow.

How important handling adversity is in projecting how good a quarterback can be:

It’s very important because first of all, you want to see how he’s going to handle it. How is he going to respond? So immediately after the game, he was disappointed, what you expected, but it wasn’t that he was disappointed in us playing Jacoby. He was disappointed in himself. On top of that, when I had an opportunity to spend some time with him throughout the course of the week on Monday and Tuesday, he was just reflective of the things that that took place and the things that he could have done better.

And the thing that I’m excited about is he’s still a sponge and he’s learning and he’s realizing that, you know what? I got to be on top of my game. And it ain’t that he has to play extraordinary every week, but he has to be on top of his game. And I love the resiliency in him. I think more than anything, it’s forcing him to go back to the basics. It’s forcing him to just take a broad picture on everything and just making sure that he’s not taking anything for granted.

And so, evaluating him, I mean I’m evaluating him each and every week, but I can see some of the little things that he was taking for granted, that he’s not taking for granted at this particular moment. But that’s just the growth process of a quarterback. Because normally in year two, you see a lot of things because sometimes they think they know it all. And I remember, and I say that not in a negative way, they know the offense, but now because they’ve had a year underneath their belt, there’s certain things that they just see and second guess themselves rather than being decisive.

Getting a second year to work with Howell:

Oh, it’ll do wonders because it’ll be one of those deals that, he’s been there and done that. Now, would it be one of those years where you’ll just say, he’s the next Hall of Fame quarterback? I’m not going to say that, but just the growth, having the conversations, and as we’re talking, I know he could piece together the sentence and the statements that I’m going to make to him. So that’s, that’s very important.

And obviously it continues with his growth process and this evolution of him becoming a quarterback that he has to become, because right now, honestly, he’s learning the system. He’s still continuing to learn the system. There’s other things he has to learn, too. There’s a lot of complex defensive coordinators out there that are going to present different issues to him. And that’s a major test each and every week. Not only is he being tested by us and being evaluated, but on top of that, he’s being tested by what he’s seeing every single play.

So, he has to learn how to process that information. And when those things can become secondary to him, now the game can slow down for him. A second year would be outstanding because it will help him to continue that growth process.

What the continuity would allow him to do as he builds an offseason plan:

Now you just continue adding and building on what we’ve already established. You’re still establishing a culture and the way we do things. But on top of that, just adding on to what we’ve done offensively. Getting creative with the personnel groups and moving guys around and just challenging them to making sure that they have a complete understanding as well. Because when it’s all said and done with, you want all your players to grasp your system.

Year two is the year when everyone normally takes off because of the language barrier that they’ve had to learn. Now they start understanding the concepts, they can start preaching, and now they can start teaching the younger guys to have a complete understanding because now those guys become the coaches on the field. Everything that you’re talking about, it’s coming from them verbatim. And that’s when you know that you have it in the right way to have it in the right direction.

Ron Rivera’s idea to bench Howell:

Coach Ron, he basically said, ‘hey, you know what, let’s rest him. Let’s give him a break. Let’s let him sit back and let’s give him an opportunity to observe Jacoby. Let’s give Jacoby an opportunity to go play.’ And so I agree with him. At that particular time, there was no hesitation. And obviously Coach Rivera is the head man, and when he makes a comment, he has 51% of the vote. And I honestly agreed with him at that particular time because I felt he was pressing and you never want to see someone pressing.

I just want to make sure I state this loud and clear. Sam is a hell of a kid, on top of that, he’s a hell of a quarterback that’s accepted a huge challenge. It’s not very easy being in the role that he’s in. I’m not going to make any excuses for him as well. But on top of that, as a group, we got to make sure that everyone is rallying around him and playing. We got to play better in the run game. We got to make sure we’re protecting the quarterback. We got to make plays on the perimeter. It all ties together. It’s tough when you’re in that predicament, but I thought at that particular moment, that was the right decision to do.

And I tell you what, not shocked nor surprised at the success that Jacoby had. He did a hell of a job. He showed why he’s a player of high caliber in this business. He’s also shown that his leadership and basically all the experience that he has in playing in a multitude of offenses, it paid off because he just went out there and played. He didn’t think, and that was the big thing, probably more than anything that Sam got out of that was Jacoby went out and played the game. He didn’t go out and overthink the process.

Sam Howell pressing/over-thinking:

Missing Brian Robinson Jr. against the Rams:

You always miss your good players. Obviously, it’s tough when players are hurt. You never want guys to step down, I mean, to miss games. But next man up, guys got to rise to the occasion and just like I made the statement earlier, we all have to play better. This is an opportunity for other guys to step up and show that they want to be in that particular role because when it’s all said and done with, we all are basically being evaluated, correct? We all have an opportunity to put film on tape. So those guys have a great opportunity when B Rob is not in there. So, they need to make sure that they’re maximizing that opportunity and put the right stuff on tape that’s going to help them moving forward.

Curtis Samuel’s value this season:

I’ll tell you what, Curtis has done a heck of a job. Curtis is probably by far, one of our most explosive players and it shows each and every week. He’s a unique kid and I say that in a respectful way because he has this big body, hell, he can line up. You can very well make a case and point and we know what he did at Ohio State, but you can line him up and hand the ball off to him probably 25 times and he wouldn’t bat an eye. He’s done such a great job of doing the things that we’ve asked of him.

He’s gravitated to Bobby Engram, he’s just sucking up all of the valuable information that’s helping him to grow as a receiver and helping him to grow as a football player. But I can’t state enough excitement and proud moments that I have about him, because he’s grown tremendously in that role and he’s doing a great job. On top of that, the things that you guys don’t see is his leadership.

First and foremost, he’s a very intelligent person. I mean, he gets football, he understands, he can get all the guys lined up on the field, but on top of that, he’s a role model for that room as well and that’s the thing that I really enjoy about him.

Does Sam Howell need a week off to watch Jacoby Brissett?:

That’s not anything that crosses your mind and the thing about that, you can state that for everybody on the field, correct? You can make that case and argument. Sam has done a heck of a job, he’s earned this position. But on top of that, let me go backwards, that was great for him going through that moment because it was a humbling experience for him, but it also gave him an opportunity to grow by evaluating and just watching and having that opportunity just to see a veteran handle and conduct himself in such a positive way.

So now when that discussion comes up, it’s not even a second thought because yes, he got to get back on that horse. He got to make sure that all the work that we’ve put into, now he has to go out and apply it. Now, let’s use this situation and make sure that it becomes a positive outcome because I’ll say this, sometimes without any bad luck, some of us wouldn’t have any good luck at all. The thing that I’m noticing, and I said this a little bit earlier, is certain things that, I mean, the little minute things, not major things, but certain things that he would take for granted at times, he’s not doing that right now.

So sometimes you need to be humbled, sometimes you need to step back and really evaluate what’s going on. Having an opportunity to see what a veteran can do, but on top of that evaluating self and where he is in this particular moment in the season, and how can he improve himself moving forward. So, I’m excited, I’m fired up and I’m looking forward to it.

Younger players getting bigger opportunities due to the team’s elimination from the playoffs:

You know what, I think that’s a discussion that we need to have as a coaching staff with management. But yes, you always want to evaluate, give everyone an opportunity to be put in that situation. But that’s something as a staff that we have to make sure that we’re discussing, not anything that myself would want to do.

Howell’s coaching points this week:

Well, first and foremost, and I’ll say this, it’s always better to be decisive than to be right, because if you’re decisive with the football, guess what, your chances are that you’re probably right, that just means that you’re not second guessing yourself. I remember this with Pat at once upon a time, Pat at times could see ghosts out there and hey, it’s one thing and he was thinking that ‘Hey, you know what? Well, he could have jumped this.’ Well, that wasn’t the case. So, I’m seeing that with Sam and sometimes you can overthink something simple and for whatever reason, I’ve never played the position, it happens. It’s unfortunate that it happens, but the thing that he needs to continue to do is continue working through it and continue trusting his gut and his instinct and all the fundamentals that he’s been taught. He put that on display yesterday, and he’s put that on display so far today. So, like I said, it’s better to be decisive than to be wrong. That’s the major thing that I think moving forward, that he’s really starting to gain a complete understanding of.

Getting Howell to be more decisive:

We’re going to point it out to him on tape. But if you see it and the ball is designed to go in this particular area versus this particular coverage, hey, I got to come off the bound and make that throw. I got to come off the bound and make that play. I don’t care what defender is over there, I’m going to make this throw and it’s going to be completed. One thing, and this probably sounds arrogant of me, but one thing I’m a firm believer in, if the ball is out on time, can’t nobody defend whatever play we call, but we got to make sure that we’re decisive, taking the proper drop. On top of that, we’ve got to come off the mound and make the throw. If he’s being decisive, we got a great opportunity of being successful in that particular moment.

Can Howell grow in recognizing pre-snap coverages?:

That plays into any role with any young and up-and-coming quarterback. Because at this level, there’s a lot of defensive coordinators who do a great job of scheming you up and you have to recognize coverages, that’s a part of the growth process as a young quarterback. At some point in time, the light is going to turn on for him. I think at one point in time in the season, it turned on, now we’re seeing all these different looks. The light will turn on again. But, that’s just a part of the process and once that aspect becomes permanent, now, he can really slow the game down and play the game the correct way.

If the Rams were moving more with their coverages compared to previous opponents:

We just got to play better, no excuses, we got to play better. I got to call better plays. On top of that, our guys got to execute. It wasn’t anything that Raheem did, and I’m not trying to shoot Raheem down, okay? Raheem and his staff did a great job. We didn’t do a good enough job, all right? Jacoby came in and gave us a breath of fresh air. We didn’t finish it.