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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/31/2003

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BB: What are the end of the year stories?

Q: When Rodney Harrison got here, he played very physical during training camp. Did he kind of set the tone of what the defense was going to do this year?

BB: I think at that point everybody was just kind of playing like they play in training camp. I don't think it was probably really about that. Rodney is an aggressive player. I don't think anything that he did was a cheap shot or anything of that variety, he was just playing aggressively. Sometimes you get contact and sometimes you don't. I think that he was coming in and trying to learn the defense and trying to play his position. I think really that is probably what mostly everybody else was doing in training camp too. You are just trying to get back into your rhythm and get your timing back and get your techniques down and get confident in the calls and the people that you are playing with. I think that is really what that time period is about more than trying to paint some bigger picture.

Q: You have had a number of guys in and out of the line up. How has this year been different for you in terms of having to move many guys around?

BB: Every year brings its own challenges and you always have to make personnel changes through the course of the year and over 16 games. Things happen, some guys improve, some guys have injury issues, and sometimes there are scheme issues. You always have to make changes. I think that is just part of it. There has been some of that this year.

Q: It has been more than usual though right?

BB: We have had a number of different people. It has been that kind of team, again, I am not caught up on the big starter thing, we have had a number of different people contribute. I think all of the players have been active I think at one time or another. They have contributed in one way or another. So it has been a lot of different mixes through the course of the year from game-to-game, and from one part of the season and so I guess that part of it has been maybe a trademark of this season.

Q: Is there something else that has been a challenge to you more than it has in the past?

BB: Well I think we have gone up against a lot of good teams this year and have gone up against a lot of good schemes. We have been challenged every week with a high level of play from our opponents. I think that has been reflective in the number of tight games that we have played in. That has been very challenging as well. We've faced a lot of strong competition, teams, players, and coaches that I have a lot of respect for.

Q: Is it gratifying to have a group that finds different ways to win as opposed to on other teams where you depend on one or two guys to make a play?

BB: Well, I think however you win you are happy when you win. I really do, especially in this league. It is hard to win in this league. However you can win, you better be happy about it. Maybe it is not the way you want to do it or whatever but whether it is the same guys every week or it isn't, I think at the end of the day if you come out with more points than the other team, you feel good about it. If you don't, no matter how you arrived at that point, you are not going to feel too good.

Q: From a distance, you seem to really enjoy this group.

BB: Well, I have a lot of respect for the players they work hard, they are tough, they are unselfish, they work well with each so I have tremendous respect and admiration for them individually and as a group the way that they have gone about that. Yes.

Q: Your confidence in Tom [Brady] is obvious. How has the offense evolved as he has developed?

BB: Well, I would say number one is Tom has more input in it. He has run the plays. He has faced a lot of these defenses multiple times now and he has a lot of input in terms of, 'I really like doing this in this game,' or, 'I thought that we had a good attack here,' or, 'It is easy for me to read this type of pattern against this particular coverage,' or, 'This was a little bit harder to read in this certain [situation].' So he has input in the game plan. He has input in the game plan, he has input in the play calling and I think he has a good working relationship with the coaches – myself, Charlie [Weis], John [Hufnagel], Brian [Daboll] the receivers coach, Jeff [Davidson] the tight ends coach, so I think that all of that in terms of how he has grown, maybe that is one way.

Q: I am sure that veteran quarterbacks do get input in the offense. Is his understanding of defenses more advance than maybe what you have seen?

BB: I think the big thing with Tom is it is four years in the same system. It is the same plays, I am not saying it is all the same defenses but there is certainly some carryover within the division or with team that we have played multiple times outside the division. I think that all helps that whole process. It is tough for a player. Sometimes it is tough for a coach when you are matching up a new team against another new team, 'Yeah, this looks good and yeah that looks good,' but once you actually get out there and start doing it, some things end up looking better than others. When you can draw from experience of, 'We've played this team several times, we have a lot of confidence in this is the way we want to play, and this is the way they are going to adjust to us, this is how we are going to have to adjust to them.' Sometimes that is a little bit more predictable and can lead to maybe a little bit more input just because everybody has more knowledge. I will just say in the end, it is important when Tom walks out on the field, or whoever your starting quarterback is, when he walks out on the field that he is confident in the plays that are called and that he understands where you want the ball to go. In other words when you call a play and he has the ball in his hand, 'And this defense happens then here is where the ball should go.' And you want that feeling as a coach. You don't want to be sitting there saying, 'Okay, well the ball should be going here, oh my God; it is going over there. What is happening?' You don't want to be there. Just to try to finish the answer to the first question

Q: Has he developed in terms of making the throws that he maybe couldn't make so well two years ago?

BB: I think that Tom's accuracy has improved. I think he has worked on it and I think it has improved. You saw the games in 2001. He made a lot of games when he played in his first year. It was his first second year, but his first year of playing. He can still make those throws and he has made some other ones too. I think that his accuracy has improved and part of that is of course comes from working with receivers for multiple years. He has been with Troy [Brown] for three years. He has been with David Patten for three years here and going on two years with some of the other guys here like [David] Givens and [Deion] Branch and [Daniel] Graham. That all helps.

Q: I know this is a different situation than in 2001, going into the bye week this week, do you look back and maybe apply some of the same things that you did then this week?

BB: It was a different situation because in that bye week, the way the seedings went, we felt like if Oakland won, which they did, that is who we would be playing. I think our preparations for Oakland started a lot earlier than to when that game was actually played. This year it is three teams and it could go a lot of different ways. There are certainly more possibilities. I think, in our minds, less predictability than maybe what there was two years ago.

Q: Is there any difference at all coming out of that bye week and going into the playoffs than when you come off the bye week in the regular season?

BB: Well, again, I think the big difference is you know who you are playing. Coming out of the regular season bye week we knew we were playing Dallas. You could totally focus everything on that game, not that we weren't doing some self-scout work and that type of thing to try to improve our overall execution, but you know who you are playing and you know who they are playing and you gear everything towards that game. Again, here it is a different situation. We don't know for sure who we are playing. We are still working internally on some self-scouting and self-improvement things and we are also trying to make sure that our bases are covered so that whoever we have to play, we are as well prepared as we can be without totally leaving a base uncovered.

Q: Have you spent much time doing motivational things like you did in 2001?

BB: I think some of the things in that year maybe that you are referring to got some media publicity. I think they were probably made into a bigger deal than what I personally would have made them into.

Q: By the media?

BB: Some members of it. I think every week you try to do what you can do to get your team focused and prepared for the game and you bring in whatever things are relevant. Whether it be a big picture thing, whether it be some real specific thing, whether it be a particular match-up, whatever it happens to be. I think just that is common and some of the things that we expounded on in 2001, I think were probably a little bit bigger than what I would have really thought they would have been.

Q: I recall you saying that in 2001 you had received different types of things that people thought would be good motivational things that had come across your desk.

BB: True. Sometimes you get an idea or somebody gives you an idea however it comes to you and you would say, 'Well this would have application to our team,' or, 'This would have application to a particular player or group of players,' and maybe it is not right now. Maybe it is, 'Well if this happens, then that would have application.' You keep it in the bank and certainly that has been the case this year and probably every year.

Q: Have you had chance to do anything this year that you would want to reveal?

BB: No, not really.

Q: Even anything that you wouldn't care to reveal.

BB: I think there have been things every week that you try to bring to the attention of the team and hope that in some way it either intensifies their focus or makes them take a perspective to the game that you want the team to take. I am not saying necessarily my perspective but the way you want them to see the game and ultimately play the game.

Q: The unselfish nature of this team, is that mostly a reflection of the character of the team and people you bring in?

BB: Sure. I think that is definitely where it starts. There is no question that people that have those traits are much more team oriented, much better at helping their teammates and working with their teammates than somebody who doesn't have that perspective.

Q: Is that some of what the organizations goal is when you draft someone?

BB: Sure. Well, anytime you bring a player into the organization, you have to take a look at the big picture. You can't take a player's speed and not get his work habits. Or you can't take a player's work habits and not get his strength. You get the whole thing. You have to decide how the total package fits in to your team and your philosophy, your team and the development of your team. Certainly, going to Scott [Pioli], who is ultimately responsible for that aspect of it. He has done a tremendous job in all of the acquisitions that he has been a part of on the team which has been just about everyone of them whether it be rookies, whether it be free agents, whether it be trades, whether it be draft choices, however they have come is to keep that whole mix in mind and certainly the composition of the group, as a total group, not just individually, but how one player will fit with the overall makeup of the rest of your team. That is important. I think he has done a great done job of that.

Q: How good or adept is he at realizing what a defense is playing off of?

BB: Very good.

Q: And then, does he suggest attacking a soft spot?

BB: You go into the game with Tom saying, 'Okay, here is how they play cover eight' and 'this is how they play cover two.' And you can come off that after the first series and if we have had a couple of plays that give that coverage a chance to play against it in certain patterns, we can talk about it right there on the spot: 'you know what, they are playing their cover eight a little looser than the way we have seen them play it in the last couple games,' or 'that was two but the safety is a little bit tighter than where he has been normally. Maybe it was play-action that did it or maybe they are just changing the drop a little.' He picks those things up right away. It doesn't take until half time of having to see the coverage eight times—'oh yeah, I got it now.' He will pick that up the first time: 'the corner was off a little bit further than I thought he was going to be. I'll have to take a closer look at that on the out' or whatever it is. He picks that up right away. If you go to him on something, he might not see a particular part of the coverage. Say it is a play-action pass and he is looking over here at this side of the pattern and he doesn't see what is going back there, you can take the picture right to him and say, 'Tom, look, see what is going on back here. This is just exactly the way we have talked about it.' And he will say, 'oh yeah. Right. Great.' That confirms it for me even though he didn't see it, and then he can use that the next time and not have to see the whole thing. He can just see the picture of it or get the verbalization: 'look the way they play this pattern is exactly the way that they are going to play it.' 'Ok great, I got it.' In those terms he is good. He sees to field extremely well. And when he tells you he sees something, that is the way it is. You come back and look at the film and you are going to see exactly what he told you he saw. I have had, unfortunately, other players who tell you they got triple-teamed and that there were eight guys over them and they were all stacked and they all cris-crossed, and then you look at the film and there was one guy and nobody else within five yards of him and he just missed the block.

Q: Obviously you are going to prepare this week. Now that you are the 'favorite' going into this, do you have to work any harder to stay focused this week?

BB: We take the same approach every week. I don't know who is favored, who is not favored, I don't care about anything like that. The only thing we care about is how we prepare for the game and that is the same every week. It really doesn't matter who.

Q: As opposed to the last playoff round?

BB: Look, I have said this before. Every single game since we have been here, I have felt going into the game like we were going to win. We obviously didn't win them. We felt like we were going to win. We felt like we were going to win in other years. We felt like we were going to win this year. We felt like we were going to win and sometimes we don't win. But it was not going into the game feeling anything other than that confidence and that preparation that we were where we wanted to be. It did not always work out that way. If that is how you feel going into it, then that is how you will feel going into the next game.

Q: Brady—is he the best you have worked with at processing coverages?

BB: He is good. He is good. I have worked with a lot of players and I could give you a lot of other players who have can take a similar picture of the game in a similar amount of time. They can see a lot of it. They don't just see the one or two guys around them. They see people, multiple relationships—where a player was in relation to someone else. He was inside, he was outside, he was here, and he was there. It is a real skill for a player to be able to do that and still execute his assignment.

Q: Can you relate it to basketball and Larry Bird? He could stop the play and say, 'ok this guy is here, this guy is there.'

BB: Yeah. Exactly. Defensively, when I was at the Giants, Terry Kinard was one of the best I have ever seen at doing that. He could tell you where everybody ran on the patter, where our defenders were, where they should have been, why they were not where they should have been, what the quarterback was looking at, why the play went the way it did. It was amazing. It really was. To be able, from the middle of the field, from free safety, to be able to say, 'Terry I know the ball was thrown over here, but did you see what the X did?' 'Oh yeah, he ran out.' Harry Carson. I remember asking Harry Carson. There was a particular play that we had a lot of trouble with. It was the trap pass that Pittsburgh ran a lot. Other teams ran it—the Jets ran it. We saw a lot of the play, and Harry could read the play better than any player I have ever seen. He would instantaneously read the trap pass and he would be ten yards behind the receiver that was trying to run up the seam on him. He would run it before the guy had even crossed the line of scrimmage. I would say, 'Harry, can you just help these younger guys. Can you tell them what you saw, how you read the play so quickly?' 'I don't know. I just read it. I can't tell you exactly what I saw. It was a combination of everything that happened—the aggressiveness at the line, block width—I knew it was not a run. I knew it was a pass.' 'How did you know that?' 'I don't really know. I just read it.' Charlie West playing strong safety, same thing. 'How did you know that guy was going to run across? I don't know, I just thought he was.' But he was right. He would jump a route. A guy would run a route and he would just jump the route. 'How did you know the guy was going to run out there? I don't know, I just thought that was what he was going to do.' He can't really explain it but yet he knows it.

Q: You must have encountered many guys that were convinced it was going to happen and it didn't and say, 'Well, I really thought…'

BB: Hey, I have had guys line up across from a guy straight across from him and that is the guy he is keying and come off after the play and say, 'What did that guy do? I am not sure. Well what were you looking at? Well I was looking right at him. Okay, well what did he do? I lost him.' It is looking at something but not seeing it. Sometimes you can look at something but not really see what happened. Other times you can look at something and see exactly what happened. When you are not really paying attention, whether it is you are driving in a car or you are walking down the street or where you are at, yeah you saw it, now you weren't really paying enough attention, it didn't really register. But when that is your key-in and the guy is right in front of you and you want to know what he did, 'I lost him,'…

Q: How is [Eugene] Wilson at that?

BB: I think Eugene, for a guy who hasn't played safety I think he has done a pretty good job of picking that up. I think he still has a long way to go. There are a lot of things that he will see better and read better as he gets more experience doing it. Overall it is not bad. I think the biggest thing for a player like that is to see the quarterback because ultimately that is where the ball is going to go. Again, a Terry Kinard example. Terry Kinard played safety at Clemson his whole career. He played free safety in the NFL his whole career; he was way beyond a lot of those things. He could see the quarterback and evidently see 10 or 12 other people running around too. Some guys need to be much more concentrated on a fewer number of players to get a really good read on him as they are evolving into the development in their position.

Q: What type of freedom scheme-wise has his coverage ability given you defensively?

BB: Well, having another corner on the field has been for a defensive coordinator in the passing game or a defensive backfield coach that is a dream come true because you don't have to substitute. You don't have to put that third corner in the game. We have played the majority of the year defensively in a nickel defense without a sixth or seventh defensive back which we have used in the past which a lot of other teams have used or currently use. To have another corner on the field gives you the ability to play corner when you want to corner and to play safety when you want to safety. That is a real luxury. You are not worried about match ups, 'Well, what if he has to cover so-and-so,' well, if you feel like a corner can cover a receiver, and we understand every corner gets beat. Nobody is perfect. I am not saying that. But when you are sitting there saying, 'Boy, I don't want to call this play because if this safety gets matched up on that receiver, that is a bad match up for us,' or, 'If this linebacker gets matched up against that tight end or that back we could really be giving up a big play here.' So the security of not having to worry about that, whoever they have to cover they have to cover, a receiver, a tight end, a back, whoever it is, that they have the ability and the skill to do it takes a lot of load off making defensive calls. I have been there before. It is big.

Q: What about just as far as you use Rodney and his ability to be able to play close to the line?

BB: Well, it changes from defense to defense, he is not always close to the line as you know and he is not always backed away from the line. So, that changes from play to play. Rodney is a very flexible player as well. There are plenty of times where he is out covering detached receivers or covering people running well into the secondary deep patterns. So that gives you a lot of flexibility too. It is hard defensively when you have to match up every single player, 'This guy can only cover that guy and that guy can only cover somebody else.' There are some formations, there are some situations, and there are some substitutions when they bring different combinations in. It can get tough. It really can. The degree of difficulty in some of those plays and some of those match ups and all can get tough. It is a lot easier when you really feel like you don't have to worry about that, 'He is going to cover this guy if it's a back he covers him, if it is a receiver he covers them.' That is the way it is. You just go onto the next play.

Q: In terms of the quarterback reading the play, where does that skill you were talking about rank in terms of importance?

BB: Well, it is important but I think there are so many things that go into a quarterback's performance that you can have one good one and then if there are some other bad ones that more than off set's it – ball security, decision making, reading, and accuracy. If a quarterback can go back and see the right thing and pick out the right receiver but he can't throw the ball accurately, you are not going to have much. If a guy is a good mechanical quarterback and he has good feet and he is a good athlete and he is accurate but he doesn't read things particularly well and he is throwing to the wrong place, then you die a different death. In the end you die. All of that has to come together for a quarterback. There are so many decision-making and ball handling skills that he needs to have, that you need all of them to be at a certain competent level or you are going to run into problems regardless of how outstanding the other ones can be, you are going to have to find some way to minimize or eliminate the ones that are stumbling blocks in terms of a players performance.

Q: Richard Seymour has played on the inside and outside. How similar are those positions from one being a 4-3 and the other a 3-4? Is he unique in the ability to be able to move inside and outside?

BB: Well, yes I don't think there are a lot of players that do that. I would say production from both spots, some guys are a lot more geared to one than the other. I think, as we have talked about before, some players are more flexible than others. Some guys you can play them on the right side and move them over to the left side and you don't even know they have moved. Other guys, there is no way.

Q: Are they as good at it as he is?

BB: Well, some people are very adjustable and they are very adaptable and you can swing them back and forth. Joe Andruzzi, you move him from right guard to left guard or left guard to right guard, honest to God, at the end of the play you wouldn't even notice where he was at. It doesn't make any difference. Other players, when you flip them, it is just not as easy for them. They might be great at one thing and then you move them to another spot that is almost the same but it just doesn't work. I would say that Richard is a very flexible person. He is smart. He understands how playing in one spot is a little bit different from playing in another. Some people really like the challenge of doing something different instead of doing the same thing every single time. Every single time they are lining up in the same spot every time. They love the idea of playing in different spots and getting different match ups and using different techniques.

Q: Has he been productive in playing both spots?

BB: I think he has good production in both spots. Even in terms of playing on the left. But there are other people who want the same thing every single time. Some people eat the same thing breakfast every single day for 20 years. The same thing, every single day. There are other people that are not going to eat the same thing until it comes around in that menu several weeks down the road. Players are different like that too.

Q: Is David Givens conceivable where you thought he would be in his second season?

BB: I think, we have talked about this before, I think it is most common, most common for players to improve from their first year to the second year that is where the biggest jump is. I think that David has made a strong jump from year one to year two. Again, I think it is hard to say exactly where a player is going to land at any particular point in time. David, again, was a guy who was very highly recruited in high school. He went to Notre Dame and played running back, wing back, he played defense, he was kind of a smorgasbord of responsibilities up there. He settled into the receiver position a little bit in his senior year and he settled in to a receiving position with obviously more of passing offense than what he had in college here in the NFL and then has taken that and jumped to a much higher level of performance in terms of his route running, his hands, his coverage reading, run after the catch and all of that stuff. Can he still improve? Absolutely. But he has made a high move from year one to year to in all of those different areas. And again, as we have talked about, that is not really that uncommon.

Q: What is the one thing you really don't like about your job?

BB: Well, the thing I like least about this job is coming in on Sunday at 4 o'clock if things haven't gone well or whatever time the game is over. That is the low point of the week. Once it is over, you are on to the new week but that is a definite low point. You put all of your energy and preparation and everything into one event, we play once a week, and if it doesn't come out the way you want it to, then there is nothing really to be too excited about. It is an unhappy moment for you, your team and everybody around you. There is a lot of disappointment in that. That is what it would be

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