PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
December 29, 2023
Q: Marco Wilson, what did you remember about seeing him when you guys prepared to play the Cardinals last year, and what does he have going for him?
BB: Yeah, Marco had a good career at Florida, good size, runs well. Experienced.
Q: You've had Nathan Rouke now for a few weeks, what have you learned about him in the time you've been working with him?
BB: Good. Attentive, smart kid, works hard, gets here early, stays late. He's done a good job on things we've asked him to do, hasn't had a lot of reps, really, in our offense, but he's had some. Been a good guy to work with, no issues.
Q: I know it's not surprising given his track record over 16 years, but a lot of guys, including Chad Ryland, talked about Matthew's Slater's effect on them during the game on Sunday night in Denver. We've got a couple weeks left in the season, and who knows what lies ahead of his future. But, when you think back to the spring in 2008, I guess you couldn't envision the kind of impact he could possibly have, but were there any clues, any insights to the kind of extraordinary person this was, on and off the field?
BB: I don't think there's any question about that. You know, coming out of UCLA, all the character recommendations were the very highest. But, he's had a tremendous career, made a lot of improvement, He identified the things he needed to work on, figured out what his role was and worked very hard to maximize his role. He's done, obviously, very, very well with it, all of the Pro Bowls and recognition that's so well deserved. Personally, what he brings to the team off the field – leadership, work ethic, guidance, motivation, et cetera – is very unique and extraordinary, the very top.
Q: What's allowed DeMario Douglas to have the production he's had?
BB: Taking advantage of his opportunities. He's certainly earned a lot of them. We've also been banged up a receiver. A couple of guys that have had a lot of experience and had a lot of production for us. [Kenrick Bourne] KB, JuJu [Smith-Schuster] last week wasn't out there. That's also provided more opportunities for him as well. He's a smart kid. Can do multiple things, play multiple positions. He picks up the game plan and has good instincts. I think the quarterback gained a lot of confidence in him early because he knows how to get open and does the right thing on the routes that they expect him to do. For the most part, there's some experience and timing issues, but he does a good job of that and just his natural receiver instincts. Which all quarterbacks love.
Q: Coach, talk a little about what you've seen in terms of a difference between where Buffalo was under [Ken] Dorsey a few weeks ago when you played them to where they are now under [Joe] Brady. Have you guys notice in your preparation any difference in their scheme or are they still running what they have been running with some tweaks?
BB: Yeah, I think I covered that on Wednesday. No changes. There's definitely some differences. But, they're subtle. I think as time goes on, more will be declared. It's basically the same offense. I think there have been some changes in the way Brady's called the game and some of the things he's done, it looks like game-planning wise. There's not a ton of evidence here. We'll prepare for what we've seen. Whatever they decide to do, they decide to do. We can't control that.
Q: Bill, at this point in your career, how important is coaching and managing personalities as well as skill sets? We know how well you manage skill sets, but also each individual's personality.
BB: It's always been important. It's part of every team. I learned that in my first year of coaching and certainly it held true all my time as a coordinator and as head coach. I've gone back to the Giants, Cleveland my time here. It's a people business. You're working with a lot of people, coaches, players. Sometimes their roles change. Sometimes their situation changes. We all get older. We all hopefully mature a little bit along the way. Especially working with younger players. Where they are at 21 or 22 and where they are at 30 to maybe 35. There's a lot of difference there, too. Like there is for all of us as we go through those stages. Yeah, that's all apart of it.
Q: With the Rose Bowl coming up, have you noticed any increased trash talk in the locker room between the Alabama and Michigan guys?
BB: Not too much, but I'm sure it will be there.
Q: Who do you think is the worst trash-talker? Can you think of anyone?
BB: It will depend on what the results are. There's before the game and then there's after the game. It'll be an interesting weekend. We had a big win for Jedd [Fisch] (Head Coach of the University of Arizona) last night. I'm happy for him. He's done a tremendous job down there. In every game. What? Lost three games with eight points? They'll probably be a top-ten team. It's unbelievable. The program he took over. I forget how many straight they lost. I can't keep track. Pac-12 games. Guys never won a game. It's unbelievable. What a year they've had. He's done a great job.
Q: Rodney Harrison was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame this week. I was wondering, what did he bring to the team when he was here? I know you've spoken on him a lot.
BB: Everything. Best safety I've coached. There's a couple other ones I've coached that are in the Hall of Fame. Fantastic player, person and great competitor. Could do it all. One of the most versatile players I've ever coached. He could cover. He really could play corner. He was a great blitzer. A great tackler. He was really hard to block in the running game, as a blitzer and on kickoff coverage. Very explosive. Two-hundred twenty pounds, whatever he was. He was a thumper. He was a contact player. Ran well. Very instinctive. He did a great job of disguising coverages. Worked well with his teammates, you know, with Eugene [Wilson II] and some of the different safeties we had back there through his career. He's just a heck of a football player. He's one of the best I've ever coached. I mean, he'd certainly be on my all-time team without question. Behind [Lawrence] Taylor, but he'd certainly be right up there. A tremendous player. Great practice player, too. Made everybody else on the team better. If you practiced against him, you got better or you got embarrassed, one of the two. He brought a level of competitiveness, intensity, focus. Brought a higher level of practice to the team, which helped everybody. There's a lot of things that don't show up in the stats or anything like that. Tremendous respect for what he did as a player. What he brought to our team. How much he meant to our team. What we lost when we lost him. We lost a great, great player. Monday through Monday. It wasn't just on Sunday. What he brought to the team every day of the week. Every day he walked into the building. Every time he stepped on the field. Was all positive and impressive. Certainly, I hope he gets recognized, I think he definitely deserves it. This guy's a great football player. Great teammate.
Q: Do you have the rest of that all-time team you want to see?
BB: Someday, but not right now. Taylor will be on it and Harrison will be on it. So would [Tom] Brady and [Rob] Gronkowski.
Q: Are you putting Slater on that list as well?
BB: I think Slater is eventually going to be a Hall of Fame candidate. As a coverage player, not as a specialist. For what he is, he's not a returner. So, he's in a very unique category. One that I don't think is represented in the Hall of Fame, but based on what he did during his career, the length of time he did it, and the level he's done it at. Again, since there's no criteria for the Hall of Fame, there's no criteria. But I would say this guy has been as productive as anybody has ever been at his position throughout his entire career, which is very lengthy. I think he's the best that's ever done what he's done, whether that's Hall of Fame worthy or not, that's a different subject that I don't have a say in. I can't imagine putting anybody in there ahead of him at that position.
Q: Do you see him as exclusive of [Steve] Tasker? Because I've heard some Hall of Fame selectors say that Tasker would have to go in first before Slater.
BB: I think Slater's done more than Tasker. I respect Tasker, but I honestly don't think he's done more. I'm sure some people disagree with that, but those two would be at that position.
Q: A lot of guys opt out of bowl games today. Is there a missed opportunity there? Do you guys show you something? Does it mean anything when you see a player excel in a game like that, versus maybe an intersectional opponent, big time opponent?
BB: I'm not really going to comment on that. I'm not a college coach. I know there's a lot of factors that go into those things. I try to coach the team I'm coaching, and do as good of a job as I can doing that. But, while we're at it, good win for BC, a really good win for [Greg] Schiano – great job with Rutgers, bowl win. First time in, whatever it was, 10 years? Greg has done a great job there. There's another team that had pretty little success when he took over, kind of like when Jedd went to Arizona. Coach Schiano has done a great job, really happy for him. He looked good holding that trophy up there.
Q: Over the last few weeks, I've talked to some players in the locker room and asked them why they feel the locker room is so united around each other. They've given me some interesting answers. The best answer I've gotten is 'It's a family environment in there'. I want to know, what's your role in curating that family environment?
BB: It's team building, kind of what we've always done. We're all – coaches, staff, players – we're all here together working towards a common goal, and try to respect and work with each other.