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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 9/13

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Q: How do you balance whether to look at Ryan Tannehill's past performances versus trying to incorporate the changes that may be a part of his game due to the new head coach Adam Gase?

BB: Well, we know Tannehill's athleticism and his physical skills from all of the times that we've played against him. Of course he's a very good athlete. He's very fast, throws the ball well in the pocket and on the move, but I think what's really important is the offensive system that they're running now. I don't think we've seen anything physically from him that we didn't already know about, but what we see now is the way that he handles the new offensive structure that they have and obviously that system is built to go through the quarterback in terms of on-the-line play calling, adjustments, signals, identifying blitzes and pressures, and things like that. I don't think there's any question that what Tannehill's doing now – what he's done this year is what's most important to us because that's the system that he's playing in.

Q: What do you recall from looking at the Michigan State coaching staff underneath Nick Saban in the 2000-2001 timeframe?

BB: You know, I'm not really that familiar with most of that group. I spent most of my time with Nick, obviously. I mean I met them. I found a little bit of time to meet with them and so forth, but I didn't really spend a lot of time with that coaching staff.

Q: Do you remember hiring Josh McDaniels or Brian Daboll from that coaching staff or am I missing that information?

BB: Yeah, well the real connection there was with Brian Daboll from Nick [Saban], and then once Brian was here then that's really when Josh came here. Josh came here through Brian's recommendation, and then of course Nick confirmed everything that Brian said. Sorry, I hope that doesn't foul up your story.

Q: Bad research on my end. I've got to be better.

BB: No, I mean there are a lot of connections there but I'm sorry that I can't contribute more to it and I hope I'm not messing it up.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the second timeout that you used in the second half with about one minute left. It looked like that may have not been originally what you wanted to do. Was Dont'a Hightower correct in calling that timeout halfway through the play clock?

BB: Dont'a did exactly what we wanted him to do. Yeah, he did exactly what we wanted him to do there. That was our call.

Q: How far has Dont'a Hightower come in his role of calling the defensive signals?

BB: Yeah, Dont'a does a great job of that. He's really smart, he's very football smart, he has got very good instincts in all phases of the game, in the running game, in the passing game, as a pass rusher. He does all of those things well but he understands them well. He's really smart. He can handle any of that. He can handle any coverage adjustments, he can handle the running game, he can handle pass-rush games, the strategy that we use there as a defensive linemen, so there's really no issues with him at all. When he came here of course that was something that Jerod [Mayo] did and Jerod did it very well and it seemed like up until this year Jerod was really the primary communicator and then it fell to Dont'a in the past couple of years after Jerod was injured. Then it became his kind of through circumstance as opposed to this year where he has really just had it from Day One. Whoever the next person is to have it, it would fall to them if Dont'a couldn't do it. That has been a little bit different, but in terms of his ability to do it, and his decision making on the field, and understanding our game plan, and understanding what our opponents are doing, and how it all matches up, and when certain things should or shouldn't apply; he's very good at that, very good.

Q: What did you see from both James White and LeGarrette Blount, both in the context of the offense as a whole and on some of the more impressive individual efforts they had on key plays such as LeGarrette's touchdown run?

BB: Well, they both gave us some very big plays in the game. James had the couple of third-down conversions. The screen pass was a big play to get us out of a hole. He handled the ball very well, made some tough catches and made a lot of yards in space when we got him that opportunity. LG [LeGarrette Blount] made some real tough yards for us; the touchdown run that you referenced, the third-and-10 on the field goal – the final field goal drive – tacklers hit him short of the first-down, I think two of them, and he broke both of those tackles and then got his pads down and got another yard or two right there at the end to secure the first-down. He made some tough yards inside. Arizona is a tough defense. They have very good front-line players and their linebackers – [Kevin] Minter, [Deone] Bucannon – did a good job of penetrating the line of scrimmage, running through. They fill the space in the front very quickly, which is tough for a running back because you see a space open up and it's there but those guys come downhill very fast and close it quickly. Some of those two and three-yard gains – I know they don't look like much on the stat sheet and even in the game they don't look like much – but there's a big difference between second-and-seven and second-and-10. It just makes the down more – makes the next two downs – a lot more manageable. A lot of those tough yards that he got were important yards. Yeah, they're not record setting plays but they're important yards in the management of the game. Particularly against a team like Arizona that you can't just go back there and throw the ball 50 times against them. I don't think that's the way to play them, so being able to keep the chains [moving], keep the down and distances on second and third-down better, or even on second-down if we didn't have a good first-down play to be able to get to third-down and manageable range. Again, our overall third-down conversion was decent in the game, again, against a good team so all of those little things helped, and of course getting the ball in the red-area on the touchdown run; that was a big play for us too. 

Q: LeGarrette walked out of the locker room after availability yesterday cradling a football. Was that a suggestion on your part or in any way related to Sunday's game?

BB: Yeah, I didn't see that so I really can't tell you what he did or didn't have. You'd have to ask him about that.

Q: The end-of-game situations, such as when to use timeouts, have become so intricate over the years. How have you developed over the years a sort of feel or way of managing those intricacies when each situation is not identical?

BB: Well, yeah Tom [Curran], it's a really good question and a very hard one to answer. There are so many factors in football that it's really hard to find two situations that are the same. Even in some situations that are similar there's usually something in there, the conditions on the field, or the game, or the wind, or something else that adds another variable in there besides just point-differential and time and timeouts. But I would say even with the three timeouts involved, which could be three, two, one, zero, so there's another four possibilities there and the field position and, again, the score spread, the differential in points. There's really a lot of moving parts there, a lot of factors. So, with all of that being said we had the general guidelines that we followed. But like just for example on a simple thing like two-point conversion chart, you can't necessarily get everybody to agree with that and you're talking about we can tell what the score is, like how many points you're behind by or ahead by, about just whether to go for two or not. Forget about everything else and we can't even all agree on that in certain situations. When you put it all together, again, we have our guidelines and there's certainly a feel, if you will, for certain things. There are certain teams that based on how good or maybe how not good they are in certain situations that would incline you to do one thing more than another, versus that same situation against another team with the strengths and weaknesses matched up a little bit differently. I've always felt like going for it on fourth-down had a lot more to do with how confident I was in the play that we were calling as opposed to really anything else. If we felt like we had a good play then you're inclined to go for it in the first quarter, in the fourth quarter, whatever the score was. Not to be reckless about it but if the situation came up and you felt like you had a good play then that was a situation we wanted to do it in. If we didn't feel good about it then [we're] just not as inclined to do it. Then again, there are definitely some strategical situations that trump all of that, but just sort of as an example that's one of the things that can go into it. I think it's an ever-changing thing. I don't know that this week's the same as last week or if last week is the same before that. They're all different. Again, we have our guidelines that we try to follow. I always try to alert the coaches as to what I'm going to do so that they don't get surprised or get caught off-guard. We've seen some of those situations before between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator and the head coach. Maybe not everybody understood exactly what they're trying to do. We try to definitely avoid that at all costs. Even if it doesn't work or we don't do it right at least we all know what we're trying to do and there's not a miscommunication there, but that's not the easiest thing in the world either because those situations can change in a hurry. It can go from third-and-10 to fourth-and-one in a matter of seconds and now you're in a whole different ballgame, especially if the quarterback or the offensive coordinator isn't expecting to go for it and then all of a sudden is, that kind of thing. A lot of it is just basic communication and making sure that I think the players understand what we're trying to do in certain situations regardless of what the play is that's called. Just to understand what the situation entails, what are the most important points of an individual situation. It's interesting how after all of these years and we've been together as a staff, a lot of us for a long time, double-digit years in some cases and so forth, and still every week there are new situations that somebody will bring up, or will come up in another game, or something that we'll talk about and kind of review our strategy and just say "Well, this is normally what we would do here, but you know, the way that situation came up – that's not really quite what we want. We want something just a little bit different than that," whether that's a play or so forth. I thought it was certainly interesting but not unexpected the way that the Cardinals used the timeouts; trying to conserve the time when we had the ball and willing to deal with fewer timeouts when they had the ball at the end of the game. And I've done that before. I'd say that's not the normal way to do it but I don't think there's anything wrong with doing that. You have three timeouts, you use them; whenever you use them, you use them. It's just a question of strategically when you want to call them. I think there's a lot of different ways to do it and I'm not sure there's a right or wrong way on a lot of these things. Again, I'd say the most important thing is making sure that you just have it right. That everybody understands what they're doing, what the strategy is so that you have a chance to execute it. Again, in all honesty it's not the easiest thing to do.  It sounds easy now but when those situations come up in a game and they change quickly it's a lot harder to do than what it is an hour after the game when you really can sit there and think about it.

Q: It's just my observation that you could try and sit there and conserve a timeout but then you run the risk of having maybe the wrong guys out there or some miscommunication amongst the defense.

BB: Right, well and you know, giving you another point on this – some of those same things really you're just talking first half and second half because I don't think – well in my opinion – there's no question that the timeouts are a lot more valuable at the end of the game than they are at the end of the first half. I'm not saying they aren't valuable at halftime but if you use a timeout in the first quarter or the second quarter to get a play right or a substitution, whatever it is, even though you don't want to use it – nobody wants to waste timeouts – but sometimes things happen and how much is that timeout really worth in the first half? There are definitely times when you wish that you had them but they're nowhere near as valuable as they are at the end of the game and you never want to waste them. I'm not saying that. But using them in the first half is one thing and will those timeouts ever really come into play at the end of the first half? On a percentage basis it's not that high. They're always going to come into play at the end of the game. It's just a question of which team is going to use them. I think there's a whole different priority and importance to those at the end of the game. Like for example, the one that we used at the end of the game to try and help us on defense – had the game gone a little differently we might've wanted that timeout. We might've needed it on offense but you've got to use them when you think it's the most important and when it will help you. Again, those situations at the end of the game – the same situation at the end of the game and the same situation at the end of the half are actually two different situations.

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