PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: Michael Bennett talked about preseason games being an opportunity for players to figure out how to execute as a group with new players. From your perspective, how much of that is the players figuring it out themselves during the game and how much of that is coaching, both during the game and away from the game situation?
BB: I don’t know, Mike [Petraglia]. It’s probably a combination of both. From the coaching standpoint, we’re rusty too, so we need to practice coaching – recognizing things, communicating with the players, and making quick adjustments and corrections and so forth. Players need to – same thing – learn how to read, not learn, and get used to changing situations: down, distance, field position, time, score, situation. That’s when you get the end-of-the-half situations and making adjustments and things like communication with their teammates. So, it’s really a combination of all of those things.
Q: Bennett also made a point about intensity during the preseason as opposed to the regular season. Is Bennett a player that you’ve seen ramp up his intensity once the bullets start flying for real?
BB: Michael’s certainly had a very productive career. We’ll see how everything goes for our team this year. That’s everybody. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. I don’t know.
Q: How much of a challenge is balancing players and coaches with things you’ve always done well, while pushing forward into new things about the league and its personnel?
BB: Well, I think that’s one of the many balances you have in preseason – just trying to get your team ready, work on the things that are fundamental to your system. You have to deal with different things each week based on the opponent that you’re playing, but then you have to look at the bigger picture of the opener and the regular season and what you’re going to need over that time frame, and they don’t always fit together. So, you just have to do the best you can and try to get the most out of your opportunities there, but that’s more than you have time to do. It’s more than you’re really able to do, so you have to select what areas you want to try to focus on.
Q: There must be a time where you feel like you’re going to get a time to focus on those things at some point, but you haven’t yet. Pittsburgh’s coming up in 10 days, and we’re going to move on from that for now. Does your mind process like that?
BB: Yeah, sure.
Q: Ryan Izzo said that he could feel where the safety was in relationship to his positioning on the field during his catch from Tom Brady, so he knew where the ball had to be placed. That sounded like instincts and awareness, and we always hear that those attributes may not be able to be taught. In your experience, can those traits be taught, or is that something that can be difficult for players to try and pick up?
BB: Well, I think that you always try to coach the players the best that you can and you try to tell them things that will help them perform better. Ultimately, some situations are similar to, but different than, the ones you’ve described. Some situations could be quite a bit different than what you’ve practiced or how the play’s designed, so an element of the player’s ineffectiveness takes over in those situations. They understand what they need to do, and maybe the way you taught them to do it or instructed them to do it doesn’t quite fit that situation or something that’s happened during the play that’s compromised – the leverage or the relationship between the certain player on the field – and now they have to do something a little bit differently. Of course, their instincts would kick in at that point. We try to coach it. Some players have a very high instinctive level, and other players are trying to pretty much do things in a fundamental and logical way that makes sense. It’s probably a good path for teaching, but sometimes things happen differently, and you can’t always follow those.
Q: Has Izzo become a more instinctive receiver over the time you’ve worked with him?
BB: I think he has good instincts as a receiver, yes. I think you saw that at Florida State. There are some things that we do from a route tree and that we have in our route tree that are probably a little different than what he had at Florida State. So, again, when you get a route, or especially a new route, and you go out and run it a couple times, each time is a little bit different. Whether it’s in a man, zone, or there’s a linebacker over you, a defensive end over you, or whatever it is, until you have enough of an opportunity to build up enough reps on the play, 20 or 30 reps where you’ve done everything multiple times and you’ve pretty much seen every look. It takes some time, and it takes some time with whoever’s throwing to you for them to anticipate what you’re going to do as a receiver and for you to anticipate where the ball’s going to be based on certain looks. So, yeah, those are instinctive things that sometimes they happen rather quickly; sometimes they take a little while. There’s a level of difficulty in understanding exactly how the quarterback and the receiver see a certain relationship or leverage by the defender – what to do in that situation. So, I think he has good instincts, but he has to probably learn different ones and apply different situations to what he’s doing here compared to what he did in college. So, there’s – however you want to look at it – either new learning or taking old learning and applying it to a different situation.
Q: How much of a better feel do you have after three games now with the approach to being able to challenge pass interference calls?
BB: Probably learn a little more each week. I think that the officials, Al Riveron and the weekly game officials that we’ve had – we’ve had an opportunity to work with a crew in Detroit and another crew in Tennessee, and obviously we had another crew this week with Carl [Cheffers]. So, as more situations come up and more plays come up, and again, through the practice sessions, we have an opportunity to sometimes discuss a call or a play with the official that made the call. It gives you a little better understanding of what they’re looking for and how they’re calling the game, which is helpful to us because we want to coach it properly so that we don’t end up with any coach infractions. So, we’re trying hard not to do that.
Q: As a coach and a leader, how important is it to remain current and to be able to do things differently, whether it be roster, preparation, practice? How do you not fall into the trap of doing things one way because that’s the way you’ve always done them?
BB: Well, that’s a pretty broad question. Look, I think there are some things that I would say we do, that I’ve done, let’s call it since I was at the Giants, and there are other things that we do differently this year than what we did last year or even last week. Some things stay the same, and some things either we’ve decided to change or maybe they’ve needed to be changed for one reason or another. I think the answer to all of those questions is yes. It would depend on the specific topic that we were discussing and also the time frame. Some things change gradually over time. Some things don’t change at all. Some things change significantly over a short period of time, so I don’t know if there’s any set formula. I do think there were certain things for me that would be pretty consistent every year. I think I would have a hard time changing some of those or eliminating them or replacing them with something that has always been very fundamental in my view – not that that makes it right, it’s just what I’m comfortable with. And then there’s other things that, yeah, like I said, we’ve changed, we’ve modified, maybe found a better way or discarded it because it’s not applicable or as applicable. It’s a broad question.
Q: How have Mick Lombardi and your offensive staff worked to improve Jarrett Stidham’s pocket presence in the face of some pressure, and how has he progressed in that area throughout camp?
BB: I think Jarrett’s pocket presence is good. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. Certainly, when you’re comparing him to the other two quarterbacks on our roster, guys who have played a lot of football in this league, it’s quite a gap in experience. I’m sure those are things that Jarrett will get better at. [It is] probably about what you would think it would be given the difference in experience that you’re comparing him to – to players in our offense running the same plays that he does. So, it’s hard to compare one quarterback in one system to a quarterback in a completely different system, but in our case we have three quarterbacks all in the same system. It’s an obvious comparison. He’s getting better. I think he does a good job, but there’s room for improvement, certainly.