Q: The Mike Lombardi stamp, if you will, from having a background with him, what do you see him trying to institute there?
BB: I think they have a lot of young players and a lot of talented players. I see them improving. I see those guys getting better on a weekly basis. They’ve had a lot of young guys step in and get an opportunity to play and play competitively and then get better. They’ve been active on the waiver wire in the lower part of their roster, with some of their role players. I see those guys and I see a talented group of players that the roster has improved through the course of the year. Not all of them have played – like their offensive line, they play the same five guys every week, there are never any changes in there. But they’ve added some younger players on their offensive line for depth and I’m sure that those guys will end up being competitive players, same thing at the tight end position. They’re obviously in it for the long haul. I think we saw that last spring with some of their movement around the draft and the trade this year early in the season – [Trent] Richardson – and things like that. I see a lot of improvement in the team and the quality of the team. The team is certainly well coached and they’re playing hard and they’re improving and they’re playing well. I think that’s a credit to all the people that are involved in that.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mike specifically as a personnel evaluator?
BB: Good, I think [he’s] excellent.
Q: What makes him good?
BB: He’s thorough, he’s smart, he’s thorough, he understands football. He understands not just personnel but schemes and how certain players fit into certain schemes better than others because of the responsibilities in those schemes; the type of plays or the type of system that coaches run, different coaches run. There are obviously a lot of different coaches in this league, different coaches in college, so that affects the performance of the players – some good, some bad, depending on how they fit into that particular system. I think he has a very good understanding of that, which is important for personnel people to understand, just like it is for coaches to understand personnel. Mike is a hard working guy that won’t leave a stone unturned. He’ll find players, the Tony Joneses of the world, the Wally Williams of the world, the guys like that that played very well for us at Cleveland that nobody ever heard of that came out of nowhere that were good football players. He has a way of finding those guys.
Q: What are you seeing from Josh Gordon? He’s had some big games statistically recently.
BB: He’s played good all year. You see the same things all year. The plays he’s made the last couple weeks are the same plays he’s made all year. He’s a great player. He can attack all three levels of the defense. He can run through them, he can take the short plays, catch-and-run plays, crossing patterns, look patterns, plays like that, quick three-step drops and break tackles. He’s very good on the intermediate routes, the in-cuts, the crossing routes, comebacks, stop-routes, things like that that attack the middle levels of the defense. He’s a complete player that can run fast, catch, big target and make a lot of yards on his own after the catch with his speed, size and running ability.
Q: Did you take a good, long look at him when he was available?
BB: Yeah, coming out of Baylor? Sure.
Q: Was he a tough projection at all? Some people thought he was raw.
BB: Well, he didn’t have a real productive year there. But I think when you talk to the Baylor people, there have been several receivers drafted out of Baylor. Obviously they had a good quarterback down there when he was there too. I don’t think there’s any question about his talent. He just didn’t have all the production to go with it.
Q: Can you talk about the asset that
BB: Well, you know, James has a role on the team and he’s done a good job of executing his role, whether it’s been offensively or in the kicking game or even as it relates to the scout team in practice and things like that, helping the defense get ready. As far as what he’s been called on to do offensively and in the kicking game, he knows what his job is, he works hard to do it well, as well as he possibly can. It’s actually expanded a little bit. I don’t think he’s ever going to be out there for every play offensively, that’s not his role, but when we do have him out there or when we have him out there in the kicking game, he works hard at what he’s asked to do and he’s been a good contributor for the team. He’s smart, he’s tough, he works hard, he’s a very dependable guy and there’s an awful lot to be said for that.
Q: How much is that fullback position similar to tight end in that helps dictate certain matchups as you’re going through in-game adjustments and stuff like that?
BB: Yeah, it can definitely be a part of that, yeah. Again, the more productive you can be in any group, the more it forces the defense to react to that grouping. Whatever your production is, whether it’s regular or two tight ends or three receivers, whatever that grouping happens to be, if it’s productive then it forces the defense to react to it. If they don’t like the matchup that they would normally play against that group so to speak, it might force them to do something else or may be something you can take advantage of. Good production in any group puts pressure on your opponents, no question about it.
Q: Did James Develin show you anything that you hadn’t seen, in terms of the things he did this past Sunday – catching the ball over the middle, the run at the goal line?
BB: I think in the preseason games, he was effective in short-yardage. I think he has good hands – for a guy who played linebacker in college, he catches the ball pretty well. I don’t think that’s ever really been an issue.
Q: Does it make it harder when it’s Wednesday and you don’t know who the opposing starting quarterback is going to be?
Q: Did you spend much time looking at the film of Brian Hoyer to get a feel of that offense?
BB: Looking at the overall composite of the season, you see him in there for the two or three games that he played. It’s no different than seeing Travis Benjamin or even [Trent] Richardson when he was there. I’m saying, you see those guys as they came up over the course of the film but obviously we’re not focused on them because they’re not playing but you can’t help but notice them. You can’t help but notice Hoyer, you can’t help but notice Benjamin, Richardson, guys like that, Oniel Cousins when he was in there the first four games. You see the guys that are in there but obviously our preparation has moved past them because they won’t be playing, well Cousins could be, but I’m saying the other guys.
Q: How does Norv Turner react to the different personnel that he’s had at quarterback?
BB: Well, he’s done it through his whole career. Really, I think his offense has core fundamentals that he sticks by, whether it was at Dallas, Washington, Oakland, San Diego, Miami, Cleveland, you name it. There are core principles in offense, core plays, things that he’s very good at, that complement each other, that you know he’s going to do. I can’t imagine he’s going to go in there this week and put in a new offense. I find that hard to believe. He’ll obviously make in-game adjustments for us, like he does every week for a new opponent. But the core fundamentals of his offense have, I think, stayed the same from back when he was with Jimmy [Johnson] in Dallas. We have to be ready for that. Obviously the specific personnel changes but I think you see [Josh] Gordon do a lot of things that you saw Vincent Jackson do in San Diego. I think you see [Jordan] Cameron do a lot of things that you saw [Antonio] Gates do in San Diego. There’s certainly carryover between his system and players in Cleveland, relative to other players that he’s had in his system at similar positions.
Q: During the TV broadcasts, we see you taking notes. What kind of things are you writing down?
BB: Things that I want to remember. To put together with plays, when they come off the field, on a particular play, what the call was, maybe what a problem was, match up with the picture, talk about it with the players. So, we go to play 42, here’s what happened instead of trying to remember, ‘Was it this play? Was it that play?’ So I make a note of it.
BB: I don’t think you can replace preseason without preseason. We’re only in pads one day a week, less than that now. I don’t think, for Rob, Rob’s preseason was the time prior to when he played, those practice weeks, whatever it was, however many it was, from the start of the season. We [got] asked about every day, what his status was, whether he practicing, whether he was playing, what he was doing and all that [laughter]. That was his training camp. That’s all it was. But that isn’t training camp now. I don’t think we can mistake that for training camp. But that’s what it was.
Q: Now that he’s had more than four games, which would have been a preseason, and we’ve seen his time rise up, is it safe to say he’s at the point he would have been at Week 1 if he’d had that time?
BB: I don’t know. I mean, maybe. It’s approximate. But, he’s at Week 1. Everybody else is at Week . I’m just saying, you can’t replace the time that you’ve missed. You just can’t replace it, it’s gone. You make the best of what you have and do the best you can with it. But all those practices in training camp, that’s what training camp is for, is to train the players and train your team, not only to do their job but to work with each other and get the timing, the execution and the consistency and the fundamentals that you need over the course of the season. When you’re out here trying to get ready for a team like Cleveland who has a bunch of different defenses, a bunch of different offensive sets, a bunch of different plays, a bunch of different things in the kicking game, it’s hard to take the same time and dedicate it to fundamental techniques that you do in training camp when you’re installing your plays with your fundamentals that you’re going to use on those plays and you can go out there and practice them and then run the play and come back the next day and correct it and practice them again and run the play. We’re not in that mode now. We’re just not. We can do a part of it in a few drills or maybe something after practice, but it’s nowhere close to what training camp is. It’s impossible. If you did that, then I don’t think you’d be able to prepare your team for the different things they’d have to deal with in the game. The more you prepare for the game, the less time you spend on fundamentals. You hope that you have a good base that you were able to create in training camp and the early part of the season, September particularly, where you have a good base on those fundamentals and techniques and they’ll carry you most o the way through. That’s been my experience in 39 years in the National Football League. But that’s the battle you fight. You have that one period of time, very brief window in your bye week, when you can go back and try to hone in on those a little bit more to try to improve them or correct a few things that have started to slip a little bit but that’s a very short window. Once that closes, we’re back into where we are now, which is one padded practice every other week, which that’s what that is and getting ready for games. But when you get ready for a game now, it’s a lot different than getting ready for a game in Week 3 or Week 4 because you have 12 weeks of the volume of what they do. They’ve been in two-minute situations and goal line and short-yardage and third down and all that and they’ve expanded their packages, just like you’ve expanded yours. Now the multiples become exponential in terms of what you can do, what they can do, what they’ve shown, all the stuff you have to cover. You know they have it in, you know they’ve run it, you can’t ignore it so you have to prepare for it and they have to prepare for all your stuff. I’m just saying, it takes a lot of time.
Q: What’s your thought on Rob Gronkowski’s impact? Obviously he’s one of the best players in the league at his position.
BB: No argument there. I think he’s a good player.
Q: How does he open up more things for you in your offense?
BB: I don’t think he opens up anything. I think that when the matchups are favorable and Tom [Brady] sees that, that’s where he’ll throw the ball. When it’s not, I hope he doesn’t throw it to him and we throw it to someone else where we have a better matchup. Look, the more things they have to defend defensively, the harder it is for any defense, we all know that. If you can run the ball, if you have multiple options in the passing game at multiple levels, then that makes it harder to defend and everybody benefits form that. It might be one guy one week, might be another guy another week. Again, I think there’s a perception out there that in the game plan it’s, ‘Well, we’re going to throw the ball to this guy on this play and we’re going to throw the ball to that guy on that play.’ It just doesn’t work that way. I don’t think any passing game, unless you want to throw a screen pass or something like that. You have four or five guys out in the pattern and depending on what the coverage is and how the matchups go, there are certain guys you want to throw to and there are certain guys you don’t want to throw to based on what they’re doing. You might hope that you get a certain matchup and if you get it, great. But if you don’t get it, you don’t want to tell the quarterback to throw the ball to two or three guys standing there, just because that’s a guy you want to throw the ball to. I think that’s ridiculous. We would never do that. I don’t know if other teams do that, but that’s not something we want to do.
Q: Personally, do you still have an affinity toward the Browns?
BB: I was there for five years. It was five important years in my life, for myself, my family and all that. Obviously we’ve all moved on and I have a job to do here. That’s where my loyalty is, to Robert [Kraft] and the Patriots organization and this football team. [It’s] no different than how I feel, honestly, about the Colts or the Lions or the Broncos. I feel differently about the Jets, I wouldn’t put them in that category [laughter] but you know. It’s good experiences with all those teams and I learned from them and grew as a coach and as a person and as a family. It was for a different time in a different place. This is where we are now; try to make the most out of this one.