BB:There they are – the few, the proud, not the free. How we doing? It looks like November is here. We kind of got fooled last week, but not this week.
Q: How does where the fatigue, conditioning and health of players impact how the coaches structure practices?
BB:That's a great question, and part of that answer is it's not the same for everybody. Where one guy is or sometimes even a group is … Sometimes you have another group that's in the exact opposite place. One group maybe needs a little more recovery. Another group maybe needs a little more work. I'd say we go through that throughout the year. It happens in training camp sometimes because of numbers and experience levels and so forth, but bottom line is you try to do what you feel like is best for the team. You have to take individuals into consideration, but you have to take the team into consideration, too. We just can't structure everything for one or two guys and be negligent of the other 61, including practice squad players. We try to balance that the best we can. It's not always the same for everybody. Sometimes guys who need more work we try to get them more work, but we have to try to get the team ready and that encompasses all those things. I don't feel like there is any right or wrong answer. I've been on teams and with coaches that … Well when I was younger, a lot of times, my job several years was to write up the practice schedule. So when we would meet and go through the schedule, then I'd write it up, put in what everyone is doing and hand copies of that to all the coaches. We have coaches on our staff now that do that, and I can remember I could have written the practice schedule for December, a Wednesday in December, in July easily and there wouldn't be one thing that was different. A lot of times it's, "Alright what did we do last Thursday,' and it was the exact same thing. And that's not the way we do it. And I'm not saying it was wrong to do it that way, but there were some times, certain programs I've been in, coaches, it's just their routine and you do the same thing every Wednesday, every Thursday, every Friday, every Saturday, so you always know where you are. We would do blitz pickup and the other team hadn't blitzed in two years or vice versa. So, we kind of do it differently. We kind of talk each day about what the team needs, we have a basic structure of this is what we do, but we change that depending on what we feel like our needs are, and that is definitely a big part of it is the health and I'd say the overall readiness of the team. And that's very subjective, obviously, but we do the best we can in consultation with the training staff, the strength and conditioning staff, position coaches, a lot of times they have a good tempo of where their individual group or particular players are and sometimes that affects the rest of the preparation.
Q: How much more input is there from the training staff now as opposed to 20 years ago – night and day?
BB:No, I wouldn't say so.
Q: Still significant?
BB:Well, they have the most hands-on feel for that, but that being said, they just have one perspective. As a coach or coordinator, you have to look at a broader stroke than that. It's part of it, but I think it's always been part of it.
Q: Do you have a go-to list of how you want to approach game-day coaching?
BB:I definitely believe in a process. I don't know that that's the same in every single game. Well, I'd say it's not the same in every single game. It depends on who you're playing and kind of what they do or what you anticipate them doing as to how you want to approach it. It's a great question. It's a very interesting point of discussion. I think there are a lot of things to look at throughout that, but it's all critical in the communication and coordination of processing the information that you get during the game, I'd say it's not easy to do. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's not easy to do because it comes from a lot of different sources and you definitely want to prioritize it. I'd say those are some of the components of it. Number one, getting the most important things handled – whatever they are. It could be what you're doing, it could be what they're doing, it could be the weather conditions – whatever the most important things are making sure that you start at the top. And also you don't have all day. You don't even know how long you have. If you're on defense the offense could be out there for a seven-minute drive, they could be out there for a 30-second drive, so you've got to prioritize what you're doing so that you get to the most important things first, so if you're running out of time, you haven't used your time inefficiently. So that's number one. Number two, there's the, what we're doing versus what they're doing. A lot of times just making sure that you're right is more important than identifying what they're doing. Sometimes identifying what they're doing, until you get that cleared up then you're kind of spinning your wheels in the sand and you're not making any progress because you don't really understand exactly what the issues are. In the game situation that changes all that. You have the information from players, which is they're in the heat of the battle. You have information from the press box, who can get as much of an overview as you can get. You have sideline information. So sometimes that's the same, sometimes information – you don't see it quite the same way. The way one coach sees it, the way the press box sees it, the way the sideline sees it, the way a player on the field sees it, it's not quite all the same way. So you've kind of got to sort all that out. And then there is the balance of fixing what is in the rearview mirror and looking ahead. So like, OK we've got to take care of these problems, here's what happened, but at the same time, you're spending all your time on that, some of that is not even relevant because the next time you go out there, OK what are we going to do? We've corrected those problems, maybe we're going to make a different call or maybe we're going to be in a different situation, how do we handle that? So there is the balancing of new information versus analysis of previous information. There are a lot of components to that, and I think a good coach, the decision making that they make within all that is what makes him a good coach. What information is important, where do we start, how do we get the most information across in the least amount of time and making sure that we get the information to the right people? Some coverage adjustment, the guard doesn't care about. He doesn't care about what coverage they're running. The receiver doesn't care if the nose is shaded or not shaded. But I'd say that's a very interesting part of game day from a coaching standpoint and one that's important, it's critical, and there are a lot of components to it.
Q: How important is it not to get caught up in the emotion of the game when trying to make game day decisions?
BB:Again, that's part of it. I think playing emotionless is not good, so there is a balance between I think when you're alert, when you're emotional, when you have a lot of energy that you're on a higher alert, but there's a point where that can go over the edge and be detrimental where its more about that than it is about the execution of your job. So there is a fine line there between poise, composure, decision making and energy and emotion and enthusiasm. And they're all good and they're all important, but there is a balance there. There's got to be a balance in there somewhere. But in terms of decision making I think you've got to try to make decisions based on what's right, not where your heart is, but what's best for the football team. But in terms of talking about or conveying that to your team or to a particular unit, that's discretionary and judgmental.
Q: Is a rule of thumb that celebrating and congratulating a teammate on a great play is the way to go, as opposed to trying to get in the head of somebody else on the other team?
BB:Yeah, first of all you never want to ... We don't coach penalties. So, we don't want penalties, we don't coach them, so judgment to do the right thing, whatever it is, tackle a guy, be physical, celebrate – it's all got to be within the rules. That's number one. Like, we're not trying to go beyond any rule ever. But yeah, just in general, I mean, look, these guys work hard, they work hard every day, they work hard all week, they prepare for the game, yeah, if you go out and make a good play you should be excited about it. If anyone else works hard at something and it comes out well, hey, we feel good. We should feel good. And when you do it together as a group, you feel good with your group. The guy who scored feels good for the guys who blocked for him. The guys who blocked for him feel good for the guy who scored and vice versa. You throw a pass, you catch it, somebody had to block, somebody had to run the route, somebody had to throw it, somebody else took the coverage to help somebody else get open or whatever, you intercept a pass, you had a good pass rush, other guys were covered. So there is a lot of team excitement on those plays. You see it on the sidelines. A guy on the field makes a play, you see the bench explode. That emotion comes out with hard work and success naturally. I don't think it's something that you want to restrain. At the same time, there is another play. I mean unless there is a touchdown or a drive-ending play or turnover, but a lot of times there is another play, so one good play, that's fine, but if the next play is a bad play then that offsets it. But again there is a balance there in all that. But I don't think it's good when a team goes out and we make a good play and nobody cares. I don't think that's particularly … It's not anything that I'm proud of any more than if we make a bad play and we don't care. If we make a bad play we want to get it right. If we make a good play we should feel good about it.
Q: With Brandon LaFell missing a lot of time in training camp, preseason and the early part of the regular season, how quickly did you expect him to get up to speed?
BB:It's a process. Definitely it's a process for him that he's going through and gaining on it each day. It will take a while. For any player like that, even a player that's been playing that missed some time and come back, a guy that missed a couple weeks like Shaq missed a couple weeks or whoever – players now that have been out for a couple weeks and come back, there is a little bit of a re-acclimation process for themselves, for their confidence, and with the communication and execution with their teammates. Not just communication but actual execution of going full speed, your teammate going full speed and having the right read, feel, mesh, play off each other, whatever the play is, yeah, that's part of it, too. That's why we practice is to try to gain ground on that, and I think that it's a natural thing. Look, you might see one or two plays and feel like it's great, but there are probably a lot of other plays where it's not at the level it needs to be so you keep working until you get to that point.
Q: How close do you think he is to getting to that point?
BB:I don't know. Closer than he was last week, way closer than he was two weeks, three weeks ago, but again I think it's improving each week. And I don't think that's necessarily a straight line, like it's going to show up in the stat sheet – it's going to go three-for-29, six-for-50, eight-for-96, 11-for 142 – I'm not saying that. Each game is different. Each group of opportunities for a player is different, but in terms of the overall level of execution, you play 50 plays, I think progressively you're going to see more good ones out of those 50 over a period of time – three, four, five weeks – whatever it is. You're going to see growth, production, better execution. Is it going to show up in the stat sheet like that's the measurement of everything for a lot of people? I don't think that's true, but I do think there is a process of improvement provided the player is healthy, works hard and is trying to get better. If you take those first elements out of it, then of course you're probably not going to see the results you're looking for.
Q: Odell Beckham is listed at 5-11. With the spectacular catches he's made, do you tell your guys that although he's under six-feet tall, he still plays like he's 6-5?
BB:Yeah, absolutely, Beckham plays big. He's not a big guy, but he plays big. He's tough. He plays bigger than guys that are taller and weigh a lot more than he does, but he's a tough guy, he competes for the ball, he's hard to tackle, and like you said, he plays like he's 6-5. I don't know. He's got a great catching radius, great ball skills. His ability to get the balls and catch them is better than a lot of receivers that are probably six inches taller than him. Look, we try to evaluate every player's skills. Are the players aware of it? Sure.
Q: Is there a fine line between putting a bigger guy on him to defend that ability of his and putting a speed guy on him?
BB: I think it depends. First of all, matching up a player or not matchup up a player, that's a whole another discussion. There are a lot of components to that. There is a lot more to it than just, "Let's put this guy on him.' But I'd say whoever is on him, each individual has their own set of skills, their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and their opponent has a set of strengths and weaknesses. So it's how you match up your strengths to their strengths or how you try to compensate for your weaknesses against that player's strengths or how you try to attack his weaknesses – whatever it is. So, different players have different strengths and weakness and they, for the most part, try to play to their strengths. And whatever your strengths are, you have to get used to playing against different types of athletes, whether it's a linemen or a receiver, it doesn't matter what the position is, there are going to be some guys you're bigger than, some guys that are bigger than you, some guys you're faster than, faster than you, stronger, quicker, more length, less length, so you learn how to match up against all those.
Q: Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola seem like they've made contributions in the run game with their blocking.
BB:They've blocked great.
Q: For smaller guys like Danny and Julian, how important is their technique in making sure that they're effective blockers?
BB: Technique is important, willingness is important, but again there are a lot of things that go on in the blocking. Number one is doing the right thing, knowing who you have to block. A lot of times blocking secondary players you have to make decisions as to which player to block. We always want to block the most dangerous guy, the guy that can get there first, most of the time – not all the time, but most of the time. And so that decision of as I'm going to get this guy, is the guy that's on me going to get there before I get to that guy or do I turn back on him, do I go get that guy, who's lined up closer, those kind of decisions, taking the right angle, blocking from in front, not from behind because there are a lot of moving targets that they're blocking – those guys aren't always just standing there – playing with good pad level and good leverage, not going in there and getting blown up obviously by sometimes bigger guys they're blocking. A lot of it is desire, a lot of it is leverage, a lot of it is technique – playing with a good base and getting your pad level down on contact and having your head in the proper location, things like that. But those guys have done a great job – Danny, Julian and now LaFell back out there. Those guys have blocked really well for us all year – runs, passes, slip screens or scramble plays, things like that, they've really competed well, they've helped us get a lot of extra yards, and they block for each other. Like on Gronkowski's touchdown pass, a block from the receiver helped spring him and vice versa, Rob has blocked well for them. Those guys, I think that's really an underappreciated part of their jobs – tight ends and receivers – again it's all about the stat sheet and fantasy catches or whatever, however that stuff works. But those guys go out there and compete every play and that helps a lot of other guys. That means a lot to our football team.
Q: Is Rob a good blocker?
BB: Yeah, he's one of the best blockers. I mean, I'll put him there with [Mark] Bavaro in terms of the guys I've coached. I mean, it'd be hard for me to put anybody past Bavaro just because of the number of times he blocked Reggie White with no help. We ran those 38-Boss and all that and they were in that over front and Reggie was the six-technique and Bavaro blocked him. There was no double team. He just blocked him. Now that was a good battle. Reggie got him a few times, too. I've seen Bavaro block [Lawrence] Taylor before, blocked [Carl] Banks. I mean those were as competitive matchups and practices I've ever seen. I mean it was awesome to watch players of that level compete the way they competed. All three of those guys were just tremendous football players. So, I have a lot of accolades for Rob and his blocking. I'm just saying it's hard for me to put anybody past Bavaro based on Reggie White, Banks and Taylor. Those guys are pretty good. I mean, I can't tell you how many times coaching Taylor he got blocked – I mean, not very many. He didn't get blocked very often. They might have run away from him, they might have got in his way, but when he actually blocked-blocked, Banks, you can probably count those – it'd be in the single digits for me. But we didn't play against Bavaro, but we played against him in practice, and we played against him in training camp where there was one-on-ones and nine-on-sevens and running drills. There was no, "Is this is a pass, do I have to re-route the guy?' No, it wasn't any of that. It was, "I know he's blocking me, he knows he's blocking me, let's have at it.' And that was awesome. That was awesome. But yeah, Rob does a good job. And he takes pride in it, too. There are a lot of plays Rob comes to the sideline and he's more excited about a block he made on the series than a catch he made, which a lot of tight ends I've coached I wouldn't put in that category. He really takes pride in it.