Q: The wildcat formation on offense was a big factor back in 2008 when you played Miami here at Gillette Stadium. Was that kind of a fad that has phased itself out of the league now?
BB: I mean you see it from time to time. It looked like Buffalo might've run it a couple of plays last night with [LeSean] McCoy. Yeah, all of those things - the wildcat, unbalanced line - things like that; I mean you've always got to be ready for them.
Q: What did you learn from that game in 2008 about it and how your players reacted to it?
BB: I mean it's really just a lot of elements of the single-wing offense. We just missed some tackles. Obviously didn't have it coached very well. [We] didn't coach it very well, didn't play very well. It's not unstoppable. We just didn't do a very god job on it that day.
Q: That formation was prevalent with the Arkansas Razorbacks at the time but did it come completely out of the blue that week in the NFL?
BB: Well, again, the coach for the Dolphins [quarterback coach David Lee] was at Arkansas when [Darren] McFadden ran it. Again, no matter how you slice it up it's just putting the quarterback into the equation into the running game which creates another gap, if you will. So, if you play eight-on-seven or seven-on-six then once the quarterback is part of the play, now you're eight-on-eight, you're seven-on-seven. There's no extra gap. You've got to account for him. That's what Mike Shanahan did with the Broncos offense with all of the bootlegs. You had to account for him, so even though you could be eight-on-seven, once you accounted for that bootleg guy now you were seven-on-seven, or whatever the numbers were. You always lost a guy. It's really just a numbers game and those teams that run those type of plays - it seems like Navy that run a lot of option, run a lot of quarterback plays like they did with [Keenan] Reynolds. You run out of guys on defense. You can't outnumber them. You just run out of people. There are different versions of it but it's all the same concept. It's adding another guy in the running game that the defense has to account for that you lose a gap, which was the single-wing offense.
Q: Is his balance and ability to stay on his feet Arian Foster's best attribute?
BB: Well, I'd just say I think there are a lot of plays where at the end of the play he's not on the ground.
Q: As in he goes out of bounds?
BB: Well, yeah, he gets pushed out of bounds or two or three guys tackle him but he's still standing there and they blow the whistle and the plays over but I mean he's not like on the ground, and there are a lot of plays like that. There are a lot of plays where he's on the sideline. I wouldn't say he runs out of bounds. He gets hit, he's up, the defenders up, he ends up going out of bounds. I'm not saying he's like running to the sideline, but you know, honestly that's the way [John] Riggins used to run. Riggins would carry he ball 25 times a game but he'd only get tackled 15. There'd be another 10 plays where at the end of the play he's still on his feet one way or another. I'd say that's the thing that's kind of - when you start looking at Foster and watching him get tackled - there are a lot of plays where he just doesn't get tackled.
Q: How long does it take for you to be able to identify what it is a team wants to do from week to week and you can rule certain things out, as opposed to the early season when there is an element of surprise?
BB: I don't know that you can ever rule them out but I'd say the term 'midseason form' is pretty accurate. What a team has done by that point, I mean it's pretty much who they are. They've seen a lot of different matchups, however they've evolved, they've evolved. There might be a few things that are a little bit off, a little bit out of the fairway, but they're pretty close or there's a reason for why they were a little off the mainline. But you know, you just need to get enough looks - five, six, seven games; whatever it is - to see that. It doesn't mean somebody couldn't throw in a new wrinkle. I think that's always part of football, but you know there's only so many of those you can get ready in practice in a normal week so you still have to be able to go out there and execute it. I don't think it ever goes away but there's a certain point where every team pretty much shows they're out there trying to win every week, they're not evaluating players, they show their hand, and you tell everybody what kind of team you are.
Q: What kind of impression has Joe Thuney left on you since his arrival here?
BB: Really consistent, and he's a smart guy. He's a good technique player, he plays with good footwork, balance, hand placement, he's got good awareness, he sees things well. I mean there's room for improvement here; I'm not saying that. For his lack of experience he plays like a pretty experienced player. He has been well-coached both at N.C. State with Coach [Tom] O'Brien and that system when he went in there and obviously with Dante [Scarnecchia]. He's a good athlete, he's a good football player, and he's got good awareness, good instincts, works well with the other offensive linemen, knowing what guys need help based on what the call is, what the protection is, who the players are and so forth. Again, there's room for improvement. There are a lot of things he can learn, but for where he is in his career he has got a pretty good understanding of it. [He's] a pretty smart player. I'd say also the fact that he has played all five positions in the end probably works in his favor. Not that he has taken a lot of game-snaps at center but he has been at center, he has played guard, he has been at tackle. Again, I think when you're at guard you understand some of the issues at tackle. When you're a center you can understand some of the issues at guard and vice versa. I don't think those have been bad things for him.
Q: Are the young guys that have been rotating on the interior of the offensive line a little bit beyond their years in any type of way?
BB: You know, maybe in a way but I'd say the issue is just experience together, so you know the more that those guys play together, the more that David [Andrews] and Joe [Thuney] play together the better that will get. Even if neither one of them ever gets any better, them playing together will just - they will get better. And they should get better because they're both young players, but you know what I'm saying. Even at their cap there's a level of execution between the two of them, with Nate [Solder], with Shaq [Mason], with Ted [Karras], however it goes, that those guys just haven't played a lot of football together. They haven't seen some of the things or some of the players, their opponents, second, third, fourth time around like a real experienced group would do that you could really gain some advantages on that. We're just not there yet. We're getting there but we're just not there.
Q: How would you characterize how David Andrews and Jimmy Garoppolo have worked together and how important is that quarterback-center relationship?
BB: Huge. Yeah, it's huge. Yeah, it's a critical relationship, especially in the National Football League and an offense like ours where there's a lot of communications, and protections, and recognition and so forth. Those two guys being on the same page is enormous. But David's very good, Jimmy's good. They communicate well, each of them individually and together, and they both understand the importance of it, of not taking something for granted and then "Oh I thought it was this," and then "I thought it was that," and then somebody runs free because we weren't on the same page. There's not very much of that, nor should there be. It's critical. It's a huge part of both of their jobs, to be able to be in sync with the other positions, the center and the guard, the quarterback and the quarterback to the center.
Q: What improvements have you seen from Ted Karras since his arrival here?
BB: Well, I'd just say the overall exposure to this type of an offensive system. Again, different protections, different adjustments, more variety in the running game than what he probably had at Illinois. I'd say definitely more. He has played all three interior positons, both guards and center, so again, he's a smart guy. I think some of that playing different positons actually helps him play whatever positions he's playing a little bit better because he understands what's going on around him. Again, that's part of the centers job, is to quarterback the whole line, if you will, in terms of line-calls and adjustments that they have to make. We have the same five guys but sometimes how you block them - do you bump him and go to the linebacker? Do you go straight to the linebacker? I mean just how all of that works. There are a lot of fine points in there but they're critical really to the success of that unit and naturally to the success of the play. It's just a lot more exposure, a lot of different things that he I would say didn't have a lot of experience with. He has gained a lot, he's smart, he works hard, he understands football concepts well, as Joe does, as David does. Shaq's kind of in the same boat coming from the offense he came in, which is they threw the ball five times per game. In terms of protection it's just a whole new world. Those guys have all grown quite a bit in the last year, or two years, whatever the case might be, in terms of systems. David obviously came from Brian Schottenheimer's system in Georgia so he had a change of I'd say NFL-type of offensive schematics. But again, I would say in the process of going back to Phil [Perry]'s point of just getting everybody working together, understanding just collectively how to do things and how to do them more efficiently.
Q: What have you seen from Chris Hogan and his work ethic since he has been in the building?
BB: Great. He works really hard. Chris is always ready to go. He works hard in every phase of the game, passing game, his blocking, kicking game. He's always ready to go. If something comes up and he's not in there - "Hey Chris, jump in there," - boom. He's got his helmet on, his chinstrap fastened, he knows what to do. He's really bene impressive that way. We've asked him to do a lot of different things, play multiple receiver spots, outside, inside, again, multiple things in the kicking game. He works really hard at it. It's important to him. Again, it's a process. I'm not saying it's all perfect but he's definitely gaining on it and he's a lot better than where he was a couple of months ago, but he has been very dependable and quick to insert and be ready to execute in those opportunities that he gets.
Q: What is the process in determining your matchups between your cornerbacks and opposing receivers? Is it a week-to-week process or do certain guys have skills that work better against certain receivers?
BB: The best way to determine it, I guess, is experience. I think that's one of the things that when you practice against a team like New Orleans and Chicago that you get exposure to different receivers. I'm not saying who's better or who's not better. It's not even about that but it's another seven or eight guys that we get to cover in addition to the seven or eight guys that we're covering on our team, and another seven or eight guys the next week when Chicago came in here, so just the exposure of playing bigger guys, quicker guys, faster guys, different type route runners, how they stem and set up their routes, how they use their hands downfield, whatever it is. So, it's just sooner or later over the course of the season you're going to get all of that to some degree and the more you can practice against it and understand what they're trying to do, what's best for you, how we individually - how you play a guy, how I play a guy - we both have to cover them but maybe we do it differently because our skillsets are a little bit different. It's just working through that whole process. I think it's really a lot of - I don't want to say trial and error - but experience of doing it against different type guys. And there are some players that they have a specific skillset but they also have may have a very specific route-tree, that they run if you look at the whole route tree 80 percent of their routes are a certain type of route; vertical routes, or lateral-breaking routes, whatever it happens to be, and then as it relates to that individual player then the techniques on him are a little more specific to what he actually - forget about what he can do - but what did they actually ask him to do? That becomes now a little bit of an overriding part of the criteria. If they want the guy to go deep, even though he could do other things, but that's mainly what he does then you've got to work more on defending that.
Q: It seemed like when Chris Hogan first arrived he was being worked a lot more on special teams. How much differently do you view him now that he has become more involved in the offense?
BB: I don't think it's changed a whole lot. I mean when you're around a guy every day like we've been with Chris, he has impressive every day. He doesn't have a lot of up and down days. Every day's a pretty good day for him, which I would say wasn't unexpected but you just don't know until you're around him. I think he can contribute for us in the kicking game. As we went through training camp he was really our healthiest receiver. Danny [Amendola] wasn't out there, Julian [Edelman] wasn't out there for quite a while, Malcom [Mitchell] was out and he missed time, so he was the guy that was out there the most, so we tried to manage the volume for him just overall. But I mean I think he can absolutely play in the kicking game. I think he can play outside, I think he can play inside in the passing game, which he has, so he can do all of those things. I don't think he's going to be out there for every play of every game so depending on who else we have, what we're trying to do, so forth, part of his versatility is a real strength for other players because it might allow them to do something that if they don't have that kind of flexibility, it might allow them to do something that they're really good at and he can still be able to adjust. But you know, Julian's like that, too. He's a very adaptable player so it's good to have those guys in the passing game in the receiving group so that if you want to move guys around, play guys at different positons in the formation, then you have guys that can make those adjustments and not feel like you're losing a lot in the passing game.
Q: Were there any Patriot representatives at the pro day he held coming out of college?
BB: I'm not sure. I only know that we have two coaches on our team that covered him in lacrosse.
Q: Who was that?
BB: Well Stephen [Belichick] covered him at Rutgers and Mike [Pellegrino] covered him at John Hopkins. I don't know about working him out, but we've got two guys that played against him on the lacrosse field.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what Kevin Faulk means to this franchise and are there any guys on this roster that remind you a little bit of him?
BB: Well, I mean that's a pretty high bar. You're talking about Kevin Faulk. We have guys like James White or [Shane] Vereen going back that had similar roles and had production. Kevin's pretty special. As I said this summer, I think many impressive things about Kevin, amongst them would be that I thought he played his best football in the biggest games, the most critical situations, the most critical plays. The times when we need him the most is when he came through with some of his best plays. The Carolina Super Bowl, the two-point play, I think it was the only time he scored all year, but what bigger play is there than that? So, I'd say that's kind of typical of Kevin. I can still see him converting on third-down or punt return situations, getting him in a nine-man, handling a short punt, or blitz-pickup so that we could make the play to somebody else but him stepping up and making the block that we needed on a critical third-down or two-minute play to be successful. I think Kevin's one of the great, great examples - and I've tried to point this out to players that I've coached throughout my entire career - Kevin's a player that came in; I mean first of all, out of all the great running backs that have come out of LSU, which have been a lot of them, he has pretty much got every record. I mean [Leonard] Fournette might break a couple of them this year but he has pretty much been the best guy down there of all the great ones they've had. His role in the NFL was different than that and he accepted his role, he embraced his roles, and he was the best that he could be in those roles and he's a Hall of Fame player. Instead of sometimes trying to make a role different, instead of embracing the role that your team wants you to have and needs you to have, some players want a role that they want to have and then sometimes that's a little bit of a conflict. I think Kevin was a great example of coming in here he started off as a returner and was a great runner, but kind of worked his way into more of a third-down sub back but he always had good run skills and he had a lot of good runs for us. He was great in the passing game, he was great in the return game when we needed him, he was a great leader. When we had backs like Corey Dillon he was a great - or Antowain [Smith] or guys like that - he was not only a great compliment to them but he was a great mentor to them in terms of preparation and dependability and a lot of little things. Just taking care of a lot of little things so the example and the leadership that he gave to the team was exceptional. It really was, and to a degree a little bit below the radar. Not a big out front team captain and that type of profile, yet the undercurrent that he had was arguably as strong as any. Kind of like Troy Brown; a little bit different than Troy Brown but kind of like Troy Brown. So, [he was] a really, really special player. [He] had ball-security issues, had blitz-pickup issues when I got here. He came in, "Coach what do I need to do?" "Kevin, here's what you need to do." He worked very hard at it, became very good at it. It wasn't an attitude of like "Well, look, here's what I'm good at. Here's what I want to do. What do I need to do to help the team," [and he'd] go out there and do it. You're probably really lucky as a coach if you have a couple of guys, we've had a lot of guys like that, and he would certainly be up there at the head of that class. And honestly I think it's great that he has been recognized for that. I don't even know how many games he started in his career but I would venture to say not all that many, yet you're talking about a Hall of Famer player that let's just say wasn't even a starter but that doesn't really matter. When the game was on the line he was always in the game and he was always in the eye of the storm, and that really speaks more to me to the value of the player than whose name is in there on the starting lineup on the first play of the game. You've got 59 minutes of football left. I don't think that's the most important play yet that's what a lot of people want to relate it to. Really the most important plays are the game-winning plays at the end of the game. Who's in there for those? That's what you really want to know.
Q: The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the preliminary list of candidates that are eligible this year. Do you feel like some of the guys that have been career-long assistants may be deserving of more consideration consider their importance to the game?
BB: Yeah, well I mean, you know assistant coaches have a huge impact on their football team. I mean they make a tremendous contribution. I don't think any head coach really could be a good head coach without good assistant coaches. We just don't do enough coaching. There's a lot of meeting rooms with a lot of instruction going on in there and the head coach isn't in very many of those rooms, if any at all. They're certainly working with the entire team. I'm not saying there isn't a role for the head coach but the individual instruction that the position coaches and coordinators give and their guidance and direction and play calling on the team is obviously paramount. It's critical. Yeah, you know, I mean the Hall of Fame is a tough one. I don't even know what the criteria is for the Hall of Fame. You've got guys that have played 15-20 years that aren't in the Hall of Fame and you've got guys that have played four or five that are and vice versa. You've got guys that have had great short careers and aren't, guys that have had 'OK' long careers that are. You've got guys that haven't won championships that are. You've got guys that have won a lot of championships that aren't. I mean, I don't know. What are we basing it on? So, I don't know. Assistant football coaches' Hall of Fame [candidacy] would probably be a worthy discussion, but do you want to slight them relative to the other contributors? I don't know. You've got different sets of rules for everybody too - coaches, players, contributors. Really I don't understand it. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it but what little I know about it is pretty confusing to me. I have no idea what the criteria is and if you talk to people that have been in that room, which I'm sure you guys have, it sounds like there's a lot of confusion in there, too, about who we're voting for or what we're voting on. How much of it is political? How much of it is a campaign trail? I don't know. It's not really my thing. The whole process I'm saying is not really my thing.