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Patriots’ Belichick opens up (not really)

Post by Eric Williams on Dec. 3, 2008 at 10:49 am with No Comments »
December 3, 2008 10:49 am

Seattle-area reporters had a chance to talk with New England head coach Bill Belichick this morning. Known for sometimes grumpy nature and intense attention to detail, Belichick said he’s not always that way.

"(I’m) Pretty loose," quipped Belichick, when asked if he’s remains the stiff head football coach when he leaves the team’s practice facility.

Belechick then went on to give some examples of his exploits away from the football field, including hanging around with aging rockers Bon Jovi, summer parties in Nantucket and palling around with Florida head coach Billy Donovan during the NCAA tournament.

You can read about the relaxed side of Belichick here.

Belichick, who talked for about 20 minutes, also had this to say about the Deion Branch trade with Seattle three years ago.

"I think everything that happened was pretty well documented at the time,” he said. “Nothing’s really changed. We tried to sign Deion. In the end that didn’t work out. Seattle offered us a trade for him, and we took it because we weren’t able to come to a contractual agreement with the player. So that’s basically what happened.

"But Deion’s a good football player. He did a great job for us. And Seattle a paid a good price to get him, a No. 1 draft choice, and gave him a significant contract to go with it. So I think that speaks to what they thought of him, and we thought a lot of him, too. As I said, we tried to sign him, we just weren’t able to do it."

Check out the entire interview with Belichick below.

What did you see in Matt Cassel, with him having not played in college, that led you to believe he could do the things he’s doing now, or has it surprised you as well?

"We drafted him in the seventh round, so we had enough good feeling about him to draft him. But I would say the things that we saw we’re No. 1 his workouts showed a lot of talent in throwing the ball, his accuracy, technique, mechanics and athleticism. He’s got a good arm.

"Of course it was hard to evaluate him on film, but from talking to Pete Carroll and coaches out at Southern Cal, of course they’ve had (Carson) Palmer and Matt (Lineart), and Pete’s been around a lot of pro quarterbacks and certainly knows what it takes to play in the National Football League. He had a lot of great things to say about him, and how competitive it was between Cassel and Lineart, in particular the last year. And they’ve even they thought it was not that big of a gap between Carson Palmer and Cassel.

"So, those things were all positive. And then as we got more interested in Matt we spent more time with him, just one-on-one getting to know him and giving him information and then coming back and kind of testing him on it or following up on it and seeing how much he retained and what thoughts he had and so forth. Our quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels did that, and by the end of that process felt really good about his ability to learn and understand concepts and his overall understanding of the passing game and protections and all of those kinds of things that we do. That’s kind of how the whole process worked."

After you won your first Super Bowl in New England you kind of had a drop off, what was the key to rebounding after that year?

"I think our team just improved from 2001 and then in 2002 and 2003, and 2004 for that matter. I don’t think that the record indicates exactly what your team is, or what it’s capable of. So I think individually some of young players gained more experience like (Tom) Brady and (Richard) Seymour and guys like that. And we added a few players. And I think we just kind of steadily improved as a team. In 2001 we did a lot of things right at the right time and in the right games and all that. But I think as a football team we were a much better team from an execution standpoint a couple years later than we were in ’01.

"And I’m not taking anything away from the ’01 team because that was a championship team and they played great football at the right time and the made the plays they needed to make to win, and that’s why they were champions. But I just think from an overall execution standpoint our football team improved from ’01 as we went through the season in ’02 and ’03 and ’04 as we gained more experience in execution in our system that we just got better doing it."

What was the biggest thing in dealing with injuries this year like Tom Brady and still being successful?

"Every team goes through that. Every team has things they have to deal with during the season, whether it’s injuries, or it could be a variety of other things. That’s all part of the long NFL season. We just kind of take a week-to-week approach each week and look at what our opportunities are and our opponent and what we have to stop. And what we feel like we can do and what are best shot is to compete with them and try to build on that.

"It’s really kind of a week-to-week process that there’s no set formula for and every game’s different. Every opponent and every matchup is different. We’ll evaluate where we are from a week-to-week basis and go from there."

What was the crux of your speech after Brady went down on Week 1?

"Well, we were getting ready for the Jets. That was the second game of the year so we turned our attention to the Jets like we would after every game and then move on. I think we all felt confident in Matt (Cassel). I mean I was certainly confident that Matt would do a good job for us at quarterback this year. And I think our team was. I’ve said that, but I think everyone else felt that too, based on his experience in our system and his play the last four years, both on the practice field and in preseason games, and his limited game opportunities. Especially the Kansas City game. He made plays in that game to help us win, and we all saw that."

Could you allow yourself to say "Jeez, what’s going on?" when Brady went down? Or did you have to focus on getting the other guy ready?

"Well as I said, I think every team has to deal with things during the course of a season. I think the best why to deal with it is to take whatever you have and make the most out of that. There’s a lot of ways to win in football. It’s a team sport. It’s not all about one guy, no matter who that one guy is. Everybody’s got to do their job.

“We’ve had plenty of good players before that maybe have played well and if the team doesn’t play well in other areas of the game we don’t way. And we’ve had good players miss games and everybody play well, both their replacements and other aspects of the team, and we’ve won some of those. So I think it’s about getting the team to play its best on a weekly basis, whoever that is."

What’s Brady’s role now?

“He’s doing his rehabilitation and he does that on a regular basis. It’s good to have Tom around. But his primary role it to rehab his injury, and that’s what he’s doing."

Are you doing anything special or different because you have these two West Coast trips in three weeks?

"Not this week. This week is just a normal week for us. We’ll do what we did for the following game the way we handled the West Coast trip earlier this year. Right now we’re not really thinking about that. This is a normal week for us trying to get ready for Seattle, so that’s where all of our focus is."

How did that work out for your earlier West Coast trips, and is it something you’re planning on doing in the future? Was it a benefit to you?

"Well, we’ll do it this time. And we felt like logistically it went well, and we had a good week of practice and preparation while we out there, and saved cris-crossing the country a couple times. But again, that’s not really a factor for us this week. This is just a normal, West Coast away game. So we’ll do all of our preparations here for Seattle."

What were your feelings back then on trading Deion Branch to Seattle? Were you disappointed that he was leaving, and are you surprised at how things have turned out for both him and Seattle since then?

"I think everything that happened was pretty well documented at the time. Nothing’s really changed. We tried to sign Deion. In the end that didn’t work out. Seattle offered us a trade for him, and we took it because we weren’t able to come to a contractual agreement with the player. So that’s basically what happened.

"But Deion’s a good football player. He did a great job for us. And Seattle a paid a good price to get him, a No. 1 draft choice, and gave him a significant contract to go with it. So I think that speaks to what they thought of him, and we thought a lot of him, too. As I said, we tried to sign him, we just weren’t able to do it."

How has (Brandon) Meriweather played? He’s the guy you took with the No. 1 pick.

"Brandon’s played well. He’s started at safety for us. He has the ability to play both strong and free safety, so he’s played in both of those roles, and the kicking game as well. And he’s doing a good job for us"

When you read characterizations of yourself in the media, does it ever bother you when you’re characterized as being grumpy with reporters?

"Well, my main job is to try and prepare the team and coach the team to win. And so that’s really where most of my energy is. I’ve seen things out there that have been positive, and I’ve seen things that haven’t been positive. So if you want to focus on one side or the other, I think there’s enough to work with either way. But in the end my biggest concern is my commitment to this football team and doing the best I can to prepare it and coach it on a weekly basis."

What do you do to kind of let loose? How are you off the field?

"(I’m) pretty loose."

You don’t seem like a loose guy just from the outside. You’re a different guy away from the cameras?

"Again, I think that’s all been pretty well documented. The Bon Jovi trips. The Nantucket summers. The NCAA basketball tournament with (Florida basketball coach) Billy Donovan and all that. I think I can find plenty of other stuff to do. But football season is football season. And that’s the time for me to do the best I can to help our team in any way I can to help us win. And in the offseason it’s family and some other interests, but right now it’s football.

"As far as how I look, I’m sure I look a lot better after we win than I do after we don’t."

What have you learned over the years during your postseason success that you’ve used to get your team ready heading into the postseason?

"Well, I just think during the season that the No. 1 goal is to keep improving. It’s a long season, and there’s a lot of practices and a lot of meetings. There’s a lot of walk throughs, and there’s a significant number of games. And if you can get your team to improve on a weekly basis, even though inevitably you’re going to have some guys get banged up because of the physical nature of the game. But if you can improve as a football team, your execution, your situational play, your awareness, and then you build on some things with your scheme and some plays, or some wrinkles or new looks to try to keep your opponent on zeroing in on what you’re doing and still execute them well, then I think that the best thing to do so that you’re a better team in December than you were in September …."

"It’s an ongoing process and you can’t do it in one day or one week. But I think if you can string a lot of positive days together over the course of that time frame, from training camp through the regular season, I think you can improve your team significantly. If you can improve it more than your opponents, then maybe that’s the difference.”

Do you feel like a lot of people wrote off or dismissed the Patriots after Brady went down?

"I don’t know. I don’t know really know what everybody thinks or what everybody’s opinion is. It doesn’t really matter. What I think is important is how our football team reacts. I think our team has confidence and I think we’ve been confident and we feel like if we play well we can win. We’ve just got to work harder to play and coach and execute better and on a more consistent basis. So I think that’s how feel. I don’t know what anybody else thinks. I’m sure there are a variety of opinions."

What do you think of Mike Holmgren?

“I have all the respect in the world for Mike. Mike’s a great football coach. A good man. I’ve always had a good relationship with Mike. He’s had a tremendous career. He’s been successful every place he’s been. I think as you look at the different versions of the West Coast offense through the league, all of the coaches that have come off that tree – Andy (Reid) and Jon Gruden, you know we could name 15 of them probably. Mike has really, probably stayed as close to the true West Coast offense that he ran when he was with the 49ers that I coached against when I was with the Giants in competing against San Francisco.

"He’s probably kept that as close to what it was then, even though there’s some modifications to it, more so than any of the other offenses. And he continues to make it go, make it effective. He’s a hard coach to coach against because not only do his teams have great schemes and he puts his players in positions to be productive and effective, but he a great play caller. He keeps you off balance and he’s very hard to defend. And I think Mike’s a great coach. He’s got a great record and has won a lot of games. He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached against, and one of the best coaches ever in the game."

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