New England Patriots head coach addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 2, 2008.
BB: We are moving onto Seattle here. They're a team that we are not very familiar with. We haven't seen much of them, although we have crossed paths with them a few times this year in watching some of those NFC games like St. Louis and San Francisco. We have a lot of work to do in terms of getting familiar with them. I think having [Matt] Hasselbeck back certainly is a big lift for them, offensively. He is an experienced quarterback that makes a lot of quick decisions and can get the ball to his talented receivers. It seems like they have gotten a lot of people back on offense, guys that have missed some time during the course of the year. As you are going through the film, you notice certain guys that aren't in there. They are a team that can throw the ball well. They have a big offensive line. They have good running backs with [Maurice] Morris and [Julius] Jones. So they do a good job. They have some talented players on defense: [Marcus] Trufant, Deion Grant, [Julian] Peterson, [Rocky] Bernard. They're good physical, talented players on defense. The big thing for us is that we have a lot of work to do to learn this team and get familiar with them during the course of the week.
Q: For you, personally, when was the last time you were in Seattle for a game?
BB: It has been awhile. I think one year we opened with them with the Jets in '97 or '98, so it has been about 10 years.
Q: From your career, do you have any memories from playing in that particular city?
BB: They have very enthusiastic fans and crowd. The Kingdome was a tough place to play and very loud. It seemed like the fans were right on top of you. They always seemed to throw the ball well out there going back to [Jim] Zorn and [Steve] Largent. From when they came into the league in '76, it always seemed like they had a good passing attack. I haven't had a lot of trips out there. This will be an interesting one in their new stadium, playing outside.
Q: Have you had much background with Matt Hasselbeck at all?
BB: No, not too much. I've had more with [Mike] Holmgren and some of our battles with him at Green Bay. Looking back at our game here three years ago, that was a very competitive game. I think they threw the ball for about 400 yards against us. Mike always has an explosive attack. He runs the West Coast offense and has refined it in many ways through his experience and the players that he's acquired. They are always an efficient offensive football team. Whatever you do, they have seen before and they have their adjustments that they make to it. They react quickly. It is a veteran group, offensively. They have a lot of experienced players on that team at every position. When they see something, they know how to adjust to it and how to get a new way to attack it.
Q: Can you talk about the conversations you have had with Nick Saban and Urban Meyer and what you talk about when you are counseling them?
BB: I don't do too much counseling. I am trying to learn what they are doing. Take a look at the great success both of them have had. They are both outstanding coaches and I feel privileged to have a good relationship with both of them. Nick [Saban] and I go way back to when he coached at Navy, Ohio State, Michigan State and Toledo. We have maintained a good relationship throughout those college years when we were scouting players. He coached with my dad at the Naval Academy. He was the defensive coordinator for the Browns from '91-'94. He did a tremendous job there. I really learned a lot working with Nick in those four years. A lot of the things he did defensively were a little different than some of the things I had done with the Giants. I thought that really meshed well. Nick is a great secondary coach with both techniques and schemes. He motivates the players well. He really does everything well. He is a hell of a football coach, a great friend and a great recruiter. He is just a great guy to be around. He is a lot of fun. He is witty. He is smart. But, he is very determined and is as good a football coach as I have ever had the privilege of coaching with. I appreciate the opportunity that he gave me last year to come down there and speak at their clinic in the spring. That was a lot of fun to catch up with him, Terry [Saban] and his whole staff and just watch some of the things they've done on film at Alabama as I did with LSU. Of course, I didn't have the chance to do that personally at Miami because we are in the same division but I studied them carefully and we had a lot of problems playing against them. Urban, I have gone down there every year since he has been at Florida. They always have a lot of players. We have drafted some and had some from his program. Urban and I go back to when he was in Ohio and I was in Cleveland. We didn't work together, but we knew each other there. Then he was at Notre Dame and Utah [and] we had a little connection, but most of it has been since he has gone to Florida. As the head coach, one of the things I have decided is that I am going to take some of the better scouting trips and I will let someone else go to Idaho, Minnesota and South Dakota State. I am going to do the Florida, LSU, Alabama scouting. So I have gone down there and spent a lot of time with Urban and have developed a good relationship with his coaches and staff. [I have seen] not only the talent but their schemes, the way they coach their players and some of the drills they do. I am sure it will be a great game. They are two very well coached teams with a lot of good players. That will be a fun game to watch.
Q: Are you rooting at all, do you have a pick for me?
BB: I can't do that. I have all the respect in the world for both men, both coaches and both programs. My relationship goes back further with Nick and I could never root against him, but I don't want to root against Urban either. May the best team win.
Q: Are you surprised how quickly Alabama has been able to turn it around based on your conversations with Nick or what you saw last summer?
BB: When I was down there last spring and I talked to Nick, he felt like he had a lot of good young players coming in, that he had a good recruiting class. Just like when you draft rookies or bring freshman in, you don't know how they are going to do and how quickly they are going to mature and contribute. It sounds like a lot of those guys have come on quickly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and have given them some quality play. I am sure they expected it, eventually, but they didn't know how quickly it was going to happen. They got it going right of the bat. Every time I have seen them play, it doesn't seem like anybody can move the ball against them well or score a lot of points. At the same time, every time I have seen Florida play it looks like every guy who touches the ball is faster than the guy who had it the time before and has a better chance of scoring than the guy who just had it. So it looks like a great matchup between two great teams.
Q: Do you feel for Mike Holmgren because of the hand he has been dealt with the massive amount of injuries that short circuited his season?
BB: I have a great deal of respect for Mike. We go way back to the Giants, San Francisco days and in Green Bay and Seattle. He has had a tremendous career. He has been a great coach, as an offensive coach and head coach. He has had a lot of success in the different programs that he has been involved with. I know that they will be ready to go on Sunday. This week we have our hands full. We are going to try to do the best that we can to be competitive in this game and go out there and play well. Every team has problems this time of year and we all have to deal with them. Right now, our focus is to go out there and win a game.
Q: How much of your early time with the Giants was to devise defenses to stop the kind of innovations Mike Holmgren was trying to do on offense?
BB: It was a huge part of it because in the '80's every year was tough. Getting through Dallas with [Tom] Landry down there, Washington with [Joe] Gibbs, Philadelphia and the latter part of the '80's with Buddy Ryan. We had some great matchups, but it always seemed to roll into Chicago with [Mike] Ditka from the middle '80's. Then we played them in the playoffs in 1990, the Super Bowl that year, then San Francisco. It seems like San Francisco was in our division even though they weren't. We played them every year and we played them in the playoffs in '84, '86, '88 and '90 - at least four playoff games. That offense was tough to deal with and it got very popular in the National Football League as [Bill] Walsh's disciplines like Mike Holmgren and [Jon] Gruden and then their disciples like [Mike] McCarthy, [Brad] Childress and Andy Reid. It started to go through the league and it seemed like a few years ago half the league was running the west coast offense. I don't think there are quite as many teams doing it now, but it looks like the whole NFC North is west coast. That was a big part of it. Going from a team like the Redskins who we played twice a year that was a very physical, pound the line of scrimmage, throw the ball deep down the field on play action passes and go-routes to a team like San Francisco and the west coast offense that is all based on precision, timing passing game. There are a lot of five receivers out, quarterback going five steps and getting it out on time. They run a very crisp, fast paced attack. I think that is the trademark of that style of offense. They are very efficient in their passing game. They use their backs, their tight ends and have a lot of yards after the catch on a lot of catch and run plays.
Q: The last time you guys had back-to-back games on the West Coast you stayed out there for the week. How do you feel that went and will you make any changes this time around?
BB: I don't think there will be any changes. There will be a couple of refinements and tweaking a couple of things here and there that we can smooth out a little bit. The only difference is that we will be playing away from that area, playing in Seattle and then traveling down there after the game. Then staying and playing right there in Oakland, as opposed to the other way around where we played San Francisco and then stayed and traveled down to San Diego. For the most part it will be pretty similar. The practice week from Monday to Saturday will be pretty much the same as what it was.
Q: Was it a tough decision to stay out on the West Coast again or did you guys think it went well enough the last time that you decided to stay out there again?
BB: I would say more of the latter. We talked about it at the beginning of the year that we would do it on the first trip and see how it went. I think everybody felt that it went well the week out there, that we had a productive week, players got a lot more rest and were better physically and fresher then if we crisscrossed the country two more times. We got everything done that we needed to get done. In some cases it was a little bit better because we were all staying right there at the hotel. Guys didn't have to travel back and forth to home. You miss sleeping in your own bed but from a team standpoint it gave us a little more time together both on and off the field. I think that was good for team bonding and spending time together as well as our preparation for the game. I wish we played a little better and had a better outcome in San Diego, but I don't think that was a result of the week. We evaluated that before we played the game, so we wouldn't feel skewed by the results. We tried to evaluate it on Saturday before the game was played. We all felt pretty good about it – players and coaches. Finding out from the captains, it was very positive feedback from them and the other players.
Q: Richard Seymour was on WEEI yesterday and he was lobbying for a little more playing time on third down. Is that something you could envision going forward or do you like the rotation the way it is?
BB: Every week we will try to do what is best for the football team. We will make the best decisions on personnel and scheme every week that we feel gives us the best chance to win. Sometimes splitting those things up, there's merit to that. Sometimes there are different ways to do it. Some of that is a function of the game plan, the team we are playing or other situations that involves individual players or groups of players or just the situation at different positions. I can't give you any set formula on that other than to say the formula is that we will do what we feel like is best for the team for each individual game and this week it will be Seattle. Whatever we feel like is the best way to beat Seattle, that is what we are going to do.
Q: I am sure you would rather he keep those thoughts private but do you respect the fact that he wants to be out there on every play?
BB: Yeah, I think all the players want to play and contribute. I have that conversation with players every week with different positions and different guys. I respect that. That is why you prepare and compete for this game is to play it and play well. I respect that from all the players. But at the same time I try to take everything in consideration and try to put the team out there that we feel like has the best chance, from a total team standpoint taking everything into consideration, for what is best for the football team. I know the players all understand that. They may not agree with every single thing but they understand that. Football is a team sport. In order to participate on a team, each one of us has to give up a little bit of something individually that we would prefer to do if it was strictly about us, but it is not. It is what is best for everybody. There is always a little bit of give and take with a team on what you do and how you do it in order to do the best thing to help the team win. We all have to do that. I think the players on this team do a great job of it. That doesn't mean if it breaks their habit a little differently they wouldn't prefer it that way. I understand that but that goes for every player and coach on this team and probably every other football team.
Q: Are there any unique challenges for a rookie at the running back position?
BB: As a running back, with any rookie it is a little bit of the function of what a player did in college and how much experience he has in doing some of the things that he is now being asked to do in the National Football League. I would just say in general for any position, running back would be included here, it is the passing game. The passing game in the National Football League is a lot more sophisticated and it's executed with better skill players than generally there are in college. You see a lot more variety in terms of blitzes and coverages, whether it is pass rush or pass coverage techniques that you have to deal with. For a running back, issues such as blitz pickup, recognizing different fronts and when teams bring multiple defensive backs in the game. Who is a linebacker and who is a defensive back? Who is a linebacker and who is a safety when it is all a bunch of DBs and linebackers running around back there? Who is a defensive lineman? Who is a linebacker when a team only has one or two defensive linemen on the field? How do you treat different people? How do you treat different fronts? How do you treat those different looks? Who has who? When you get out in the pattern, what is man and what is zone? What is a combination man? How do you read the different leverages? First of all, who is covering you and how do you read the leverage of that player? If it is zone, what type of zone is it? Is it two deep? Is it single high? Again, some type of combination zone where it is man one side and zone on the other. Those affect your routes and your locations and sometimes even your depths. There are a lot of things like that for the most part college players haven't seen. Unless maybe they have been in a program like Alabama with Nick [Saban] where that is the type of defense they run or they play against it a lot so maybe they are familiar with it. I would say for the most part those things are a big challenge for the running back. The other challenge for the running back with running the ball in the NFL is the overall team speed. In high school and college a lot of running backs make yardage by just bouncing the ball outside and outrunning most of the players on the field because they are just faster than everybody else. It is really hard to do that in the NFL and you really don't see a lot of yards made, generally speaking, where a guy just outruns the whole team. Sometimes they get outside because the defense is in poor position. You don't often see the running back just take the ball, round up everybody and run down the sideline for a long run. You see a lot of that in high school and a lot of that in college. Especially with the wider hashmarks and more space on the field, so a running back that is really fast can get out there and outrun everybody for 40 or 50 yards. You just can't do that in this league very often unless the guy is really fast. There are not that many running backs that have that kind of speed. They have to learn how to run in shorter spaces, read blocks, deal with more guys who can potentially tackle them, cutbacks and stuff like that. A lot of that open space and running away from everybody is just hard to do at this level. Like I said, guys that had a lot of production of doing that in high school and college, sometimes it a hard habit to break. Those are some of the things rookie running backs have to adjust to when coming into the NFL.