HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
VIDEO PRESS CONFERENCE
November 12, 2021
On how Mac Jones has developed his fundamentals since entering the NFL:
BB: First of all, I think Mac came in with good fundamentals from high school and at Alabama with [Nick] Saban, but a lot of his mechanics, ball handling, things like that are pretty good. Like every player in every position, they can always be improved and refined a little bit. Again, his foundation is pretty good on that. You're right. There are so many little things when you handle the ball on every play. Even though you might give it to somebody in the running game, there are a lot of little things that go with that. Sometimes, things like just how good a quarterback is on handoffs or how good he is on getting the ball deep to the running back, sometimes that extra split second that the running back has because he gets the ball sooner or he gets it a little bit deeper is the difference in a cut that could result in yards, maybe multiple yards, or maybe a few yards, or a quicker cut at the line of scrimmage. A lot of people don't really see that. They just see the guy with the ball, but where he gets it, how he gets it, how clean that he gets it, and the quarterback being able to hold sometimes the defender on the backside of a play or make him hesitate for just a split second, things like that, on screen passes, being able to move a defender opposite of a screen, and give a little bit more space on a misdirection play, those are all little things, but they can make a huge, huge difference in the result of the play. You're right. They're very important. We harp on those fundamentals all the time. I hit them every week. Those little things can really add up. I think you see players like Tom [Brady] improve. As long as he played, he continued to work hard on those. We'd talk about them a lot. It's now the same thing with Cam [Newton] or Mac. All those little things, how really important they are in the success of the plays when the quarterback is not throwing the ball. Can't overemphasize the importance of them. They're little. A lot of them go unseen, but they really matter. I agree with Coach [Kevin] Stefanski on how young quarterbacks really can improve on that, especially where maybe their talent and their throwing, the passing of the ball was really the big thing for them. At this level, every little thing can make a difference.
On how his game plans have evolved over the years:
BB: It's evolved. I think if you want to go far enough, look at Sun Tzu. Look at the great generals, you exploit your strengths and attack weaknesses. That's about as fundamental as it gets. If there's something that you can do well, you want to try to do it. If there is something that your opponent is weak at, you want to try to attack it, and if you can match those up, then that's a good way of attack. Sometimes it's not as easy to get to the weaknesses as you would like because they do things to try to make it difficult for you to expose them in areas maybe that they're not as strong, whether that's schematically or personnel. Those both are, obviously, components there. The same thing with strengths. If you keep doing the same thing all the time, that makes it easier for them to stop it. If you can find a way to use your strengths without them really knowing exactly what you're doing, or you have some little bit of disguise or distraction to it, then, I think, fundamentally, that's really what you try to do. Be sound, play to your strengths and attack the opponent's weaknesses. Again, that's a much longer, detailed conversation, but at the heart of it, that's really where it starts for us every week. What do we need to stop, and what can we do, and then build it from there.
On Mick Lombardi's development and if Mick has any similarities to his father, Mike Lombardi:
BB: Mike's really had a big influence on my career. I learned so much from Mike working together with him in Cleveland. He taught me a lot about personnel. I tried to teach him what I knew about football as a coach. We merged a lot of ideas. Worked together. It was a tremendous relationship and learning experience. He had a huge impact when he came here on the 2014-15 team, and then, really, on the '16 team. He had a lot to do with the way that was put together and kind of got us over the hump there. Those years, being competitive in the early 2000s, I feel like the value he had, not just the years he was here, but even in subsequent years, and how much he helped me plan and grow as a coach and tried to help manage the team was great. Mick was here. I've known Mick literally since he was born in Cleveland and watched him develop as a person, as a coach, and followed him from college to the 49ers to the Jets and then here. He's been in here in personnel, in here in coaching, working in quality control, the receivers and the passing game. He has a great football background, both in personnel and in coaching, which is extremely valuable, similar to Josh [McDaniels]. He started in personnel from defense to offense. Mick has a great breadth of knowledge and is very detailed. He does a great job with individual, fundamental instructions, as well as overall understanding schemes and personnel, talent evaluation and matchups of receivers against defensive backs, as well as patterns against coverages and all that. Young coach who really has a lot on the ball. Good energy every day. Does a really good job for me.
On Josh McDaniels:
BB: I think Josh does a great job in really every area. I don't think he really has any weaknesses as a coach. He understands what every player is doing on the field on offense and defense. He has a great vision for how to utilize the skills of the players on his side of the ball and how to try to attack the weaknesses, whether it be personnel weaknesses or schematic weaknesses, or how to try to force the opponent into a situation that he's able to take advantage of. He's an excellent play-caller. Timing, setting up sequences of plays. Not necessarily one after the other, but maybe it's by a situation or building it off something earlier in the game that he knows the opponent is going to be over there talking about. That's kind of what he wants to do is talk about that because the next play is going to complement that or the next time that situation comes up. Josh is creative. He's a very forward thinker. He's got great poise during the game, never gets rattled, never loses the situation, loses track of the situation. He's always a play or two ahead, and then, if it changes and it doesn't follow that sequence, he can adapt to it pretty quickly. I can't even tell you how many times I've gone to Josh and said, "Hey, Josh. What do you think about this?" Or, "I think we should think about that," and he said, "Yeah. We just talked about that. That's what we're going to do." I'd say I have tremendous confidence in all the things that he does, but it's really been amazing to me how many times, well, again, it's happened in reverse a few times where he's like, "Hey, Coach. We're going to change this. We're going to do this," and it was maybe a minute or two before I was about to go over to him and say, "Hey, Josh. What do you think about this or that?" He's already a step ahead of me on that. Again, it's kind of like [Nick] Saban when we were in Cleveland. Nick knew what every player on the field was doing. He knew what the guard keys were. He knew what the running back was keying. He knew what the nose guard was doing. He knew what everybody on the field was doing, and Josh is kind of the same way. He knows what all 11 guys are doing on offense, what their keys are, what their adjustments are and all that, and he knows, defensively, how the guys are taught to play certain blocks or routes or reads and how to attack them. I've learned a lot from Josh. I really have. He really excels in every area. I don't think it's any one thing; play calling, fundamentals, strategy. It's really all of them.
On whether an NFL quarterback's mental or physical ability is more important to his development:
BB: It's hard for me to comment on a player that I'm not coaching. What's involved in a situation outside of here and the player, where he is, what he's coached, what he's being told to do, the circumstances around that team, his life, the job, it's really hard to make an intelligent comment on that. I just don't have enough information. For me, I try to evaluate the players that we have, do the best job that we can with them, and there's a lot that goes into every position. Certainly, the quarterback position, between the protections, the running game, the execution of the passing game, the reads that go with it, the amount of different defenses that they see on a weekly basis, and then, when you accumulate those over an entire season, the zones, the blitz zones, the man combinations, the linebackers, the blitz, the linebackers that blitz when their guy blocks, which isn't really a blitz, but it is a blitz, the different man-zone combinations, the disguises that go with them, and then these teams that only have one or two defensive linemen on the field, so you're looking at nine guys in coverage instead of seven, which guys are rushing, which guys are the coverage players. It gets pretty complex. I think, honestly, a good player learns something every day, learns something almost really on every play, and they process that, and, eventually, those things come back. Not that we all don't make mistakes, and every quarterback has thrown an interception, and every quarterback has had a bad throw, but you minimize them, you learn from them, and when you see things again, you react just a split second faster the next time. Again, at that position, especially in the passing game, those guys have got to make, not only decisions, but accurate judgments and throws in less than two seconds. That's a lot to process in a short amount of time. Coaching, preparation, recognition, anticipation, experience. That all plays a part in it. What happens to some guys and what happens to others is hard for me to say. I do think there's an element of, sometimes, you can give a player too much too fast, and then I'm not sure how easy it is for them to recover. I think finding the right time and the right, let's call it schedule, depending on the player, the situation, the team and so forth, that's probably one of the hardest parts of coaching that position. From going back to, whether it was Tom [Brady] to Rohan [Davey] to Kliff [Kingsbury], Jacoby [Brissett], and Jimmy [Garoppolo], and Matt [Cassel], and Cam [Newton], who was a more experienced player, but coming into a system there's a process with any new player at that position, starter or backup, because backups are one play away from being your starter. They're part of it too. It's just figuring out the right track to put them on, the right timing. They all see it a little bit differently. They all are a little bit more comfortable with one thing than another thing. How much of it is the same? How much of it varies? You don't want to change the other 10 guys that are out there. There's a touch and a feel to it as well. I don't think anybody does it better than Josh [McDaniels] does. Josh has a great management and style for that. There's a lot to all that. No doubt. You can go on and on, but you're right on the money there.
On Trent Brown:
BB: Trent's all-in every day. He does what we ask him to do. He's been a little bit limited at times, but he's tried not to let that effect what he can do, and he continues to work on things that he can do. Sometimes, it's limited, but he's made good progress. We'll just take it day-by-day here, see where we are today, evaluate his week, and we'll go from there.
On if he expects Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson to practice today:
BB: I'd say they're in the day-to-day category too, so just kind of see how things went this morning and get them to warm up out there and see how it goes. See exactly what their situation is. That's pretty common. That's the way it is with a lot of players, really. Until they actually get warmed up, get ready to go, get into the process, a lot of times they don't know exactly how that's going to feel either. You just have to play it by year.
On the benefits of having a fullback in his offense and how the position has evolved over the years:
BB: I think it's been about the same the last 10 or so years. I think it was before that where you started to see the real transformation. What it was when I first came here with [Patrick] Pass and Marc Edwards, guys like that, it was a little bit different, but the fundamental difference with the second back in the backfield or the fullback in the backfield is you can create an extra gap on either side of the ball. When your guys are on the line of scrimmage in 12 personnel, you can do that. It's harder, and you have fewer options. If you bring a guy from one side of the ball back to the other side of the ball, there's only so much you can do there, a couple things, but that's really about it, and he's coming from pretty far away, so there's an element of timing there too. With a fullback in the backfield, he can go to either side of the ball. He can get there pretty quickly. You have more combinations and more blocking schemes or more ways to attack the defense and build that extra gap. That's the fundamental difference. What you do from there and what the fullback's skills are and so forth. It's kind of the same thing in the passing game. It's hard to get a tight end out to the other side of the formation that he's lined up. You can do it on a misdirection bootleg play, but that's really about it, whereas when they fullback is in the backfield, you have the ability to release him either way and get him out of either side of the pass pattern relatively quickly, which, again, for the defense, it creates potential overloads, but they don't declare as early. They have it quickly after the snap, whereas most of the one-back sets, any of those overloads, you can see them before the ball is snapped. You can just count the numbers; three-by-one or four-by-one if the backs offset to that side. That type of thing. In simple terms, that's really what the fullback does.