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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/15/2003

Belichick: After looking at the game here again on tape this morning it was, I think overall statistically, a pretty even game.

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BB: After looking at the game here again on tape this morning it was, I think overall statistically, a pretty even game. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of a couple of opportunities down in the red area even though it could have been better. I think being ahead at the latter part of the game, probably had a little bit of a neutralizing effect on Fred Taylor and his opportunity to get the ball. Overall, it was a tough game. It was about what we expected from Jacksonville. Again, I think they showed their toughness on both sides of the line and that was a problem for us. I thought we had some big plays in the passing game which were obviously helpful, some of those came on third down which, a lot of times, you don't see in those situations. But not only were they big plays but they helped us keep drives going in those third and long situations. That was good. I thought that Tom [Brady] did a nice job of managing the game. The receivers and the tight ends stepped up a few plays. Defensively the turnovers were big obviously. Run defense was okay. We gave up probably more plays than what we've been giving up in the passing game. So that wasn't too good. Overall, I thought the conditions were challenging at times and the ball handling particularly in the kicking game on the returns was not the easiest out there but overall I thought it was handled pretty well by Troy [Brown] on the punts and all of the different people that handled it on the kickoff returns. That is where we are. There is not much new on the injury front. It is pretty much what we talked about last night. So that is where we are today.

Q: If Richard [Seymour] had been back for the Friday practice, would he have started?

BB: Well, look, I understand the questions that are probably going to come on that, I just can't get into every policy, every coaching decision, every reason that goes into every decision that I have to make or that we have to make as a team. I answered the question yesterday. I don't have much more to add to it. I think Richard has talked about his personal situation, which is something that I don't feel comfortable talking about. But if he wants to talk about it, I have no problem with that. That is something that he can describe a lot better than I can. From a football standpoint, I make a lot of decisions. We make a lot as a staff each week about what to do, who to play, when to play them, personnel, who to activate and so forth and so on. I just don't think that I can sit here and detail every single thing that goes into it. I don't think I would do it anyway. So, I am not going to talk about policy or anything. What happened is what happened. Look, Richard is a professional. Richard is a team captain and he is one of our best players. I have the utmost respect for Richard Seymour. There is not disciplinary thing, none of that. It was a coaching decision. That is what is way.

Q: That is thing – Anybody who has sat here is aware that you have great respect for this guy as a player with his maturity and his intelligence. I think that barring injury he more than anyone on this roster is somebody you would want to re-sign. Aren't you concerned in the slightest that maybe you have done some damage to your relationship with him to cause him to want to go elsewhere if he feels you were being perhaps cold and not understanding of his situation?

BB: You would have to ask him those questions. I have to make coaching decisions and I do what I think is best for the football team. I respect the players, all of them, as a group, I respect the way they go about their job. I respect the way they prepare to play. I respect their ability to play. I hope they respect my ability to coach.

Q: How come [Larry] Izzo was treated differently when his father passed away?

BB: Again, I am not going to get into every specific coaching decision or policy or anything like that. I make them based on what the situation is. It was different. But they are all different.

Q: Coach, I just wanted to ask you about players that celebrate. Yesterday with Joe Horn and the cell phone. Tyrone Poole and his celebration. I don't know if you saw that yet.

BB: Yes, I did see that.

Q: Where he could have perhaps had a touchdown. You don't have that problem necessarily on this team. But if you did, how would you handle it? Is it getting out of hand?

BB: Well, I think that anytime a player has the ball, he has to respect the value of possession of the football. So I think that is the best way I could put it. There is nothing more important than possessing the ball. That is what football is, is ball possession. So, to not possess it, that is a serious part of the game.

Q: After you score the touchdown, on an entertainment level, do you think that Joe Horn's performance exceeded Terrell Owens' performance last year?

BB: On an entertainment level?

Q: Yes.

BB: I don't know. There are rules in place that are the jurisdiction over the celebrations. We all know what they are, group celebrations, planned celebrations, so forth and so on. Those are what the rules are. If they are within the rules, I don't have any problem with them. If they are not then they should be dealt with accordingly. There are two ways the league can deal with them. One is by penalty on a celebration. The other one is by a fine. As an example, in college football, there aren't any celebrations; there is a different set of rules in college football relative to those celebrations than there are in professional football. Whatever they are is whatever they are. They are officiated just like any other part of the game. That is the way it is. I am not here to change the rules. I am just here to try to coach within them.

Q: Would have benched a player or would you have talked to a player or somehow punish him for doing what Joe Horn did?

BB: I don't really think I can comment on that situation since I wasn't really a part of that whole thing. I saw it on TV but I don't really feel qualified to make a judgment on that. I will just say that I think that is how I feel about the situation. It is legislated. There are rules in place to deal with it and that is how it is handled from a league level or from a game official management level. As far as internally, policies and coaching points and critique of those types of things, that is all done internally.

Q: You talked last week about how tough Jacksonville was against the run. You look at the numbers from the running game yesterday it was like two-something a carry…

BB: Two-something a carry, yes.

Q: Well you had 32 carries. How do you judge it then? You were able to carry the ball 32 times and you obviously weren't getting yardage you were looking for.

BB: Well, I think that there are two good points you bring up there. Number one, normally the more you carry it the lower your average is going to be. When you run the ball 10 times for a low average, then that means pretty much you are going to have to throw every down after that. 32 times, we would certainly like the average to be better. We would like the production to be higher, but the fact that it does provide some balance to the game, gives you an opportunity hopefully to be more productive in the passing game. If you are not more productive in the passing game, then obviously you don't have much production on offense. We would like for it to be better. We are going to work hard to continue to make it better and there were times where we had good production running the ball at certain points in the game but we would like a higher frequency on that. And, if you are going to run the ball for that kind of average, you would like to have a high number of carries.

Q: Would you characterize it as being effective?

BB: Again, it is hard to measure what the effects of those plays are relative to the other plays that had an higher average per play. I think you have to look at the total product but at the same time you want to try to improve incrementally the different areas that you can in order to push the production higher.

Q: The prospect of getting home field advantage in the playoffs has to be quite appealing.

BB: Again, the most important thing now is what we can do about the Jets. We really can't do anything beyond that. The Jets had a good win yesterday. They ran the ball well and effectively with Curtis Martin. They shut out the Steelers which is, as we all know, difficult to do in this league. We have had two tough road division games already this year. Our last couple of games with the Jets have been very, very competitive. More competitive than we want it to be in the next to last game last year. We need to put our focus and energy into dealing with the Jets and the problems that they bring which are numerous. I think right now they are playing very well defensively and obviously we are concerned about the running game, with [Chad] Pennington being back and Santana Moss and all of those guys.

Q: Does the lost day affect your timetable?

BB: Sure. We have to move it up. Yes, we are putting seven days into six.

Q: So you are cramming?

BB: Yes. We are going to have to cram it a little bit in terms of our preparation from a coaching standpoint and also we won't get as many snaps on the practice field as we would in a normal week so we will have to prioritize the things that we want to try to get done and be efficient with it.

Q: Does proximity and familiarity with this team help?

BB: Yes. Sure. I think that has a little bit of an offsetting effect. It is still one less day but we do know the team historically from playing against them and personnel and so forth. So I think we have a little bit of a head start, let's put it that way. But there is still a lot of preparation work to do just like you have every week.

Q: How different are they schematically with Chad than they are with Vinny Testaverde?

BB: Well, I think they have a pretty broad scheme offensively. They run the west coast offense. They use a lot of different formations, a lot of different personnel groupings. I would say the biggest change from when we saw them in the first game would be Pennington and the utilization of Santana Moss. He has been very productive and he has been a much bigger part of the offense both in terms of the number of plays and also the things that they are doing with them and trying to feature them and getting them the ball than what they were earlier in the year.

Q: Is there a connection there? Does Chad look for Santana more that Testaverde?

BB: Well, Moss is in there so I don't think the same opportunities were in there for Vinny. But Moss has really been one of their go-to guys and Pennington definitely looks for them. Not that he doesn't look for [Curtis] Conway, [Anthony] Becht and Curtis [Martin] and the rest of them but Moss has been a big play guy for them and I am sure he is getting a little more attention from Chad because of that production.

Q: Is Deion Branch going to miss the game against the Jets due to his hand injury?

BB: I wouldn't think so. But, we will have to wait and see on that one. We will do the injury report Wednesday. But, no, I don't think I would rule him out.

Q: Might the team bring back J.J. Stokes?

BB: It is a possibility. That is a possibility. There are players that we would like to have at the game, we like to have had players on the team, we don't have room for everybody. We will have to manage the situation as best we can. I thought J.J. did a good job when he was here and that is certainly a possibility.

Q: Are you playing more man-to-man coverage this year than you were lat year?

BB: More man-to-man? I am not sure of the exact numbers. I would say it probably close. Just off the top of my head. The one thing about your coverage calls, it is an interesting question though, you are making me think about it, really the only time the coverage really matters is when they throw the ball. In other words, you could call 50 percent zone coverages and 50 percent man-2-man coverages and if the passes all come against man, then really the perception from a coverage standpoint, you are playing a man-based defense against the passing game, which is when it really matters. Or vice-versa. I think in terms of total number of calls and the percentages of calls, my guess is it would be fairly close to what it was last year. We are seeing a lot more throwing this year than we saw last year in terms of percentages of plays against us. How that would break down in terms of passes verses man or zone coverage, that is an interesting question.

Q: Going into the season, did you feel like you had as much depth as you have at receiver where you can have one guy be out and another guy go right in? The passing game has been, I guess, fairly consistent. You might disagree with that.

BB: Right. No, I think that is a good observation. That is kind of the way it has been all year. The combination between our backs, our tight ends and our receivers and specifically the receivers has been kind of a rotation of people out there for one reason or another and they have all had production and it has been intermittent to a certain degree. The fact is that somebody has been producing it, again, when you combine the backs and the tight ends with that group, that for the most part in the passing game, it has come from somewhere, not always the same person or even the same position. I thought going into the year we had some depth at those positions. I certainly didn't expect it to happen the way it has in terms of the different roles and different people being in and out.

Q: What are the pluses and minuses of having effectively a rotation at different positions?

BB: I think that from a standpoint of when somebody has to go in, or when somebody plays, that we have confidence in everybody playing. The players do. They know they have played beside them. They have seen guys make plays and to a certain degree, it doesn't really matter who is in there. On the other hand, the more consistency and continuity you can have between certain groups of people, I think the better off you are. For example, on the offensive line. We have had a lot of continuity there and I think that has definitely helped us over the last eight or nine weeks, whatever it has been. You would like to have that at every position. We all know that is not always possible or it is probably impractical to think it is going to be that way for an entire season but you would still like to have it. Otherwise, if you rotate people, you are doing it situationally and you are doing it on your terms. So you have players in to do things that either they do well or situationally that you think the opponents are going to do and so you are matching your strength relative to the situation as you think it is going to come up in the game. That is another way to look at it too. Certain receivers run certain routes better than others or maybe they match up against certain types of defenders a little bit differently than others and you may want to substitute situationally to try to get those match ups. As opposed to one guy is not playing so somebody else is.

Q: In general with the wide receivers, would you say it is more injury driven?

BB: Yes. Without a doubt, it has been more injury driven.

Q: Whereas with running back it seems like that has been more situational, like on a game-by-game basis.

BB: I would agree with that, that is a little bit more situational and related to game plan, yes. But a lot of times with the receiver situation is has been more of who is healthy.

Q: Coach, can I get you to comment on Nick Saban?

BB: I think he is a great football coach. I have known Nick a long time. I coached with him for four years at Cleveland. I think he is an outstanding coach. Every aspect of the game. He is smart. He is very knowledgeable in every aspect whether it be any offensive schemes, defensive schemes, he nose guard, the cornerback, what the wide receiver is reading on a route. I think he is very knowledgeable. He is very smart. Very experienced. He had a lot of background in a number of different areas. You can just go right down the line. He has coached in a lot of different systems. I think he knows how to apply things in game conditions, he make good adjustments. I mean he is a great coach.

Q: Would he make a good NFL coach?

BB: Well, I think that Nick has been successful at every level that he has been at. Whether it be a head coach in college at a number of different schools or as an assistant coach in both the professional and college ranks. I think Nick is a good coach. I am not going to comment on his future or anything else. He is playing for a national championship and I am sure a big reason why they are in that game is because of his coaching ability.

Q: Do you take pride in seeing guys that you have brought into the league flourish?

BB: Well, I am happy for people like Nick and Kirk Ferentz and Pat Hill and people like that because they are friends. I think in a lot of those cases, I might have learned more from them than they learned from me. I don't think it is about me teaching them how to coach or anything like that. They are good coaches. They contributed to staffs that I was on and as part of the staff I learned a lot from watching them coach either their position or their personality or their teaching methods or whatever it happens to be. In a case like Nick, I probably learned more from coaching with him than he learned from coaching with me. I venture to say that.

Q: Have you talked with him?

BB: Yes. Nick and I talk.

Q: Coach, what makes New York's red-zone passing offense just so efficient? Chad has never thrown an interception in the red-zone.

BB: Well, I think the keys in the red zone are making quick decisions and being accurate with the ball and those are two things that Chad does well. He has a good group of receivers. He makes quick decisions. There is not a lot of space down there. As you know, you are throwing your normal pass patterns, five receivers, but you are throwing them in a much smaller space than what you are than when the ball is at midfield or wherever it is. The decision has to be quicker and the ball has to be accurate. There is generally not a lot of space down there so when you make a throw, it is usually a tight throw, and a lot of times it is a good catch. Part of that production has to go the receivers being able to create a little bit of separation and then usually catching the ball where a lot of times it is a hard catch or it is in a spot where only they can get it and they have to come up with it.

Q: You mentioned quick decisions and being accurate with the ball. Yesterday's game, was that Tom [Brady's] best performance under those conditions?

BB: I don't know how I would rate the games but it was good. Let's put it that way. It was good. I thought his accuracy, his decision-making, and his recognition of the defenses and where to go with the ball was good. I thought was good.

Q: How does a quarterbacks accuracy affect play calling, different extenuating circumstances that you don't really have to worry about when you for instance throw to Troy [Brown] in the back of the end zone on the third-and-20? Does it at all enter it, 'We know he can make that throw?'

BB: Oh, sure. I think when you put in a play; you have to have confidence that the quarterback can make the throws that you are asking him to make. Some quarterbacks have more trouble with some throws than others and there is not always a scientific explanation for that. Whether it is confidence or whether it is technique, or whether it is a combination of the two, some quarterbacks throw some routes better than others. Some of them see things better than others. Some of them anticipate certain routes better than others. If a quarterback has a particular strength in that area, then as a coach I think, not that you want him to force the ball into that situation, but maybe you call more of those routes to give them the opportunity that if it is there, he can make that throw relative to another one that might be just as good but it is not one that either he prefers or maybe he is particularly adept at relative to another one.

Q: In 2001 was there a particular route or throw that you looked at and said, 'Let's stay away from that route?'

BB: Yes and there were also specifically some routes that we said, 'We have to call this more because either Tom is executing it well or the offense is executing it well.' But I think you do that with any quarterback. I think that there are certain things that some quarterbacks throw or do better than others. Again, we talked about punting the other day, but I think it might be similar to the golf analogy. You have 14 clubs in your bag, some golfers are better putters than they are sand players. Some players are better at this than that. For a quarterback he has to throw the inside routes, the backs, the wide receiver vertical routes, man coverage, moving routes, stationary routes, and so forth. There are one million different throws that a quarterback has to make and I think when you watch a quarterback play and when you evaluate them, particularly college quarterbacks, you come out of there saying, 'Well he does these things really well and these routes maybe he has a little more trouble with, maybe he can improve those with practice, maybe he can't.' I think that is definitely part of coaching the quarterbacks, managing your team and creating an offense.

Q: Is there a for instance just on one throw that you can give me in 2001 that you said, 'Let's stay away from that?'

BB: I am not big on going back to that year. The other thing I would say with quarterbacks is a lot of times when you see quarterbacks, they will make some very good throws on some very hard routes or hard areas to get the ball into. Then you will see their technique break down and then they are kind of lackadaisical with their footwork or their body mechanics and they end up taking what should be a relatively easy throw and missing it. That is something that we talk to the quarterbacks about all of the time. I think that a lot of them, probably all of them, are guilty of it to some degree of taking what should be a relatively easy throw, maybe throwing to a back on a swing pass or something like that and not getting their feet in place, not getting their shoulders around and bouncing it out there to him or throwing it over his head or something like that, where that should be the easiest throw in the book and it ends of being one that is missed. Again, that is more of a concentration or mechanical thing than it is really a fundamental-technique thing because they could make it a good 20 times. But if you are sloppy on it and you hit a bad one, again, it is just like hitting a bad golf shot.

Q: You talked about Peyton Manning before with how he checks off. How much of that does Tom do?

BB: It varies from game-to-game. That is more a part of Indianapolis' system that you can pretty much put on any game and see that going on. I think with us, it is more game plan, it is more situational. It would be a) less frequent and b) less consistent than what Indianapolis…I think Indianapolis is at one end of the spectrum on that. Then you have some teams that never audible and I think we would be somewhere in the middle.

Q: This keeper thing it is like your secret weapon almost.

BB: Keeper?

Q: The quarterback keep. He gets six or seven yards every time he does it.

BB: Not every time.

Q: Is it he sees that no one is covering the center and goes for it?

BB: It could be both. It could be called. It could be something that he recognizes.

Q: How has he and Charlie Weis' relationship developed over the year?

BB: I think the more time that they have spent together and the more situations that as a coordinator the more situations that you go through with your team or in this case the quarterback, the more you are on the same page, the more you understand the other person's mentality and what they are looking for and how to accommodate them both ways. It is a give and take. What the play caller is comfortable calling, what the quarterback is comfortable running and when you get a spread on that, I think that there are enough other plays that you can find that you can come together on. Usually you are better off just going without those and finding the ones that everybody is comfortable.

Q: How disappointed were you in Bethel Johnson that he didn't do what he needed to do to get himself on the field on Sunday?

BB: Well, I have to make decisions every week in terms of who is active and who is inactive. The ones who are inactive play and you would like to be able to bring everybody to the game but you just can't do it. You can only take 45. That is the decision I make every week. There are always eight guys, including the third quarterback, seven players that can't be active for the game. That is the way it is every week. I wish those players could play, the ones that are healthy. Sometimes a guy can't play because he is not healthy. That is a different matter. I would like to be able to have all of them. You just can't do it. There is always somebody who falls into the category that isn't able to play that you would like to have at the game.

Q: Just to get back to the quick decision making by a quarterback, does that change the impact by the flow of the game? Does the play calling change?

BB: I think there is some effect on it. I definitely think there is some effect on it. Charlie and I talk after each series and there are certain points in the game where we say, 'Okay, here is the situation we are in. Here is what we need to do.' For example, if you are behind, you look at the clock in the fourth quarter and say, 'Okay, how many more times are we going to get the ball realistically? We are going to get it two more times,' or 'We are only going to get it one more time and here is what we need to do on this possession.' Or, 'We have two more possessions. Here is what we need to do on this possession.' Just what the situation is. We do talk about that. Or, you could be ahead and say, 'Okay, well they are only going to get the ball two more times probably in this game. Here is how we are going handle our next possession.' So there is a certain element to that. There is definitely an element to the decision making with the quarterback relative to the score. For example, we could call a pass play. Say we are trying to run out the clock, we could call a pass play, let's say it was third-and-five, and you tell the quarterback, 'Okay, if the guy is open, throw it to him and we will get the first down and then we will be able to run out the clock. If he is not open, and the player is covered, then don't throw an incomplete pass. Get as much as you can but keep the clock running.' So that is where decision making for example would come in, in that situation where you wouldn't want the incomplete pass, you don't mind losing the three or four yards on a sack if that is what it is. But you would rather have that than the ball go to the ground and put that time on the clock for your opponent. Then it really serves as a run. You are calling a pass but the effect could net out as just being a run to make them use their timeout and run time off of the clock. There is an element of that that exist with the quarterback as well as with the offensive coordinator play calling.

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