PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK PRESS CONFERENCE
BB: Looking at the Jets here, this is obviously a team that we know very well and they're playing very well. I think Coach [Todd] Bowles has done a great job with this team. They went through a little bit of a down period there in the middle of the season but they've really bounced back from that, won their last four games. They really do everything well as a team. They're a very good, physical team, run the ball, stop the run, play good defense, balanced on offense, throw the ball well, good in the kicking game, good situational team, very good in the red area, just play good situational football in general, not penalized much, don't make a lot of mistakes, turn the ball over a lot on defense, plus turnover ratio, so that has served them well this year. Again, well balanced, have a lot of guys contributing. A lot of guys on defense are playmakers, a lot of playmakers on offense. [Ryan] Fitzpatrick is having a great year along with all his receivers and backs. It's a good football team that's playing well. We'll be going into a hostile environment down there so it will be a big challenge for us this week to be ready to go.
Q: What was it about Steven Jackson that appealed to you?
BB: I think his career speaks for itself. We'll see where it goes.
Q: What are your first impressions of him just teaching him the offense?
BB: He was in St. Louis with Josh [McDaniels], so he has a lot better background on the offense than a lot of the guys we bring in here.
Q: What are the challenges of getting him integrated?
BB: That's a great question. We'll see. It's been a long time since he's been on a football field.
Q: How would you assess his condition?
BB: We'll see.
Q: You visited with him in Las Vegas in 2004. Was that a factor in making this decision?
BB: Well again, Josh was with him in St. Louis so I think that's much more of a factor, in our offense, as an NFL player. I mean we had a great visit in Las Vegas, I'm not taking anything away from that, but I don't think there is any question about Jackson's intelligence, work ethic, character or anything. He was a great player. Where is he now? I don't know.
Q: What does Joey Iosefa offer as a blocker? Did he do that in college?
BB: No, he was a back. He carried the ball a lot. So he's kind of built like a fullback but he played halfback. He's kind of like a Heath Evans at Auburn and then became more of a fullback in this league. Joey has worked at it. I'd say he's definitely gotten better at it. It's not his first position, so he's not real natural at it, but a lot of a fullback's job is being a running back and finding the hole to lead the back through the hole, so there is certainly an element of reading blocks and not just blocking your guy, but taking the right path to block your guy based on what's happening in front of you. So he's working on that. I'd say he's somewhere between a fullback and a bigger running back.
Q: Muhammad Wilkerson has a career high in sacks this year. What have you seen from him?
BB: Same as in the past – big, fast, athletic, he's got power, he's got quickness, hard to block, good motor. Everybody on the defensive line is good.
Q: How do those guys complement each other?
BB: They just basically run over the guy in front of them. The guy that gets there first hits the quarterback and the other guys jump on the pile. They're hard to block. They're all good. They're all productive. You can't just gear it towards one guy. There are too many guys. They're big, they're physical, very strong.
Q: Damon Harrison is someone in particular who …
BB: Yeah, he's really, I mean he might be the best of all of them against the run. He's got great leverage, reads blocks well, hard to block, penetrates. He's not just a stay on the line of scrimmage guy. He makes plays in the backfield or knocks the blockers back into the backfield so the runner has to either give ground or cut back into unblocked guys and then they clean them up. He's had a lot of production – 60 tackles or whatever it is. He's made a lot of plays for that position. You see some guys playing that position that don't make many tackles. I'm not saying they're not good players, but he's not only disruptive but he's also been very productive. He's a major force.
Q: How have they generated their downhill running game without incorporating a tight end?
BB: Well I mean you pretty much turn on any college game on Saturday and that's what you're going to see. There are dozens of college teams that don't even have a tight end on their roster, don't even recruit tight ends. You spread them out, if they bring a lot of people in then you throw the ball. If you walk out there on them then it's fewer guys to block and more space for the runner. [Chris] Ivory gets good blocking, but he doesn't need a lot of blocking. The run he had against Miami, he must have run through like seven different guys. It could have been me and you out there blocking for him on that play. He didn't need any blocking. So that's part of it. But [Bilal] Powell does a good job, too. He's quick. He hits the crease in there, so they're different styles. Powell is more of a space runner, and Ivory, he can run in space obviously, but he's a power back. He runs through tackles and has got great balance. But they do it from more of a spread set – one to no tight ends on the field. There is not usually more than that, so one at the most. [Quincy] Enunwa is not a tight end, but he's a bigger guy, so when you look at Enunwa blocking a defensive back, that's a mismatch. He's bigger than most of those guys, whereas if you put a tight end in a game, usually the guy he's blocking is comparable. In Enunwa's case, if you put a corner on him then he gains an advantage on that. So I'd say there is a little bit of that, too.
Q: Based on some of the things your team has been through in 2015, would it be OK with you if Santa wrote you a letter to tell you that he put the names of some of the people who run the league and their lawyers on the naughty list this year?
BB: I'll leave Santa Claus and his list to the elves.
Q: I know you talked in a conference call about utilizing players at this time of the year when the division is already wrapped up. Could you elaborate on that?
Q: Coming off his life-changing interception last year in the Super Bowl, what have you noticed about Malcolm Butler's approach this season that has allowed him to develop into a Pro Bowl player?
BB: Malcolm has come a long way on and off the field, as a professional, as a professional football player. He's worked really hard at it, and I think everybody respects him for it. He didn't come from some big Division I program, big Heisman Trophy winner or anything like that. But I'd say it's been like that all year. He's humble, works hard, tries to get better, makes mistakes – there are a lot of things he can do better – but he works hard to get them better and he corrects them and I think everybody that's on our team or around our team respects that. He doesn't have all the answers, tries hard, plays with a good level of confidence, which is good for his position – I don't think that's a bad thing at all – and he's gotten better, so we all respect that.
Q: With Steven Jackson coming in, have you come to any more clarity on how many snaps Brandon Bolden can play?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. How many can he play? He can play as many as you want, but I don't know if that's the best role for him. But he's done it before and he can do it. Not saying that's where we want to be. I mean look Steven Jackson hasn't taken a snap for us, so I don't know what he can do. Iosefa played one game, so we'll see where that goes. I don't know. I don't know the answers to all those questions.
Q: What's the value of having a guy like Brandon, who can step in?
BB: I can't even tell you how many games we've gone into with three backs and him being the third back as really being able to play on first, second, third and fourth down and play well and be one of our best fourth down players. That's a lot, and you start talking about third-down backs and all they have to do in terms of blitz pickups, formations, coverages and all that, and then same thing on early downs being able to run the ball, handle the running game and blitz pickup on play action passes, which is a different set of protections and defensive looks. Then you get into fourth down and a core special teams player that's involved in four phases of the game – kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return and all the things that go on there and all the situational plays that happen in those units – the volume there, that's a lot. That would be a lot for a guy to do one of those things – third down or special teams or first and second down. For a guy to be able to be as competent as he is in all those areas physically and mentally, there aren't many guys in the league that can do that now.
Q: How hard is it to decide how much you want to tax a player like Brandon Bolden on first and second down when he's so important on fourth down?
BB: Again, some of that is more of a product of everybody else than it is him because he can do all special teams, all third down, all first and second down. He can do all the running back stuff. I don't know. But who else do you have? Who else is part of that and what can they do? The way James White is playing and what he's done, he's done a great job for us on third down, so maybe that's something that Brandon, he has to be ready to do it but maybe it's not a role that's not as big for him and it's more of something else, or maybe James White's role shifts a little bit now. There are some options there, but some of that is a function of what else you have because it's not like we're sitting there saying here are the things Bolden can't do. That's a pretty short list. What he can do is pretty much everything. It's a question of where you want to use him, but he gives you flexibility that some other players don't, who can only do one thing or maybe two things.
Q: How critical has Josh Boyer been in developing this current set of cornerbacks, considering the personnel changes?
BB: There's no question Josh has done a really good job with that group, and as you mentioned, there is certainly … Look any time you coach a unit, there is a dynamic in who you're coaching and your coaching style is somewhat altered or affected by who is in that room. When I was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and coached the secondary, Everson Walls had been in the league for whatever it was – 10 years, 50-some career interceptions. There were certain things he did that as a coach you didn't want to change because he had so much success doing it that way and maybe he wouldn't be comfortable doing it another way, but that wouldn't work for a younger player. You wouldn't want to coach a player the way Everson played, but the way Everson played was very productive for Everson so you kind of find the balance in there. [Darrelle] Revis would be another example of that. Not every player can play like Revis, but Revis played very good the way he plays, so you're kind of coaching Malcolm one way and you're coaching Revis another way. And a guy like [Brandon] Browner is different from Revis, different from Malcolm, but he also was a productive player. Again, whereas this year we're looking at a lot different makeup on that group – younger players who can be instructed more in the basic fundamental way to play that haven't been in other systems, that don't have other habits, that don't have other things to change that you can build it a little bit more from the ground up rather than from the top down. And again it's not a good or a bad. It's just different. But Josh has done a good job of that, including [Justin] Coleman, [Rashaan] Melvin, Leonard [Johnson] – the guys that have come in here, the way that the whole group has evolved, even [Patrick] Chung who has played really a lot of if you will corner for us and played it well, so it's been a different dynamic, but again he's spent a lot of time with those guys, not just on the X's and O's but also off the field – preparation, the communication with the group, all the things that go in there. I'd say Logan [Ryan] has a done a great job of – he's not a coach, but in terms of taking leadership of that unit, in terms of their preparation, their communication, their on the field adjustments, helping guys like Leonard, Malcolm, working with the safeties. Logan has been a big part of the development of that whole unit as well. But again the growth of Malcolm from somewhere in the middle of last year to probably somewhere in the middle of this year was pretty steep.
Q: I know individual accolades are not the ultimate goal around here, but seven Patriots were selected to the Pro Bowl yesterday. How nice is that for the team?
BB: Yeah, a couple thoughts. Sure, it's great for the players who are recognized, certainly felt like all the players that were recognized were deserving, all had good years. There are other guys on the team that had good years, too, but that's kind of the way it always is. I'm proud of the fact that all seven of those players are homegrown – they all came in as Patriots, spent their whole career as Patriots, developed as Patriots one way or another, but that's what they all are. I think there is something to be said for that. [Matthew] Slater, five Pro Bowls, father had five Pro Bowls – that's pretty special. Nobody else had done that. The Matthews clan is still going, I had Clay, but that's as an aside kind of a special thing. I think the representation speaks a little bit to the balance of the team with Slater and [Stephen] Gostkowski in the kicking game, Rob [Gronkowski] and Tom [Brady] on offense, and Chandler [Jones] and Jamie [Collins] and Malcolm on defense. That's good.
Q: Do you feel particularly pleased, honored, or proud?
BB: I mean look, it is what it is. Don't make this into more than it is. I think we all know what the process is and who's actually making the decisions here and based on what. But again all that aside, all those guys had good years, they're all good players. We have other good players on our team that weren't recognized, but that's the way it always is, and I'm sure every team feels the same way. But that doesn't take anything away from what those guys did and I'm happy for them, but I don't think that's why they or myself are involved in that. Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, All-Pro, whatever it is, that's not what any of us are here for. If it comes, it's great, but that's not our top goal.
Q: Obviously you take talent into consideration, but what other factors do you look at when evaluating a guy from a smaller school, like Malcolm Butler?
BB: It's a pretty long list. It starts with I would say just the overall program. The commitment in a Division I program is pretty much 12 months a year in terms of offseason training, offseason summer program, class schedule, practice. It's every day. It's like being a professional player. Not quite the same, but between your class commitments, your academic commitments, your football commitments, your offseason training and all that, you're always going. You have to do a lot of things just to be able to be compliant – your grades have to be up, you can't be missing stuff. Like the NFL, you have to be here every day, you have to be accountable, you've got to be dependable, so in other programs, that just isn't required or not anywhere near to the same degree. Level of competition is obviously a big gap. You see a lot of talented players at a lower level of competition, but then when the competition changes and it's a little more equal, are they really able to compete at that next level? Do they have the competitiveness, the drive, the whatever it is to go out there and outwork and outcompete and out-tough the guy that has just as much talent as they do versus just being better than everybody else and going out there and just being themselves but they're just better than everybody else. That doesn't really last. Schematically the same thing, teams that don't have as much time, don't have the same kind of resources, the game is narrower, fewer coverages, you're defending less, you're playing with less defense, a couple of coverages, that kind of thing, and now you come into a more expansive system and you've got the volume of we've got more, there is more on the other side of the ball. When you start putting all those together, it becomes really exponential the number of variables – playing one position versus both sides, inside, outside, factoring the kicking game into it, all that. So there is the on the field, there is the talent and I'd say there is the overall program and being a professional, being a solid, dependable consistent player, which is what all great players are – they're consistent. They're not just making one play. Those guys aren't the great players. They might have highlight plays, but the great players are the ones who can sustain it over a game, over several games, over seasons. Those are the guys who stand out. It's hard to measure until you put a guy in that situation.
Q: Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are both talented, tall receivers. How tough are they to handle?
BB: They're good, big receivers. I mean look every receiver in this league has got skill or they wouldn't be out there. Some guys have size, some guys have speed, some guys have quickness, some guys have great route running technique, some guys have great hands or combinations of those things. And it's the same thing with defensive backs – some are big, some are fast, some are quick, some have great ball skills, some have great instincts, so each guy matches up differently against different guys. That's why you have different receivers in training camp. That's why when you practice against a team like New Orleans or as we have in the past Tampa or Philly or whoever it happened to be, you get exposure to other guys in training camp, you get exposure to other types of players in preseason games. That's part of your preparation for the season. Somewhere along the line, if you don't have a guy like that on your team, eventually you'll see guys like that on other teams. Whatever your individual skillset is, you have to figure out how you match up against another guy's skillset, whether he's a fast, quick guy or a big, strong guy – whatever it is. That's the way it is across the board. It's no different than offensive and defensive lineman. Offensive lineman, you're going to be blocking some 350-pound guy and then you're going to be blocking some 235-pound linebacker that has great quickness coming through there. You're going to have to block both of them, so sooner or later you're going to have to figure out how to do it.
Q: Are you a candy cane guy?
BB: I'm not a hard candy guy, no. Why, was that going to be a gift? You can hang onto that. Happy Holidays!