PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
November 29, 2023
BB: Top of the morning. Alright, getting ready to go on the Chargers, pretty talented football team, been in a lot of close games, really competitive with everybody. They have quite a few explosive players that we've got to deal with here. In the kicking game, [Derius] Davis has done a really good job for them in the return game. He's been very explosive, had the big return against the Jets. But, they use him on offense, too. He's a hard guy to handle. [Cameron] Dicker's obviously kicked very, very well. So, strong on special teams. Offensively, [Justin] Herbert can do everything you need a quarterback to do. He's very athletic, can make all the throws. Keenan [Allen], as good as he's been, which has been great, he's having his best year, which is pretty scary. He's a very difficult player to cover, very strong, great hands, instincts, hard guy to tackle. Obviously, Herbert's got a lot of confidence in him. [Austin] Ekeler, another explosive player, and they've got a good group of skill guys with [Gerald] Everett and [Quentin] Johnston, and so forth. So, a well-balanced offense that's been productive. Defensively, they've got several guys up front even with [Joey] Bosa out, with [Khalil] Mack and Tuli [Tuipulotu], and guys like that who are really disruptive, can make game-changing plays with strip sacks. They hit the quarterback a lot in passing situations, third and fourth down in particular. Two minute – when they need to rush, they can rush. So, [Derwin] James [Jr.] and Mack are two guys who can really ruin the game. They've ruined plenty of games, so got to do a good job on them. New offense, or a little bit of a new offense I guess with Coach [Kellen] Moore, Herbert's had a lot of production with it – spreads the ball around a lot, besides Allen, but Allen obviously is the go-to guy. But, after that, they give a lot of touches to the other receivers, the tight ends, the backs, and it creates some explosive plays. Herbert creates some plays on his own when there really isn't anything there. He pulls something out with a scramble or an extended play, or throwing into tight coverage that there aren't too many guys who can get in there, but he can. So, good opportunity for us this week, and a team that we kind of know a little bit about but need to re-familiarize ourselves with here in the next few days.
Q: With Chad Ryland, do you plan to stick with him?
BB: He's on the roster, yeah.
Q: Do you intend to maybe bring in another kicker?
BB: We worked some guys out. We usually do that anyway, this time of year. Look, the guys that are here need to be ready to go. That's what everybody's job is.
Q: With the open practice squad spot, have you thought on maybe adding a kicker there just to have a second one?
BB: We're going to fill those spots up today.
Q: How do you envision the quarterback depth chart shaping up this week?
BB: Yeah, I'm not going to make any announcements on our lineup at any position. So, it doesn't matter what the position is. We'll see how practice goes, see if everybody is ready to go. Hopefully everybody is ready to go, see what the injury situation is, and we'll go with who we think is best on Sunday.
Q: So, even with the way things went last week against the Giants, you're going to do the same thing again this week?
BB: Yeah, I didn't say that. I said I'm not going to announce anything.
Q: What about to the team?
BB: Again, everybody's got their own job to do. Hopefully, that's what they're focused on, not what everybody else is doing. That's what we all need to do, is focus on what our job is and do the best we can at it. Don't worry about what everybody else is doing. That would help all of us.
Q: When we asked you about Mac Jones after he was benched against Dallas and New Orleans heading into Raiders week, you said 'yeah, we're not making any changes'. What makes you take a different approach the last few weeks when we ask about the starting quarterback?
BB: Yeah, because we'll see how it goes. I'm not prepared to make any announcement, so I'm not going to do that.
Q: How do you feel like Mac Jones has been performing?
BB: Well, we haven't won enough games. So, I don't think anybody has performed well enough. We all need to do a better job.
Q: Do you personally have a plan for quarterback this Sunday, or will practice determine that this week?
BB: We'll see how it goes.
Q: What does Bailey Zappe have to show you to earn a start?
BB: Look, every player, whatever opportunities they have, need to do the best with them that they can –practice, games, even in meetings and other preparation opportunities. So, that's what a player can do – be prepared, do the best he can, and that's what each guy will have an opportunity to do somewhere along the line over the course of a long season. A lot of times it's multiple times in a day. Sometimes, for some players, the opportunities are a little bit different. But, when those opportunities come, that's what players need to do. That's what they've been told, and they know and understand that, and I think they're doing the best they can. We'll see how it goes.
Q: On Mac, is it something you're seeing mechanically? Is it something emotionally that can be fixed? What is the best way to handle that?
BB: Again, I think we've talked to all of the players about things that they need to do. We've been doing that all year. We took more time to do that in the bye week. Each player has certain things that we feel like they can focus on to improve, and they're working on those.
Q: With a player like Mac, is he seeking help to sort of get better in any specific way?
BB: Every player's trying to improve, absolutely. Every player on our team is trying to improve. I don't not see that from anybody, they're all trying to improve. What can I do better? Work on it, whether it's practice, meetings, fundamentals, communication, whatever it is. So, we'll keep doing that.
Q: What does it mean to have Army/Navy in the building, and the fact that they're playing up here this year, the significance of the game?
BB: Look, obviously it's a huge game, I'm heavily invested in the Naval Academy. But, let's deal with that next week.
Q: Was it always your intention to bring Will Grier back to the practice squad?
BB: Well, we didn't have total control over that. He could have been claimed by another team.
Q: So, was the thought that..
BB: So, once he wasn't claimed by another team, we re-opened the discussion. But, we didn't control that.
Q: Could you envision him getting a few more snaps with the regulars, offensively?
BB: All the players that are on the practice squad are, unless they've used all their practice squad elevations, are eligible to be practice squad elevated. Other players could be signed to the roster, like we did with Conor [McDermott] last week, who was out of elevations. So, if they're on the practice squad they're eligible and are preparing. They should be ready to play and potentially are ready to play. That includes everybody.
Q: Bill, Malik Cunningham said last week that he hasn't taken regular quarterback reps since week 6. I'm curious as to why you guys changed him back to wide receiver or took some of those opportunities away?
BB: We didn't move him back anywhere. He's been playing wide receiver all year. He's also played some at quarterback.
Q: Well then why did you have him stop practicing at quarterback?
BB: Well, there are other players practicing at quarterback, as well. He's not the only guy out there. It depends a little bit on the offense that we're seeing. So, if we are seeing offenses run plays that he's very good at running, teams like Philadelphia, the first Miami game, then you know, he gets, I mean they're practice squad reps but they're also reps on things that he does. So, he's kind of a unique player. Things aren't so straight-lined with him. He's different than probably every other player that we have on the team. So, he's handled a little differently.
Q: Bill, we've seen you bench players and demote players for performance all the time, a fumble, not getting your feet in bounds and what have you. Mac Jones has now been benched four times for performance, but he still gets opportunities and keeps getting his starting job back. What makes him different than everybody else on the team?
BB: Every situation is different. So, I don't really know exactly what you're referring to, but it doesn't really matter. We're going to do whatever is best for the team based on the individual situation.
Q: Players make mistakes, obviously, but when a kicker makes a mistake – obviously Chad Ryland said everything was good with his kick, he just missed it. Do you handle kickers a little bit differently in terms of keeping their confidence up and getting them into a position where they're confident in every kick they go out there to make?
BB; Look, confidence is something that comes internally, and it comes when you have success. So, you can talk about it all you want, and there's maybe some merit to that. But, in the end, you get confidence when you do something successfully, and then you're confident you can repeat that success. Whether that's in games, that's in practice, there are ways to try to construct that, but in the end, execution is the only way you have any genuine confidence. It could be fake confidence, but genuine confidence comes from real performance under pressure, and that's true of every position.