New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 3, 2008.
BB: Happy New Year, everyone. We're definitely in one. It's a privilege, of course, to be involved in the second season here in the NFL, the new one where everybody's undefeated and we're all starting at the bottom. We're going to take these couple days and try to emphasize and work on the team that's most important, and that's our team, and do the best we can to try to improve our situation heading into next week. We know that whoever we play is an outstanding team, whoever that will be. They'll be tough and we'll have to be at our best, so that's what we want to try to do, is try to get our game to the highest level we can [and] work on things that we need to work on, regardless of who we play. There's certainly a lot of generic and fundamental things that we can improve on and that's where we'll try to put our emphasis. Once we know who we're playing, [we'll] certainly turn it all toward that opponent. That's kind of where we're at for this week.
Q: I know we've covered this before over the years, but when you're in a situation where you don't really know the opponent, how much time do you have to spend preparing for all of them at this stage of preparation?
BB: Well, we have people on our staff that do the advance work like they always do, and that's what we're doing. We're just doing more teams than we usually do, but some we have different degrees of familiarity with [them]. We've seen them all within the last roughly calendar year. The main thing right now, like I said, is rather than spending a lot of time on all three teams and wasting it on two of them that we spend time on our team, which there are a lot of things that we need to do and [we'll] try to work on that. Then once we know who it is -- We'll have a better idea Saturday night and won't know for sure until Sunday.
Q: How much of a luxury is it to have these two days to work on what you need to work on, and are there one or two things that you've seen develop over the last few weeks that you know you need to work on?
BB: I think we can sharpen up our game in all of the areas. There are certainly plenty of things for us to do in the next couple of days in all three phases of the game - running game, passing game, you name it. Fundamentals. There are a lot of different bases to cover, and it's an opportunity for us to work on those things without being opponent-specific and as soon as we know who the opponent is, then we'll turn to that. Hopefully, we'll be able to get some benefit out of these days and improve our team. That's what we're going to try to do.
Q: When you look at the season as a whole, it seems like there's been a change in the complexion of the games, the way the games have turned out. In the beginning, obviously, there were a lot of blowouts, but at the end there were a lot of tight games. Why do you think that is?
BB: I don't know. It's the NFL. Most of the game are that way, but really we're not all that concerned about any specific game. We're just trying to look to improve our team and get better the next few days here and move on to whatever the next challenge is. I think the analysis and all of that of the season is - Take it with a grain of salt. We'll look at the things we need to do better and try to formulate our best and strongest team going forward, so that's where we're at.
Q: Will Josh McDaniels be interviewing with Atlanta and Baltimore on Saturday?
BB: I don't have any comment on any other team's situation and any comment on that would have to come from… Any people who are involved in on our end, it would come from them.
Q: Have you granted permission?
BB: That's all we have to say. I'm sure you have a lot more questions on it, but really I don't have anything to add.
Q: The first of these two games is being played Saturday at 8:00. Will you come in here to watch that, or how does that work?
BB: I don't know. But I'll definitely watch it. That game will have - That could be one of the teams, so I'll definitely watch it.
Q: But you don't know if you'll come into the office to watch it?
Q: Might go to a sports bar?
BB: Yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking. Maybe hit a couple of them - first half, second half. Get a different flavor for it.
Q: Is it the kind of thing where you'll watch with the staff or do you just wait for the film?
BB: I'm not real big on TV scouting. It's hard to see the game from the coaching standpoint, the way we need to see it. But it's interesting to see how it goes. It's AFC playoffs, so we're interested in that, but we'll wait until we get the game tapes and break those down rather than try to break it down off TV.
Q: Will the players have Saturday and Sunday off?
BB: We'll give you that schedule probably tomorrow. It'd take some of the thrill out of it for them if they got it from you.
Q: How is this week off different, because it's the first time in a long time you haven't had to focus on just one team.
BB: We're working on us. We're working on the Patriots.
Q: Does that mean more fundamentals?
BB: It means everything. There's a lot of things we have to work on and we'll address them in a priority and in a structure that we feel like is most beneficial for us over the next two days.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about Kevin Faulk? It seemed like in the game the other night when Tom Brady needed a big third-down pass, he was there getting the yards he needed.
BB: Kevin has done a great job for us through the years. He's been one of our most consistent and dependable players. He has so many roles - special teams, pass protection, running the ball, catching it, third downs, other downs. He's been a downfield receiver, third-down receiver, screens, draws, those kinds of plays. He's done a good job for us. [He's a] hard-working kid. He's one of the most respected players on the team [and was] elected a captain this year by his teammates, so I think that speaks a lot to Kevin right there. Even though he's not one of the highest play-time players, I think when he's in there he's very productive and he's one of the most respected players. Coaching staff, organizationally. He's a terrific kid - Great team player, has a great attitude, works hard and performs well.
Q: When I spoke to him earlier this week, he said if he wasn't playing football he'd be coaching it. Do you think he'd make a good coach?
BB: I'm sure he would. I'm sure he would.
Q: Is there anything about him as a player that…
BB: [He's] smart, works hard, is very instinctive, has a good feel for the game, has a very good background, does a lot of different things. I think he's well-versed in the passing game, the running game, special teams, training. He's involved in everything and he does a good job in all of those areas. I'm sure he would.
Q: Can you discuss how far Brandon Meriweather has come from day one to now in terms of his development and how much of a comfort-level you have developed putting him out there?
BB: I think Brandon's made good progress, just like any rookie. [He] comes in and there's a lot - There's a different level in the game between college and pro football and then there's a new system to learn and new terminology, different offenses and different opponents and that kind of thing. Brandon's worked hard. He's certainly come a long way. He still has a long way to go, like every rookie, but he's made a lot of progress, he continues to work hard and be attentive and gain from all of the experiences that he has, both in the classroom and on the practice field and the game field and all that that he can continue to improve.
Q: When you drafted him, was his versatility the biggest selling point in your mind?
BB: Well, when you draft a player you get the total player. You get everything, so that's what we got and that's why we took him. He is a versatile player. That's one thing that there's… There are a lot of things that he does well that were reasons why we drafted him.
Q: Can you talk about your offensive line? They've allowed 21 sacks and you threw the ball almost 600 times this year. That's a pretty impressive ratio and a lot of times it seemed like Brady had a lot of time to throw.
BB: I think, as I've said many times, I think the passing game is a total team effort. It's a function of everybody and the line has an important role in it, as does the quarterback and the receivers and the scheme, and so the ability for the receivers to get open and have the quarterback - give the quarterback someone to throw to, for the line to protect him, for the backs and tight ends and receivers to the degree that they're involved in protections or adjustments. So it's all a part of that. I think that to have a good passing game you have to execute it at all 11 spots on the field, not just one or two. Certainly the offensive line deserves credit for their role in it, as do the other players for theirs. Really, it all needs to function together for it to be effective. [You] can't have a one-man band.
Q: You've had some injuries, especially on the right side, and guys have stepped in. Is there a common denominator that allows those guys to step in?
BB: We work all of our players in there throughout the course of training camp, practice… I think everybody plays on a regular rotational basis. You never know when that's going to happen, so they've really been in there pretty much since day one - all of our receivers, all of our tight ends, all of our backs and all of our linemen. I think through the course of practice they all work together and if they ever have to - when they do have to play together, then there's hopefully less of a communication gap and we're able to go out there and function efficiently, no matter what combination of people we have in there. And we play a lot of people anyway. We have different groups and different combinations in there, so I think doing it for an extended period of time hopefully helps our communication and our execution.
Q: Saturday Wesley Britt - This is related to what was asked earlier -
BB: The sports bar question?
Q: Wesley Britt, every time he came in, he had to report as an eligible receiver. Was he specifically in the game to help Ryan O'Callaghan deal with some of the pass rush? Maybe chip away at the guy coming off the edge?
BB: Well, we went into the game with two tight ends. Ben [Watson] had been out for a little bit. Stephen's [Spach] a little bit newer to the system, so having Wes, Steve and Ben there gave us three. In a lot of cases we played two at the same time, just in order to give ourselves some depth on the formations. Those different personnel groupings, we felt like we needed to have the third person, third player ready to at least line up in the tight end position or area. So those were the three guys that did it at one time or another in the game.
Q: So it wasn't necessarily their pass-rush and the need to give another player some help with that?
BB: We used the formations and the plays that we thought were best against the Giants and, as I said, just to give ourselves some depth at those areas. We didn't want to go into the game with only two players and then if something happened we'd get knocked out of all of those formations and all of those personnel groupings we had three-for-two. So Wes was one of the three.
Q: What's your evaluation of how O'Callaghan handled himself?
BB: I mean, our offensive line went up against a very good defensive line and they made some plays. We made some plays, but it was competitive. Certainly [Michael] Strahan, Osi [Umenyiora] and [Justin] Tuck are three of the better pass rushers in the league, all on the same team, so it's pretty good.
Q: Does Stephen Gostkowski hitting those three field goals help boost his confidence at all, not that he necessarily needed it?
BB: He's hit most of them all year, as he did last year. I don't think confidence is an issue. Good kicks, but no, I don't think confidence is an issue.
Q: Have you been surprised by Wes Welker's ability to block, especially the block he threw to spring Laurence Maroney on the touchdown?
BB: You know, he's had several of them for us and that was a good one. That was a good one. That was a key play and I thought Laurence ran that play well by keeping it tight away from [Aaron] Ross, who was actually unblocked, but Wes has had some big blocks all year - the Washington game, some of our wide receiver screens, things like that. Wes is a complete football player. [He's a] very unselfish kid. [He] does whatever you ask him to do, whether it's return, block, catch, clear out, whatever it is. He does a good job. He hustles, plays hard, is physical. He's not a big kid, but he's physical and he's tough.
Q: It seems like you've been more willing to give the ball to Laurence Maroney down at the goal line as the season's gone on. Is that a random occurrence or a plan?
BB: I don't think it's anything that's specifically been orchestrated or a big-time goal or anything. It just kind of worked out that way, but we've always had confidence in him. He's a good runner. He can get tough yards, he can break plays, he can run inside, he can run outside. I think he's a pretty versatile back. I don't think there's any issue or any problem giving the ball to him really in any situation. I think we all have confidence in him and he's produced in any situation. He's had a couple of big runs in short yardage. Whatever play he gets in on, I think everybody's comfortable with him carrying it.