Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 31, 2010.
BB: An early Happy New Year to everybody. Hope the holidays have been good.
Q: Can we expect a drop kick this weekend? If so, who would be the person to do that?
BB: That's a good question. Maybe we will have tryouts this afternoon and see who can drop kick. I don't know if we have too many people that can drop kick. Doug [Flutie] was a real exception to that. He would get out there and bang them threw and after a while you didn't really think much of it. I haven't seen anybody do that in a while on the football field.
Q: You don't practice it?
BB: Sometimes you see guys fooling around. Doug would stand out there before practice and after practice and hit a couple. It would look pretty good and I would think, 'Maybe he can do that,' but I haven't seen any of that. [Watching] offensive lineman or whoever throwing the ball around sometimes you just notice that. Or watching a guy punt or kick or something you say, 'Did he do that at some other point in his career or whatever?' I can't say that I've seen any drop kicks since Doug. After Doug did it, a few guys within the next couple weeks would say, 'Oh I can do that.'
Q: You have had a number of successful years in the last decade or so. How important is it to maintain momentum with the bye week coming up?
BB: I don't know. I don't know. Each year is different and every game is different. We'll worry about the rest of the year when we get to the rest of the year, but right now we are just worried about this week.
Q: I know you do what's in the best interest of the football team all the time, so how do you get to that spot? What do you evaluate to get there?
BB: Well, part of it is individual players. Each individual player's situation is different: how long they play, what their health is, what they need, what the team needs, what our opponent is doing, what we can expect from them, what opportunities we think we might have in the game - not that we know for sure, but how we kind of see the matchups going and what type of game we anticipate it being, [whether it be] running, passing, pressure so forth and so on. We try to put all of that together. Some are fairly clear goals that you have and some can go a couple different ways and you try to do what is best for the team. That includes also what is best for the individuals, which at some point there is a conflict there and the team has to win out. Sometimes the best thing for an individual is best for the team.
Q: How has Brian Hoyer done this season in terms of preparation and everything?
BB: Good. I think he took last year and built on that. He certainly started at a much, much higher point this year than he did last year. I mean, that's obvious. I think he has improved a great deal this year - not as much as he did last year because the starting point was so much higher. I think that those improvements are incremental like it would be with [Tom] Brady. Each year maybe it could be a little better, but there is not as much room to improve. I think Brian has done a very good job handling our scout team and handling the plays he has gotten in practice. He has gotten a number of plays this year as he did last year [with] practice opportunities when Tom didn't practice. So, that's not game conditions, but you can evaluate how a player runs the team and how he handles himself in a similar practice scenario to Tom. He has done a good job. He has improved and I think he still has got things he needs to work on, but I think he has had a solid year given the opportunities that he's had.
Q: Does he seem to have a good manner about him? It seems like he has good leadership abilities as well.
BB: I think he does a good job in his role of doing what he needs to do in his position. We all know and everybody knows - [Brian], me and everybody else - [that] you are one play away from playing. When is that going to happen? Is it going to happen? Who knows, but we saw it in '08 with Matt [Cassel]; you are one play away so you never know.
Q: Do you look at what [Matt Cassel] has done this year?
BB: Yeah, we've looked at Matt several times this year. We haven't had a lot of AFC West opponents and the San Diego game was early, so we haven't had a lot of common opponents with him, but a few: you know, Cleveland and there have been a couple of other ones. He has had a great year and I see him on the highlights. Even watching him play, he has played very well. [He] has had an outstanding year.
Q: Even though the backup quarterbacks may not play in the games, how valuable are they to the team in terms of practice and preparing the defense, doing things that the public doesn't really see?
BB: That is very important. They have a huge role in getting the defense ready to play in that, particularly, trying to simulate not just the quarterback, but the whole tempo and mannerisms of the offense: cadence, shifting, motioning as well as the actual quarterback mannerisms and the way they read plays or execute them, trying to do it similar to the way that we are going to see it on Sunday. And [Brian Hoyer] has done an excellent job of that. Several weeks he has been recognized as one of the players that has been the black jersey guy [practice player of the week] - the guys that give us a great look the week before, so he has been very good at that. Again, that's when a quarterback can sharpen up some of his skills as well. You are working against the first defense and you are usually working against, hopefully, defenses that are somewhat designed to stop what they're doing so that the throws and the reads are tougher. Working against our defensive players doing our thing sometimes is a lot harder for a quarterback than running our offense against a defense that doesn't quite execute the other team's defense as well as what we're going to see on Sunday. Again, those are opportunities for our scout team players to really improve technique-wise, but also the overall understanding and execution working against our defense. I think he does a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities.
Q: On the cornerback slot with Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler and the other players other than Devin McCourty, how do you handle that going forward? Do you treat it as an open competition?
BB: We do the same thing we always do: play the players and run the plays that are best for our team. Miami, they've got an outstanding group of receivers, [Davone] Bess is outstanding and [Brandon] Marshall. Their backs do a great job of catching the ball. They spread the ball around. [Anthony] Fasano, I mean, they have production at all three of the skill positions: tight end, running back and receiver, so those will be a big challenge for whoever is out there and everybody needs to be ready to go. Bess and Marshall, I mean, you can't have really two more different style of receivers than those two guys. They are both very effective. They are very good players but they present a whole different challenge in whoever is covering them.
Q: Could Arrington play inside and cover the slot receiver?
BB: Yeah, he has. Not on an extensive basis, but yeah he has.
Q: Can you talk about the growth of the secondary a bit? Are you able to put maybe a little bit more complicated things there now than you were able to earlier in the season?
BB: Well, I think that is a natural progression of the season. I would like to think we can do more now than we could in September. I would like to think every team can think that: high school, college and pro. You practice more, you do more, and you also have to defend more. The other teams are doing more, too. That is a progression and every year you truly start all over again. Wherever you are in December or January [isn't] the team when you go back to start training camp or your offseason program the next year; you never pick up from where you were 16 games and a 100 and some practices into the season. That's a lot of work, timing, communication and execution that you just don't pick up [on] day one of the next season. We've progressed as a team and we have a little more flexibility. We have a little more execution on some things than we did earlier in the year. Again, a team like Miami really challenges that because they do so many different things offensively. They do unbalanced line, a lot of empty sets, and the Wildcat Formation. They do a lot of motion and use multiple personnel groups and some 3-open formations and some 4-open and formations, three guys in the backfield and no guys in the backfield, so they give you a lot of different stuff even though you might be doing a little bit more when you add in all the multiples of what you have to defend. It starts to get exponential. Those numbers add up in a hurry and there is no way you can practice it all. The cumulative practices that you have had over the course of the year and the other 15 games - there has got to be some carry over or there is no way you can practice that all in one week.
Q: How good was Matt Cassel at running the scout team when he was here? Was that one of his strengths?
BB: Well, he got better at it, yeah. Yeah, he got better at it. He was certainly a lot better at it his second, third year than he was his first, as you would expect. I think that's a progression for any player that works hard. Players that work hard, that come in, that take advantage of their opportunities. If they're on the scout team going against the better players on the other side of the ball, and take advantage of [it]. Even though it might be a different play, there are going to be enough plays that have techniques similar to ours, whether it's similar routes or similar blocking patterns. And if you're blocking or you're pass rushing or whatever, even though you line up differently, again, the technique of working against another player becomes similar once you get engaged with him and so forth. Taking advantage of those opportunities, that's how young players - if they do that - that's part of their development, not just in our system but in working against [other players] and using the other team's stuff, using those techniques that apply to what our guys can do. Miami has really [been] great; it's been a good year for that in some respects. Buffalo started out playing the 3-4. The Jets are basically a 3-4 team. Miami is a 3-4 team. So, defensively there is a lot of carry over there, as well as teams like San Diego, and not the NFC North teams, but Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Diego. We've had a lot of teams that carry over and it's the same thing offensively. Teams like Buffalo that run a lot of empty sets. Miami runs a lot empty sets. The Jets - the same things. Certainly the NFC north teams - Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit - just as an example, all used a lot of empty formations. And there have been other years where defensively we might go several weeks without really seeing much of that. For our offensive players, that helps them execute those things that are similar to some of the things we do.
Q: What practice number do you have now?
BB: I don't know. 106? It's in the low hundreds. 107 or something like that
Q: Do you include the Saturday walkthroughs in that?