Bill Belichick Q&A, 9/7

Posted on September 7, 2007 
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Thanks to the fine folks at the Patriots’ PR department, here’s the complete transcript of Head Coach Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:

BB: Well, we’re closing in on it. I think everybody is looking forward to getting the season started. I’m sure there are plenty of people in this room [who are] in the same boat, tired of writing about this preseason stuff. I think the team is excited and is looking forward to the challenge ahead. We had a decent week of practice. The Jets are always hard to get ready for. We’re doing the best we can. I think we’re excited to be ready to go down there and play.

Q: When you watch a team on tape, what certain things can you look for and say, ‘This is a well coached team?’
BB: The adjustments that they make. How well their players, as a group, play fundamentally. How well they handle situations – down and distance, time, things like that. It’s not so much about the play. A lot of that is just having the right distribution, doing the right thing and doing the right thing in a situation when the quarterback scrambles, when stuff happens, screen passes, misdirection deceptive plays, things like that. How the defense plays them. How well the offense executes them. How often they have obvious miscommunications where something is wrong. You don’t know exactly what it is, but you know something is fouled up versus the defense gives the offense a bunch of different looks, different situations and they can handle it. Obviously, they’re doing a lot of things right.

Q: Is that an area where the Jets got better over the course of last year from game one to when they played you guys here?
BB: I think the Jets improved statistically and their record improved a lot in the second half of the season. I think it was a combination of a lot of things – playing better, executing better, building on their system, having more things at their disposal. In the end, it comes down to being able to execute and do what you need to do. That’s what any good team is about, is players that can go out there and do it. They certainly did it in the second half of the season.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve gotten everything together since the start of training camp to now that you wanted to get done in that time?
BB: We try to take it day-to-day. There are certain things that you have to get done, certain situations you have to cover and things like that. We just take it day-to-day and things that aren’t looking as good, we spend more time on and try to correct them or maybe even throw them out. Sometimes we adjust what we do and put in something new or build on something that we feel like is going better and can be a strong point for us. I don’t think you could sit there at the beginning of training camp and say, ‘Well this is exactly where we’re going to be in September.’ There are a lot of variables between the time you start training camp and the time you open the season and along the way, you’re just trying to do the best thing that you can for the team and everybody involved. Players are at different stages of their preparation. Some guys have never played before. Some guys have played a lot. Some guys have worked together with each other before, some guys haven’t. There are just so many variables. I think you just try to do what is best for your team and do that on a day-to-day basis.

Q: Did you ever try to quantify that, ‘I want to do this, this and that?’
BB: I think that’s true of certain things. You want to say, ‘Okay, we want to get good at this. We want to get good at that. We want to get good at something else,’ and so you commit more time to it until you feel like your players know how to do it and know how to adjust it when the different scenarios happen. You can’t put that kind of emphasis on everything; well I guess you could if you only had just four or five things. There’s something to be said for that. There are other things that you’re probably not quite as good at as some other things. You work harder on those plays, or maybe you cut them down, or, like I said, maybe you throw them out and you decide what you’re really good at, what you have confidence in, what can you run and those are probably the things that you’re going to call the most.

Q: Has Asante [Samuel] caught up physically?
BB: Do I think in one week he’s where other players are after six weeks? No. I think that would be totally unrealistic.

Q: If you do decide to activate him, when does that decision have to be made?
BB: The last time you can make any personnel decisions on a Sunday game is Saturday at four o’clock. Depending on when the game is, like if you play Monday night, then it’s a different timeframe. If you play Saturday, if you play Thursday, so the timeframe is all worked around the game time.

Q: So technically he’s inactive right now?
BB: No, technically he has an exemption from the Commissioner.

Q: How has Ellis Hobbs’ progress been since he came here?
BB: Good. Ellis works hard. He works hard. He a well conditioned athlete. He prepares hard. He practices hard. He’s out there all the time. He doesn’t miss very much. He’s missed very little time since he’s been here. That’s part of the formula of getting better, is being out there, being able to work on what you do and correct your mistakes and improve from it and be able to different things. He’s gained quite a bit. This will be his third year. Techniques. Understanding. Disguises. Things like that. Experience against different types of receivers.

Q: Do you think he gained anything at all last year being limited by the wrist, not being able to use his hands?
BB: Nothing that would just jump out at me. Maybe if you asked him, he might have a different perspective on it, but I wouldn’t say so.

Q: Do you think you learned something about him and how he handled it?
BB: Absolutely. I think he showed how competitive he is. He has a lot of physical toughness and competitiveness. We’ve seen that, but that was a good example of it. He certainly displayed it. He was back out there in a hurry and played through and played well. No, absolutely, I thought he handed that situation very maturely, very professionally, with very little drop off in his performance. He didn’t have use of the hand, or limited use of it, but it didn’t affect the other things that he could do.

Q: Have you had any communication with Eric Mangini since last year?
BB: I’ve just been really focused on coaching our football team. I’ll just save all the personal situations – players and otherwise, for another time.

Q: You mentioned the ability to adjust earlier. How important was that for the Jets coaching staff?
BB: I think it’s important for every coaching staff. That’s the NFL. Things are different on Sundays than they are during the week or than they were last Sunday. It’s important for every team.

Q: Do you think it was a strength of theirs?
BB: I think the Jets are well coached. I think they do a good job.

Q: What have you seen out of [James] Sanders this week, especially with Rodney [Harrison] not being here?
BB: James has gotten a lot of playing time for us the entire preseason. He’s been out there everyday. James works hard. He’s a very diligent kid. He’s prepared well like he always does. He had an opportunity to do that a lot last year and he did a good job of it. He’s doing the same thing this year.

Q: Did you catch any of the game last night?
BB: Not much.

Q: At the gala, Junior [Seau] talked about the culture that this team has and how impressed he was by it. Does that make it easier every year as a coach for that to be more embedded here and to have that core group of veterans where it’s easier and maybe you have less to worry about than you do when you first come to a place?
BB: I think, in some respects, it’s easier to coach the team after the first year. The first year, a lot of times there’s an adjustment or a transition depending on what happened previously. I think in succeeding years at least you have the ability to build off of some kind of base. I think each year bring its own challenges. I think that’s the way it will always be. There are always new things. Every team changes somewhere along the line – players, coaches, situations, schedule, opponents, conditions. There is always change, and, to a certain degree you always have to go back and rebuild that every single year. That is what training camp is for, that’s what preseason games are for, that’s what practice is for, is to just continue to build that up brick by brick and get your team to prepared for it, to deal with it this year not just because it happened in the past. That ensures that you’ll handle it correctly or well this time or the next time it comes up.

Q: You’ve been around winning cultures both the Giants and here, even at the Jets when [Bill] Parcells was there. Is there a way of defining that and what that is?
BB: That’s a broad, big picture question. I don’t know. I think the people who were in it probably have a better perspective than I do, guys who have come from other teams who have been in different places. I’ve been in the same place here for eight years. It’s hard for me to compare this team to another team what goes on at another team. Really I have no idea. How would I know? Somebody who has actually been with those teams probably has a lot better perspective on that than I do. What we try to do is what we feel like is best for our football team. How that compares with what somebody else does, honestly I don’t really know. But, people who have been on different teams and in different systems in recent years, they probably have a better perspective on that than I do.

Q: Jabar Gaffney had, numbers wise, a breakout game in the playoff game against the Jets last year without putting up big numbers during the regular season. What was it about that week that allowed him to blossom in the playoffs?
BB: I just think it worked out that way. I don’t think it was like we went into the game and said, ‘We’re going to throw the ball to Jabar so many times and he’s going to catch so many,’ it just worked out that way. Jabar is a good player. He’s smart. He runs good routes. He’s a good technician. He’s a smart player and he’s always prepared. He’s a guy you can count on. He does a lot of different things. He’s a versatile guy. He had some opportunities and he made them. I think if those opportunities had come in another game, he probably would have made them in a different game if he had gotten less opportunities in the Jets game for whatever reason, but sometimes it just works out that way. The way the Jets played that game was kind of unusual. I don’t know that they would play it again that way. Maybe they would. We’ll just have to see. A lot of times your opportunities in the passing game are a reflection of what happens on the other side of the ball, what the quarterback reads, what reads he gets and then where he throws the ball and how it’s distributed and so forth. Some of that is in reaction to what the defense is doing. Tom [Brady] does a good job of that. He doesn’t force balls into guys. He kind of takes what the defense gives him and takes advantage of the opportunities coverage wise, whether it’s fewer people or more space and it worked out for Jabar, for the production to come to him in that game and he made them.

Q: You said the Jets did something unusual. What was that?
BB: I would say so, but that’s what they do. We just have to be ready for whatever it is that we get.

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