BB: Alright, no changes from this end, we're status quo, so let me have it.
Q: Let me ask you about your offense. Is it taking on any characteristics of the West Coast offense?
Q: Not at all?
BB: No, I'd say not really. I mean there's some similarities between every system, you can find plays in this system that are similar in a different system and so forth. I think the West Coast system is based on certain premises and everything kind of flows down from there. Since ours isn't based on any of those premises really, I'm not saying you couldn't find some common denominators somewhere along the lines, but since it isn't based on those premises, starting from the draft room to the position specifics of each player and all that kind of thing. Wherever those common denominators are the same, it's not formed that way, I guess that's what I'm trying to say.
Q: What I'm talking about is the emphasis on the three-step drops, short passes, and screens.
BB: I think that maybe some of the screens, there may be some carry over in, but again, the philosophy of the West Coast offense, and what the directives are … if you just read Bill Walsh's book, 'Here's what we're going to do, this is what the quarterback does, this is what the linemen do, this is what the receivers do,' and then all the plays and all that flow through it, that just isn't the way we do it. That's not saying anything negative about the West Coast offense, because it's a tremendously successful system, but that's just not the basis of our system.
Q: Is there carry over from the days with the Giants?
BB: You're talking about the Giants system from the late 80's?
Q: Yeah, early 90's, late 80's.
BB: I would say definitely not in the running game. The running game with the Giants was really based on a zone blocking scheme and that's transferred, not that we don't have some zone blocking schemes, I'm not saying that, but I think that that system has evolved into something else 15 years later. Passing game, I think there's certainly some carry over in the passing game, but we never ran empty backfield at New York, never. We ran some four open stuff with [David] Meggett back there, but the empty backfield has come much more in the 90's in the last ten years. Let me just say this, the passing game in general in the National Football League from 1986 until, you know, again, 15 years later, has expanded tremendously. I can't even remember when we first put in our sub defenses, but I'd say maybe '82 or '83. Just when you looked around the league, George Allen started doing a little bit of it in the late 70's and early 80's, a fifth defensive back, a nickel back, but that was big news. The third receiver coming on the field, that really didn't start until the 80's, the pro set was the pro set, you had a tight end, you had two back, you had two receivers. You hardly ever had two tight ends and one back, the first time that ever happened was in the '74 playoff game with the Rams. That's the first time I'd ever seen it, and then a little bit after that, but that was 10 years later before Joe Gibbs really got into the one back stuff, a little bit of a carry over from San Diego. I would just say the passing game ahs really evolved in the last 15 years, so where there's some similarities, yeah sure, but it's grown.
Q: Bill, without being too technical, can you maybe explain some of the differences with your system and the West Coast offense?
BB: Well, again, in the West Coast offense, and I'm not an expert on it because I've never coached in that system, there's people that know a whole lot more about it than I do. You can just follow Bill Walsh's book, the corollaries of the West Coast offense, you know, have a quarterback that can run number one. Brett Favre, Steve Young, [Donovan] McNabb, I mean you go right down the line, [Joey] Harrington, all those guys, you start with a quarterback that's an athletic quarterback that can run. That's number one, big receivers, look at San Francisco's receivers, Look at Green Bay's receivers, look at anybody who's running that West Coast offense, look at their receivers. You know they don't have any 5-9 receivers, those guys are … that's the corollary, if you're running this offense then these are the kinds of receivers that you have to have. They're not going to draft anybody that's … I mean look who Green Bay drafts, they draft Jevon Walker, they draft the kid out of Florida State, they got big receivers, that's what they've got. Those kind of teams got tight ends who used to play wide receiver that have been converted, Bubba Franks is obviously a receiving tight end, whether it's [David] Martin, whether it's the kid from … [Tyrone] Davis, [Sterling] Sharpe, you know those kinds of guys. So again, that's those corollaries just follow right down, we don't have those same one's that's all.
Q: Is your offense kind of a "mutt", a little bit here, a little bit there?
BB: When we go through our personnel, we go through our draft personnel, these are the things we're looking for in these players in these positions, this is why they fit together. There's certain players, just like every other system, I'm sure that the West Coast offenses say, 'Hey look, this guy's a good player, he just doesn't fit into our system,' well we say the same thing. We know this guy's a good player he's just not quite what we're looking for, he'll go somewhere else and he'll be a good player, but he just doesn't fit for us, we're not going to be able to utilize the skills that he brings. Our system is very clearly outlined, when our scouts go out on the road they know exactly what we're looking for, whether it's the left guard or whether it's the tight end, whether it's the fullback, whoever it is. That's based on what we want to try to do, when we sign a guy in free agency, this is what he brings to us and this is what we think we'll be able to do with him. That's consistent with what our offensive philosophy is, it's consistent with what our defensive philosophy is, it's consistent with what we want to do in the kicking game. That's just what we do, that's the Patriots, I'm not advertising it as an alternative to the West Coast system, we're not an alternative, but we have ours they have theirs and everybody's got their own.
Q: Where did it begin?
BB: Well, you've got a lot of breeding going on there, there's elements from a lot of different systems. Dante's [Scarnecchia] been in different systems, Charlie [Weis], I was in Cleveland, there's a certain element of that system. Right down the line, whether it's the running game, the passing game, the screen game, you have other coaches, like Ivan [Fears] like Dick Rehbein, that all have had some degree of input into it. That's going all the way back to whether it's Ron Erhardt in New York, Ray Perkins in New England …
Q: And those guys teach these guys?
BB: Well I mean there's certain elements, I mean there are some things that are in place, the terminology for example, there's terminology that's in place from back when we were with the Giants. Which goes all the way back to ray Perkins, which Bill [Parcells] absorbed when he came to the Giants. So a lot of the play calling and all, is what it was when Phil Simms came into the league back in 1979. Protections, and things like that, there's a core there, so you could take it back as far as at least to 1979.
Q: (Re: Accuracy on the short pass)
BB: I think it's an emphasis of the West Coast passing game there's no question about it. Think that anybody that throws passes to moving receivers, which you can go all the way back to Paul Brown and what he did in Cleveland and what he did in Cincinnati, which is really the genesis of the West Coast offense if you want to take it back to Paul Brown. Those are all principles that Paul taught in the passing game, and I remember learning those even as a kid and reading about them. They used to run those swing routes to Boobie Clark and Ickey Woods and those guys, and the emphasis on where the ball was to be placed so that the receiver could keep his shoulders pointed down the field and gain positive yardage after the catch were just as important as the rest of the play that went with it. Yeah, I think there's certain fundamental principles in teaching the passing game or in any element, whether it's offense or defense, that will have been carried over for years and years. And certainly hit moving receivers in stride so that they don't have to slow down and work for the ball, that there's a certain target where you want the ball and that's one foot in front of the numbers, that's where you want it to be. Like I said, to them, those have been in play since, probably before Paul Brown, but at least back to Paul.
Q: What do you look for in your receivers when you draft, is it just production, or just some type of prototype that you look for?
BB: Well it's combination of things, but certainly the production is high on the list, production and true receiving skills, which are A, the ability to get open, and B, the ability to catch the ball. Those are the two most important things that we look for in a receiver, as opposed to broad jump or height, now again there are several things after that whether it be run after the catch, position versatility, that's a factor in every player we look at. Not saying it's the factor, because if you've got one guys that's really exceptional then position versatility isn't as important, but that does become a factor especially in our offensive system where we use multiple formations and different guys doing different things. If a guy can't do that, then that limits the amount of formationing and moving people around that you wan to try to do.
Q: How long does it take for a strategy to come back into 'vogue' after it has gone out of vogue? For a long time 4-3 was your standard defense, then the 3-4 came into vogue and everybody was running it. Then you found out how to attack that and people went back to the 4-3, but there were only a couple that did that.
BB: Right, then they went to the 46.
Q: It seems like there are but so many things you can do with 11 players. How long does it take for something to come back?
BB: That's a really good question. It's a little bit like the chicken or the egg. It depends on which side of the ball you want to start on. Offensively, you have control of the ball. You have control of the situation so you can put whoever you want out there. If you want to put four receivers out there like the run and shoot teams did, you can put four receivers out there. If you want to put a couple of tight ends and a couple of backs and close the formation in, you could put that out there too. That really I think is a function of whoever is calling the plays on offense, you know, whether it is Joe Gibbs, whether it's Bill Walsh, whether it's Tom Landry, whether it's Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, that goes through different stages, who the head coach is and who the play callers are, whose system it is. Defensively on the other hand, basically defensively you have to react to what the offense is doing. You can run your system all you want, there are going to be some things that your system is going to fit better against than others. The more the game changes away from your system, at some point you are going to have to adapt to it, I mean , it's inevitable, you may be able to keep the same guys on the field, but you are going to be calling different coverages or playing different fronts or you are going to have to match their personnel. So again, if you are playing against teams that are running the run-and-shoot like we had when Houston was running, Atlanta was running when Jimmy Jones was in Atlanta and so forth and other teams picking up elements like Jacksonville. You have four or five teams running it and you are playing in that division, well you better be ready for it. Whereas right now, nobody runs the run-and-shoot. Not that there aren't elements of the run-and-shoot in the passing game, I'm not saying that, but nobody runs it as pure as the way it was run in Houston and Atlanta, again even Jacksonville in the passing game going back a couple of years. So, defensively you don't even talk about that stuff anymore. You are on to what the current problems are, which are a lot of empty backfields, multiple personnel groups, situations like for example in the Oakland game. I am sure you all saw that from the press box. But on every play, Oakland would run two or three guys out to the numbers and then turnaround and run them back or run them out to the numbers and bring them out there so just defensively just trying to match up against whatever group was on the field was a significant element in the game. As opposed to the run-and-shoot teams, they never changed personnel groups. They never substituted. You had the same 11 guys out there, whether it was third-and-20 or fourth-and-inches. It was the same people every time. Again, defensively, you are a little bit at the mercy of what the offenses are doing and to a degree you have to react accordingly. I think the key defensively is to have a system that will handle some variation in the offensive system because you don't get the same thing every week. Some weeks you get vertical passing games, sometimes you get the West Coast offenses. Sometimes you get more of a power running game and so forth. So you have to have some flexibility in there.
Q: How much novelty though is there really left on defense?
BB: Well, we used that as far back as the Giants when we had Lawrence (Taylor), Pepper (Johnson), Carl (Banks), Andy Headen, and (Harry) Carson.
Q: I guess my question is, are there just so many things you can do?
BB: Well, sure yeah. You can put five or six linebackers out there. You can put seven or eight defensive backs. There is usually a limit to the number of big you put out there, although you see five down linemen from time to time to cover everybody up going all the way back to the Vikings when they used to run it when Bud Grant was up there. You are right. There are only so many combinations. I think it's not so much coming up with a new combination as it is trying to find something that will address what the problems that the opponents is representing. Anytime you change personnel groups like what you're describing, you don't have any defensive linemen on the field, well somebody is a defensive lineman, it may be a linebacker, but it's like they're playing a defensive line position. That's the way we look at it and eventually that is the way, again going back to the Buffalo game, that's the way they looked at it. 'Okay, well who are they?' That's a little bit harder to determine, but somebody is going to end up as a defensive lineman here and you just have to have some kind of rule and sort it out. 'it's going to be the guys with the 50 numbers,' or however you want to rule it up. Then we talked about some of the offensive adjustments, that I mean, defensively the biggest change really has been, one of the biggest changes in addition to having to match all of the different personnel groups, whatever you want to call it, the blitz-zones, or the concept of a defensive lineman being in coverage. When I first came into the league in the 70's and all the way up into the 80's before you even got into the 3-4, the four defensive linemen that rushed, that's all they ever did was rush. For the quarterback you were reading seven coverage players, three linebackers and four defensive backs or two linebackers and five defensive backs or whatever it is. As time went on there, through the 80's and the 3-4, then with the 90's and the blitz-zones, now you quarterback really could have all 11 guys. The end can drop, the tackle can drop, pretty soon you got 11 potential guys in coverage and if you don't see one of those guys dropping out and throw right into him, you've got to tackle him. For the quarterbacks to read all 11 guys, as opposed to reading seven guys is a lot tougher and again, offensively the more you formation and change the look, then in a way the harder it is to read the coverage because the defense sets up a little bit differently each time. Again, back when I first came into the league, there was never really anything that the pro set. It was two backs, one tight end and two receivers. A little bit of slot formation but most of the time the receivers are on opposite sides so you always had the same look on the defense. When the safety was tighter, that was man-to-man. If the safety was looser, that was zone, the corners were inside on man, the corners were outside on zone, you know it was a lot easier to read and you always had the same look on offense. That offensive look is multiplied, the defense has adjusted to it, now you got linebackers, a defensive back or even though the defensive linemen, he really drops into a linebacker position when they blitz this guy from over here, so you've got all those multiples. That's what puts pressure on the quarterback.
Q: What does Larry Izzo bring to this team in terms of leadership?
BB: I think Larry brings good leadership to the team both on and off the field. He's a real hard worker in the weight room, in the off season program. I don't think he's missed a day in a couple of years. He's really consistent there. Prepares hard, watches a lot of tape, gets on the younger guys to watch it with him. On the field, he plays with a lot of energy and emotion and is very well prepared, I think the Detroit game was a good example where he didn't take any defensive snaps during the week, hasn't really played on defense much all year and then gets pressed into action there at the end of the game and comes in and really does a good job and makes some plays and didn't have any assignment problems. He's a real pro and he's not as outspoken and vocal maybe as some guys, but I think his leadership is just as strong because of his personality and the way he goes about his business. And he does have vocal leadership, I'm just saying a lot of guys that have more, but he brings that element to it, but he's very professional.
Q: Does he have a good sense of humor?
BB: Yeah. Larry, I think he's got a good personality that most guys on the team, I don't think that they don't like him. He's got a good presence about him and gets along well with everybody. But at the same time he's got an inherent toughness and competitiveness that I don't think anybody would question.
Q: Would you ever draft a player that even if he doesn't fit, try to mold him into what you want or change the system to tailor it?
BB: I think if you did that, you have to make that decision when you take the player. You have to say, 'Okay, this guy doesn't really fit exactly what we are doing or what our profile is, we recognize these special talents and we're going to find a way to accommodate what he does and therefore we're going to make that commitment to him,' versus taking the guy which is usually a mistake, taking the guy and saying, 'our game isn't really his game, we're going to change him and we'll get him to do this and we'll get him to do that.' Then usually you are sitting there two or three years down the road saying, 'this experiment really isn't turning out the way we thought it would.' Unfortunately, I've been in that boat before and it's not a good one. You are trying to put a round peg into a square hole, it just doesn't fit. Sometimes you take players that are a little bit of a projection. You take a guy who is a defensive end in college and you convert him to a linebacker, say a guy like (Mike) Vrabel. But you see the elements in place, you're not trying to transform a guy that you know that this just isn't what he is. Mike is not really defensive end in this league so he needs to be a linebacker. I mean Pittsburgh saw the same thing. And that is all he can be. When you try to take a running, scrambling loose play kind of quarterback and just make him a pure pocket passer or a take a tight end who is a strong blocker who is really going to help you in the running game and put him into an offense where he is running a lot of downfield patters, you know he's just not going to look good doing it. It's just hard to make that kind of move work. If you project a guy from one position to another, that's a different story. Sometimes that's all he can be.
Q: Is (Tedy) Bruschi that kind of player and then he exceeded expectations?
BB: Right, because he picked it up so quickly. Bruschi is a great example. I mean he can't play defensive line in this league, yet he was a great producer rushing the passer at Arizona in the Pac-10 which is a good conference. He just can't do that in this league. You put him in the only place you can put him in. You can put him inside or outside, but you put him in the only place you can put him. Yeah, but Tedy picked it up, he's such an instinctive player that he picked it up a lot quicker than I think any of us thought he would back when he came in '96. Tedy was a good football player, you just could never see him do the things you were going to be asking him to do. He's very unusual in that sense. Most guys going from down to up have a harder time with the concepts of the game, not that they are not tough, not that they can't run well enough, not that they won't hit, it's not that. It's just that the concepts of the passing game, when to take short routes, when to let them go and take deeper routes, play action, you know, all those kind of things. Tedy sees the game very, very well for a linebacker.