New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 17, 2008.
BB: Well, another day of studying the Chargers and another impressive viewing. They've been in a lot of critical situations, game situations in the last few weeks and they've made just about every one of them, no matter what the situation's been - offense, defense, special teams, running the ball, stopping the run, throwing the ball, defending the pass. They've really stepped up in all of the key situations that have been there for them that the game's turned on. They've made most of them. The team has a lot of poise and a lot of talent.
Q: When you're looking for players to play defensive line in this system, what are the characteristics a player would have to have?
BB: I think it always starts with being strong enough to play on the line of scrimmage against double team blocks and big people and all of that, strength, athleticism, quickness, production. Then you have guys that can be situational players in any system that are more run-oriented or more pass rush-oriented that can fill different roles. We have inside players and outside players, like every team does -- guys who play close to the ball, guys who player further away from the ball, so I don't know if there's one common thing that everybody has to have. Certainly [a] defensive mentality. I think that goes across the board with all of the defensive players, but good skill sets vary and we've had different guys play well with different combinations of skills. But being able to be physically strong enough to hold up on the line of scrimmage, I think that's got to be number one. Otherwise, it's hard - Then they're really linebackers, if that's not what they are.
Q: You've been a part of a lot of teams that have created a lot of turnovers. San Diego has an inordinate amount of turnovers this season. What have you seen from them?
BB: They get a lot of them. They get a lot of them. They do a good job of seeing the ball and they're very aware of the ball, so when it comes out it seems like they usually get it. They have a lot of people around it [and] they get a lot of tipped balls. Some of them they're hitting the quarterback and some of them they're hitting the receiver or the ball's bouncing up in the air. Sometimes the play is just not executed well and they take advantage of sloppy offensive execution. The combination of all of those things. The fumble against Tennessee was a great play by [Shawne] Merriman, coming off the back side and punching it out. One of the interceptions against Indianapolis - both of them, really - went off the receiver's hands. Another one was [Marvin] Harrison fumbled the ball. It's a combination of things. I don't know if you can say it's all one thing. The common thing is they have a lot of people around the ball so when it comes out they have a lot more guys there to get it than the other team.
Q: How well do you know Teddy Cottrell and what's your respect-level there?
BB: I have a lot of respect for Teddy. I know Teddy well. Of course, he was in this division at Buffalo and the Jets. We have a long history of competing against him and his defenses have been good pretty much everyplace he's been. There's been some common threads in his system and what he does and I think they're seeing that in San Diego. It's his defense. It's a little bit of a continuation of what Wade [Phillips] did last year, but again, those guys were together in Buffalo so there's a lot of carry-over there, too.
Q: What are some of the common threads?
BB: Well, 3-4 based, pressure, [a] combination of tight man coverage and zone pressures -- however they do it, whatever the front is, whatever the personnel combination is.
Q: Eric Weddle was sort of a Jack-of-all-trades in college. How have they used him?
BB: Well, he played safety in the preseason, in some of the preseason games, but of course that's been [Marlon] McCree and [Clinton] Hart pretty much all year, then they've gone all the way, so they use him primarily as the sixth defensive back when they go to dime. [Drayton] Florcence comes in as the fifth defensive back in their nickel packages, and then when they go to dime Weddle comes in and plays the sixth defensive back as kind of a linebacker-type position. But he does different things in there. He blitzes, plays man, plays zone. He's an instinctive player and he's made his share of plays in coverage and in pressure and tackling and so forth. He's done a good job for them and he plays a versatile role at that position.
Q: When they use Florence, do they always have him in the slot as the sixth defensive back?
BB: He usually plays in the slot. There have been games this year where they haven't done it that way, like against Kansas City they put [Antonio] Cromartie in against Gonzales and put Florence outside. They did that against a couple other [teams], too, but mostly I would say a majority of the time Florence is in the slot, Cromartie and [Quentin] Jammer stay outside.
Q: You've been through so many big games here. Do you view this as just another game?
BB: No. No, I sure don't. It's the AFC Championship Game. Our whole season and San Diego's whole season rests on this one game, and it's a privilege to be in it. We know what's at stake and so does everybody else, but it's a big game, we're playing for the AFC Championship and we want to do our best. That's what we're preparing to do. Of course it's a big game.
Q: The elements are the same for both teams, but from your experience what element can affect the game the most?
BB: Well, I think it depends on how severe the element is. There's light rain and then there's a hurricane. There's wind and then there's… a lot of wind. If you're talking about a lot of anything - a lot of snow, a lot of rain, a lot of wind - that affects it a lot more than a little bit. Certainly the wind affects the kicking game, number one. Of course, the dampness, whether it's rain or snow, affects footing and ball-handling probably more than wind does, obviously. So, if you're talking about kicking into a wind, that's probably a lot worse than punting in snow, but if you're talking about handling the ball, that would be a lot worse in rain than it would in wind. It just depends what aspect of the game you're talking about.
Q: Is that Giants game vs. Washington the windiest game you've ever played in?
BB: It was up there. Yeah, it was up there. There were a lot of windy games in Giants Stadium and we haven't really - Since I've been here, we really haven't had a wind here in Foxborugh like we had a lot of times in Giants Stadium. The wind in that game was probably about as strong as I can remember it.
Q: What factor is extreme cold?
BB: Dress warm. It's the opposite of hot.
Q: Can you touch on Wes Welker's season for you, what he's done?
BB: Wes has done a good job for us. He's primarily played in the slot. He's been a very productive receiver. He's good after the catch with the ball in his hands and we use him on returns as well as an offensive receiver at times. He's done a good job blocking, even though he's not the biggest guy. He's quick, he's tough and he takes good blocking angles. He's done a good job - he's really helped us in the running game and we're in a lot of multiple receiver sets and he's done a good job there, too. I think Wes has handles his roles very well throughout the course of the year and they've been - there's been a lot of variety to them, but he's a real pro. He works hard, he came in there and won the offseason award, which is, again, it's saying quite a bit because there's a lot of competition for those and we have a lot of guys that work hard. The fact that he came in as a new guy and did that I think is pretty impressive, as did Adalius [Thomas]. He's been asked to do a lot of things and he's done them well.
Q: This season saw an explosion of offensive league-wide. Is that because of the spread offense or is it something defenses are doing?
BB: I don't think any of the defensive coaches want to take credit for that. As a defensive coach, that's not something you like to see. Really, that's a hard question for me to answer. To be honest with you, I spend my time with our team and the team that we're going to play, and I'm not sure that I'm the best person or even a good person to comment on league-wide trends over this particular season, other than from the teams or the games that I've seen. I think at the end of the season, things like that are the type of things that we would go back and study as a staff - trends in the red area, trends on third down, whatever they are. The kickoff return teams, the punt return teams, whatever they are, and try to get a little better feel for what's going on outside of our world, especially as our schedule changes. We move to a different conference in the NFC - that's four new teams - and whatever else changes on our schedule. Sometimes you're changing a third of your schedule per season, roughly, and that affects you. But I just -- I don't feel very confident about saying this is what's going on in the league, that's what's going on in the league, because in all honesty, half of the teams in the league I really haven't seen play very much.
Q: Are you concerned about the allegations that have come up with Randy Moss and how it might affect him this week?
BB: I think Randy's covered those and I've talked to Randy about it, and I support Randy 100 percent.
Q: We've talked about weather and statistics. One thing the Chargers do have is a pretty catchy theme song. What do you think of the Super Chargers song?
BB: I hate that song. The first time I heard that song was when I was with the Giants. We played out there and they had [Wes] Chandler, they had [Chuck] Muncie, they had [Kellen] Winslow, [John] Jefferson, [Chuck] Faucette, and it was a trackmeet. They didn't get through playing that song before they had scored again and they started playing it again. It was… San Diego Super Chargers, that's still ringing in my head. I can still see that game - Muncie catching the Ram Pass and all that. So, yeah, I don't like to hear that song, and I don't like to hear Hail to the Redskins, either. When those songs play, it means it's not going well for us. I've never been with those teams, so that song's never been music to my ears.
Q: Have you ever talked to Jon Bon Jovi about writing one for you guys?
BB: I haven't done that. Maybe we can come up with something. Have him and Bruce [Springsteen] work on it together.
Q: In your time here, what impact have Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau made to this organization?
BB: Rodney's had a huge impact. He's been here since '03 and he's been a part of championships and certainly a lot of victories. He's done a great job for us in all aspects of the game - defense, special teams, leadership. He's an outstanding communicator and worker on the field, and he's a real pro. He's a great example for all of us to look to, not just the younger players, but the veteran players, the coaches - everybody. He has a great attitude, a great work ethic - As does Junior, who's had a shorter time here and unfortunately that was cut short about two-thirds of the way through the season last year, but he's been awesome. He's been with us since day one this year, through all of the spring camps and so forth, training camp and everything, which he wasn't a part of last year. I think that's made a big difference for him, just being here from day one. He's certainly one of the most respected players on this team, obviously, in the league, and has great camaraderie with the players on the team. I think he's one of the… Each player has their own individual niche and chemistry on the team. I think Junior is one of those guys that his personality transcends everybody on the team - the offensive players, the defensive players, the starters, the backups, the young guys, the old guys, the guys from California, the guys from the east coast, the guys from - it doesn't matter. He just has a great way of blending with everybody, in a really good and positive way. It's been awesome to have both of those players. It's been a privilege for me to coach them, to have the opportunity to coach them.
Q: Do you think players like those two who maybe haven't had much success in their prior stops are more driven when they get here?
BB: Well, I think they were pretty good where they were. You'd have to ask them that. You'd have to talk to them about how they feel about it, but they were both pretty good players at the team they were at. I don't think anybody ever thought that they weren't a force to be reckoned with - at least I didn't - but you could ask them. They would know better than I would.
Q: If an opposing player had a reputation of being emotional, volatile, whatever, would you ever coach your players to take advantage of that?
BB: To me, I think it's just - that's distracting. It's distracting for me to do that. I think it would be distracting for somebody else to do it. Instead of focusing on what your job is, you're focusing on something else. One of the guys that I talked to a long time about that and I have tremendous respect for is Jim Brown. I think Jim's… People think he's one of the best players or the best player to ever play our game and I would certainly agree with that, from everything that I saw. We all know Jim's attitude. He would run the ball, get up slow, he'd walked back to the huddle, he'd come out and he was a tough guy to handle on the next play. I know his attitude on that was when the play is over, I start thinking about the next play. I start thinking about the situation, I start thinking about what I need to do, what's happening here, listen to the play being called, come out and get ready to run it. I just felt like I never really had a lot of time to be thinking about a lot of other stuff. That was my priority, is to go from one play to the next and do the best I could on it. I think that's a great attitude. I think it's part of what made him as great a football player as we was. I think that's - whether it's me as a coach or any player - I think that's a pretty good model to follow. When he scored, he put the ball down. He was happy to score, but he was working so hard to get into the end zone, he wasn't really thinking about what to do next. I feel that way anyway, but I think Jim when he articulates it and articulated it to me, it really makes a lot of sense and I think it's the right way to go. So, no, I'm not really on that program.
Q: Earlier this week you were asked about Laurence Maroney. Have you seen him run with a greater sense of authority from the beginning of the year to now?
BB: I think he's run hard all year. I think he ran hard last year. Kickoff returns and when the opportunity is in, I don't think that's ever been a question. I think he's run hard and run determined. I'm not saying every play is a great play, but I think that his effort and his toughness running the ball, his intensity I think has been good ever since he's been there.
Q: Can you talk a little about Michael Turner and what he brings that's different than LaDainian Tomlinson?
BB: They have a great set of backs. Tomlinson is, we all know, player of the year and he can do it all. Turner has consistently come in there and performed well when he's gotten the opportunity. He has a tremendous yards per carry average, he's hard to pull down, he has great strength and balance, good vision. I think what the Chargers did in the offseason to keep him shows what they think of him and probably what his value is league-wide. Then of course you have [Darren] Sproles, who is a tremendous… has game-breaking type talent and skill, which we saw against the Colts in the return game, which we saw last week on the screen pass. He's a guy that can get the ball anyplace on the field and score. He's extremely dangerous. I think both of their backs, [Andrew] Pinnock and [Lorenzo] Neal have done a real good job for them in the roles that they've been in. [They're] very dependable in pass protection and blocking, and any opportunities they have to carry the ball, particularly on short-yardage. Lorenzo has a lot of third down conversions on short yardage. They have a great group of backs, and that's true of the whole rest of the team. This team has a tremendous amount of talent at every position, and the backs, they're right up there.