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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript

Posted Dec 11, 2013

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the Miami media during his conference call on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Q: When you look at this Dolphins team on film now, what’s the biggest difference between the team you faced on October 27 and the team that’s playing right now?

BB: Overall the execution level is good. Their defensive front is very active and disruptive. [Cameron] Wake is really playing well; [Jared] Odrick, all those guys, [Vernon] Olivier. It’s a good group. The linebackers and secondary are good, they’ve been productive, they’ve gotten their hands on a lot of balls, interceptions [they’ve] run back for touchdowns. The kicking game is good: good on coverage teams, good in the return game, blocking punts, putting a lot of pressure on their opponents. Offensively, [Lamar] Miller is running well, [Ryan] Tannehill is doing a good job with the offense, the receivers are explosive, the line looks like it’s coming together. They’ve had a couple changes there since we played them but it looks like it’s coming together a little bit better each with more continuity. I thought they played well against Pittsburgh. That was a crazy game, wild finish, but Pittsburgh’s a tough football team, especially at home. I thought they played them well. They’ve won four of the last six, I think Coach [Joe] Philbin and his staff have done a real good job of just keep grinding away, getting better every week, improving over the course of the season. I think they’ve just gotten better in each area all the way through the year.

Q: What do you see when you see Charles Clay? He seems like a guy that can create mismatches by catching the ball, making guys miss and making the run after the catch.

BB: Yeah, I see all those things. Very explosive player, he’s got good vertical speed, very explosive with the ball in his hands. The thing I’ve been impressed with really is his blocking. He’s a tough, competitive kid that has got good playing strength and definitely is willing to stick his nose in there and block defensive ends, block linebackers. You see some receiving tight ends in the league that have less, I would say interest, in blocking. He’s not one of those at all. He’s a very willing blocker and effective blocker. He’s a tough kid that has good playing strength. They match him up against defensive ends at times and he hangs in there and does a good job – blocking Charles Johnson at Carolina and guys like that, as well as linebackers. I think his playmaking ability and the explosiveness in his game as a receiver and as run-after-catch player are all pretty well documented, it’s out there. But I’ve really been impressed with the way he competes as a blocker too.

Q: The Dolphins were at a low point after the Tampa loss, the bullying scandal was mushrooming. What has been your impression of Coach Philin keeping this team together and on track and now in the playoff chase?

BB: Yeah, excellent. I think, even go back to last year, Joe has done a real good job with that team. He’s been very consistent. They play good every week. They’re tough and competitive. They run the ball, they stop the run, they can throw the ball and stop the pass. They’re good in the kicking game. They make you work for everything. I think they’re a disciplined, tough football team. I think the media blew a lot of that out of proportion and all the hype and everything, but that didn’t derail them in any way. They’ve been on track. I think just watching them on film, if you just watch them play on film, you wouldn’t have any sense that whatever else has been in the media and that kind of thing, that that’s affected the football team. They’ve just gone out there and played very, very competitively every week. They’ve lost several real close games and had a couple plays gone differently for them, they’d have a nine or 10 wins too. That’s the team I see. I see a real good football team.

Q: When you consider the personnel losses you’ve had since last year, do you feel vulnerable right now? Have you ever felt vulnerable this season with this team?

BB: I think every week is a challenge for us. We’ve played a lot of good football teams and a lot of good players, good coaches – that’s what’s in this league. You have to be ready to play every week. There are challenges every week. We have another big one this week down in Miami. We’ll do our best to meet that one but we feel like we’ve been challenged every week and asked our players to respond to those challenges. I think for the most part they’ve done a good job of stepping up and being ready to go and compete. It hasn’t always worked out exactly the way we wanted it to, but we’ve been competitive in every game, in every situation and had our chances. I credit the players for that.

Q: Have you always felt like you’ve been the team being chased in the AFC East or was there any point where you did some chasing?

BB: I never look at it that way at all. I just look at the competition that we have that individual week and try to do the best we can to get our team ready to play and compete against that team. There’s nothing we can do about everybody else or what happens over the course of the season. The only thing we can affect is what we do that week. This week it’s Miami and that’s where all our attention is. I don’t really care what our record is, what their record is or who anybody else is playing or not playing. There’s nothing we can do about any of that stuff. The only thing that’s in our control is our preparation and our performance Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. That’s all we’re worried about. You can do whatever you want with the rest of it, but we’re not really thinking about it.

Q: What concerns you most about the Dolphins passing game, specifically what they’ve been able to do these last few weeks?

BB: They have explosive receivers, including Clay. The backs are good with the ball in their hands. We’ve certainly got to be aware of [Marcus] Thigpen, he’s been used from time to time. Maybe use more Miller, [Daniel] Thomas, as well as the receivers. Tannehill, who can run as well as throw and get out of the pocket and buy time with scrambles, things like that. [All] of those guys [are] a threat. Obviously [Mike] Wallace, I think we all know about him and [Brian] Hartline. We’ve had plenty of problems with him in the past. I think [Marlon] Moore and [Rishard] Matthews have both done a good job. They’ve both shown up as the third receiver. They’ve been effective and productive too. You have to stop all of them.

Q: Do you see Tannehill as an ascending quarterback? At what point do you know what you’ve got in a quarterback, especially a young one?

BB: I think that would be a better question to ask somebody at Miami because they’re the ones who are with him every day. But competing against him, he’s a good football player. He’s poised, he’s smart. He handles a lot of things at the line of scrimmage in terms of checks and adjustments and things like that, not every play but when he needs to he can certainly do it. It looks like he’s got a lot of poise and is able to have good command of the team. He can obviously throw the ball and make the throws. He has a good arm. He’s athletic in the pocket, as a runner, as a guy that can buy more time with his feet to get the ball down the field. He does a good job of looking downfield and playing with poise under pressure when he’s rushed and he can get out of trouble. Those are all the things I see from him. I’m sure that as he gains experience, any guy in their second year is going to be better than their first year and is going to continue to learn, if they work at it, is going to continue to learn and grow and become a better player in their third, fourth and right on down the line years. I’ve seen plenty of experienced quarterbacks get better every year.

Q: When did you know Tom Brady was going to be special? Do you ever allow yourself, the two of you, to consider the partnership you’ve had?

BB: Well I have a great appreciation for Tom and what he does. He’s meant a lot to this football team and this organization and to me personally. But right now isn’t really the right time to reflect on that. We’re trying to prepare to go down and play competitively against the Dolphins this Sunday. That’s what our meetings have been about this week and that’s what they’ll be about for the rest of the week.

Q: We saw what Tom did last week. Are you still amazed by what he does or is that just another day at the office for him?

BB: Well, I think as it relates to last week’s game or the Houston game or the Denver game, there are lot of guys out there playing. It’s not one guy. Tom didn’t onside kick, Tom doesn’t play defense, Tom didn’t catch the ball. He did his job and he did it well in some critical situations and so did some other people who blocked and caught and got open and made plays. It’s definitely the whole team coming together at a couple critical points in some of our recent games that enabled us to be successful. Tom had a big part in that, I’m not saying that, but he certainly couldn’t and didn’t do those things by himself. There were plenty of other players that made contributions and helped make some of the plays that he made. It’s team execution and team effectiveness and he’s part of that. I’m not trying to diminish what he did, but also at the same time, there are a lot of other people involved too.

Q: Can you talk about your process of halftime adjustments? Has that changed at all over the years on how you approach that? How do you make adjustments?

BB: I think it goes back to when you’re an assistant coach and a coordinator. All the way through the years, it’s been pretty much the same. You go into the game with a game plan, you know your opponent, you know what they’ve done. You go in with the way you want to try to play or call the game and then as the game starts to unfold in the first series, the second series, certainly by the end of the first quarter, you have a sense of whether it’s going the way you thought it would or maybe parts of it are, but parts of it aren’t, whether it’s the running game or third down or the red area or a certain personnel grouping or formationing or blitz that they’re using or whatever it happens to be. There’s something that’s a little bit different that they’ve game planned for you or are using more in your game than they have in previous games because of the way you match up with them. Then it unfolds from there. As the game continues to unfold, as you adjust to the things that they’re doing, then they are probably going to adjust to what you’re doing. It’s punching and counter-punching and trying to put your team in the best possible situation they can to be competitive. In the end, none of us are reinventing the game or anything. I don’t think there were any new plays out there or any new defenses out there in recent weeks that are going to change the history of the game. It comes down to execution. Sometimes, as we’ve all seen, you go out there and run a play one or two times and it doesn’t go so good, but the second or third or fourth time, you were able to execute it better. That’s a credit to the players that are out there doing it that are blocking, tackling, throwing, catching, kicking, whatever it happens to be. It really is a game that comes down to execution and being able to perform under pressure. I think adjustments are a little bit overrated. That’s certainly an element of the game, I’m not trying to minimize it as it’s not significant but football is about the players that are out there playing it.

Q: I was talking to a player about contracts and he said players get what they can get. I said players get paid based on past performance and future performance. Which side do you come down on?

BB: It’s a pretty general question. The reality of it is every contract is very specific, as it relates to obviously the player and the team that’s involved. I think whatever a team offers a player is usually what, I’m not saying that’s necessarily what the player is worth, but it’s what they can offer. You’re not operating in a vacuum. You have a lot of other players and a lot of other circumstances to consider. Sometimes one team can offer one thing, another team can offer something else. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the team that offers less thinks less of the player. Maybe that’s all they can offer because of the other constraints they have in terms of the way the team is built. I know that in our contract negotiations, we obviously try to be fair. We do what we can do. Sometimes other teams can do more. Sometimes we can do more than other teams can do. It’s a very inexact science. It certainly is in part reflective of what the financial situation is on your team, it’s also a part of the contract negotiation. We’re all operating under a cap system. What a player is worth is obviously what anybody will pay but it doesn’t necessarily mean that what a team offers is what they think a player is worth. It just may be what they’re able to offer. Then the whole system has to work itself out. Players and teams and agents and everybody else have to just all figure out what’s the best option, what’s the best opportunity and then you either come to a deal or somebody else comes to a deal with a player. That’s the way I’d say we approach it. What we do is what we can do and that’s not a commentary on what anybody else can or can’t do, because everybody else has their own situations and their own teams to deal with. We can only control what we can control. We try to do the best with what we have. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve all made mistakes but we try to do the best that we can. That’s our approach to it.