Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 3, 2010.
BB: We're moving along here on Cleveland. I talked about it earlier this week, [but we've] got a lot of work to do to catch up to them with the bye week and the extra time they've had. They were really impressive in the New Orleans game, but they've played well all year. There have been a lot of close games - just gone toe-to-toe with everybody. They're a tough football team. [They're] good in all three phases of the game, real good on special teams. [They're] right at the top of the league in coverage, punts and kickoffs. [Joshua] Cribbs is a major force in the game. [They] do a good job at running the ball. Defensively, they are tough to run on. They do a good job in the red area. So all the way across the board, they give you a lot of different looks and a lot of things to prepare for. I'm sure they've got a lot of momentum here after playing two games on the road - now to get back home after the bye week. So we know it's going to be tough up there. We are going to have to do a good job.
Q: Are you guys going to put in any claim on Shawne Merriman or Randy Moss?
BB: You got the same hook, you just change the bait every day, huh? We just can't talk about the players that are still even in the waiver process. I'd love to, but I just can't do it.
Q: Is it any easier to prepare for a team coached by someone that used to coach on your staff?
BB: Not really. I think at this point, there are so many things that have changed - different personnel. Everybody modifies their system or improves it or makes even personnel or scheme changes for various reasons. I think there's a lot ... at this point you are just looking at a team and what that team does and trying to figure out how you can deal with it. Whether you knew a coach or player or whatever from previous years, I think [the effect] is pretty minimal.
Q: How different are the Browns under Coach Eric Mangini than the Jets were?
BB: Well, other than a couple players, it's ... well, the players, that's all the difference in the world, players' skill sets and all that. There is some carryover with the techniques, but offensively, [Cleveland is] nothing like the Jets. They run a west-coast type of offense and that's nothing like what they ran at New York. [There are] some changes. Brad [Seely], we're kind of familiar with some of the schemes, but he changes them up from week to week on special teams and the players that they have are very good players so no matter what they do, it looks pretty good.
Q: What is your relationship like with Coach Mangini?
BB: Right now, it is just trying to get my team ready; get the Patriots ready to play the Browns. It's not really about any personal thing, it's just, I'm trying to do a job, so is the rest of our team [and] so is their team. We will see what happens on Sunday.
Q: What do you think the handshake will be like at the end of the game?
BB: Hopefully I'll have a smile on my face. That's what I'm hoping for. Hope we come out on top - that's what we're going up there for. But, hey, we know it's going to be tough. Cleveland's a good football team. They play everybody tough and we know it will be a tough game.
Q: How have you seen Mike Holmgren put his imprint on this team?
BB: Offensively. This is probably more of a west coast team offensively than what we saw last week with Brad Childress. [I'm] not sure exactly who's doing what, but the foundation of this offense is clearly from the roots that Mike had and what he did in Seattle.
Q: You mentioned a couple of years ago that you had a lot of respect for Holmgren for leaving Seattle and keeping the west coast offense alive. Can you talk about the challenges that you face defensively?
BB: I think that when you look at all the west coast coaches, all the guys that came from [Bill] Walsh's tree, which are [Jon] Gruden and [Brian] Billick, and Andy Reid, you can just go right down the line - there's been a lot of them, - that he's modified it to a) his team or b) things that he, in particular, wanted to do that were a little bit different from the way that [Walsh] ran it in San Francisco, but I would say that Mike probably stayed closer to it than a lot of other coaches did. That was the way it was in Seattle and there's a lot of elements of that here in Cleveland. Like every offense and every defense, you have ways to handle problems. You go through enough games, enough years, you pretty much see a lot of what you have to face and you have some way of dealing with it. As time goes forward, you either stay with those or you modify them and change them based on either your personnel, or, for some reason, you think you have a way that works better than the one you're currently using. That happens in a lot of cases. It looks like, in Mike's case, he is less inclined to do that and more inclined to stay with things that he's done through the years.
Q: It was talked about a few weeks ago that Cribbs would be in the wildcat a lot, have you seen him wildcat enough to prepare for it?
BB: They do it in every game, or every game that he plays in. At that point [in the Pittsburgh game], I think it was maybe in the second quarter that he got hurt, [that] they've been in it maybe once or twice, something like that. But, they run it a handful of times in each game. If they have it, they could easily go to it more or go to less of it. Those kinds of offenses - the empty formations, the unbalanced lines, the wildcats, things like that - teams that have them, sometimes you can get a little bit of it, sometimes you can get a lot of it. That just varies from game to game. You got to be ready for it, and how much they give you usually is a function of how successful it's going, partially.
Q: Any updates or changes on the practice squad?
BB: Just the two additions. Have we announced that? We added Jonathan Crompton, the quarterback from Tennessee, and [Lorenzo] Washington, the defensive lineman from Alabama.
Q: Is there a corresponding move to go along with the additions?
BB: Well there will be by four [p.m.]. We just need to communicate with that player, who's not actually here right now and then we'll do it. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.
Q: Do you have certain minimal expectations from new players that arrive in midseason?
BB: Every player has to pass a conditioning test before they can start practice. So we do that in training camp or if a player doesn't come in at the beginning of training camp, then whenever he comes in. So we just go through the process and take it day-to-day. So we'll take it day-to-day.
Q: It seems like when Cleveland was in New Orleans, they kind of emptied out the playbook with trick plays. Does that make it harder to prepare for them?
BB: They do that every week. They have plays that you really can't work on, or you can work on some of them but whether you're actually going to get the one that they use or they're going to come up with a new one, probably not. So they have those kind of plays every week, on offense, on special teams, on defense with their different blitzes or punt-rushes, field-goal rushes, things like that. That's part of preparing for them. You know you're going to get something that you aren't going to be working on. They're going to try and spring something on you - you got to be alert for it - but really, they do it every week. I mean, those are great plays; they hit big: the couple of interceptions, they runback for touchdowns, the punt return, the fake punt. But you see those plays throughout the course of the game from them on a regular basis.
Q: I know you are preparing for every quarterback, but what have you seen from Colt McCoy?
BB: Well he went into two tough situations, playing in Pittsburgh and in New Orleans, and he completed 77% of his passes. He had a great win down there in New Orleans. Even though in Pittsburgh they fell behind in the end of the game, he drove the team down the field for a touchdown [and] was driving them again at the end of the game, so it shows that he's got a lot of poise, a lot of toughness. [It shows he's] really pretty accurate with the ball [and] makes good decisions. That's what it looked like in two games - kind of what you saw in college - athletic guy.
Q: What do you think of these football czar positions that Parcells and now Holmgren have? Can you ever see yourself moving into that?
BB: Right now, I am just trying to see Cleveland. Trying to see Cleveland in Cleveland on Sunday; that's all I'm trying to see. Look, Mike's got a great background in football. He's been with a couple different organizations as a head coach. He's coached in San Francisco [and] has had a great coaching career. I think he's got great experience. [He's] very good at all the aspects of his job. He's had great success. He's been to Super Bowls [and] won them. I think his record pretty much speaks for itself; it doesn't need any endorsement from me.
Q: Can you relate to Cleveland? You've talked about how sometimes you've got to create plays on special teams, etc. Can you relate to that challenge of having to create trick plays to spark your offense from your time coaching special teams?
BB: I think you try to create plays every week. I think they can score on offense. They can run the ball, they can throw it, [and] they've got big-play players at all positions: running back, tight end [and] receiver. All the quarterbacks have been productive when they've had the chance to play. I think they can pretty much do everything. They can run the ball. They can pass it. They can play defense. They can stop the run. They pressure the quarterback, [cause them to] turn it over. They return kicks. They cover them - cover as well as anybody in the league. They are a pretty solid team. I am sure they are trying to make plays in every phase of the game, just like everybody else is.
Q: Jerod Mayo has always put up pretty high numbers when it comes to tackles, but we're seeing a pretty dramatic upturn the last three or four weeks. Is that a byproduct of the opponent or scheme or is he doing something differently?
BB: I don't think he's doing a lot differently. Jerod's playing well. He's very well prepared. [He] works hard, understands the game - both our defense and what our opponents are doing. He does a good job at communicating and making adjustments on the field and helping other guys get in the right positions and recognizing things. So I haven't seen any changes there. He's a strong tackler. He's got good athleticism. He can run; he's tough. He's got good balance, good quickness, so he gets to a lot of people and tackles them. But as far as doing anything dramatically different in his preparation or playing style, I can't really say I've noticed that. I'd say the big thing on that, to me - I know I probably see it a lot differently than a lot of you do - but to me, it's really opportunities. A guy's got a chance to make five tackles and he makes five tackles, then he makes five tackles. If he has a chance to make 10 and he makes 10, great. If he has a chance to make 10 and he makes four, then that's not good production. Even though he makes four, what about the other six? A lot of that's opportunity - not all of it, but some of it.
Q: What are your thoughts on Benjamin Watson?
BB: Ben looks like Ben. He's a good athlete. He looks like the player he was here [with] his skill set, his effort, his athleticism, all those things. [He] looks about the same to me. He did a good job for us and he's doing a good job for Cleveland.
Q: Going back to Mayo and his opportunities, is that just his ability from a mental standpoint to put him in the position to have those opportunities?
BB: Yeah, they're related. Sometimes, the way the play unfolds, the opportunity comes to one player more than another. But, also, sometimes those players create some of their own opportunities by recognizing or defeating a blocker or reading a pattern or whatever it is to put themselves in better opportunity, better position to make the play. Some of that is definitely the result of the player's recognition, instinctiveness, reading the player - whether it's the quarterback or running back.
Q: Is Jerod benefiting from Brandon Spikes' play?
BB: Again, it comes down to team defense. You need 11 guys out there, everybody doing their job. I'd say overall, probably Spikes benefits a lot more from Mayo than Mayo does from Spikes just because of experience and knowledge of our system and being able to get things right so that they can play aggressively. When Jerod gets things right, then that makes it a lot easier for Spikes. I think if it was the other way around, you know, there are a lot of things that Brandon still has to learn. He's a good player, don't get me wrong, but Mayo's the captain of our defense for a couple of years now as a young player for good reason. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him. He does a good job and I think he makes the players around him play better, which is really the mark of an outstanding player - not only a guy that plays well but helps the players around him perform even better and I think Jerod does that, very unselfishly.
Q: He seems to be getting a lot of contributions from young, new or relatively inexperienced players. Does that say something about the veteran leadership on this team or this team as a whole?
BB: Again, I think it's the guys that are out there playing that are making plays. They certainly deserve the credit for that; they're the ones that are making them. I think a lot of players on our team are working hard. They're trying to follow the game plan; trying to do their job and help others do theirs without taking away from what they have to do. I think our team has a good attitude about that like, 'Yeah, I got a job to do, but it's also important for me to work with my teammates with whatever it is - a blocking scheme, a coverage, pass-rush game, punt protection, whatever it happens to be - for all of us to do it well together and not just segment it so that there are [not] breakdowns in-between the segments, [but] so it's all tied together.' That's part of it, too, and certainly our more experienced players have, generally speaking, a little more of a role in that than some of our less experienced ones - not totally, but for the most part, that's probably the case.
Q: Are the tackle statistics something you keep a running tally of and how high are Jerod's ratios?
BB: Yeah, we do everything. We keep track of everything. Of what the coaches, what we feel the production is on the play, who made the tackle, who's in on an assist, who pressured, all different kinds of categories. Same thing offensively: blocks, finished blocks and things like that, yards after contact, first contact with receivers, running backs and so forth. So we keep track of that; it's something that's interesting to be aware of. Sometimes it's more significant than other times, but yeah, we do all that, absolutely. I don't have it memorized, but we definitely check all that in every phase of the game.