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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript

Posted Dec 6, 2013

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference on Friday, December 6, 2013.

Q: You’re going up against a team with a first-year head coach and it’s your first team, the Cleveland Browns. Do you ever think back to your first season as a head coach and do you have an appreciation for what a head coach is going through when you go up against a guy like Rob Chudzinski this week?

BB: Well sure, I definitely remember what some of my experiences were that year. But as it relates to the Browns right now, we really can’t be too concerned about that. We have a job to do here. They’re a good football team. They have a lot of good players and they work hard and they’ve improved a lot. I don’t want to get caught up in all that. Obviously I’ve talked about this before, I remember the first game. I remember Jimmy Johnson telling me years later that they didn’t even have a scouting report for us in the first game because they were worried about Washington the next week. They didn’t feel like they could dedicate too much time to us, which was about right. So, you remember a few of those things. But I would say, just looking at the Browns organization, overall, separately, it’s obvious they have a plan. Jimmy Haslam, the owner and [President] Joe Banner and then they’ve implemented [General Manager] Mike [Lombardi] and Chud [Head Coach Rob Chudzinski] to go through with it. But they definitely have a plan of what they want to do. They have a lot of young players. They’re young on defense, they have a lot of young offensive linemen that aren’t playing who I’m sure they must like. They have a lot of skill players and a lot of good players on defense period. They’ve put a lot of young players into the kicking game. They obviously have a plan – they way they handled the draft last year and so forth. It’s a team that’s young, they’re talented, they’re getting better and it looks like they definitely have a vision that Jimmy and Joe have a definite vision for where they want the team to go and they’ve had Mike and Rob implement it. They have a very experienced coaching staff. Their strength and conditioning staff has obviously done a good job because they have very few injuries, other than at the quarterback position, they’ve remained remarkably healthy throughout the course of the year and they’re a tough, physical team so it’s not like they don’t bang it around in there. Obviously their strength staff has done a great job there. Those are some of the things that I see with the Browns. But really all that’s sort of not really very much in focus because we’re concentrating on what they do, what their tendencies are, what the matchups are going to be, how we’re going to game plan and so forth. That’s really the target for us right now.

Q: You’ve seen a bunch of tight ends who have a basketball background and you have Jordan Cameron this week. Is there something those guys have in common that you see when you’re defending them?

BB: I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen with basketball players through the years is their hands. Those guys have to have good hands. They obviously handle the ball a lot and it’s on them quickly. They’re cutting and it’s a short pass and a lot of times it comes at good speed or bounce passes and trying to get it around the defender. They have to be able to react to the ball very quickly. It’s a lot different than football, seeing the ball travel however many yards to you. If you’re coming out of a cut, it’s still not like in basketball where the passes are, a lot of times, very short, very tight and you have to reach out and extend and get the ball away from the defender, like you do in football situations rebounding the ball. It’s not about – you can’t let it come into your body. You have to go up and aggressively take it. I would just say in general that basketball players, and certainly basketball players that have come into football that I’ve coached or I’ve observed, one pretty common thing is their hands and their ability to handle the ball aggressively, cleanly and it gets on them quickly but it doesn’t seem to affect them like it does other players sometimes where the ball is on them and they can’t quite find it and adjust to it. Those guys seem like they’re used to it. They’ve done it their whole lives and they’re used to it.

Q: Have you spent any time scouting basketball players?

BB: Sure, yeah. We’ve seen those guys through the years – guys with football backgrounds than end up playing basketball. I’d say I’ve had many conversations with [former Head] Coach [Bob] Knight about that when he was at Indiana. I would say that the big thing for most basketball players is, in general, they’re quicker than they are fast. When you get out there and time a lot of those guys in the 40-yard dash, they’re slow. They might look fast on a basketball court, but we have such a much bigger field that vertical speed, especially for those positions – there aren’t many linemen playing basketball so you’re talking about skills guys, receivers and DBs, those type of positions, that most of them don’t have the speed that we, at our level, they don’t have the speed to play. They have quickness and a lot of times they have exceptional quickness but when it just comes to straight, flat-out speed, I’d say that’s where a lot of times, in the scouting part of it, the deficiencies come up. You go see a basketball player and say, ‘This guy has great hands. This guy has great quickness. This guy is strong, he’s competitive.’ Then you go out and time him and he runs 4.75-4.8 and you’re like, ‘What are you going to do with him?’ What corner in this league is – they have to be able to run faster than that or if they’re receivers, they have to able to run faster than that. I’ve seen that several times. Like I said, I’ve been in a couple of those situations with Coach Knight at Indiana, like ‘Hey, I want you to take a look at this kid, this guy he’s this, he’s that.’ And he was, but then you go out and put a watch on him and he’s just not fast enough to play at this level. It’s generalities but that’s my general experience with it.

Q: Do you think there’s been any change in philosophy from a kickoff return standpoint since the kick got moved up? It seems like before that a kick three or four yards in the end zone would result in the returner taking a knee and now it seems like the opposite.

BB: Yeah, oh no question. I think there’s a much different mentality. Again, it comes back to a philosophy. If you have a kickoff returner, or a guy that you feel like is capable of making a play, then you’re risking three, four, five yards of field position, whatever it is. Even if it doesn’t go good, let’s say he gets out to the 16, 17, whatever it is, versus him having a chance to make a play. You’re just taking the ball out of that guy’s hands. Is there a little bit of field position risk? Yeah, there’s arguably a little bit but if you feel that your return matches up well enough against their coverage or your guy is a guy that you just want to get the ball in his hands and you’re willing to take that four or five yard, whatever it is, field position loss in exchange for the opportunity to make a play, then absolutely that’s the tradeoff. So yeah, you’re seeing guys come out from seven, eight, nine, nine-and-a-half yards deep now that you probably wouldn’t have seen awhile back. That whole rule has had a lot of different dynamics to it. Also relative to the college rule, which is the 35-yard kickoff but then the 25-yard field position. But then you see a lot of college teams now going with – of course they have the wider hash marks – but they’re going with the cross field kicks, more hang time, kind of forcing the return team to bring the ball out and trying to nail them down inside the 25, rather than just banging it away. There’s definitely some, not that I really care about the college game, but it’s interesting because you’re evaluating the kickers and the returns to a degree. So you’re looking at the strategy and how all that shapes up relative to our game where I’d say for the most part kickers are just banging away. Again, when you tell a kicker to just bang away, sometimes those kicks that are coming down seven, eight yards deep in the end zone have 3.8 hang time too. So it’s not the same. There’s a difference between two yards deep and four or five hang time and nine yards deep and 3.8 hang time. I’d rather be nine yards deep. I think there’s a tradeoff there and I think the returners are definitely aware of that. The guys that are going for distance, trying to touch back it, yeah, the balls are deeper but also, many of them are with less hang time and sometimes significantly less hang time. That changes it too. It’s not all about how deep the ball is. There’s certainly a hang time element involved as well.

Q: Is using Matthew Slater as the guy who tells the return man whether to stay in or come out a nod to his special teams knowledge?

BB: Yeah, sure and experience. The guys that we’ve had back there and [Shane] Vereen did that, Kevin Faulk was a guy that did that for us, guys like that. Sure, that’s a big part of it. Especially in conditions that are less – it’s one thing in a dome where you’re getting the same conditions every week. But here, between the wind and again, the hang on the kickoff and the coverage team and knowing who you’re playing against, what you’re return is. Again, if you’re trying to run a sideline return and the ball is deep in the end zone and it’s away from the return, you have a long way to go to get to where you want. That’s different than a ball that’s kicked deep on a middle return down the middle where you’re a lot closer to where you want to be. Again, there’s a lot of things that go into making that judgment, more than just, ‘Well, the ball is this far deep in the end zone.’ It’s what’s the rest of the play and how long is the ball in the air.

Q: How much of Dick LeBeau’s influence do you see in Ray Horton’s defense and how much has he put his own stamp on it?

BB: Yeah, some. I mean, every team is different so you could take the same coaches on one team and put them on another team and it’s still different because you have different players. It’s different, even though the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ might be the same, it will be different. Yeah, there are definitely some similarities but there are a lot of differences. It’s kind of like watching the Arizona defense relative to the Pittsburgh defense last year when he was at Arizona. Now it’s watching the Cleveland defense relative to the Pittsburgh defense but he’s in Cleveland. Obviously one of the big differences is just the linebackers. These guys – [D’Qwell] Jackson, [Craig] Robertson, [Tank] Carder, whoever it is – all those guys are very athletic, they’re very good in pass coverage, they get their hands on a lot of balls and they do a lot less blitzing than the Pittsburgh linebackers, the inside guys, do. You see D’Qwell Jackson back there, sometimes 20 yards deep in coverage tipping a ball or being in a passing lane and forcing the quarterback to throw it down. Robertson and those guys, some of the secondary interceptions that [Tashaun] Gipson and [T.J.] Ward have gotten have come from tipped balls by the linebackers. So they’re interceptions by the DBs but they’re really, I’d say, the majority of the plays were made by the linebackers. I’d say that part of it is a little bit different relative to Pittsburgh where Pittsburgh you had a lot more linebackers blitzing, two off a side, guys crossing up the middle, things like that. Not that these guys don’t blitz, I’m not saying that, but it’s a little bit different and their skills are different than the Pittsburgh guys, which makes sense. Depending on the type of player you have, you do more or less with a guy based on his skills. But these linebackers are very good coverage linebackers, probably as good inside coverage linebackers as we’ve seen all year as a group whether it’s Carder or Robertson or obviously D’Qwell Jackson.

Q: When you prepare for a coach or coordinator who is with a new team but you’ve seen before, do you spend a lot of time looking at the back log for tendencies or do you mostly look at new personnel?

BB: Yeah, I think any time a coordinator changes, you go back to your notes for that coordinator, with the team that he was at and what he did there. Sure, no question. That travels with the guy. Now, again, sometimes that stays the same. Sometimes it gets modified a little bit. Sometimes it changes. Depending on who the head coach is – you just have to look at it. Sometimes it matches up pretty cleanly, sometimes part of it matches up, like maybe it’s the third-down package but their base defense is different or vice versa. You see certain elements of it. Maybe the pressures are the same but the zone coverages are a little bit different or whatever it happens to be. But yeah, absolutely that always – the same thing in the kicking game, offense, defense. I think you definitely want to track those guys. That’s part of what you do in the offseason. You look at your opponents on the schedule. You look at coordinators who have changed or maybe a particular person that’s been added to the staff. Maybe it’s not even a coordinator but like a new offensive line coach, something like that, that that guy might have his protection system or he might have his running game, certain schemes or that type of thing. You see that scheme element has been added and then as you go through the year and you look at it, you say, ‘OK, how much of an influence is this?’ Yeah, we know they have that but they’re not using it or they’re using it a lot. It looks like this guy is running his protections and maybe the coordinator is running his pass patterns or whatever it is.

Q: With the uncertainty at the quarterback position, how much does it help your game preparation that you’re pretty familiar with Norv Turner?

BB: I don’t know. Like I said, Norv’s run his offense pretty much since he was in Dallas. But that doesn’t make it easy to stop. They do a good job. Honestly, I’d rather not see Norv, just because he’s been an experienced guy in the league. That’s really, I don’t know that that’s a good thing. It’s probably a bad thing. He definitely knows what he’s doing. He’s dealt with everything. Whatever opportunities he sees, whatever weaknesses you have, then he’s going to recognize them and he’s got his plays to go in there and expose them. He’s certainly got the personnel to do it with. Yeah, we know what his basic stuff is. So does everybody else but that doesn’t keep him from doing it. It doesn’t make it easy to stop at all. So, no, I’m not looking forward to seeing Norv, no more than I was looking forward to seeing [Defensive Coordinator] Dick LeBeau with the Steelers three weeks ago.

Q: How much does Norv Turner change what he does from quarterback to quarterback?

BB: I would say not a lot. I’m sure that he subtly does some things, maybe there are some calls that he would make with one guy more than another guy, that kind of thing. But no, they don’t change their offense. They basically run their offense. It’s more utilization of their skill personnel. I think all the guys, I’ve watched all four of them and it looks to me like they all can run the offense. Now, some of them haven’t been there very long, but either they have background in it or just watching them play, you can see them: they can throw the comebacks, they can throw in the in-cuts, they can handle the offense and do what Norv wants them to do. It’s not like they’re running a big zone-option scheme or something like that. The quarterbacks they have have been guys that look like they’re comfortable in the pocket throwing the ball down the field, reading coverages, getting the ball to the right guy. Whoever is in there, I’m sure they’re going to run his offense. I don’t think they’re going to come out and run the wishbone.

Q: Do you give strong consideration to Cover-2 with Josh Gordon and the deep threat that he is?

BB: Well, look, I think every coverage has a place. That’s why they’re all in there. It depends on what you’re trying to defend.

Q: If you do the Cover-2, doesn’t that take away from run defense?

BB: Not necessarily. It depends on what you’re trying to stop. Like I said, there are certain things that certain coverages are designed to help more on. Then there are other coverages that are designed to help other things. That’s why you have a variety of coverages. I don’t think any one coverage is the answer for everything. Are you talking about rolling up on the outside on the receivers?

Q: Just extra protection back there so he can’t get behind them?

BB: Well if you have three guys deep, you have more protection than if you have two guys deep. If you want to roll up on the outside receivers, then that’s one way to do it. But he’s not always outside. You may be rolling up on somebody else. Look, I don’t think there’s one answer to anything. Like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to do this and that’s going to take care of everything.’ I just don’t think that’s the way you do it. Not in this league. Not against a team like Cleveland that has a lot of different guys that can kill you. Stop one guy, OK great, what about the rest of them?

Q: Before James Develin’s touchdown run, it looked like Shane Vereen may have been in the end zone. How do you balance waiting for a replay and moving quickly to the next play to keep the defense off-balance?

BB: I don’t think you can wait to challenge the play. I think as the play caller, if you’re – [Offensive Coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] in this case – calling the plays, you have to call the play. You can’t wait and ‘Is there going to be a replay? What’s going to [happen]?’ You can’t operate like that. You have to say, ‘OK, the person up in the press box that relays that information says, ‘OK, the ball is spotted, it’s inside the one or it’s on the one-and-a-half or wherever the ball is or it’s first-and-goal if we’ve gotten a first down or it’s third-and-one if we haven’t gotten a first down, whatever it is.’ Then you have to make your call. You can’t wait. Now, while that’s all going on, we have somebody else who would be seeing if there is a replay and then they would tell me or I would say, ‘OK, Josh we’re going to challenge the play.’ That type of thing. We’re a little bit independent on that. As the play caller, you can’t be – you have to see the situation, see what the down-and-distance is or what the field position is, is it inside the 20? Is it inside the 10? Because maybe you have a breaking point on your calls there possibly. Then you want to know what their personnel is. So if you’re changing personnel, you want to know what’s in the game. Is nickel in or did they stay regular? Or did they come in with dime or whatever it is. As soon as you get that information, then you make your call. You can’t have five people talking at once. You get the information from the press box as quickly as we can see it. The ball is on the two, it’s second down, here comes nickel. Then, alright, you make your call. Or sometimes they hold their subs until you make your subs. Here comes goal line, whatever it is. As soon as you make your call, you say, ‘OK, give me whatever it is – give me three receivers.’ Three receivers start on there and then as the call is being made, the person in the press box says, ‘Here comes nickel. Or here comes dime. Or they’re staying regular.’ Then he’ll finish making his call because that might affect what he’s calling. It might not, but it might. That’s kind of how – meanwhile the whole replay thing is separate from that.

Q: Are they using Davone Bess the same way the Dolphins did?

BB: Yeah, I would say so. He shows up a lot on possessions situations, got-to-have-it type situations. The Browns have gone for it on fourth down more than any team in the league. That’s not all behind, there are a lot of fourth-and-ones, fourth-and-twos in the first quarter that they go for and he’s shown up in a lot of those plays. A lot of third down possession type plays, critical situations, he makes a lot of tough catches. Again, they have a lot of options as you said. He’s definitely one of them. But I think you see the same things from Bess that we’ve always seen. He’s smart, he’s quick, he’s strong, kind of like Troy Brown strong, where he gets hit but he keeps his balance and he’s able to fall forward or break a tackle and make extra yardage. I’m not saying he’s as good as Troy Brown but he’s that kind of good, strong player that’s tough and physical, has good quickness, very dependable guy. They go to him. They also design some plays for him so there are some plays that he’s the guy that’s running them. Any time an offensive coordinator designs plays for a guy, then you now that this is something that if they get the right matchup, this is where they want to go. If they don’t get the matchup then they’re going somewhere else. But you can see that they’ve got some things set up for him every week. He does a good job with them. He’s a tough guy to handle.