New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 8, 2008.
BB: We're rolling along here on Jacksonville. As I said the other night, this is a real good football team. They're good at everything. In the second half of the season, the last third of the season, they pretty much lead the league in just about everything, offensively and defensively - points, points scored, points allowed, yards, yards allowed - you name it. They're good on third down. They're a very explosive team with their backs, their receivers [and] the quarterback. They sack the quarterback, turn the ball over, they have 20 interceptions on the year -- a couple run back for touchdowns. So they can make plays in all phases of the game. They're very athletic, they're physical and one of the lowest penalized teams in the league. [They] haven't turned the ball over. They do a lot of things well. They make it hard for you, as their opponent. They don't give you very many opportunities - You have to take advantage of the few that are there, but more importantly, [you have to] play sound fundamentally and technically or they're going to capitalize on it in a hurry and they have a lot of players to do it with. [It's] kind of like a regular Wednesday here for us. We're on the road and we need a good week of preparation here against a real good football team. They do a lot of things well.
Q: Given the truth of everything you just said, you've coached in the Pro Bowl. How is it that they have no players in the Pro Bowl?
BB: Well, I think right now we're talking about a team. We're not talking about players, but they have a lot of them. Fred Taylor is as good a back as we've seen. [Rashean] Mathis was out there last year. I thought he was an outstanding player, an excellent player. We've been down that road before. We've won a few games. Sometimes you get them selected, sometimes you don't. I don't think that's the most important thing. I think right now the most important thing is how well their team is playing. [They're] the only team that's beat San Diego in the last couple of months. They're a good football team. I'm not really worried about the voting; I'm worried about the playing.
Q: The combination of those two - Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew - is a unique one. I would think it would be a difficult task for defenses to deal with.
BB: Absolutely - two real good players. It's kind of like San Diego, with [Ladainian] Tomlinson and [Michael] Turner. No matter who's in the game, they're both play-makers. Jones-Drew had the long run against us last year, the kickoff return. He's had a couple of them. [He] had [one] against the Colts, had one against the Saints, had it last week against Pittsburgh. They're both dangerous, however they get the ball, whether it's on a short pass, like Drew did against Pittsburgh. He caught that wheel-route coming out of the backfield for a 50-yard touchdown. He didn't handle the ball that many times, but he had tremendous production in that game. Really, it might have, in a way, been the difference in that game. Fred Taylor, you just can't say enough about him. He's a great runner. He's a strong, powerful guy. [He's] very nifty in the open field, excellent blitz pick up, one of the better blockers that we've seen in the league from his position. He's a complete player [and] does a great job. It's a strong one-two punch.
Q: Are Taylor and Jones-Drew interchangeable, in the sense that when they come in they're going to do the same things?
BB: Yeah. I think they're both complete guys, they can do it all. They can run, they can catch, they can block, they're both very good in blitz pick up, they use them both in the passing game, running game, third down, first down - it doesn't matter. I'm sure Fred could return kicks if they wanted to. They can do it all.
Q: How about Jack Del Rio's decision to go from Byron Leftwich to David Garrard in the first place, the courage it takes to make that decision and how you think that's worked out for him?
BB: Obviously it's worked out well. We faced Garrard last year. I really didn't follow the whole preseason situation, but we've seen Garrard all year obviously in all of the games we've watched and I know he's done a great job for them. He handles the team well, he's a big guy, he's physical, he's hard to bring down, he's accurate, makes good decisions and they've won a lot of games with him at quarterback.
Q: How is he different from Leftwich?
BB: He's more athletic than Byron was at that point. Again, it comes back down to making decisions and winning games and doing the right things at the right time. I'm not saying Leftwich didn't, I'm just saying that Garrard's had an opportunity to do them and he's done them well.
Q: How would you describe Richard Seymour's performance since he started later in the season?
BB: I think it's improved. I think it's improved. He missed a lot of time and he's started to catch up in terms of practice and playing reps. I think that's helped his timing, his technique and his overall conditioning and all. But, you know, it's a process. Those guys that go through roughly 50 practices, three or four preseason games, whatever it is -- It takes a player who comes in after training camp, whenever that point is, a certain amount of time to kind of catch up to that, kind of getting into game condition or midseason form, if you will. It takes a little while to get to that point, but I think at this point Richard is certainly there.
Q: How do you assess their secondary unit with Mathis and Reggie Nelson?
BB: Good. They're right up there at the top of the league in pass defense. They turn the ball over. They have, whatever it is, 20 interceptions. Safeties, I think they have about 10. Mathis is outstanding. So is [Brian] Williams. [They're] two big, physical corners. They play a lot of press coverage, they jam the receivers, they're good in run-force. [Terry] Cousins is the third corner - he's a solid guy. And Nelson's done a good job for them at safety, so they have a solid secondary. When [Scott] Starks and [Aaron] Glenn had to play, they've done a good job, too. Same thing with [ Jamaal] Fudge. Their backups haven't played a lot, but when they have played, they've played well, too.
Q: You saw them at the end of last year, at the end of the season. How much have they improved as a football team? How much better are they now than they were at the end of last year?
BB: It was a very competitive game. It was a field goal game. It was a long field goal that Stephen [Gotskowski] made, 40-some yards, whatever it was. So it was a very close, competitive game. I don't know, we'll find out on Saturday whether we've improved more than they have or not. They're pretty good and that was a tough game down there against them last year. They're scoring more points, they're moving the ball statistically better than they did last year - So are we. They're at the top of the league on defense. They do everything pretty well on that side of the ball. I don't know. It will be… [We'll] find out Saturday night.
Q: It's always dangerous to think about New England weather this far in advance, but, knock on wood, so far it's supposed to be relatively warm temperatures and maybe just a little bit of rain.
BB: Do you want to go on record with that or are you just throwing that out there?
Q: I know this will be a shock, but it wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong on a prediction.
BB: OK. Well, we have that on record. OK.
Q: Are you a little bit more relieved, in the sense that you throw the ball so well and so effectively?
BB: We've gone out there and practiced in everything this year. We've practiced in six inches of snow, we've practice in all of the days that you've seen here. Whatever days we're out there practicing, we're pretty much out there in it. We haven't been inside hardly at all - a couple of times in the last few weeks, but that was about it. Whatever it is, we've played in [it]. Whatever it is, the other team is going to have to play in. It's New England. It's January, so whatever we get, we get.
Q: I know this is going back a ways, but the Cincinnati/San Diego playoff game in 1981 when [the weather was so bad that] San Diego couldn't play. It totally took them out of the game.
BB: Right. Well, we can go back to the '42 Sneaker Game with the New York Giants. I mean, sure. There's plenty of games back then. Look, in the end this game like every other game will be determined by the two teams that play it. Not the weather and not the temperature. Somebody's going to have to go out there and block, somebody's going to have to tackle, somebody's going to have to run the ball, somebody's going to have to catch it, somebody's going to have to kick it, and the game will be decided by the players that do that better than the other ones. I don't think it's - Which way the wind blows doesn't put any points up on the board for anybody. You have to go out there and earn it, you have to go out there and play well, and that's what this game will be decided by - the team that plays the best.
Q: This is a little off-topic, but Joe Gibbs is retiring. You've obviously faced him a lot over the years. Can you talk about the impact he's had on the game, the way he's shaped it?
BB: I think when Joe took over in '81, he started out running the two-back offense, more of a traditional offense. And then I want to say they were 0-5 or something like that and he just went back to the one-back offense that he had worked with with Don [Coryell] in San Diego and so forth and really has been pretty much of a one-back coach ever since. I don't want to say that he was the founder of it or he invented it, but he certainly popularized it and was very successful with it, and that of course led to a lot of the coaches that left his system, the people like Dan Henning and Joe Bugel and so forth that went on to be head coaches at other teams, to take that system or elements of that system with them. I think a lot of the one-back offense goes back to not only Coryell, but also to Gibbs and the success that he had with it. I know when I was at the Giants as the defensive coordinator, it started off as just kind of Washington and everybody else was mainly two-back there in '82, '83. And then it really expanded into a lot of one-back. There were some other variations of it, but so I think he popularized that and I think he really made his mark as an offensive coach. He's had a lot of great defensive coordinators there - Richie Pettibon and Gregg Williams and guys like that - but his stamp has always been on the offense and they've always been a good offensive football team that could run the ball and score a lot of points. I have a lot of respect for Joe. I've competed against him for a long time and he's a true Hall of Famer.
Q: What has Tedy Bruschi brought to this organization? What has his impact been?
BB: He's been great for this organization. I was here the first year that Tedy was here in '96 when we drafted him, and it's a great story. [He] played defensive line in college, [was] converted as a linebacker, played on special teams and then rushed the passer a little bit early in his career and then converted to being an inside linebacker. He's gotten a lot of recognition for what he's done at that position. It's a difficult transition, probably one of the hardest to make, but he's made it, made it well and he's been exemplary for us in every phase of the game -- On the field, defensively, on special teams. Off the field, he's been elected a captain pretty much every year since I've been here. He's one of the most respected players on this team [and] in the league, and he's been one of the best players in this organization. [We've] won a lot of games with him out there on the field. He's done a lot of different things for us. He has great versatility and leadership and determination. A lot of guys didn't think he had the skills to play in this league. He's certainly proved all of them wrong.