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Transcript: Bill Belichick Conference Call 1/14

Read the full transcript of Bill Belichick's Sunday conference call.


January 14, 2018


Q: How significant was Eric Rowe's tackle on third down in the second quarter that kept the Titans from converting near midfield, and how did you feel the defense did tackling throughout the night?

BB: Yeah, that was a big tackle. He had a couple of them – the one on the under route, the one out in the flat. I thought, overall, our tackling was decent, but those guys are hard to tackle. We had a little trouble getting [Delanie] Walker on the ground on that seam pass. [Marcus] Mariota's tough to tackle. He got outside on a run and got away from us on a scramble. We know [Derrick] Henry's hard to tackle, so they have some difficult guys to get on the ground there. But I thought we tackled fairly well and we pursued well, so there wasn't a lot of space sometimes for those guys to work in that even if we missed them, we had another guy right there to make the play. Same thing with [Adoree'] Jackson on the kickoff and punt returns. We didn't give up any punt return yardage and that was a real credit to Ryan [Allen] and the coverage units. We got good punts and good coverage. He had to fair catch a couple of them. Ryan kept the ball away from him, I think, it was one or two other times. But kickoffs – he ran those back and I thought we did a good job of covering the kickoff, again, against a guy that's had some big plays this year. Yeah, overall, I thought that it was a decent effort. There's always room for improvement but a pretty decent effort, but the key to it is not giving up a lot of space. There were going to be some missed tackles against all those guys I just mentioned, but if there's another player or two right there then the damage doesn't really amount to as much. 

Q: What sort of player and skill set is required to perform the role of spying a quarterback out of the backfield and does that player sort of work as his own entity within the defense?

BB: Well, I think if you're going to put a player on the quarterback, let's say, you have to pick out a player that can match that player. Tackling a guy like, let's say, [Tim] Tebow is a lot different than tackling a guy like Michael Vick. They're both hard, but they're just different. If you have a matchup like that where you want to watch a guy, I think you've just got to make sure that you can get him, so that the guy who's responsible for him can get him and has a skill set that matches up with the player that you're trying to put him on. Who is it? Well, it depends on who it is you're trying to get. I wouldn't say that that person is a separate entity. Hopefully, you have some kind of coordination between the person that's looking for the quarterback and the people who are not looking for the quarterback who are kind of trying to penetrate and get to the quarterback and rush him so that you don't create a lot of space and two-way go's. If the quarterback pulls the ball down you want to try to push him in a certain direction and then that creates leverage for the player who's got him. Yeah, I think there's definitely an element of coordination. Again, some of those plays are not exactly the way you draw them up. They're loose plays and they extend and it's a little bit of a scramble. Well, it is a scramble but it's an improvised play on both sides of the ball, not just on what you're trying to do but they're improvising, as well, with their receivers, their route adjustments and the quarterback trying to extend the play. But hopefully not being able to pull the ball down and run it. If we're trying to take that option away then hopefully we can do that and then it comes down to how quickly you can get to the quarterback and how good your coverage is.

Q: How did Kyle Van Noy do in that role last night? It seemed that even if he didn't make the play on Mariota that he was able to flush him towards other defenders that could.

BB: Right. Well, again, I would just say that's kind of a good group effort by the entire rushing and pass rushing unit. It wasn't always one guy. It wasn't always the same guy. We had a couple different things that we were doing there. Hopefully, that caused some hesitation or indecision. I'm not sure looking at it now that it would really be clear on film as to who exactly was doing what, so we'll kind of leave that answer out of the response here. I would say, suffice to say, there was more than one player involved in that. But again, it is a coordinated effort so even if you have one guy doing it, if he gets put in a bad position where it just makes it too hard then you lose the effectiveness of tracking the quarterback with a particular player. In my opinion, there needs to be some kind of coordination so that you can maximize the production of the guy who's got him.

Q: What has it been like to work with James Harrison and have there been any surprises about him since you started to work with him?

BB: He's been good to work with. He's a very, as we know, a very experienced player and even though some of our terminology is different he understands basic football concepts very well and what his responsibility is and how to play that responsibility. He's been good. He's been very dependable. The things he's been asked to do, he's done. You can count on him and that's a good thing. It allows everybody to play aggressively and he's an aggressive player. He's been productive. He had several good plays against the run last night, caused a penalty and that was part of stopping a drive with his good play out there on the perimeter. He's given us some plays in pass rush and he's got good awareness in pass coverage. He's dropped into coverage and he's done a good job on that in a couple of examples of that the last two games. He's been good to work with. He's very professional , wants to do well, studies, asks questions. I've enjoyed working with him.

Q: Were you surprised when the neutral zone infraction was called on the fourth down play?

BB: No, I wasn't because I thought that [Brynden] Trawick entered the neutral zone and Geneo [Grissom] reacted to him. We practice that play every week and if it's that kind of situation – fourth and less-than-5 – and the player enters the neutral zone then we want to react to it and force the penalty and not allow them to get back and reset and not have the opportunity for it. I thought it was a heads up play by Geneo to react to that. That's what he's supposed to do and that's what he did. I thought we did the right thing. He definitely entered the neutral zone. I mean, at least what I saw. I thought Trawick was in the neutral zone, so assuming that we agree on that, if he did that then the player on the offensive side of the ball – if he reacts to that then the penalty is on the defense.

Q: I was under the impression that if the player entering the neutral zone doesn't make contact that he has the chance to pull back out?

BB: Nope. Well, he can pull back out, but if the offense reacts to the defensive player in the neutral zone then the penalty is on the defense. Otherwise, you're going to have the whole defense flinching and the whole thing we went through a decade ago with everybody on the defensive side of the ball flinching with the silent count, crowd noise on the road and all that. You've got all the defensive players flinching but not entering the neutral zone to get the offense to false start. The league took that – they changed the rule so that A), it's illegal to flinch and B), if you don't flinch but if you try to time up a blitz or if you try to beat the count and you get into the neutral zone then, no, you don't get a chance to get back if the offense moves. If they don't move and you get back then everything resets and there's no infraction. But if the offense reacts to that then the penalty is on the defense.

Q: Can you speaking about capitalizing on that ensuing offensive drive after the neutral zone penalty?

BB: Well, that's what football is. Football's about taking advantage. It's about making plays and taking advantage of opportunities that are there. Yeah, offensively, as you said, it wasn't one play. We had whatever it was – 80 yards to go – or whatever it was, a long way to go. So there were a lot of plays that had to follow that, but it gave us an opportunity to possess the ball. I think it was a 15-play drive or 16-play drive, whatever it was. That strings a lot of plays together and that's hard to do against the Titans. They're a very good defensive team, well coached and they make it tough on you to score in four or five plays. They make you string those long drives together and that's why they're such a good defensive team because it's hard to do.

Q: How important was it for your offense to get the ball to some guys out in space to help negate some of the effectiveness of their defense up the middle?

BB: Right. Well, yeah, I think, Phil [Perry], it was a combination of both. Look, sometimes it's a lot easier to get the ball out in space and let the back make some yards as opposed to having to block seven or eight guys to get him into that same space. The advantage to handing the ball is you should gain some yards, whereas an incomplete pass – that could be a no gain. To make yards in the running game, any significant yards, you've got to create some space for the back and that means in the Titans case blocking an extra guy in the box because they didn't play a lot of split-safety coverage. You've got to block six, seven, eight guys depending on what personnel group you're in, in order to get the running back into space where he can do that in the passing game and he can make a lot of yards, like that screen pass that we threw to Dion [Lewis]. It would have been hard to hand the ball off and get him into that much space. You'd have to make a lot of, not good blocks; you'd have to make a lot of great blocks to get everybody that far out of the way so the runner could attack the field like Dion did on that play. To answer your question, yeah, getting backs into space in the passing game or in the running game, however you do it, and there's different ways of doing it but sometimes it's easier to throw him the ball into space than it is to, like I said, block seven or eight guys and try to create that same situation.

Q: When you decide to go up-tempo on offense does their have to be some kind of coordination between you and Josh McDaniels or you and Matt Patricia? Do you guys take into account the defensive workload when you decide to go with the hurry up just based on if it doesn't work out then those guys may be on the bench for just a short time?

BB: Right. Yeah, that's a good question. Certainly there's an element of game management involved between the offense, the defense and the kicking game. I don't want to minimize that. It does come into play. Sometimes how you play defense is a factor on how you're playing offense or how you're playing in the kicking game and vice versa for the offense. Those are definitely considerations, but that being said, the reason why we put the offense on the field is to move the ball and score points. If we wanted to punt it then we'd send the punt team out there. We're trying to move the ball and score points and defensively the reason we put the defense out there is to stop the offense from moving the ball and get the ball back for our offense. That's really the job that those units have to do. Our offense can't play defense and our defense can't play offense. They have to go out there and do their job and the best thing for them to do is to do a good job at their job. I don't think anybody would object to our offense going out and scoring a 70-yard touchdown in 10 seconds and giving the ball back to the other team. That's what they're supposed to do. That being said, there is an element of game management and I think that comes up at times, but if you're looking at overall percentage, it's probably maybe in the 10 percent range, somewhere in there. The other 90 percent of the time the offense is trying to move the ball and score points and the defense is trying to get the ball back to the offense, whether that's causing a punt, or if they've already got the ball in field goal range just keeping them out of the end zone, or obviously turn the ball over. Those units have to do what their job is. They can't overplay to another unit. Again, unless there's some specific situational football play that's involved, which that could come into play. Similar maybe to offensively if you're a fast break team and there's maybe some point where you want to just throw the ball down and give everybody a chance to catch their breath. There might be a series or part of a series sometimes that we say, 'We just need to get a first down here. Don't worry about tempo. We need to give our defense a chance to get organized on the sideline,' or vice versa.

Q: What goes into process of filling the vacancy from a coach or coordinator leaving the organization?

BB: Well, in any decision that involves personnel on the team I always try to do what's best for the football team. That's what goes into it. There could be a thousand things, so if you're signing a player, drafting a player, however you acquire a player, or coach, or a scout, or an administrative positon then I always try to think of what's the best thing for the football team. You look at what the team needs. You look at what that area requires or one thing might be more important than another in that particular time or situation. Based on that, then sometimes you have one or two players to pick from, or three players to pick from, or three people at some other positon that all kind of fit the basic requirement of what the needs of the team and the organization are and try to take the best one. Sometimes you can't. Maybe none of them really do it, but you either go light at that position and wait until you can find a better option or you take the best option that's available. Every situation is different. All people are different. Everybody has their own personality, strengths, weaknesses and so forth. There's no two players that are the same. There's no two people that are the same. I mean, we have identical twins on the team and they're not the same. It just depends on each individual situation and what the circumstances are on the team and who the people are that are available. In the end, what I always try to do is what I think is best for the football team.

Q: Is familiarity with your system a big factor as you try to pick a coordinator?

BB: It's part of the same answer I just gave. Each person has their own – every player – look, every person, every coach, everybody has their own individual characteristics. Call them whatever you want; strengths, weaknesses, areas they can improve in, areas of leadership, areas of experience, so forth. Everybody's different. We're all different. To me, there's no right or wrong answer. There's no set model. The only thing that's consistent for me is doing what's best for the football team. I mean, I know that's hard for some people to understand why I would think like that, but that's the only way I can really put it into any kind of context. What other agenda is there? What other reason is there really for making any personnel decision? I don't know.

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