Bill Belichick-Josh McDaniels Q&A, 12/21

Posted on December 21, 2007 
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the transcript of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels Q&A with the media today at Gillette Stadium:

Q: Have you talked to Bill Parcells since he decided to move to Miami?
BB: No. Right now I don’t think he’s going to have too much impact on this game this week, so we’re just going to concentrate on the people that are down there and try to see what we can do with them.

Q: Does that change the dynamic heading into 2008? I think you guys need some more layers of drama.
BB: Yeah. I think we’ll worry about that later. Right now we have plenty on our plate.

Q: Yesterday when you mentioned December 20, 2004 it went over my head. How much have you talked about that?
BB: It’s just a good example that records don’t mean anything, so that’s all that means. It’s just a good example of it. And they don’t.

Q: I didn’t want to seem stupid, so I just thought I would look it up later.
BB: Look up any of the last three years; we won the first game, they won the second one. That’s the way it’s been since ’04. You can take my word for it or you can go look it up.

Q: I do, but yesterday when you said it I didn’t know if everybody else knew what you were talking about.
BB: Maybe when you’re on the short end of the score you have a tendency to remember it a little better than when you’re not.

Q: Can you talk about Kelley Washington and what he’s brought to the team, specifically on special teams?
BB: He’s really done a good job for us all year. [He’s a] bigger receiver and he’s taken a significant role on coverage teams as the – he usually is one of the outside guys on the kickoff team and is the gunner on the punt team. He’s done a good job on the punt return too, again as being a bigger guy that can rush [and] can hold up. It’s hard to find people that are physical enough and are fast enough to be able to run with the wings on the punt coverage team, where you usually contain guys. And if you don’t get them, then it’s hard to ever get to the edge on the return, to get on the right and left returns. He’s been consistent all year. He missed a couple games early in the year, but he’s been a real consistent player for us. [He] plays to his size, he’s a big kid who plays physical and runs well and is very athletic. Just even on the [blocked] punt last week, a lot of guys wouldn’t have made that play. Even if they had been there, they would have missed the ball. Kelley has good hand-eye coordination, good athletic ability and balance, and it was a pretty good athletic play just to get his hand on it.

Q: Did you know he was going to be a quality special teamer? Did you scout him as that in Cincinnati?
BB: He did it, yes, he did it in Cincinnati. He played in the kicking game for them, and did a pretty good job. He missed some time in the last few years there, but when he did play, he played on special teams as well as offense.

Q: He was an interesting kid coming out of college because he was so talented, but he had the neck situation.
BB: He was an older kid that had been in baseball – I forget what it was, two or three years in baseball – and then came back to Tennessee and then finished. He was maybe 23 or 24 when came out, so he was a little older.

Q: Could he have had aspirations – or maybe someday he still will – of being a more regular receiver on offense? Coming out of college he seemed like he would be.
BB: I thought, even watching him play preseason, he had some good plays. We have confidence in him offensively: to throw him the ball, he’s a good receiver, runs good routes, has good hands, he’s got some size. [He] hasn’t had a lot of opportunities this year, but the ones that he’s had, in particular preseason, I thought he did a good job with. I wouldn’t hesitate to have him in there offensively. And believe me, I don’t want to speak for them, but I don’t think our quarterbacks would hesitate to throw him the ball either.

Q: Which receiver spot does he work at when he is in on offense?
BB: All of them. He’s pretty versatile. [He’s] big enough to play inside, enough quickness to play inside, and has enough speed and size to play outside.

Q: Receivers’ hands are obviously one of their biggest assets. Is it hard to convince them to stick their hands in front of a punt and risk breaking a couple of fingers?
BB: I think if you use the proper technique, I don’t think so. I haven’t coached special teams and been involved in that area of the game for a long time. You do punt block drills every week. If you do it properly, you shouldn’t. It’s like catching balls: if you catch enough balls, sometimes you end up getting a finger jammed or something. But again, that usually comes with poor technique as opposed to… It’s just part of the job. I think there are a lot of guys that go all year without having a problem. I wouldn’t worry about that.

Q: Overall, how do you think your special teams unit has preformed this year?
BB: Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. We can be better, and that’s important. More important is how we perform now and going forward. Certainly, the kicking game has changed from what it was in September with the conditions. We need to adapt to those changes, we need to play to them and use them to our advantage, just like everybody else does. It’s not the same game as it was in September.

Q: You’ve gone to motion on kickoff coverage. How did that come about and what’s the benefit of that? Is that just to confuse the blockers a little?
BB: I think when you come out of the huddle – which we’ve done, a lot of teams do it – when you come out of the huddle it just gives the kickoff return team a little bit less time to identify who they are going to block. A lot of times on a normal kickoff return that’s probably, assignment-wise, could be probably the easiest play in football. You’ve got plenty of time to stand back there. “OK I’ve got 52. OK, you’ve got 83. OK, you’ve got 25.” You’ve got all day to talk about it, figure it out, look at the wind, see where the kicker lines up and see whether he’s going to directional kick it. If they just line up five across, if you miss an assignment on that play, then it would be hard for me to imagine an easier play to get your assignment right on. You’re supposed to block the R2, well there he is, there’s No. 26, so you block him, or whoever it happens to be. There’s a little more degree of difficulty when you move people and they break out late, or when you twist people. And one of the things you try to account for on your kickoff return is who the safety is going to be. Most teams will drop one, if not two players out to be the safety, and so you don’t want to be committing too many blockers to the safety and let the penetrators come down and blow up your return. It makes it a little harder for the return team to identify. I don’t think it’s anything that’s extraordinary, but it’s a little bit harder than just lining up five by five or six by four, however you want to do it, and make it real easy for them to get the count and decide how they want to block it.

Q: The safety would be the second wave?
BB: Right, yeah. What normally happens – and it’s not 100 percent of the time – but what normally happens is you cover with eight players, two guys are contained, then you have six interior players, and then you have two safeties as kind of a second wave behind each side, and then the kicker. There are other ways to configure that. I’m not saying it’s got to be that way, but let’s say the majority of the time you get some element of that. You really have six players that are – you have some freedom with the other, the contained guys, the safeties and the kicker, or it’s hard to do something with them, or you just don’t have somebody in that area and then that could be a problem.

Q: There seems to be an increase in the number of kickoff returns for touchdowns across the league this season. Do you have a theory for what that is?
BB: We’ve played against some really good returners this year.

Q: Not just you guys, but the whole league-
BB: Well, the only teams I know are the ones we’ve played. I’m not going to sit here and talk about two teams we haven’t even watched. But, we’ve seen a lot of good returners this year: [Tedd Ginn, Jr.] this week, for sure, [Leon] Washington last week, [Joshua] Cribbs, you can go right down the line. We’ve seen really good players pretty much every week at that spot. I don’t know, it could be-to me that has a lot to do with it. Certainly you’ve got to have good blocking, but when you have guys like Washington last week, Cribbs this week, [Terrence] McGee up at Buffallo, just our division, that’s six right there. And then you start throwing in guys like [Darren] Sprolls and Cribbs, and it seems like every week you’re going up against a guy that’s really good.

Q: Do you think there are just more quality returners or has there been more emphasis on the kick return?
BB: I think there’s been emphasis on it. I just think that, as I said, the teams we’ve played, we’ve faced a lot of good ones. Whether everybody else has a good one that we didn’t play, I’m not really sure. But we’ve faced a lot of good ones. I know just looking at the Pro Bowl voting, when you kind of go down that list of names, there’re a lot of guys. And our returners have returned the ball well. Even going back to last year, we have Laurence [Maroney] and Ellis [Hobbs], Willie [Andrews] took one back against Miami, so it looks like there are a lot of teams that have good returners, at least that we’ve faced.

Q: You mentioned Vince Wilfork’s intelligence the other day. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with playing, but what about street smarts?
BB: Yeah, well I think that’s what a lot of the interior game is for the linemen: being able to recognize how much weight the guy has going forward, which might indicate whether he’s going to penetrate or stunt, or being able to recognize the width of the offensive line’s splits, or how far back they’re sitting, if they’re going to pull, a lot of little things like that. When you draw up the formation and put it on a scouting report, the formation looks the same, but the little variation of the lineman’s weight distribution, his stance, his split, his depth, whether he’s in a two-point stance to a three-point stance, sometimes how far back one of his feet is, or the relationship of the guard and the tackle on the side of the ball, that kind of thing. There are a lot of little things a lineman can pick up out there. They can pick it up during the game as they start to play against the player, [and] you just can’t see that kind of detail on film. You’re just too far away and the pictures are being taken from the top of the stadium, and you just don’t get it like you do when you’re lined up a foot or two away from the guy. In terms of smarts: street smarts, instincts, recognition, whatever you want to call it, it’s a lot of that. All the good defensive linemen I’ve ever coached would do things that at times, would not really be their assignment on the play, but it was because they knew what was happening based on the way a guy was leaning or his stance of the split or something that kind of really gave him a good indication of what to do, and that sort of trumps everything.

Q: In basketball, a good rebounder can hold a guy down and get away with it because the refs can’t see. In football, is it hard to get away with doing some of the various things you can do in there that are to your advantage that the officials can’t see?
BB: Well, there’s not too much holding on defense. We’re not trying to hold anybody. Do some of our guys get held? I mean, I don’t know. I’ve heard people say you could call holding on every play, and to a degree, that’s probably true. You probably could. There are degrees, but whatever the case is, it still comes down to-for a defensive player-leverage, hand placement, and being able to control the guy who is trying to block you, and there is always somebody assigned to block you. Like I said, I think that’s the big thing for any defensive player, but particularly a defensive lineman. What plays does an offense run where they don’t block a defensive lineman? The guy is going to get blocked, it’s just a question of whether he can defeat that block and control his area, and then ultimately get off the block and make that play. So, that’s what a defensive lineman has to do. There are defensive players that talk about “Yeah, I like to be freed up. I’m good when I’m free.” Well great, who isn’t? The bigger part of it is being able to defeat somebody who is blocking you, and like I said, they’ve got somebody assigned to all of us, so we’ve got to defeat them. Vince is really good at that. He’s strong, he’s quick, he uses his hand well, plays a good leverage, plays good techniques, so he’s a hard guy to block.

Q: Bill, there’s a video making the rounds of you making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Have you seen that and can you share the story behind that?
BB: Yeah, we did a TV show there in Cleveland. Honestly, I don’t remember too much of it.

Q: Has it made it way into your e-mail box yet?
BB: Yeah, it has. Yeah, and a few other ones. Yeah, we had some creative television there in Cleveland.

Q: Is that your favorite food?
BB: No, it was the easiest thing to do.

Q: Do you still use that method though? I mean, sometimes things evolve.
BB: Game time decisions, Tom. You’ve got to decide that when you are putting out the drip bread and the jelly and the peanut butter. You know, how you want to layer it and how close you want to put it to the crust, or whether you want to cut the crust off, slice it diagonally or right down the middle, put it into quarters or halves or just make it a full [sandwich], those are all game time decisions.

JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: Has Miami been playing defense differently than they did when you saw them the last time?
JM: I don’t think they’ve changed much as far as their scheme. I think they’re using their pressure packages a little bit more than when we played them the first time, and they’ve had success with it so you can see why they’ve done that. I think the scheme, in general, is pretty consistent with what we faced. I think they’ve added a few things here and there over the course of the season that we obviously didn’t prepare for the first game, that we’ve done a lot of work on this time around because we need to be ready for it. But I think overall they’re trying to play things sound. They’re trying to play things sound up front. They’re trying to stop the run and they’re trying to force you to go the long field and not give up big plays. I think a part of that is them making more plays off of pressure than they had in maybe the first game that we played them. I would say that would be the biggest difference.

Q: Have you guys gotten into any scouting ahead for possible playoff opponents?
JM: No. Nope, just focused on Miami.

Q: This is the time when coaching changes happen and we’ve all ready seen some in Atlanta and the media, like us, are always speculating who might fill those roles. Your name pops up so I have a two-part question for you: 1.) Are you aware that your name pops up and 2.) What are your thoughts on that?
JM: If your name is ever thrown around for something like that, it’s flattering. I think, in the middle of the season, it’s nothing that you can really concern yourself with and that’s my approach to anything that would come up – whether it be now, or sometime in the future, or sometime later in my career. I think I focus on the job I’m doing here and I believe that my career, whatever path it’s going take, it will take. The best thing for me and the best thing for our team is to work hard right now and win the game against Miami and do the best we can in terms of preparation, and then everything else will take care of itself.

Q: Do you have aspirations to someday be a head coach and do you feel that you’re close to that if you do have those aspirations?
JM: I have no idea how close I am to it. I think that as a coach or as a player, you’re always trying to strive to do the best thing that you can now for your team and if that takes you to another step and you feel that’s the right thing to do at the time, then you make that decision when it comes up. I haven’t really given it much thought to tell you the truth. I’ve tried to really focus in on what I’m doing here and, again, just let it fall out when it does, eventually. And if it’s in the cards – great – and if it’s not, then I’m sure I could live without it.

Q: Laurence Maroney had a lot of carries last week. Was that something that was a factor of the elements playing a role, or was it part of your game plan heading in?
JM: That was definitely part of the game plan. I think that going into that week, we felt pretty good about our ability to run the ball against them and with what they were trying to do defensively. It didn’t necessarily change our focus, as far as trying to get him the ball and trying to gain yards and moving the chains by keeping it on the ground. The weather… We try to run it; we try to throw it; we try to do everything as far as balance is concerned, unless the weather conditions are so terrible that you can’t do one or the other. I think we want to go into every game doing that. That, last week, was part of our game plan of giving him the ball and running the ball and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that.

Q: Were you at all concerned that Tom Brady didn’t have any touchdown passes last week?
JM: Well, I mean obviously we’d like to throw touchdown passes every week and we tried. We put the ball in the end zone a couple of time and we just didn’t connect. We could have executed a few things better. But I think that was a combination of the Jets playing good defense down there in the red zone and they didn’t allow any big plays. We were able to churn out yards on the ground and try to do that consistently.

Q: Do you know how many points away this team is from the setting the all-time scoring record?
JM: I do not.

Q: Would you like to know?
JM: I do not need to know.

Q: It’s less than 40.
JM: Less than 40… That’s great.

Q: As this season has gone on, do you have any added appreciation for what you guys have been able to accomplish offensively, as far as team records and personal records?
JM: I think when you’re coaching them, you’re going each week, and looking at each opponent, and each opponent gives you different challenges, and you watch the players come in and prepare hard each week. I think that you start to gain an appreciation for how hard it is to do that on a weekly basis and then to go out there and execute at a high level. I think, over the course of this season, that’s the thing that I’ve really learned to appreciate in my career here in New England, and then maybe this season even more so, is watching these guys come in and prepare the same way every week and not leave any stone unturned. I think that our record or any statistics that may come from that – I think the big thing is that they’ve never let it affect them. We try not to let it affect us and we go about our business the same way every week and I think that’s what I’ve really gained an appreciation for.

Q: You mentioned that it is a goal to maybe become a head coach someday. Do you watch Bill [Belichick] and study what he does so that if that day does come, you’ll be ready?
JM: Of course. He’s a great mentor for any young coach to have. I’ve been so fortunate to be here underneath him and be able to take anything I can from the way he coaches, the way he handles the players, the way he handles his staff in the meetings. I think there’s no better person for me to learn from and I try to do that every day since I got here. I don’t that would change ever. He’s the best and I really have a high respect for him and want to learn from him every day.

Q: Can you talk about Coach Belichick’s offensive acumen? So many headlines have been devoted to his defensive prowess, but can you talk about his offensive knowledge?
JM: I think that to be a really good defensive coach, or an offensive coach, you have to understand that other side of the ball and I think that’s something that he obviously does very well. Just because he was a defensive coordinator, or what have you, he’s coached offense in the past. He knows the passing game. He knows the running game because he understands defense very well and vice versa on the defensive side of the ball. Bill [Belichick] is well versed in every aspect of the game of football and any and all information that he adds to our game plan, on the defensive side, or on special teams, obviously is worth it because he’s had so much experience and so much success doing it.

Q: You scored so many points early on and recently is hasn’t come so easily. Does it concern you at all that the point totals are coming down?
JM: I wouldn’t use that word. I would say that we always want to go out there and try to score as many points as we can while we’re out on the field. We’ve said it a number of times this year. When we go out there, that’s our goal, to score touchdowns, and when we don’t we feel that we can make improvements to try to change the end result of that drive or that game. That’s what we’re working hard to do. We want to try to go out there and be as consistent as we can every week and, ultimately, get it in the end zone as many times as we possibly can. We’ve had a hard two days of practice and we’re going to go out and have another day today and work on it again and really try to put our emphasis on executing in the red zone and down on the goal line and getting points on the board.

Q: How are the recent injuries at tight end affecting your game plan?
JM: I think it’s something that you deal with basically all year long because if you have any players that have a nick or a bump, you’ve got to have a contingency plan ready to go. If like last week, you end up short-handed at one position or another, you have enough in your game plan to do something else if that situation does occur, whether it’s tight end, running back or receiver. You just have to go in each week and have a plan for something like that occurring, and if it does, you have to go to it and be able to execute it.

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