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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 10/03/2002

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BB: We don't have any changes on the injury report today. That's status quo. I think that this is about the time where you play this fifth, sixth, seventh game of the year and you really get a chance to see your opponent go up against different teams and different match ups and different schemes and so forth. After watching Miami in their first four games, I think the thing that mostly stands out is, this is a pretty good football team. They do a lot of things well on a weekly basis. I think that in watching them compared to last year, of course we went back and saw all of last year's games and some of the specific cut-up tapes we did on them, I just think this is a better football team than they were last year. I think they've shown that in the first four games and the three wins. The more you look at them, the more sound, the more solid, the more consistent they really are. I think that Dave's (Wannstedt) done a good job. Norv's (Turner) done a good job coming in there with the offense. The more you look at them, the better they look. I think it's a real good football team. Any questions about them?

Q: What is the key in stopping the running game? What do you have to do?

BB: Team defense. Eight, 11 players doing their job. Everybody has got to take care of their responsibility, fill their gaps, do a good job of tackling. In the end it comes down to, they're going to have eight, nine, 10 guys blocking on every play and we're going to have to defeat those one-on-one blocks and secure each area that we're accountable for whether it's outside, inside, cut-back or whatever it happens to be. That's a lot easier said than done. In the passing game, they have a good tight end, good receivers, a mobile quarterback. They throw the ball to their backs quite a bit, (Rob) Konrad and Ricky Williams so you just can't go into the game saying 'oh, we're just going to set our sights on the running game and not worry about the pass.' They have too many weapons in the passing game for you just to ignore that. In defending that, that takes a little bit away from your run defense.

Q: What impresses you the most about Jay Fiedler?

BB: His production. He finds a way to get it done. He can scramble when he has to. He can make good throws both long and short. He has good judgment, takes care of the ball. He doesn't have a lot of bad plays. He really manages the game well. He makes smart decisions, third-and-three, third-and-four, he's going to get the first down and not throw a long incomplete pass and try to take something that is not there. I think he's proved that year after year, he's come back from … he's been able to bring the team back when they are behind and come back and score points and get production. He's also been able to manage a game well when his team has been ahead or when its been a tight game. He does well in time management situations. Like last year, they scored against us and ran the last play of the first half, they drew the ball down the field scored right at the end of the half in the first game down there. I think that Jay does a real good job of all those kind of things. He's a smart guy, a smart quarterback.

Q: Randy McMichael, was he somebody that you guys were aware of as far as tight ends coming out of college?

BB: Yeah. McMichael has got a lot of skills in the passing game. He's an excellent receiver. He's a big guy, he runs well. He catches the ball well, has natural hands. He caught the ball well at Georgia when they threw it. He's got real good receiving skills. I think that's the strength of his game. He's had good production there, catching the ball, going up and taking it away from the defenders, running good routes; he's a big target. And he can run. In the passing game I think he's very good.

Q: Did you look at him at all before the draft?

BB: Sure.

Q: In case the first round didn't work out with (Daniel) Graham?

BB: No, we evaluate everybody. You never know, you can't say 'well we're going to draft this guy, so don't look at anybody else,' there's no way. So we evaluate all the tight ends. Again, I think the most impressive thing about Randy is his receiving skills. Both running, getting open, catching, all the things that go into the passing game are certainly his strong suit. He does a good job there.

Q: Did Troy (Brown) practice yesterday?

BB: Troy did a little bit. Yes.

Q: When is that decision going to be made?

BB: Whenever we know. If we know on Friday, we'll know. If we don't know on Friday, then we'll wait until Saturday. If we know on Saturday, we'll know. If we don't know on Saturday, then we'll wait until Sunday. I don't know when we're going to know.

Q: Ricky Williams, would you describe him as more of a cut back runner?

BB: Yeah. I think Ricky, he's a good runner. I mean any runner that is an instinctive runner runs where the holes are. So if a play is run over here and there's nothing there, then they're going to look to the back side where the defense is lighter. They run here, and there's nothing outside then they will bounce it out. Any runner that has good vision will do that and Ricky has good vision. He has very good vision.

Q: So do concerns for over pursuit exist more again this week as opposed to maybe a (Jerome) Bettis, which was more straight ahead?

BB: I think they exist every week. You never design a defense where you say 'well they're not going to cut the ball back.' You just never say that. So when they run a play, somebody is responsible at the point of attack. Somebody is responsible if the ball bounces outside of the initial point of attack. And somebody is responsible for the back side if the ball cuts back. Somebody is responsible for the reverse or if the quarterback doesn't hand off and he bootlegs the ball. That's on every defense. So you can call a defense and say 'well they're not going to cut the ball back on this play so we won't worry about it,' or 'they're not going to bounce the ball out on this play and we're just not going to have a guy out there.' You have to have everybody in every spot and if it's not there then that's where the runner is going to go. We've seen plays where runners bounce out. We see them where they run in the hole. We see them when they cut back and that's what running the football is about, finding the hole, finding the opening, running to daylight.

Q: As a defensive guy, is that hard to teach because to pursue seems like such an instinctive thing that when you feel like you're doing the right thing and all of a sudden, the runner has changed directions and now it felt like you had a good beat on him and now your suddenly out of position. Is that hard to teach, to be disciplined?

BB: Well, I don't know that it's hard to teach but what you're doing is everybody has a certain area of responsibility. If I'm responsible for the B gap then you're not responsible for it. You're responsible for the A gap or however the gaps are distributed. So if I'm responsible for the B gap, I've got to be there, if I'm not there, I can't expect you to be there because you have another responsibility on your own. And as offenses run different blocking schemes, and different blocking patterns, different ball handling and so forth then it makes the distribution defensively, it's not like you just hand the ball off to a guy straight ahead and everybody fits like a piano right across the board, all the black and white keys, they have different blocking schemes, different ball handling, different designed plays that try to displace the defense. As a defense what you try to do is, coordinate that placement so that it's conistent across the board and if it isn't a then good back is going to find it.

Q: I think the hard part I guess is for you not to get caught up in the A gap if you're responsible for the B gap.

BB: That's right. Your job is to control that gap, control that blocker. Then the defense's job is to tackle the guy with the ball, I mean that's the job at the end of the day. Wherever that ball enters the defense, then somebody has to control that blocker, control that area and then make the tackle. So, to be in the right position and miss the tackle is no better than not being in the right position, it's the same result.

Q: How important is varying your game plan? Are you a coach who thinks that it's important to implement some different things every week?

BB: No. I think that what is important is to produce and whatever you're trying to produce in. If you can produce doing the same thing, great. No need to change it.

Q: Is that the Giants example you used before?

BB: Oh, you can see a lot of teams that have been successful doing that.

Q: Where they just line up and ….

BB: Yeah, if you can line up and do one thing and do it well and you don't need to do a lot else, then sometimes you're just putting your players in a worse position by trying to do something else. I think the reason where you try to alter it or try to change up is to try to improve your relative position on the field or your leverage angles or your blocking angles or whatever it is you're trying to accomplish. If you can do that, then maybe there is something to be gained by it. If you can't then your probably better off doing what you do. A lot of times you do the things well that you do the most. So, sometimes there's a confidence level and there's an execution level in doing something that you've done a lot of times even though they might know you're going to do they haven't played against it as much as you've executed it so that's the trade off.

Q: When you implement something new, do you have to weigh whether, okay we're going to bring in an element and surprise them because they haven't seen this one before, with how much time the team should use and the coaching time?

BB: Exactly. It's all about time commitment. You can't spend your time on everything. You've got to divide it up somehow. If you're going to put in something new and you're going to commit time to it then you really need for it to be productive for it to be worth the time you've invested in it. If it's not, then you're losing ground somewhere else. If you're only going to run the play one time and to gain three yards and you've invested 20 minutes a day for three days in that whole situation and that's all you've got out of it then you could have spent that hour doing something a lot more productive. You could have run a quarterback sneak for three yards and go on to something else. Those are the decisions that you have to make. You spend time on something new and it's not effective, that's certainly not where you want to be. On the other hand sometimes you can take a look at what you're doing and say 'okay, if I'm sitting on the other side of the ball, they've got to be worried about this so here's something that will compliment it,' so that they just can't sit there and say 'well, this is all we're going to do when we get in this certain situation.'

Q: How confident thus far are you in the running game?

BB: Confident. I think our running game has been, at times, okay. It hasn't been as consistent as I would like it to be. But I think at times we've run the ball well. At other times we haven't. So could it be better? Absolutely. I don't think it's been unproductive, but it could be more productive.

Q: As a coach, how do you prevent overreacting to a loss?

BB: I really think we try to take the same approach after every game, win or lose. Once it's over, put it behind us and move on. I really don't think those games that happened in the past have a whole lot of bearing in what's going to happen this week or in the future. That bearing in the standings, don't get wrong I'm not saying they're not important, but in terms of how one team performs one week rolled up to how they perform the next week, we can cite example after example every week of one team didn't play last week and then they play great the next week and vice versa. I think it's all about what happens from Monday to Sunday rather than what happened last Sunday. And not that there aren't lessons to be learned from that, I'm not saying the games aren't relevant. I think what is a lot more relevant is what happens is the six days before the game rather than what happened last week. So, unless like you say, it's a severe confidence thing where a team just falls apart when something happens. I think what we need to focus on is what we need to do to play better than we played last week and that's really what we're trying to focus on.

Q: (on the team's progress in practice yesterday)

BB: Well we started on Miami yesterday. I think it was a normal Wednesday. You go out there the first day, some things look good, and some things don't look good for a number of reasons. (A) Because it's new and you're working against a different scheme, a different offense, a different defense. And then those things get corrected and then you move on to Thursday and you still have mistakes. Then you move on to Friday and it's a building process toward the end of the week. I don't think you can ever go out there on Wednesday and have a perfect practice. What you're looking for is that the players are attentive and they're concentrating and everybody understands what they're doing and trying to do it. But it doesn't always get done perfectly because even if there's not newness on our side, even if we're doing something that we've been doing, it matches up differently against whatever your opponents are doing. So there's always going to be some of that.

Q: Do you feel like your defensive players' confidence was shaken a little bit?

BB: You would have ask them that, I don't know. Again, if you want to go week-to-week and play-to-play then every play can be a real roller coaster. One play it's great and the next play it's terrible. I think you got to measure over a longer curve that that and look at a bigger picture. It's not like we've never played good defense around here. It's not like we've never played defense around here too. I think we think we can play good defense. I think we think we can play bad defense. If we don't do the things that we need to do, it won't be good, and we've seen that before. I think if we do the things that we need to do the way we're capable of doing them, then we can be okay on defense.

Q: As important as Ricky Williams has been to their team this year, would it be a stretch to say that (Sam) Madison and (Patrick) Surtain at cornerback are they equally important?

BB: Well Surtain has missed two-and-a-half games. I mean he's a good player, don't get me wrong, he's one of the best corners in the league. But as far as what he's done this year, really he's played a game and a half. He's missed the last two and a half games. But he's one of the best corners in the league, there's no question about that. Surtain does everything well. He covers well, tackles, he's a heady guy, has excellent hands. He makes you pay … if you throw a bad ball, he'll pick it off. It's not going to be a foul ball and him drop it. He'll catch it. Madison is the same way. Madison has excellent hands, excellent ball skills. He's physical with the receivers. He's a very good coverage corner.

Q: Are they playing off any more? I know in the past they've played very close to the line of scrimmage?

BB: They do both. They're up a lot but they're off at times. It depends on what the call is. Certain coverage's they play closer to the line on. Other coverage's they play back on. I think the players have a certain latitude to mix their technique at times. Sometimes you will see one guy on, one guy off depending on who he's playing against.

Q: Against a team that implements a lot of shorter routes, would you expect the corners to play up or back a little bit?

BB: Well I think a lot of it depends on what coverage you are playing and where the corner plays up or off depends on what's in front of him or what's behind him. A lot of it is really geared toward the coverage. If you call a coverage where a corner has help behind him, then it's a lot easier to play up and most corners in this league will play up coverages where they don't have much behind them then they usually play it looser. Not always. But generally speaking, I think that's the way it is. Sometimes corners will move up there and line up tight on the snap when they don't have help; they're defending the deeper part of the field where they're not protected.

Q: These safeties are very good. Particularly (Brock) Marion.

BB: Marion is excellent. Marion is on of the best free safeties in the league. He has no weaknesses. He's a good tackler. He has very good hands, very good ball skills. He reads the quarterback well, anticipates well. He's got a bunch of interceptions in his career and he runs them back a long way when he intercepts them. He's got good running skills. He was a great kickoff returner early in his career. They're not using him to do that now, but that's the kind of skill he has. There's not a lot of defensive backs that will lead the league in kickoff returns. That's usually more of an offensive position. So he's a top player. He's one of the best free safeties in the league. When you watch him play, you don't see many bad plays that he's involved in. He's good.

Q: If you guys still had the same personnel that you had last year, would you be able to open up the offense as much with the additions of Deion Branch, Christian Fauria, Cam Cleeland? Have they made you open it up more?

BB: Have they made us open it up more?

Q: I mean like having those options. If you didn't have them would you be able to …

BB: I think the offense has grown both in scheme and with our players. I think Charlie (Weis) has done a good job of trying to utilize the skills of the players that we have currently on our team. I think he did a good job of doing it last year with the players that were on that team. I think he'll do a good job next year with the players that we have next year. That's what we try to do. Take the skills that we have and utilize those skills and I'm not just talking about a receiver, it's your offensive line, it's the type of plays that you run and so forth. That's really what our philosophy is, that's what Charlie tries to do and I think he's done a good job of using the personnel that we have this year and using it last year. We had a decent record last year, we had a decent team and that's what it's about really, being able to use what you have and score more points than the other team. It doesn't have to be 50-49, you can win 14-13 and still feel good about it too.

Q: What makes Miami such a difficult place to play?

BB: They've got a good football team. People talk about how well this team plays well at home, this team plays well on the road, well those are usually good teams. You take a good team and you put them at home or you put them on the road, put them on a frozen field, you can put them wherever you want. If you've got a good football team, they're going to win a lot more games than they're going to lose. If you take a bad team, I don't care if you play at night, in the shade, 98 degrees, you can put them wherever you want. You take a bad football team, they're not going to win many games. You see those teams 1-0 when the temperature is 30 degrees, when it's 42 degrees, when they win the toss of the coin, when their benches are aluminum, when their benches are wood, I mean that crap on those press releases, you get that every week. Well, you take a good team and play them against a team a team that's not as good; my money is on the good team.

Q: Is there more to Jay Fiedler than we thought now that a good running back or a consistent running game has been brought to the surface?

BB: Well I think that Jay Fiedler is a pretty good quarterback and I think that he does a real good job. I think that Norv does a good job as well with the quarterback. I mean it's obviously a joint effort. But I think that they do a good job of utilizing all their weapons on offense from their big offensive lineman to a pass catching tight end to a fast wide receiver to a good fullback to a fullback who can catch the ball to a good running back, all of the above. So I think they do a good job utilizing all the different players that they have on the field and they'll use some different personnel groups to try to just shoot arrows and they're hitting their targets and it's just more for you to defend down after down after down. And they do a good job of that. And Fiedler does a good job as well, because he's the guy who's really steering the ship. He gets the ball to the right guy, he uses his snap count. If the pattern is covered, he pulls it down and runs for a first down. His ball handling is good; there are not a lot of dumb plays like delay of game and all that kind of stuff that's just mismanaged by the quarterback or by the offensive team. They don't do a lot of that. So you've got to give a lot of credit to him for his ability to run the team, run the offense and manage the game the way the game needs to be managed. Whether that, again, is to win 17-13, whether it's to win 38-35, it takes a different type of management by the quarterback in those situations but I think he's shown the ability to do both. I mean he brings a team from 14 points down and comes back and wins and takes a three-point lead, they run out the clock at the end of the game and you can't get the ball back and win that way. That's what a quarterback has got to do. Make the plays, make the decisions, control the game to win it. And he's won a lot of them, he's got a good record.

Q: Lonie Paxon, does he have the best job in the NFL as a long snapper?

BB: Well, I think as long as it's good. Nobody knows who he is until you get one bad play and then all of a sudden, you make every highlight for the weekend. It's a thankless job, but it's a very important job and he's done a good job for us.

Q: On a busy day, there might be 10 plays a game, in that sense. But you talk a lot about having a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. Here's a guy that really does one thing for you. Does that speak to the importance of the job? That you'll carry a guy that does just that one thing, as long as he does it well?

BB: Right, as long as he can do it well and do it better than anybody else. I think that anytime a player can only do one thing, as an example deep snap, if another player were hypothetically to be able to come in and compete, could do the job as well but could also line up and play at another position that would have some value and you would have to evaluate that. It's just like having a kick returner. If that's all the guy does is return kicks and that's his only job, can you carry him? Sure. There might be a point in time though where if you have another player who can return kicks and also contribute somewhere else, then you've got to weigh that out. So anytime you have a pure specialist, I'm not talking about a kicker or a punter, I think that's a little of a different story. Those guys, unless you have a Tom Tupa or somebody that's a two-position player, there aren't many of those. But snappers and kick returners, they're valuable players and if they're exceptional at doing their job then it's going to probably be pretty hard to find somebody that can be that exceptional and play another position, that possibility always exists.

Q: Why is he so good at it?

BB: He's really consistent. He's got good technique. From a mental standpoint, things don't phase him. You would think, you'd just go in there and snap the ball, but there's a lot of different situations you have to block on, punts, there's different protections. You have to cover on punts, field goals they try to power you, they try to pull you, they try to push you, slip somebody through. There's a lot of other stuff going on out there, besides just snapping the ball. It's not like college where they can't hit the center. You've got to be able to snap it and defend yourself and he's not a big guy. I mean he's 260, but it's not like he's a 300-pound guy. A lot of times the guys lined up across from him to rush might outweigh him by 50, 60 pounds. There are a lot of little things that go into it but the biggest thing with Lonnie is he's just been consistent in three years. And he's been on the money for three years or two-and-a-half whatever it is.

Q: Two weeks ago, Kansas City came out without any holding calls or anything like that and San Diego played pretty much a flawless game with only a few errors last week. Is there something to that? Is that just teams playing up and getting ready for you guys? With all the holding calls?

BB: Well I'm not going to get into the officiating, the holding and all of that. However they call them, that's how they call it.

Q: No, I'm not trying to say…

BB: Well, I'm just saying….

Q: Are you guys not creating those opportunities?

BB: Again, I'm not going to get into that. I think that, there's no question that the penalties that we've had the last two weeks have hurt us. And last week all of our penalties were on offense. We didn't have any penalties in the kicking game; we didn't have any penalties on defense. But we had major penalties on offense and they all hurt us. In other weeks that wasn't true. The Kansas City game, we had penalties in the kicking game that hurt us. We had a couple of defensive penalties that hurt us as well as some offensive penalties. The bottom line is any time you have penalties, you're creating second opportunities for the other team. Just like in basketball. Anytime you give up an offensive rebound, you're just giving them another chance to score and that's the way it is in penalties. You're giving them another down or you're giving them free yardage or you're giving them field position in the kicking game. And none of that is good. We don't want to do it. We certainly don't coach it and it hurts us when it happens. There's no question about that. So that's an area we need to eliminate. It's hidden yardage but it's there and it kills you.

Q: Ricky Williams gets a lot of credit for what gets done on the ground this year. Do you notice in their offensive line play that it's been improved any?

BB: Yeah. I think Miami is a better football team than they were last year. I think they're better in every area. It starts with the offensive coordinator. I think the offensive system is good. They've made a couple of changes on the offensive line. I think the left tackle situation is certainly better than it was last year. The fullback is playing well. He's in there on a lot of the blocking patterns and delivers a lot of key blocks. But again, the passing game has been efficient and you have to defend it. You have to defend those receivers, Gadsden and (Chris) Chambers and McMichael and Konrad on the flat. They throw the ball to Ricky Williams. So they're a more balanced attack and that helps the running game. You just can't put everybody up there on the line of scrimmage and say go ahead and throw it because you'd be looking at them from the back once they start throwing it. They're just not going to let you do that. So you have to respect the passing game and you have to respect the running game and that compliment opens it up for everything.

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