Bill Belichick has clearly seen a lot of over his four-plus decades in the NFL.
And when you get the New England coach talking about things not related to the here-and-now of his current team and dealing more with the history of the game he so clearly loves, the stories his tells can splinter off in million different directions.
Belichick's Friday morning, end-of-week, extended press conference in the media work room at Gillette Stadium was a perfect example of what the coach can offer up in the rare times when he really gets rolling behind the microphone.
As his team finishes up preparations for Sunday's trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers, Belichick was all smiles and filled with stories.
Along the way, raving about the history of the Steelers and legendary coach Chuck Noll (an 800-word answer that evolved into Cowboys legend Tom Landry at some point), Belichick found a way to mention the likes of Mick Jagger, Bill Russell, Lou Gehrig and so many more names of note.
It really was a must-see, relaxed Belichick who even extended the media session for extra questions as he acknowledged his own long-winded if ultra-informative and at times rather entertaining answers.
Here are a few of the highlights from Belichick's hay-is-in-the-barn, wide-ranging press conference.
1. Malcolm Butler wants to tackle: Malcolm Butler became a national celebrity thanks to his Super Bowl-clinching interception. A year later his coverage ability and match-up potential earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. But an aspect of Butler's game that doesn't always get enough attention is his physical, feisty style of play that includes impressive ability as a tackler. According to Belichick, Butler's ability to bring down opposing ball carriers is about the age-old football trait of want-to as much as it is anything else.
"I think one of the biggest things is just the desire to tackle. I think I've coached a lot of defensive backs and Malcolm will go in this category of when a guy catches a pass on you they really want to tackle him and tackle him hard," Belichick said of his former undrafted rookie. "And I think you see that. There's a certain type of defensive back I think that has that mentality. If they catch one then 'I'm really going to try and tackle a guy as hard as I can because he caught one on me,' type of thing. I think you see a lot of Malcolm's tackles like that. Tackling receivers is different than tackling running backs. That's a challenge for any defensive back really because of the skill those players have running the ball and usually they can face up the defender. But you know, Jonathan Jones is kind of like that, too. He's not the biggest guy but kind of like Malcolm he's tough and wants to tackle and knows how to use his size and his quickness usually to tackle low but to be able to get those guys on the ground and wrap them up. I'd say a lot of it is desire, some of it is technique, and then there's definitely an element of playing strength that comes in there. But desire's probably number one. Guys that really want to tackle are usually competitive tacklers. Guys that don't want to tackle aren't going to be good tacklers."
2. Mick Jagger made Jack Lambert's career?: Belichick admitted earlier this year that he sort of stumbled on Patriots rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts while scouting other players. Part of Roberts limited hype coming out of Houston was the fact that he'd done very little prior to a breakout senior season as a tackle machine. Asked about the difficulties of scouting such one-year-wonders, Belichick told a crazy story tying the Rolling Stones to the backbone of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.
"Really, that's a tough one. You're like, if this guy is so good, why did he not play? Why wasn't he out there? It's like, is that production circumstantial? Is that production real? Is this guy really on the way up, or was that the peak, and is it going to come back down?" Belichick offered. "I guess the one that sticks out the most for me would be Coach [Nick] Saban's story about [Jack] Lambert. When he at Kent State, speaking of the Steelers. You know, how Lambert couldn't get on the field. He was a backup linebacker and didn't play. The kid in front of him [Bob Bender] was really their leader, he was kind of the heart and soul of the Kent State defense, Nick played quarterback on that team and through a series of circumstances, that's another long story, but we'll skip through all of that. Anyways, the kid dropped out of school, went to work for Mick Jagger, he was a security guy on tour with the [Rolling] Stones, and Lambert became the starting middle linebacker. He probably would have never played had that not happened, and you know, you have a Hall of Fame player. Sometimes things take a turn, and then once they get that opportunity and they get in there, the Tom Brady's of the world or whoever, you can't get them out of there. Lou Gehrig, it's just, you know. So is that one, or is the other one of, 'Ok, well that was the high water mark,' and it never gets close to that point again? It's really a tough question. Obviously, the more you have to go on, probably the better chance you have of making the right evaluation. The less you have to go on, the more, 'Is this a one-year flash or is this the start of something that's going to be at that level you saw for a short amount of time?' There are certainly a lot of examples of both."
3. Duron Harmon a "silent leader" Bill Russell would like: Fourth-year Patriots safety Duron Harmon often flies well below the radar in New England. He's far from the biggest name in the New England secondary working alongside Pro Bowlers such as Butler and Devin McCourty. But the former third-round pick out of Rutgers has played every game in each of the last two-plus seasons as a reliable option both on defense and special teams. He also brings a level of leadership to the team, even if that's not something that might be obvious from afar.
In describing Harmon's leadership role in New England, Belichick referenced something he learned from the Celtics legend Russell, maybe the greatest winner that professional sports has ever seen.
"Duron is, I'd say every team, or most every team I've ever coached, there are always a couple guys on the team that I would say, for lack of a better word, that are silent leaders," Belichick explained. "They have leadership but it kind of comes out in a little bit of a different way than Junior Seau or Tedy Bruschi or somebody like that. Again, I'm not saying one is better than the other, they're just different, and I would put Duron kind of in the silent leader category. But I would say, and Bill Russell taught me this, that in a way, a silent leader in some respects is more powerful than a more vocal leader because you hear the vocal guy, you see him, you're very aware of it, but then there are guys that give you that quiet leadership that in a way is more powerful because it's not quite out there as much, but it's that quiet push that sometimes can maybe have a little more impetus.
"So you could put Duron in that category, and first of all, he's very well-respected. He's smart, he works hard, he studies, he trains hard. I'll go even back to his first year, he and Logan Ryan, the day after the season, they're in here working out, doing extra stuff in the weight room, here working out in January. Things like that. Just not like, 'Hey, Coach I'm here. Make sure you know I'm here. I'm putting in extra time.' They would do it just to do it. He studies the game well, smart.
"So, getting everybody on the same page, communication, making sure that you know where your help is, where I'm going to be, I know where you're going to be, so we can work together with each other. Duron is very good at those kinds of things, and also dependable, where if he says he's there, he's going to be there. Some guys, they're not always where they need to be, so then you never really know for sure, do I have it? Do I not have it? I know I'm supposed to have it, but can I trust that? And you can always trust it with Duron. I think you build that up through time, through repetition. You earn that trust on the practice field, you earn that trust on the game field by doing it over and over and over again, and he does that. He's there every day, very consistent, very dependable, and so when he speaks, I think that's where the leadership comes from. There's a trust. If he says something, you can count on it. He'll be there, he'll come through, and he'll deliver it. It's kind of interesting. Like I said, every team has guys like that on it and some are more vocal than others, but some of those quiet leaders have a lot of power and a lot of influence that's a little less noticeable, but very impactful."