New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, September 5, 2008.
BB: [It's the] Friday before the opener and I think you can really start to feel it in the meetings. Just guys coming in this morning, the excitement, just getting ready to play the first game. It's always a long process to get to from the off-season program, and all the stuff that you do, the training and so forth just to prepare for training camp. Then the excitement of coming to camp and getting started. Then, [the excitement of coming] to the preseason games and all the practices. I think by today you really start to feel it coming together. Most of the stuff we're doing is review from earlier parts in the week. There's that anxiousness and excitement of the opener, so that's kind of where we are today. We've just got a lot of things to review, and some situations to cover, and make sure we've got everything as close as we can to where we want to be. But at the same time we know its opening day and there will be a lot of adjustments and changes that we'll have to make during the game as we see new things from the Chiefs and see the game unfold and all of that. I think it's one of the most unpredictable games of the year and it makes it one of the most exciting weekends to watch and even participate in - just because you never really know what's going to happen. It's all coming together and I think we'll be ready to play. [We're] excited to play.
Q: Do you still have the same butterflies before the first game that you had when you first started coaching?
BB: Definitely. More so on Sunday, but every year I walk out on the field before the game and I think, 'This will be a little better this year' and it never is. I think everybody has them, and then the ball is kicked off, you start playing and you kind of settle into it. It's good to get that first play over with and just get into the game. But the buildup, the anxiety, and the butterflies; that's the perfect word for it because that's what they are [butterflies].
Q: Do you feel more butterflies as a head coach than as an assistant coach?
BB: No. I remember when I was with the Giants in '79 and I was a special teams coach. We opened up in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Being a coordinator with the Giants and some of those opening day games with the Redskins and the Eagles and later on in the '80s and so forth. It was the same thing. You get a couple months, several months, to prepare for whoever it is you're opening with and you see all the things they can do and all their good plays and those are the ones you remember. No matter what you're coaching, all the good plays that they had the year before and they had in preseason and you envision them making them against you. You get nervous about it and then you worry about all the other stuff that can happen. I can remember back in the '70s, the '80s and '90s back in Cleveland, opening with Dallas, opening with Jimmy [Johnson] and the Cowboys in my first game up there. [I remember] Jimmy telling me a couple years ago, we were out there fishing on his boat and we were talking about that and he said, 'Well, no offense Bill, but I don't even think we did a scouting report for you guys in that game. We had a big game coming up the next week against'…I forget who it was, the Eagles or somebody. He said, 'We really weren't too concerned about the Browns in that opener.' Which, they shouldn't have been, but that was humbling.
Q: How'd that one turn out?
BB: About like you'd think; 19-7, or something like that. But we came here and beat the Patriots, so we got on the board. I don't think Dallas was ever really threatened in that game as I remember the game.
Q: That doesn't seem quite like your approach. Have you ever not done a scouting report for a team?
BB: Well, I'm sure they did a scouting report. It was one of those deals where I'm sure their second game was a lot more challenging for them than the first one that particular year. We were just laughing about it. No, I mean I haven't, but I do think that those early games in the season are all big games. The first ones a big one and so are the ones right behind it. You don't want to leave everything out there opening week. It's a long season and you've got a lot of games to get ready for, not just that first one. But I think the big thing on this game is just the excitement, the anxiety and the anticipation to get going and see where everybody is, seeing where we're at and seeing how we match up against other people.
Q: Last year the Chiefs were first in third down defense, which surprised me given the season they had, 4-12. What did they do on third down and are they still doing given what you've seen in preseason?
BB: I think third down really starts at first down. They led the league in negative plays last year, so first down ends up being second-and-long [which] ends up being third-and-long. A lot of that also carries over into the red area where they were right at the top of the league, in red area defense as well. That was because of their success on third down in the red area and also creating long-yardage situations. They're good at creating negative plays. They're good at getting their opponents in long-yardage and then, as well know, statistically it's hard to convert. It's hard to convert against the Chiefs. They have a really good front seven [and] good pass rush. They have some different pressure schemes that you've got to deal with and a couple hard-hitting safeties. [Patrick] Surtain is one of the better corners we go up against, so that was their deal last year - it looks like pretty much the same thing. They've got three new players [that] look like they are going to play a lot. I'm sure there are other players who will play too with [Brandon] Carr, [Brandon] Flowers and [Glenn] Dorsey. They're a pretty experienced group on the front even though they're young players—they're two and three-year players—but they've played and they're good. [It is] the same thing with linebackers and their safeties. Both of their safeties are young, but [Jarrard] Page and [Bernard] Pollard show up a lot too. They're a young team but they've played together for a couple of years. It sounds like it can't be true, but it actually is. Those guys have been together and they're pretty good.
Q: Do you admire what they're doing by going with such a young team?
BB: I think they've got a good football game. I think Herm [Edwards] does a good job. They're always well coached and disciplined. They don't beat themselves a lot. They make you go out there and out-execute them, so I respect what Herm does and the way he does it. I know it will be a big challenge for us on Sunday. We're just going to go out there and try to hopefully, play better than they do on Sunday.
Q: On Kansas City rebuilding after trading Jared Allen.
BB: That's a question you'd have to ask them [Kansas City]. I think in the end, as a coach, you do what's best for your football team. So whatever that is—I think it can be a lot of different things—but you're decision is always driven by what you think is best for your football team. That covers a lot of ground. As a head coach, that's a wide area that you have to evaluate and take into consideration.
Q: Is there more of an unpredictability factor on opening day than in other games?
BB: The main part of the situation is that each team has held things back in preseason, whether that's by design or whether it is just by the sheer number of plays that your top players have played together. So even if you play a quarter in the first game, a half in the second game, three quarters in the third game and a quarter in the fourth game, you still won't even have two full games. So how many plays can you run? How many things can you show, even if you're not really trying to hide a lot? Everybody will keep a few things back. You keep things back, they keep things back and then you go out there in the opener and you have a multiple of things that we haven't practiced against or that they haven't practiced against, so how will it all match up? At the second week you at least get a look at the first week where nobody's holding back anything. There's less out there. There's always something new in every game—but the more that gets out there, the easier it is to prepare for. I'm not saying the easier it is to defend, but the easier it is to prepare for because at least you've seen it. But I think the multiples are what really get you. At Kansas City you don't really know what personnel group they're going to be in. You don't know what formation you're going to be in. I think the plays that they've run, basically will be the plays that they'll run, but [we don't know] how they'll build them [or] how they'll create them. I'm sure they'll have some new plays. That's hard to get ready for from their standpoint. I'm sure they'll look at us and say, 'Well, we've got 19 games last year and some games we're in this, some games we're in that and some games we're in something else,' so they're trying to get ready for a pretty broad base kind of like we are on offense. We watched all of Kansas City's games from last year. Some games they're doing more of this, some games they're doing more of that, some games they're doing more of something else, so what are we going to get? Do you spread yourself thin and work on a little bit of everything? Or do you kind of put more eggs in one basket and say, 'Well, we really think they're going to do this' and concentrate in one particular area there. Then, you better hope you're right. That's opening day and it's a lot harder to figure that out than it is after two or three regular season games that you've watched, from experience.
Q: There's a possibility that you might get the remnants of the hurricane this weekend. Is there anything you can do to prepare the team weather-wise?
BB: I think the weather is certainly a factor. For the most part, everybody plays their preseason games at night and I'd say there are very few players if any who actually play an entire preseason game. Then you go to opening day, there're a lot of games at one o'clock in the afternoon, it's September, it's still pretty warm, there's a higher level of competition, it's hotter, and guys aren't used to playing the full 60 minutes. No matter how much they've trained, they haven't done it. They're not in that same kind of game condition that they're in by the end of September or middle of October. Those are all things that you do the best you can to prepare for but you never can actually simulate them until you get to that point. As far as being as a weatherman, I'm no better weatherman than you are or anybody else. As you get closer to the time you play then you usually have a more accurate assessment of it. I've made the mistake of telling a team too far in advance, 'Well it looks like it's going to snow or rain or be hot or be cold,' and then you come around to game time an it's the exact opposite. It's just a waste of time and the players look at you like, 'you're really on top of it this week, coach'. I've kind of gotten out of that business. We've been out here at practice. We've practiced in rain. We've practiced in wind. We've practiced on hot days and we'll practice on cold days before the season is over. Then, whatever we get as it gets closer to game time, we'll talk about it. Maybe we'll fine-tune it a little bit the, but I think it's a little too early now.
Q: Playing on field turf, have you guys gotten the hang of the adjustments you need to make for different weather conditions?
BB: The cleats are pretty much handled by the equipment staff and some of that is position-specific; not everybody wears the same cleats. Skill players sometimes wear different ones than the linemen and so forth, depending on the field conditions: wet, dry, cold could be a factor- although there's less freezing out there than what we have had on some of those artificial surfaces before in the old days, when there wasn't any drainage where now it usually drains in. So unless it's wet on that particular day, there is not any lingering moisture like we've seen in the past. I think the footing is one thing and that relates to ball handling. Overall the artificial surfaces vary a little bit from field to field, so I think they're not all the same but they're similar. So you just have to try to get the right thing for that particular one. And guys experiment with different stuff. When it's wet out there we wear our wet stuff and when it's dry we wear our dry stuff. They experiment with different things. [If] a new shoe comes out or a new product, guys will experiment with that. Like I said, some are a little bit different. We go down to another artificial surface next week and it's not quite the same. I'm sure there will be some guys who will wear different shoes or different lengths of cleats or whatever.
Q: Can you talk about Josh McDaniels and his progress as an offensive coordinator?
BB: I think Josh is probably one of the best coaches that I've had the opportunity to work with. He started off in personnel and then was over on the defensive side of the ball. Then went over to the offensive side of the ball in Charlie [Weis]'s last year, worked for the quarterbacks and has ascended to the coordinator position. I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him through the years and I think that his background is outstanding. He comes from a coaching family but he's been in personnel. He's been on defense. He's been on offense. He's called plays. He's pretty much done everything, seen all the different aspects of the game. He has a very thorough knowledge and a very good understanding of the game. Not just the Xs and Os, but also understanding mentalities as well as personalities; how different players and different groups look at the game. So I think he's got a really good perspective. There's hardly anything that I could talk to Josh about where I don't feel like he really understands it. He's got a lot of great ideas. He's creative. It's not just, 'Do it the same way we've been doing it.' It's, 'If that's working then great, if it's not working then lets find a better way'. He's not afraid to change things but at the same time, not just for the sake of change. He's a really smart guy. He works hard. He's got a good report with pretty much everybody in this organization: players, coaches and the support staff. [He] gets along well with everybody and is well respected by everybody. [He] does a really good job.