Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his pre-draft press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, April 14, 2010.
BB: First of all, I'd like to throw out a couple congratulations - the Patriots Hall of Fame inductees this year, Jon Morris, who I had the opportunity to coach in Detroit. [He] was a really great player. Of course it was at the end of his career, he was a tremendous leader and really what an outstanding person as well as football player. He was part of the old school who could long snap and play a position - something we don't see too much of these days and of course, [Houston] Antwine and Sam Cunningham, [both] great players in their own right. It's really an outstanding class, so I want to congratulate them on behalf of the coaches, the players and the organization. Also, my good friend Jerry York, another national championship again - tremendous record. He did another great job and came and knocked off the number one team and won another NCAA Championship. It's a great program there, and I really appreciate the contact and the opportunity I've had to connect with him and a little bit with his team through the years. It was a great job by the Eagles on that championship. On our end of it, it's an exciting time of year as it always is in the offseason to go through the whole team building process whether it's acquiring players, working in the offseason program with our younger players and all of our returning players. [We're] trying to work on things that we feel like will help us be a better football team through the year and improve on things from last year on the coaching end as well as the playing end - scheme-wise and so forth. That's obviously well underway, and I think we have a lot of guys who are in here every day and are getting better. They're on their way to having a very successful year individually and collectively as we get into the camps in May and June. That will start to come together in some different team formats, so that's good. The draft process as usual is a very comprehensive one. Our scouting department led by Nick Caserio and Jon Robinson, our director of college scouting and all the scouts and coaches who have been involved in that, whether it be breaking down film, working out players, bringing them in for interviews, medical staff and so forth. It's a huge undertaking and we've had great cooperation and a lot of quality work turned in by all those different groups. Nick and Jon have really done a great job of compiling a lot of information, organizing it and hopefully we'll be able to improve our football team with some of the players we select. So that's coming together, and we're still winding up a few things here coming into the home stretch as far as final grades and draft strategy - whatever happens in terms of pick maneuvering before and during the draft, whatever it happens to be. I'm sure that will be something we will have to look at as well and try to improve our football team. I think we'll be ready to go. We're close now. We still have a few more things to do, but we're definitely getting there, and we're looking forward to the opportunities. Having four picks in the first two rounds certainly gives us the ability to move from where we're at if we feel that's the right thing to do. Or I'm sure if we pick four players at those positions we should get four good quality guys. We'll see how all that turns out. In the end, we'll just try to do our homework and be prepared for whatever the opportunities are and hopefully make the best of them.
Q: How would you define the draft in general?
BB: I think it's an interesting group. We have a lot of juniors coming out early. I think there's pretty good depth at a number of positions. Some we haven't seen as much of in recent years - less at some positions where we've seen more of in recent years, so I think that's kind of evened out a little bit. There are a lot of medical questions about players particularly at the top of the draft or players in some cases that I'm sure will be drafted high that didn't even play football last year. I think that's a little bit unusual to have probably the number of players that will be first round players, high second round players - whatever it will be - that were out of football a year ago. I think that part of it is a little bit unusual. There are a lot of interesting guys and with all the early declaring players I think in a number of cases you are going to have to look at those players and try to see where they're going to be a year from now or four years from now. What kind of improvement, what kind of jumps they are going to make relative to where they are against other players that had the extra year. That's always the case. It's just more of them this year. As the college offenses have continued to trend toward running quarterbacks and offenses that have a combination of quarterbacks that run, quarterbacks that throw and varieties of spread offenses, it's changed the skill sets of some of the college offensive players. And it's also changed some of the defensive schemes and types of players that defenses are using to try to combat that type of offensive system. It's not good or bad, it just changes the evaluation process a little bit. You see more of that and a little bit less than some of the traditional offensive and defensive sets. It's a trend, but there's more of it this year. You get conferences like the Big 12 that every team huddles on the field, they never really go back into a huddle and the defenses are playing at a no-huddle pace and the types of offenses and audibling and things that are happening from the sideline. It's different than what it was a few years ago. It's just part of the trend that changes how obvious some of the evaluations are. It clouds it a little bit.
Q: Do any of the moves within the division impact your late draft strategies?
BB: I think the biggest focus for us right now is trying to improve our football team. Look, every team is going to improve by next weekend. Whatever teams draft and whatever moves they make they will be a better team than they were right now. That's obvious. I think the big thing for us is to focus on our team. We all know teams make moves in the offseason to bring players onto their team and how those will work out, a lot of times, we ourselves don't know until all the pieces come together and everything gets put in and you have a body of work to evaluate - preseason games, practices, some regular season games, whatever it is. So I think right now, for anybody to try to project how all that is going to turn out other than the way it looks on paper is stretching it quite a bit.
Q: Where is your concentration in terms of deciding where to draft? Is the emphasis on the player you think you need or is the emphasis on the best value when your number comes up?
BB: I think it's a combination. It starts with value and you value the players, however you put a grade on them - you value them. And then within that there's a draft strategy, maybe where you think that players going to go in the draft, what the league thinks of him relative to what your individual team thinks of him and needs can factor into that, too, or maybe the compilation of your roster. I shouldn't necessarily say need, but a player that you see having a bigger impact on your team because of whatever the circumstances are on your team versus another one who may, for the same value, for lack of a better word, duplicate something that you already have and maybe make it less valuable for your team at that particular point in time. When we value the players, we value them on a generic basis, if we were starting a franchise, not who do we have playing here? So we're not grading players based on what the quality of player we have is at a position, but in terms of - is this guy a starter in the league? Is he an immediate starter in the league? Is he a backup? Is he a multi-position backup? Is he a practice squad player? Is he a player that will compete to make the practice squad? Whatever it happens to be. And those values then become a little more refined when we actually get into where we are as a team, what the draft value is for that particular day or round and how the draft is going sometimes. It's a combination of that.
Q: How do you feel about the three day draft? Your approach is usually, this is what they hand you, so this is what we'll go with.
BB: That's what it is, so we'll be there Thursday. We'll be there Friday. We'll be there Saturday.
Q: The suggestion has been that because of the immediate break after the first round, especially in your case where you have the three second rounders, that this may give anybody opportunity to wheel and deal? Will this make you trade more?
BB: I can't tell you how it's going to turn out. I can just tell you that at the end of the first day we'll take 32 names off the first day and probably everybody will restack their board based on what's up there and certainly the teams that pick in the first round, their needs will change a little bit because they will have just taken a player. When you factor those 32 picks onto the teams that take them and remove those players from the board then basically you are starting the first round all over again, which is where we were in previous years when that was the third round or fourth round. Historically, I agree with you that there was more trade/movement in a restart round. We've already received calls relative to our second round picks, so teams are interested in those for one reason or another, and that isn't surprising to me. I'm not saying anything will or won't happen. I think that's pretty common at this point. It's about a week or so before the draft where you start to talk to teams and try to get a feel of whether they would or wouldn't be interested in moving a particular pick just so that expedites the process a little bit when you get to draft day and you only have 15 minutes in the first round, 10 in the second, 5 in the third or whatever round you're talking about, so you get some of that preliminary work out of the way - this team is pretty interested in moving, this team isn't interested in moving for whatever their reasons are, so it just expedites the process. We have, like I said, a pretty decent number inquiries in picks that we have in the second round and that doesn't surprise me. There're teams that don't have them, and they're other teams that are looking at the potential quality of players there.
Q: Are they draft pick swaps or are there players that are being dangled?
BB: It's not so much the specific trade of I'll give you this, you give me that. It's more of a, would you be interested in moving this pick or would you be interested in moving up or moving down in the first round or whatever it happens to be. It's more in that nature than it is, I'll give you this for that and that type of deal.
Q: Is that lag time you have 53 - 119 and then 119 - 190, does that encourage you to make a trade?
BB: I think whatever the best thing for our team is, that's what we'll do. When we see the names come off the board and see how the draft is stacked at those particular times. Would be nice to have a third round pick? It would. Could we get one if we wanted one? I'm sure we could. I'm sure we could be at almost any part of the draft that we wanted to be at based on where we are. A team that has the number of picks that we have in the first two rounds there, so I think our flexibility to move up in the first round or to be at any other point in the draft that we feel is a good place to be I think we'll be able to get there.
Q: Do you have a general philosophy about drafting a punter?
BB: No. I think any player is worth drafting for your football team - punter, kickers, long snapper, quarterback, receiver, whatever it is. If the value's there...The thing about those players is you can only have one of them. It's not like drafting a running back, where you can have three, four, five running backs on your team. You can only have one long snapper, one punter, one kicker. When you draft a player you have to feel that that player has a pretty good chance to make your team. Otherwise, what's the point? That's not to say every guy will, but that's the intent. We've drafted a kicker. We've drafted a snapper. Would we draft a punter? If we felt that was the right choice, absolutely.
Q: Would you say Sergio Kindle would fit in more with your outside linebackers than Brandon Graham?
BB: You want to get into a lot of specifics? Both of the players you mentioned are outstanding players. I think they are both outstanding players. I think they're both going to play in the league.
Q: When you are evaluating a linebacker, is there a certain size that you find is more effective?
BB: Absolutely. We have a standard for every position - height, weight and speed. And other measurables that are standard for every position - arm length and things like that. Twenty-times on linemen or whatever it happens to be on that position and so there's a standard. Some players exceed that standard, some players fall below it. It doesn't say that players that don't meet that standard aren't good players. Barry Sanders was short for a running back. I don't think there're any complaints about the way Barry Sanders played. I think when you draft a player like that you just understand that you are drafting a player that is shorter than average for his position or he's slower than average for his position or he has longer arms than average for his position - whatever it happens to be. In the end, that's not the final grade on the player, but it's just something you recognize when you take a player. If we're getting a player at this position it's going to be amongst the fastest player at his position in the league or it's going to be below average at his position, so we identify that with the player. But we do have a standard at every position, absolutely. So when the scout goes to grade a player, he's either average in height, above average in height or whatever happens to be.
Q: It is ok to say that within a position group you don't want to have too many 5'7 cornerbacks. It's ok to have one or two of them, but you don't want a whole position group to look a certain way if you're break the mold for one of them.
BB: I think there's something to be said for that. I also think there's also something to be said if you have a 5'7 corner over here and a 6'4 corner over there, it's hard to play the same defense. Or if you play the same defense, one guys going to play it one way because of his physical attributes and another guy is going to play another way because of his. It's hard to have balance or symmetry in your scheme when everybody's different. One guard's fast, pulls and runs well and the other guy is big, physical and is the point of attack blocker. You can't pull the same guy on every play and not pull the other guy. So there's a little bit of downside to that too. There's some upside to it in that you can create different matchups. You have a big receiver you put a big guy on him. If you have a quick receiver you theoretically put a shorter, quicker guy on him. So there's some merit to what you're saying, but there's also some problems when you don't have symmetry in your defense - particularly on the defensive side of the ball. That could be true offensively, too, but I would say particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Here's how we're going to play this play. Here's how we're going to play this block, but when this guy does it we're going to do it differently because this is his deal and this is the other guy's deal. You have to be careful on that.
Q: Can you talk about your meeting with Tim Tebow?
BB: I think he's got real good ability. I don't think there's any question about that. He's the second or third leading passer in SEC history, so his record speaks for itself. He's an outstanding football player and he's an outstanding player. I've met and talked to Tim on a number of occasions, obviously we didn't talk about pro football when he was still in college, but now that he's eligible for the draft we talked to him about being a professional quarterback.
Q: As we approach the RFA deadline, do you foresee you guys doing anything there and do you know why it's been so quiet league wide?
BB: I really can't speak for any other teams. For our case, there really hasn't been anything that fits. Nothing has really fit the way that we feel like would be beneficial to move in that direction.
Q: You mentioned the evaluations are still ongoing for the draft. Are the evaluations finished as far as looking back on your team in 2009 and determining your needs and coming to those conclusions?
BB: Sure. The evaluations on 2009, the book's closed on the evaluations. What do we need to do better? That's a list as it is every year. Are we going to be able to get everything ideally the way we want it? I'm sure we won't, but at the same time we will add players and also change our scheme in manners that we feel are beneficial to our production. Depending on who our players are and how the competition plays out in training camp. I think we have enough flexibility to get to the point that will be the best for us. What that exactly is? I'm not sure and of course that would change from week to week anyway.
Q: The calls that you've been on with this being an uncapped year, do you find teams talking about actual players more than they have in the past because it's an uncapped year or is it the usual draft pick type talk?
BB: I would say it's more the usual. Again, it's very preliminary. It's more of a time saver. You're on the clock. You have 10 minutes. You don't have time to call 31 teams. It's not an efficient way to operate. So you have preliminary conversations with teams - If a certain guy's there, if a certain couple of guys are there we would be interested in moving up. Ok, great. If you get to that point in the draft, than either that team calls you or you call that team and say, Ok, where are we? It doesn't mean you're going to do anything. They might say, we're not going to be able to do that. And you say, ok. And you might unexpectedly get a call from somebody else that you weren't considering and all of a sudden they pick up the phone and say we're interested in this pick and here's what we'll do. Again, it kind of just expedites the process, so when you are on the clock or about to go on the clock you have some idea of what teams that might be interested in doing that. Or at that point you might call them and say we have a player here that we want to select, so we are going to pick this player. There're plenty of all of those. I can say hundreds of examples of those and many of them in every single draft. It's not anything unusual or a sign of any trend or any type of maneuvering. It's preliminary work that you get out of the way, so you don't fight the clock so much.
Q: Can you talk about the process of bringing players in and interviewing them?
BB: I would say in a lot of cases the visits are for medical reasons. Not all, but certainly some. The physicals in Indianapolis are very comprehensive, but they're also very general. If you want to look at a player for a specific injury or a particular situation we go out there with our general group of doctors, but if you want to bring a player in to look at a specific situation he has - a particular injury and a body part that you want a specialist to see or you want to do a particular test on, then you can bring him in to do that. There're also a number of players that were not at the combine, so therefore we don't have physicals on them. We can get physical information on them from the school he was at, but that's not the same as doing your own physical. For example, when we drafted four players that weren't at the Combine the only way for us to get those physicals were for us to bring them in and actually do them. There's also the ability to spend time with players. Sometimes when you go to a Pro Day at a big school where there's 100-150 scouts, at a Texas or Alabama Pro Day, it's hard to spend a lot of quality time with a player, so you can either do that in Indianapolis, which your opportunities are limited there or you can bring a player in and spend a day or the better part of a day with him. So there's an opportunity to spend a quality amount of time on an interview situation like that and also geographically, sometimes it's easier for us to bring in a player from a couple thousand miles away than it is for us to go there, see him, go back and spend two or three days in the travel process. It's easier to bring him in, do our two, three, four, five hours - whatever it is - with him and then send him back. I would say overall - if you wanted to take a percentage - whatever the physical situation is, over 50 percent of them would be somewhat related to physicals. In some cases that could be higher, but I wouldn't say there're too many years that would be lower than that.