One of the biggest misconceptions about Patriots coach Bill Belichick is that he just grumbles one-word answers at his press conference. In reality, Belichick is one of the most articulate and insightful NFL coaches — at least when he’s asked about a topic he wants to discuss.
Today’s media session in New England was a good example of that. Belichick was asked about the missed call at the end of Monday night’s Lions’ Seahawks game, and although some might assume Belichick would answer with something along the lines of, “I’m focused on our own game on Sunday,” Belichick actually answered with a detailed, thoughtful response that lasted more than eight minutes.
“I think it’s a really good question, but it would entail probably a pretty lengthy answer,” Belichick began. “There are so many different levels that that question encompasses. Let’s start with rookies coming into the league. The first thing we do is teach them the rules in the National Football League and in particular make them aware of the changes between the college rules and the pro rules, which there are a significant number. And we don’t really assume because we have no way of knowing how educated or uneducated they are on the rules, if they even are the same between the two – between college and professional football. So, it starts there.”
Belichick then detailed how his players and his coaches learn the intricacies of the rules through offseason meetings with officials, question-and-answer sessions with representatives from the league office, and sessions with each position coach explaining the intricacies of the rules relevant to the players at each position.
“Obviously, the offensive guard doesn’t have to know everything about pass interference and vice versa, but it’s important for them to know the things in their position and how the game is being officiated. And then those things are also pointed out in various other team or individual settings as they become pertinent over the course of the year, whether it be a particular play or particular opponent or that type of thing. And then I talk to the team on a regular basis on situational plays, which involve officiating, timing, utilization of timeouts and so forth and so on, so that’s probably on a regular basis from training camp all the way through the end of the season – call it once a week or something like that – somewhere in that vicinity. Sometimes it’s more than that, but always trying to keep our team aware of situations, and a lot of times we change the situation a little bit just to extend the conversation about a play. So this is what happened, but if something else or if they hadn’t had timeouts or if the ball was here, or the ball was there, just try to understand and comprehend totally what we’re doing from a team standpoint or an individual situation. The whole sideline, ball security, whistle, all those kind of ball possession plays, those are very important for everybody to understand and we stress those a lot. Any time the ball is loose, like it was in last night’s game, try to make sure everybody understands what they can do, what they can’t do. And of course once you get into the kicking game, you can multiply everything that happens on offense and defense exponentially because you not only have the possession plays, but then you have all the plays that happen when the ball is kicked, and those rules sometimes are, well they are different than plays of possession like a runner or a receiver or a returner who’s carrying the ball. There is the whole handling of the ball and the kick and did it cross the line of scrimmage and so forth and so on. It’s a lot for the officials to understand, it’s a lot for the coaches to understand, and it’s a lot for the players to understand. But in the end we try to look at the rule book as a useful tool, something that can benefit us if we know what we have to work with, how to make the best of a situation based on the way the rules are written and try to maximize our opportunities there. But that being said, there is still a lot happening in a short amount of time. It’s challenging for all of us – players, coaches and officials. I don’t know if that really answers your question. We could probably talk about that one for weeks.”
Belichick certainly could.