BB: Alright, well it's been a while since we've been together. Hope everyone's doing well and nice to see a lot of familiar faces here. As usual, from the end of last season until mid-April here, we've had a number of changes here in our organization here. It's been a good process to continue to work and develop our team for 2021. The draft process has been a little bit different this year than it was last year. This year we didn't have the Indianapolis combine but we did have some opportunities on pro days so that made it a little bit different, but in the end we've accumulated a lot of information. Matt [Patricia] has rejoined us and has been heavily involved in the process. Dave Ziegler, Eliot Wolf and Matt Groh have really carried the ball on this. They've done a ton of work and their respective staffs that they oversee as well. In particular, those three guys have really done a tremendous amount work, evaluation, organization and have done a great job putting things together. It's been great to spend a lot of time with them and go through the process. We will try to be as well-prepared as we possibly can heading into draft weekend and then see what our opportunities are and do the best we can to improve the team like we always do, same goal as every year. Nothing's changed there but the process this year is in some respects similar to last year and in some respects different, like I said. Always an exciting time of year to see new people come on your team and for us to take another step in the team-building process. We still obviously have a long way to go but it's another step, and we'll try to do the best we can to take advantage of our opportunities. So, that's where we are here in mid-April.
Q: After looking at the quarterback position over the last two decades, why does it seem like the pocket passer is sort of losing its luster? Or maybe not as important as it used to be?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. I think every team has their own style of play, their own type of offense. So, you're looking for a player that will fit your style or maybe you want to adapt your style to that player. I think that's really the way it is when you draft almost any player. If you have a player that has a certain skill set that's an impact player no matter what position he plays, you probably want to try to accommodate and play to his strengths, utilize his skills the best you can, no matter what position it is. Honestly, I'm not that concerned what the general trends and all that are. Just trying to help our team and find the best methods we can to make our team as competitive as we can, whatever that entails, and there's certainly a lot of chapters in that book, a lot of different ways to do it. Yeah, ultimately I think you want to enhance the skills of your players no matter what position they play.
Q: So would you say you are more open to one guy at quarterback vs. one style vs. another style in terms of where you're going with the future of this team?
BB: Whatever the players are at whatever position you're talking about, that if you want to enhance their skills, then you want to adapt a little bit of what your scheme is to do that. That's really the decision you have to make. We've had a couple different styles of player at that position, and we try to do that in those examples.
Q: Can you touch on Julian Edelman, his retirement recently, and what he has meant to you and this team over the last 12 seasons?
BB: Yeah, well Julian's been one of the players that's probably come further than most every other player that I've coached and his development from a quarterback in college to a receiver, a punt returner and even a defensive player, all positions that he never played, I'd certainly take sail as a punt returner as a receiver, for a number of years at those very difficult positions as quite an accomplishment, especially considering he wasn't trained to do those things in college. His toughness, his competitiveness, his play-making ability certainly is a big, big part of the backbone of our team. I have a ton of respect for Julian and what he accomplished in his career, how hard he worked to accomplish it and a great appreciation for all he's done for me personally and our organization.
Q: Robert Kraft said that he didn't feel like the team had done the greatest job in the draft the last couple years and has seen a new approach this year. What are some of the things you have tried to do differently this year?
BB: Yeah well, we're always looking to get better, always try to evaluate everything we do and find a better way to do it. That's not necessarily an annual process with the draft, but something we do on a regular basis throughout the course of the season, whether it's whatever period of time it is. Always looking to do a better job. There are some things that last year that were unique to the draft process. As I mentioned, some of those are similar this year, some are different. We certainly use some of that experience to improve the process this year, at least we felt like we improved it this year. But ultimately, we're still going to try to evaluate the players and make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team. We will continue to do that, and that's really what we've always tried to do. I don't think the mission's changed.
Q: On the draft process: the college football season was strange in 2020. What's it like watching film from last year. Do you find the film to be as useful as previous years?
BB: No, I think that's a really good question. I think it depends on the team that you're talking about and the circumstances they played in. It could also be the individual player that you're evaluating, so I think that question has some twists and turns to it. It has an application with its variants dependent on player, conference and the circumstances that surround that team or individual player. In some respects the 2019 film is probably better, more of an apples to apples comparison of where players were but the same time we know that players get better with another year of experience, so there were a lot of players that improved from '19 to '20 as they would normally do, and then there were a lot of circumstances surrounding the '20 season. It made the evaluation a little bit different and just have to figure out what a player will be able to do do your team, what his role will be and what the rate of development or the process will be when you get him on your team. It's maybe a little bit less information than we normally have but all teams are working with the same general information. Each team is going to have to make its own decision on that but yeah, the evaluation's definitely different, Ben [Volin]. We've had a lot of conversations about it. As I said, it's not the same for all players by any means.
Q: Based on what you guys did this offseason – the way you spent on offense – is that an indication you feel like what you surrounded Cam Newton with last year wasn't enough to highlight what Cam brought to the table?
BB: Well again, the process this offseason was to, as it always is, to try to improve the team and do everything we can to make ourselves as competitive as we can this year, which is what we try to do every year. We had several years in free agency where we were one of the least cash spending teams in the league and then this year that changed and balanced it off. That's really what you have in the NFL – teams that don't spend then spend and teams spend and then there are years when they don't spend. It averages out over a period of time and that's part of the averaging process came this year. But ultimately, we're trying to do what we can to improve the team like we do every year and that's what we're going to continue to do as we work through the draft process and other team-building opportunities that may or may not come along during the season but I'm sure there will be others somewhere along the line. We will evaluate those when they present themselves.
Q: You haven't selected this high in the draft since 2008. When you're selecting a player there, does the off-field make-up and how a player would fit into the locker room incorporate itself into the decision? How hard is it to make that evaluation when you're not spending as much time with the players and is there a scale?
BB: Yeah well, those are all good questions and they're all things we talk about and consider. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what round you take the player in. Once he walks in the door, he's a New England Patriot player. He puts on the uniform and goes out there and competes. It doesn't matter if he's in the second round or fifth round. That doesn't matter once he's on your team. So, whatever his positives and negatives are, whatever he brings to the table, whatever weaknesses you think he might have or all the other things you brought up, whatever those things are or aren't, they're the same no matter where that individual player gets selected. Ultimately you want to maximize the value of the picks, but the player is the player. Whatever his strengths and weaknesses are, that's what they are and you try to put a value on that. You try to figure out what that player will do for your team when he's on your team. What his role will be, what his level of performance will be. That's part of the process that you use to select him. It's important with every pick. It doesn't matter what number it is or what round it is. It's kind of each pick is its own process, the level of talent of the player certainly changes as you go through the rounds of the draft but I'd say from a process standpoint, it's pretty much the same. If you get into a later round you might want to take a shot on a player, a Julian Edelman-player that's maybe, you know there's some development in that player because he's going to play a position he hasn't played before or whatever the circumstances happen to be. But, as far as the other parts of it – the work ethic and the aptitude and character and so forth, commitment to football and that type of thing – those are part of every conversation and every draft pick.
Q: We've seen the staggering prices teams have paid for quarterbacks this offseason. Would you be willing to, based on your draft grades, 'overdraft' a quarterback you liked if you waited for the point where his grade in your draft position were more closely aligned?
BB: I think that question really applies to every position on the board. There are players that, if you grade them on what they've done or what their production has been over the course of their career, you're not going to get that player if you see the player's upside and development and growth and you pay a much higher price for the player than what his production shows because you feel that in time, or experience or different system or whatever the combination of reasons are, that the player will perform above what his production was in college. Could be injury-related, could be, as I said, scheme-related, could be, just the physical development of the player. Those are always things that you talk about. You're obviously betting on the come there, you're betting on the player's development vs. what you might actually see from another player, but in some cases the upside might be greater and the downside might be greater, too. But at some point you decide to make that investment and then we all see how the player turns out. But that's fairly common at every position. There are always players at every spot that fall into that category that you feel like you're going to have to draft higher than what they've done. But if you're willing to do that and get the player, then you draft him at a higher spot and hope his production eventually reflects the potential that you saw.
Q: I'm curious about the in-game adjustments during the draft. How much do you try to forecast what teams ahead of you in the draft will try to do? Or do you sit back at No. 15 and at that moment make a decision?
BB: I think that it, again, each draft is a little bit different, so each year's a little different. But all that being said, I think at 15 we can eliminate a few players that won't be at 15. And then you could look at couple scenarios and say, 'Well, if these three players are there, which one would we take? If these other three different players are there, which one would you take?' You go through that exercise and talk about that but I'd say normally, something, there's less options at 15 than there are at 28, 30, 31, some other spots we've drafted from, but I'd say normally something would happen and there could very well be a player there that either you don't expect to be there or maybe he is a couple spots, maybe at 12, 13, he's still on the board and you really thought that he'd be gone in the top six, seven picks. Then the question comes, do you move up and try to get that player that's fallen a little bit? Those are kind of the scenarios you got through. Which players would you move up for to get? Which players would you not move up for that you would wait and decide whether you want to pick them at the spot you're at and what players, if certain players weren't there and you felt the value of that pick might be the same whether you're at 15 or a lower position… again, it's the same thing in every round but you're talking about the first round. You feel like you're going to get the same quality of player or maybe the player that you like for whatever reason you think would be available at 20, then maybe you trade back to 20 and take him there or take that value at 20 rather than taking it at 15. Again, I'm just picking numbers here out of the hat but the concept, that's really what it is. Who do you move up for? Who do you take if you stay and what players are on the board? If players are on the board that you feel like don't add a lot of value or maybe they're not the kind of fit for your team that you're looking for in that particular situation, then maybe you say, 'OK maybe we consider moving back.' Now you can only move back if somebody else wants to move up so ultimately you have to be ready to pick but sometimes… there's certainly been many of times where we felt like we were able to get the same player or comparable value at a lower point in the draft so we moved backwards. So again, really all that is to say, I think the best thing we can do is do our homework, know the players, know the board and when we walk into the room for the final exam and see the questions on the test when it comes our turn to pick or maybe spots in front of our pick, then we have to potentially start making some decisions. Sometimes people will come to you with opportunities that you may not have anticipated and you have to make those decisions then, as to whether or not you would want to move your selection pick up or down, depending on what the offer is and so forth. So, a lot of its fluid but there are certainly those scenarios that are worth going through as exercises to think about and to kind of prepare, I'd say, more often than not, the ones that you go through don't happen. It's usually something a little bit different. But, you never know. Again, it's a good exercise.
Q: You've been doing this a long time now and given us an assessment pretty much every year. How would you characterize this year's quarterback class?
BB: As always, there are some interesting players. I think we talked earlier about the draft process. Some players didn't play. Some players played a full season. Some players played a partial season. When you look at the players at that position, I think you see a lot of differences in the 2020 season. A lot of it's by conference but there are some other circumstances as well. It's an interesting class. It's an interesting group of guys. Some are very strong in some skills. Some seem very strong in other skills. It's definitely an interesting group.