Q: When you lose a player who is on every unit of your special teams, do you have just one guy who can replace him?
BB: It depends. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. When you have to back up that many people on the Big 4, that’s 44 guys, sometimes you have one guy that is similar to a player that you have at a position like that. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, depending on what that person’s other role is, you might want to use him as part of that replacement and not all of it. There’s no set formula there. But every game you have to be ready for that anyway. You could be at any point in any game and have to make a change. You have to prepare for it every week.
Q: How much does your approach change in covering running backs out of the backfield from game to game?
BB: It could change a lot depending on who the players are and how the offense uses it. Some offenses involve their running backs a lot in the passing game. Some of them use them more in protection and to run the ball and play-action, things like that. Some guys, they’re go-to guys in the passing game on third down or getting them the ball in space. Protection is another thing that varies from back to back. Some backs can do a lot of different protections. Some backs it looks like teams just use one or two protections with them so that they don’t have a lot of different assignments. I think each week when the linebackers see who the backs are, or the secondary if they’re involved in it, you definitely take more time to go through the scouting report with the backs, how they’re used in the passing game, what kind of skills they have, some examples of them using those skills, whether they’re deep receivers, whether they run a lot of option-type routes, whether they’re guys that can get open, whether they’re more catch-and-run type players, check-down receivers, things like that. Usually the player’s skills will be complemented within the offense. If the back is a good route runner, they’ll probably run him on some man-to-man type routes. If the back is more a catch-and-run guy, they’ll run receivers deep and let him be the check-down type guy if it’s zone coverage and things like that instead of asking him to win in a lot of one-on-one situations if that’s not really one of his strengths. It’s definitely a key coaching point, particularly for the linebackers and it could be in sub situations, if you have a DB that’s playing down close to the line of scrimmage but covering those guys, what they do, how they do it and what their skills are. There’s a wide, wide range from real good to almost non-existent, guys that some teams hardly ever throw the ball to those players. So knowing who is in the game and what they’re capable of doing and how we want to do defend them is a key point every week, very important.
Q: You talked about them using three-receiver sets but they also have Doug Martin. Is one of the key coaching angles this week when to go to nickel and how much to go nickel to balance that out?
BB: I think that’s a discussion every week. That’s an every week, game plan discussion. Do you want to match? Do you want to not match? Or, what situations do you want to match in? Or, are there some three-receiver sets you want to match; others you don’t? Maybe who the tight end is, who the back is, maybe who the receivers are, sometimes it’s not always the same three guys. Maybe a certain receiver changes how you want to matchup. Maybe it’s by down-and-distance. That’s another key coaching decision that’s, I’d say, a weekly decision every week. It’s this week. But, it’s every week. It’s how and when to match up with multiple receiver groups and multiple tight end groups as well, but probably to a lesser degree just because you see them less frequently but it’s a similar discussion.
Q: How encouraged have you been with
BB: Well, I was asked about his availability this week. Yeah, Rob’s been out there. I think he’s getting better every day. He’s working hard, there’s no question about that.
Q: What do you remember about the 21-16 loss in 2000 to the Buccaneers at home, your first game as Patriots coach?
BB: Yeah, it wasn’t a great start. We had our chances there at the end. We had some shots inside the 10-yard line, 15-yard line, whatever it was down there. We just couldn’t get it in. So, yeah, not a great start.
Q: Did you know Greg Schiano well before your son went to Rutgers?
BB: I’d say that’s where I had the chance to spend the most time with him. The lacrosse players, where they dressed and met and everything was in the same building as the football building. So I ran into Coach down there several times just going down to Stephen’s games or practices or the football team was coming in or going out or whatever it was. They were all kind of right there together. I actually bumped into several players, same thing, those guys going in.
Q: It probably won’t be the first time you’ll coach against a good friend. Is there any part of that you don’t like?
BB: Look, it’s an NFL game so we have a job to do, they have a job to do, we all respect that. This week it’s a competitive situation. We’re going out there to try to play our best football and win. That’s what we’re here for. It doesn’t make any difference who is on the other side of the field, we always try to do that.
Q: What is the difference between third down defense and first and second down defense?
BB: Well, on first and second down, I think the offense has a lot of options. They have one or two more downs, so you can pretty much run any play you want. I don’t think there’s really anything that you can’t do on first down. If you want to take a shot and throw one down the field and you hit it, great. If you don’t, you still have two more downs to pick it up. Third down, until you get into four-down territory, which then third down could be like second down but third down is really a possession down and then you have to get the yardage that you need offensively and defensively you’re trying to defend the yardage that they need to get. It’s really a one-play series, not a three-play series. What do you feel like is your best thing defensively to defend against: the offense gaining the yardage that they need and you’re just playing one down. Whereas on first and second down, I think you’re playing more than one down, you know, you have to be cognizant of what else can happen in the series. It’s not just the one, ‘What are they going to do on this play?’ They have two more plays so they can pretty much do anything they want.
Q: Do you ever feel the need to talk to the rookies, about if they’re not playing as much after being the best players on the team for the last three or four years?
BB: I talk to the rookies on a regular basis. The elements of that conversation I think started long before now, going all the way to the spring, going back to training camp. Guys that come from college that were stars on their team, that were getting all the reps, that maybe weren’t playing in the kicking game, that had so-called ‘special privileges,’ with their status on that team, they’re in a whole different place, very, very early coming on to this team. If that’s what it was somewhere else, it’s a lot different here. I don’t know what it was like somewhere else, but my sense is that for some of them, it’s a big transition for them. But that transition started a long, long time ago. But, we talk to them on a regular basis about that. Pro football is a lot different than college football. Not just the game, but the whole process of it. Everything we do is a lot different. We talk to them on a regular basis, I’d say at least weekly, if not more. In a lot of cases, it’s really daily; it’s really a daily conversation with either all of them or groups of them.
Q: Why so often?
BB: It’s because they haven’t gone through it. Everybody looking back, which I’ve heard many times as a coach, ‘Well, I wish I had known this,’ or ‘I wish I had realized that,’ or ‘I didn’t really know that.’ They still don’t know, but at least we try to do a better job than I did back when I was with the Giants. You’ve heard that so many times from those young guys that you tell them, ‘Look, this is the way it’s going to be. This is what you need to be ready for. This is what’s going to happen. This is how this is going to work. This is how you need this. This is how you need to do that.’ It doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect but at least they’ve been warned ahead of time, they have an idea of what to expect. A lot of times, you come back and say, ‘OK, this is what we talked about. Did it happen about the way you thought it would? The way we talked about it?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, what was different?’ ‘I didn’t expect this or I didn’t expect that.’ Then we talk about that and move on to the next thing. It’s a long season for these guys. There are a lot of hills to climb, not just one. So it’s a rollercoaster. Each week is a new challenge and really each day is a new challenge. I think the better you can prepare them for it, the better chance they have to meet it. But there’s still no substitute for experience. Coaches, players, we try to provide that and we do that, that’s every year, every group, on and off the field. There are a lot of things in pro football that are a lot different than college, not just the game, not just the preparation but once they walk out of the building there’s no dormitories, no classes, not a lot of other stuff. There are a lot of other things. There’s regular life to deal with: playing bills and being accountable in other areas of your life that are much less so in college, a lot of that stuff is taken care of for you or you don’t have to deal with it at all.
Q: You have so many rookies this year relative to other years.
BB: It doesn’t make any difference. It’s the same whether you’re talking to five guys, 10 guys or 15 guys. It’s the same conversation. Maybe there are more or less of them but it’s the same. The five guys haven’t been through it any more than the 15 guys have been through it. A lot of little things. Really, most of our guys aren’t from this area of the country. A lot of them come from the South, some from the Midwest, some from the West. It’s a different lifestyle, it’s a different climate. There are a lot of things that are different up here. Just generally getting around, just doing normal things, particularly as we go deeper into the season. It’s all part of the transition.
Q: Is there a way to describe for someone who hasn’t experienced it, just the difference in speed, complexity and intensity from what you see from the other side between preseason and regular season?
BB: That’s part of it, that’s another long conversation that is a continuing one. Yeah, how competitive it is, how different it is. How teams now, the players are so much, other teams have much better scouting report on our players as we do on theirs. The first couple preseason games, you don’t even really talk about it much but by the time you get to the regular season and you’ve seen guys play in preseason or a couple regular season games, you can start to identify their strengths and weaknesses, they can start to identify ours. The game planning is different, the way that your matchups are. Players try to play to your weakness and avoid your strength and that’s something you don’t always see I the first two, three preseason games because nobody really cares that much about it. That’s a big thing now, the situational football, getting to know the other teams, their personnel, their tendencies, their coordinators, how they do things, how much it changes from week to week, not just out there running around, it’s very specific. Yeah, it’s a huge transition from the preseason to the regular season and I’d say it’s a huge transition within the regular season. I’d say the games are a lot different now than they’re going to be three, four, five weeks from now when there’s a lot more evidence in the books. Then teams start dealing with injures and replacements and adjustments and everybody is adding to their scheme. Each week you add a couple new plays, a couple new looks, you add a wrinkle, those kind of things. What looks like a tendency is really just bait for something that they’re going to try to setup and show you something they’ve been doing and do something else off it. All those are learning experiences and it’s at a much higher level than what you see in college football, particularly in the passing game, that’s the big difference and the kicking game. The kicking game and the passing game, [there are] huge, huge differences from what guys see in college.