Reporter asks about punt protection, Belichick answers, and answers, and answers

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There’s a common misperception about Patriots coach Bill Belichick that when reporters ask him a question, he just grumbles non-answers. That’s not the case.

Yes, that’s the case if Belichick dislikes a question. If it’s about a player’s injury, forget it. If it’s a question that answering might give an opposing team some insight into the Patriots’ game plan, Belichick is tight-lipped. If it’s clearly designed to produce a sound bite, Belichick will give an answer that demonstrates his disdain for sound bites.

But if Belichick gets asked an Xs and Os football question from a reporter who seems genuinely interested in learning, then you’d better sit back and get comfortable, because Professor Belichick’s Football 101 lecture is about to begin.

That happened on Friday, when a reporter asked about the loss of Nate Ebner, who suffered a season-ending injury last week. Ebner acted as the protector on the Patriots’ punt team, and the reporter wanted to know how hard it would be to replace him. Belichick proceeded to give an answer that, according to the team’s official transcript, lasted nearly 700 words.

“Yeah, that’s one of the toughest spots to play,” Belichick said. “It doesn’t come up every play. I’m not saying it’s – it’s kind of like playing quarterback, but you play quarterback for, call it 60 plays a game, 70 plays a game. You only punt five to 10 times, let’s call it – somewhere in there. But, there’s a lot of different variables. You know, if it’s eight-on-eight, then it’s getting the right eight-on-eight. Now, if you split your gunners out and a guy comes in from the outside, now they have nine-on-eight, and that creates some problems. You also want to try to be able to maximize your coverage, so let’s say there’s only six guys rushing and you have eight blockers, right – seven plus the personal protector. If you can block those six with six and then have two free guys going to the ball, particularly if it’s the two guys that are your best coverage players or two of your best coverage players, there’s some strategy there, too. So, identifying the rush, identifying the return – sometimes you can tell what the return is based on the way they align – or if there’s a double team on the gunner or not a double team on the gunner, a lot of times the wind plays into that. Sometimes the situation plays into it. Teams that like field returns are bound to return in certain situations, or middle returns in certain situations, like plus-50, things like that. So, there are a lot of variables there, but a good personal protector takes all those into consideration, just like a quarterback does, and A, protect the punter, B, he’s the last line of defense. So, a lot of times, even if your protection is not right on the front, if that guy gets the right guy and does the right thing, you still could possibly save a blocked punt by just him doing the right thing, even though somebody else has made a mistake in the front of it. So, that decision making is a key part of it there, and the whole cadence and communication between the snapper, the punter and the gunners if we directional punt – if we’re trying to punt the ball one way or the other, making sure that everybody knows where that is and if it changes, which sometimes it does based on the look that they give you. So, there’s a lot of different things that go in there. It’s not an easy job at all if you want to do it right and get the most out of it. So, we’ve had a number of guys do that – Pat’s [Chung] done it for us, Jordan’s [Richards] done it for us, obviously Nate did a great job of it. Those guys all meet together and work together, just like the quarterbacks do. They all learn the same things so that they all understand what the options are, and what’s a good option against one team might be a bad option against another team. It frequently is. We wouldn’t always necessarily do it by the book. It would depend on what the look was and who the people are on the other side of the ball, who we’re facing. So, the plus-50 punting game where they leave their defense on the field and don’t put a punt return team out there, that creates a whole other set of problems that you have to deal with on the punt team. The size and the type of player that’s rushing is a lot different than, a lot of times, the player that’s on the punt return team and the rushers they would use would be different. So, that creates another element of it, too. A lot goes into that position. It’s a tough position to play, as I said. I’m not trying to say it’s like playing quarterback. You don’t do it 70 times a game, but the times you do it, it could be a team like Buffalo that gives you some different looks, Miami that gives you a lot of different looks. It’s challenging.”

Got all that?

39 responses to “Reporter asks about punt protection, Belichick answers, and answers, and answers

  1. No man on the planet whose brain I’d rather pick. He has a weekly segment on one of the sports radio stations here in Boston, and, one the hand, the droning tone could put you to sleep. But if you listen, the guy just seems to know everything you could possibly know about football, and his perception of what’s going is just….different, more evolved. Sometimes it’s not even something like this where he explains a position, it’s just little asides, off-handed comments, or a tone in his attitude, and I’m like “WOW. This dude is just seeing something everyone else is missing.” Watching this guy coach my favorite team for probably two decades-plus when it’s said and done is one of the rarest pleasures I’ll ever experience in my life. GOAT, no debate.

  2. NFL films just released two videos of Coach Belichick on the sidelines during the Pats v Dolphins game. Very insightful. This guy is , in fact, a football genius as well as genuinely happy for his players when they perform well.

  3. As a Fins fan i can only say i really dislike the Patriots because they destroy my team game after game, But as a fan of football there is not and never has been a better head coach then BB. And there is not even a close 2nd to him. A true genius. Anyone that says they would not want him as their head coach on their favorite team is a stone cold liar.

  4. Sounds exactly the way Bob McAdoo, Hue Jackson, Chuck Pagano and John Fox would answer that question. And Bruce Arians would answer it by saying that Ebner hasn’t really done very much this year and needs to get his act together.

  5. That’s a great in depth answer & all but…. I’ve been watching Bill closely, & I never see him clap & spit. Plus Jason Garrett holds up a finger to signal his team is going for 1 better & more determined than any coach who’s ever donned the sidelines.

    BB really needs to step his game up. He could learn absolutely nothing from the reigning “Coach of the Year”.

  6. I’d love to learn from Bill. Like the first poster said, it would be amazing to pick his brain and learn from the greatest coach ever. The guy is just on a whole other level when it comes to this stuff.

    Meanwhile, I have to sit here and watch Jim Caldwell look confused every time something happens.

  7. This is one of the things that makes football the great sport that it is – the intellectual side of the game. The true student of the game knows this, and when Professor Belichick speaks the true student of the game listens intently. There is a series of YouTube videos where Brian Billick explains some of the strategies and tactics in the game, well worth watching for some of the insights he brings out. I wish Professor Belichick would do a series of videos, they would be wildly popular. However right now I’m sure he doesn’t have the time, but maybe someday.

  8. If you truly love the sport of football — the strategy and execution — his Belestrator clips are must see. He legitimately tries to educate, yet even at the pro level so many other coaches screw the same things up. He and Brady do all they can to give back to students of the sport, yet people hate them for it. I think it is a sickness of the ego.

  9. eaglesmancave says:
    December 2, 2017 at 9:36 am
    Knowing B.B. he prob did this to stick it to the media.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Well then… you obviously DON’T know BB.

  10. .
    Most of us have seen a thousand punts but never really had a complete grasp of what exactly was going on down there. Recently, RB Rex Burkhead blocked a Denver punt from the DE position. I never even knew he played there. Most of the other Patriots on the punt return team were low numbered also.

    Belichick’s strength is his teaching ability. He is often able to coach players up to a higher level than predicted by the experts.
    .

  11. More than any other reason, yes even Brady, this is why the Patriots win. They are so well coached they just don’t make anywhere near the number of mistakes most teams routinely do. Due to the lack of contact and intensity in camp practices what the players are taught can be difficult to apply and that’s why as a rule they start much slower than they finish. Game after game NE goes along playing as close to a mistake free game as the game plan, injuries, opponent and other circumstances allow. The result is usually taking what the other team gives them beginning the death of a thousand cuts leading up to the moment when their opponent’s mistakes pile up and they go for the throat then the D playing from ahead trades space for time until the clock runs down. It has occasional flashes but mostly it isn’t always sexy in fact it’s often clinical but it is ruthlessly efficient…kind of like Belichick.

  12. Simply the best

    That’s funny! The BEST wouldn’t have a stain of having been caught cheating. The BEST wouldn’t be sloppy enough to get caught….lol. And now the spin begins so I’ll start my popcorn now.

  13. Loss of Ebner hurts, but luckily BB’s other ST specialist Matthew Slater (6 pro-bowls as a special teamer) is back to limited play. And Brandon Bolden has become very useful on ST too. #depth.

  14. If you truly love the sport of football — the strategy and execution — his Belestrator clips are must see. He legitimately tries to educate, yet even at the pro level so many other coaches screw the same things up. He and Brady do all they can to give back to students of the sport, yet people hate them for it. I think it is a sickness of the ego.

    The sickness you speak of is possessed by those people who feel cheating to win as acceptable behavior. The fans that love said behavior and the climate of arrogance surrounding it are the ones with ego issues….so don’t walk by a mirror….the face you will see is of one with a sick ego.

  15. That supposed educated posters here just can’t appreciate his insight & brilliance due to jealousy & envy are the ones I feel most sorry for….. being that bitter is not a good way to go thru life……
    Soooooo glad he’s the coach of my favorite TEAM……

  16. Great article to show what Bill is really like.

    You ask him the right question and he will amaze you with his answers.

    He will never answer a question that puts a Player above the team.

  17. Leave my coach alone. He is asked questions and gives short answers you guys murder him…you ask him questions , he answers them in depth and detail…you murder him….He has consistently built a winner every year with 12 plus wins like every year yet is never considered or on the ballot for Coach of the Year , its always just a far gone conclusion that the Patriots will be there in January …If I were BB …I wouldn’t acknowledge any reporters or ” EXPERTS ” and pay a fine every week….the heck with all of you

  18. Nofoolnodrool says:
    December 2, 2017 at 11:06 am
    If you truly love the sport of football — the strategy and execution — his Belestrator clips are must see. He legitimately tries to educate, yet even at the pro level so many other coaches screw the same things up. He and Brady do all they can to give back to students of the sport, yet people hate them for it. I think it is a sickness of the ego.

    The sickness you speak of is possessed by those people who feel cheating to win as acceptable behavior. The fans that love said behavior and the climate of arrogance surrounding it are the ones with ego issues….so don’t walk by a mirror….the face you will see is of one with a sick ego.

    ————

    And yet your team’s coach, who BB regularly beats like a drum, actually attempted to trip Jacoby Jones on a return play!!! If there had ever been a more blatant example of poor sportsmanship I don’t know what it is….

  19. Belichick forgot more about FB than MTomlin has ever known back when he was picking guys up at the airport for the Colts.

  20. kissbillsrings says:
    December 2, 2017 at 11:32 am

    That supposed educated posters here just can’t appreciate his insight & brilliance due to jealousy & envy are the ones I feel most sorry for….. being that bitter is not a good way to go thru life…
    ____________________________________

    But it is entertaining when that bitterness reduces them to

  21. kissbillsrings says:
    December 2, 2017 at 11:32 am

    That supposed educated posters here just can’t appreciate his insight & brilliance due to jealousy & envy are the ones I feel most sorry for….. being that bitter is not a good way to go thru life…
    ____________________________________

    But it is entertaining when that bitterness reduces them to little more than baiting. Which over the years they have fruitlessly worked at mastering

  22. For a defensive minded coach you would think most of his schooling would be there. Truth is though his football intelligence is unreal in all three phases. Clearly he places much more value in special teams than some other coaches do.

  23. Props to whoever transcripted that:) And yes, BB is a football guru, but the one thing about him I can’t get past is that a few years ago he cut a player from the team THE NIGHT BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL. Not for disciplinary reasons, but just because he just felt he might need more depth at another position. That is downright mean. If you’re that great a coach, you could have figured that out before then. Poor guy makes the trip to the biggest game of his life and he has to go back to the motel and call his family and tell them he’s out. When you put your precious strategy over people to that degree, I can’t respect you as a person OR coach.

  24. hippstuff says:
    December 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Props to whoever transcripted that:) And yes, BB is a football guru, but the one thing about him I can’t get past is that a few years ago he cut a player from the team THE NIGHT BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL. Not for disciplinary reasons, but just because he just felt he might need more depth at another position. That is downright mean. If you’re that great a coach, you could have figured that out before then. Poor guy makes the trip to the biggest game of his life and he has to go back to the motel and call his family and tell them he’s out. When you put your precious strategy over people to that degree, I can’t respect you as a person OR coach.
    ______________________________________

    The move became necessary when during the Friday practice Gronkowski aggravated the ankle he had sprained in the AFCCG and they needed to activate Silvestro to take his special teams snaps (yes, Gronk was seeing serious ST snaps back then). Underwood was cut the night before the Super Bowl because if he was cut any sooner the Giants could have claimed him and picked his brain about the Pats game plan. As someone that follows the NFL you should be able to understand that injuries can have an impact. It’s telling that Underwood (the player it happened to) had no trouble accepting it but you can’t.

  25. Belichick, though he’s a great head coach reminds me of the type of person that would sell his soul to the devil for another notch in the win column. How else do you explain Spygate or Deflategate? This guy would pawn of a family member for another SB ring… and that’s no joke.

  26. Folks act like he’s a football God. He’s not. What he is is very lucky to have taken Brady in the draft while other teams didn’t. There’s been ONE Brady in the draft since TB was drafted, and before he was drafted. TB was a once in a life time player that came along and Belichek drafted him, while no one else did. So let’s stop making out like Belichek is some guru. He’s a great coach yes. But without Brady the past 15 years, where would Belichek be? Most would say a good coach at best.

  27. “the one thing about him I can’t get past is that a few years ago he cut a player from the team THE NIGHT BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL”

    Yes that was Tiquan Underwood who was signed cut and resigned about a dozen times that year. And when he was resigned during the playoffs he was told at that time he would be cut again prior to the Super Bowl. Underwood knew full well he was never playing in the SB. Belichick waited to do the roster move as a part of his strategy but the player knew 3 weeks prior to that

    So no he was not being mean ol’ Bill Belichick to that player he was the only gm or coach eho would even have him on a roster tgat season

  28. Of course you realize the joke report on deflategate said he had no knowledge of the naturally occurring effects on the balls don’t you? And the commissioner said the films had no effect on the competitive aspects of the games

  29. skawh says:
    December 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm
    Folks act like he’s a football God. He’s not. What he is is very lucky to have taken Brady in the draft while other teams didn’t. There’s been ONE Brady in the draft since TB was drafted, and before he was drafted. TB was a once in a life time player that came along and Belichek drafted him, while no one else did. So let’s stop making out like Belichek is some guru. He’s a great coach yes. But without Brady the past 15 years, where would Belichek be? Most would say a good coach at best.

    0 2 Rate This

    ———

    Lol

    He drafted brady. He had rhebein work he and rattay out, and they liked brady. It was not some accident

    Get over it already

    Greatest gm and coach ever

  30. skawh says:
    December 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm
    Folks act like he’s a football God. He’s not. What he is is very lucky to have taken Brady in the draft while other teams didn’t. There’s been ONE Brady in the draft since TB was drafted, and before he was drafted. TB was a once in a life time player that came along and Belichek drafted him, while no one else did. So let’s stop making out like Belichek is some guru. He’s a great coach yes. But without Brady the past 15 years, where would Belichek be? Most would say a good coach at best.
    ______________________________________________

    Oh chip you’re such a fraud. Great thing the internet, stuff just stays there forever. All I had to do was search “Brady greatest” here at PFT and in 30 seconds I found you saying Brady was the lucky one and Belichick was the reason for hIS greatness:

    skawh says:
    February 6, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    TB is the best system QB ever for sure. But how many other great QB’s from previous era’s as recently as 35 years ago may have flourished in BB’s system. TB is fortunate to have landed in NE, I’ll grant you that.

  31. gstewart400 says:
    December 2, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Sounds exactly the way Bob McAdoo, Hue Jackson, Chuck Pagano and John Fox would answer that question. And Bruce Arians would answer it by saying that Ebner hasn’t really done very much this year and needs to get his act together.

    —-

    Answering the question and executing are two different things. Why don’t you run along now and get on your coach’s case and Belichick will get about his business.

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