Bill Belichick offers 1,500-word discourse on long snappers, off the top of his head

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There’s a misconception about Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s dealings with the media, that he doesn’t like talking to reporters and mostly grumbles one-word answers. In fact, although Belichick won’t answer questions that he thinks could give out information that might put the Patriots at a competitive disadvantage, he loves answering questions about football history.

On Friday, Belichick gave more time to a question about long snappers than any other NFL coach would. Asked about why teams have to use a roster spot on a long snapper, rather than teaching a player who plays another position how to long snap, Belichick spoke for more than nine minutes and covered more than 1,500 words.

The answer was a thorough history of long snapping, all off the top of his head. The video is here, and the transcript, courtesy of the Patriots, is below:

“It’s an interesting conversation. One that’s really, I would say, honestly during the course of my coaching career, has kind of traveled that long and winding road from when I came into the league. First of all, there were no long snappers, but the specialists, the kickers and the punters were frequently position players, and that’s where they came from in college as well, so a lot of the good college punters and place kickers also played a position, and then as time evolved, starting with like [Pete] Gogolak and guys like that, you know, they specialized in kicking, and then you had some of the punters that specialized in punting, so players like Danny White and Tom Tupa and guys like that who were very good position players, you know, Gino Cappelletti, that evolved into specialists because of, I would say, the importance of the kicking game the number of plays that the kicking game and opportunities that it provided. Same thing with returners. There were very few just pure returners.

“I think long snapping, to me, changed in the mid-80s, and really the key guy in that was [Steve] DeOssie, in my opinion because Steve was the first center that really, truly allowed a spread punt formation against all-out rush. Prior to that, teams would generally pull. First of all, there wasn’t that many gunners, but when teams started using gunners, they would pull one in and kick away from the free guy on the back side, and that was kind of the idea that protection was not to let the snapper block against a nine-man rush with a split player. The return team would have one guy on the gun or the split, and one guy returns, so you got nine guys rushing against essentially the punter who wasn’t a blocker or the split guy who wasn’t a blocker and the snapper who really wasn’t a blocker, so it was nine on eight, and the idea was to block the most dangerous eight and let the ninth guy go and punt away from him, and then when the Cowboys went to spread punt and then the Cardinals followed that pretty quickly, and they kept two gunners split, and the snapper blocked a guy, then that created an eight on eight situation but put a lot of pressure on the snapper to deliver the ball 15 yards deep on the money and still block a good rusher offsetting and the A-gap.

“I mean, we’ve all seen offensive linemen have trouble making that block on a pass play, and so now you’re talking about a deep snap and a block, but as players got better at that, that skill became more, I would say, players became more efficient at that, then teams decided to carry a long snapper rather than worry about getting a punt block. Plus, there was also a level of consistency and durability with those players, so if you lose a position player who is also a long snapper, you’re looking at some real problems, and that evolved into the punters, for the most part, becoming holders because of the amount of time that they could spend with the kickers versus having a wide receiver or quarterback be the holder, which again, you don’t see very much of that anymore. Assuming a punter is, you know, capable and good enough and has good enough hands to be the holder, and so then that kind of whole unit has really evolved into, you know, specified snapper or a specified kicker, a specific punter, and generally the punter as the holder, so the three of those guys could work together all practice because they’re all available.

“I know, again, going back to when I first came into league, you worked on field goals, and, I mean, it was maybe five minutes because that was only time the starting center and the starting receiver or backup quarterback or whatever were available to practice that, so, like, is it that hard? It’s a pretty hard job. Yeah. It’s a pretty hard job. It’s not as hard as it used to be because you’re not allowed to hit the center, especially on field goals and run them over. There are some limitations on the punt rush based on what the formation is and so forth, but generally speaking, it’s a hard block, and I think you see most punt rushes attack the snapper. They loop guys back so the center thinks he’s going right, but then he has to come back to the left, or maybe they fake like they’re coming back, but they don’t come back, so he not only has to snap, and so then that gets into whether you’re a blind snapper and you look at the rush and just snap the ball, or whether you’re a look back snapper and snap it, and then after the snap you have to look up and recognize what’s happened and make a proper block, but again, it’s man-to-man blocking. Like that guy’s got to block somebody or you’re a guy short, so it is a hard job, and the accuracy of the place kickers through the years, which has gone up dramatically. Part of that’s the surface. Part of that’s the not kicking outdoors and so forth. Part of it is the operation between the snapper, the holder and the kicker, which I would say, generally speaking, is at a pretty high level, which it should be in the National Football League.

“I think if you go back and look at kicks from back when that wasn’t the case, you see balls rolling back and the holder coming out of a stance that catch the ball and the kind of things you see at times in a high school game and that kind of thing. There’s just a much higher level of skill, which there should be, but yeah. I think it’s a pretty tough position, and nobody knows or cares who the snapper is if there was a bad snap and all of a sudden, that’s front-page story. There’s a decent amount of pressure on that player as well, and not just the snap, but also, as I said, to the block and punt protection. The roster sizes have increased. It’s been a lot easier to carry that player just like it’s a lot easier to carry a true returner, and so in terms of depth and availability, you know, you really don’t want to be looking for one of those players in the middle of any time. In the middle of the game or middle of the season, but when you have him as a starting receiver, Lou Groza, a starting tackle, or whoever. Those guys and they’re playing and something happens and not only do you lose a player, but you lose a key specialist as well, so yeah.

“I mean, it’s a great question. There would be so much value in a player that could do a couple of things and save a roster spot, but I would say there are so few of those players available, even at the point where, you know, [Jets kicker Matt Ammendola] did a great job last week. It’s so rare that you even see a combination punter and place kicker. Usually it’s one or the other, and I think part of that is at one level it’s, I’ll say, relatively easy to put your foot on the ball, but at this level, you know, the difference in kicking mechanics and punting mechanics are so different that it’s really hard to be good at both, but you know, if a guy’s got a good leg and he’s a good athlete and he can make good contact with a ball, there’s a point where, high school, college, that maybe it’s good enough. Maybe he’s the best guy on the team to do that, but I’d say at this level, that will be asking a lot. Now like Jake [Bailey] can punt. Jake can kick off. Jake can kick field goals. To be at the kind of level you want it to be at, to have the person split their time between the two of those, again, I think is a lot to ask. I’m not saying it’s impossible or unheard of, but it’s a lot to ask, and that’s why you don’t see it very much.

“That’s a good question. It’s really interesting, and I’d say if you look at the evolution of those positions since I’ve been in the league, but even a little bit before then, because that’s really where it started to go was in the late sixties. I think [Pete] Gogolak was the first, or one of the first, where that trend really started to, okay, we’re just going to keep a guy, and all he does is kick. [Garo] Yepremian and guys like that. That’s all they did. That was a little bit unusual, but you know, gradually that has become the new normal.”

50 responses to “Bill Belichick offers 1,500-word discourse on long snappers, off the top of his head

  1. Nice. And yes, quite interesting. Belichick when he opens up just pours knowledge and its fun to absorb.

  2. Bring the man an apple !!! Class will always be in session with BB . He views and looks at things , breaks them down like no other . He Coaches second to none .

  3. You know you are really getting old when you can actually remember watching some of the players Belichick talks about.

  4. I’ve always thought the kicker and punter should be the same person. No need for two roster spots when your only responsibility is to kick the ball.

  5. Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that the man loves the game of football and the game is better for having a guy like this in it.

  6. That’s a great answer and I’d forgotten that QB used to hold the field goal kicks.

    This answer should also go to show that there’s a lot more to being a professional athlete than simply being “good” at the sport. A lot of people misunderstand just how much thought and effort goes into ensuring that sports are done at a high level.

    Personally, answers like this help to make the sport more enjoyable to watch as I’m seeing more than simply a guy throw a ball and catch a ball. As an adult I’ve learned that the line positions especially have far more talent and skill than I realized growing up. Answers like this help fans who never played the game see the quality more clearly. Give us more Bill.

  7. I don’t think he will quit coaching anytime soon, but the books he would write once he stopped would be up there with The Art Of War.

  8. Fantastic presser. Each and every press member that complains about Bill’s replies needs to go home and reflect on their ability to ask pertinent questions. All I see if complaints about Bill’s replies and seeing something like this just shows that the problem isn’t Bill – it’s the reporters. If you’re not getting good answers, then ask better questions. The problem is YOU.
    #NotaPatsfan

  9. I remember watching George Blanda with the Oilers playing QB and kicking field goals and extra points. Geezzz, I’m frickin old….

  10. “He loves answering questions about football history”. Well, not always. Part of football history was his still unexplained refusal to play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. I’d much rather have an explanation for that than listening to him ramble on about long snapping.

  11. This is a great example of why there’s just one Bill Belichick, with his lifetime in the league as a coach and his encyclopedic knowledge. The application of his vast thought processes and resultant success has caused dozens of coaches and organizations to try and copy him.

    Lucky to have him as the Patriots head coach all these years, and hopefully for many more.

  12. weswelker83 says:
    September 18, 2021 at 7:22 am
    When the GOAT speaks, people listen
    ———————————————

    The “GOAT”, is the great Tom Brady..without Brady, Belichick is simply a defensive coordinator on another team.
    Bill was just a coach who was lottery lucky with that 6th rounder.., but everyone outside of N.E. knows that…as we saw with McDaniels in Denver fall flat.

  13. Damn that was fascinating to hear the strategy of the kick game and punt game. There should be more answers and questions like this.

  14. The “GOAT”, is the great Tom Brady..without Brady, Belichick is simply a defensive coordinator on another team.
    —–
    And without BB, Brady would be Aaron Rodgers.

  15. Who made who?
    Facts…
    One year apart, the GOAT hoists the Lombardy trophy in a different city, while the coach is smashing phones and watching from home.

  16. BB has always been the same way. Ask stupid questions you get stupid answers. Ask good questions get good answers.

  17. As much as I hate the Patriots, I love BB because of stuff like this. It’s one part deep analytical history lesson and one part trolling a reporter for asking a silly pointless question.
    I’d like to just sit down and watch a game with him and listen to him break it down in real time. See what he sees.

  18. george1859 says:
    September 18, 2021 at 9:03 am
    weswelker83 says:
    September 18, 2021 at 7:22 am
    When the GOAT speaks, people listen
    ———————————————

    The “GOAT”, is the great Tom Brady..without Brady, Belichick is simply a defensive coordinator on another team.
    Bill was just a coach who was lottery lucky with that 6th rounder.., but everyone outside of N.E. knows that…as we saw with McDaniels in Denver fall flat.

    ____________________________

    Last time I checked it was Belichick’s defenses that won most of Brady’s super bowls…

  19. Bill Belichick unequivocally loves and adores special teams. His investment in that 1/3 of the game has given his team a slight edge over the past 20 or so years. I know that Brady guy was pretty good but any little advantage you can get in football helps tilt the odds slightly in your favor.

  20. Those who think BB is nothing more than a defensive coordinator without Brady (LOL! Someone really thinks that?) could do themselves a favor by looking at how he turned around Cleveland, and the season Cassell filled in.

  21. Ask Belichick about defense or special teams and he will deliver a full lecture describing everything.

  22. And of course, we just had to expect “…why does he cheat?” This statement has grown stale over the years, frankly, because it’s intellectually lazy. Bother to do detailed reading about the findings and analysis from those investigations. BB himself admitted the filming didn’t harvest anything really useful. It’s not as if this team was the only one trying to catch signals. Same as many players have said Bountygate wasn’t only something happening at NOLA. Deflategate has been quite eloquently misproven by physics professionals. How funny in that game when the balls were all rechecked and inflated properly according to the temperature at halftime, Brady and the Pats proceeded to blow the doors off the Colts in the 3rd and 4th quarters. If air pressure mattered, it’s strange with the higher pressure balls Brady performed better.

  23. nygiantsownbrady says:
    September 18, 2021 at 11:24 am
    george1859 says:
    September 18, 2021 at 9:03 am
    weswelker83 says:
    September 18, 2021 at 7:22 am
    When the GOAT speaks, people listen
    ———————————————

    The “GOAT”, is the great Tom Brady..without Brady, Belichick is simply a defensive coordinator on another team.
    Bill was just a coach who was lottery lucky with that 6th rounder.., but everyone outside of N.E. knows that…as we saw with McDaniels in Denver fall flat.

    ____________________________

    Last time I checked it was Belichick’s defenses that won most of Brady’s super bowls…

    ——————
    Thank goodness you’re not in charge of “checking”…

    They won for because of the synergy (which is exponential)—one of the greatest coaching minds ever and one of the greatest QB’s ever, who is a flat-out difference maker wherever he goes.

  24. Tony Romo would like us all to forget that quarterbacks used to be the holders on place kicks. You might even say that tainted his career until he got into the booth.

  25. Last time I checked it was Belichick’s defenses that won most of Brady’s super bowls…

    ————————————

    Given that Pats defense was even worse than Packers defense on total yards allowed, I don’t think defense did any thing to produce top offense for 1st round bye and scored 24 or more in back to back playoff games.

    Oh, I see that is what Brady was supposed to deliver with the pathetic squad given by Belichick, something no other QB was able to do.

  26. Talk football and he will talk allday .

    —————–

    You mean he will repeat “There’s a lot of room for improvement for all of us” all day long once talking about offense?

  27. Like him or not, no one can doubt his football knowledge.

    ——————–

    That was why he signed Cam Newton to operate Brady’s system, which overwhelmingly depends on QB’s intelligence. His football knowledge was so profound that he thought that all he needed was a QB who could throw 5 yards.

    Of course, on defense, his football knowledge was so profound that his defense routinely collapsed in later 4th quarters in big games (AFCCG and SB); His football knowledge was so profound that once Peyton Manning started throwing to his 3rd or 4th option (since half time of 2007 AFCCG), Belichick had no clue at all of how to stop Peyton, and never able to shut down Peyton again.

  28. New England will experience mediocrity for the next decade, and they will do so in a cruel fashion. Only one GOAT, and he’s gone…. A crotchety coach and a bumbling offensive coordinator is what remains…

  29. I have been watching football since the 60’s ..I am a Jets fan ..there are a lot of great coaches Hank Steam..Tom Landry.Vince Lombardi.but if you don’t see that Shula and Belicheck with their command of both offense and defense their ability to adapt and be competitive with quarterbacks that weren’t named Brady Greise and Unitas are the best then you weren’t paying attention

  30. ..I am a Jets fan ..there are a lot of great coaches Hank Steam..Tom Landry.Vince Lombardi.but if you don’t see that Shula and Belicheck with their command of both offense and defense their ability to adapt and be competitive with quarterbacks that weren’t named Brady Greise and Unitas are the best then you weren’t paying attention

  31. Belichick with their command of both offense and defense

    ——————–

    Please elaborate, because I don’t see, even on defense, because given so much invested on defense, I think we should expect a defense that could could win 2 playoff games, a defense that could step up in last 2 min, not like collapsing in big games so often.

  32. The SB against Seahawks : Belichick’s believers often take this game as an example to show how great Belichick was. It is quite (you fill a word here), because the SB run showed exact why Brady didn’t need Belichick.

    In the divisional round against Ravens, the defense allowed 2 14-points leads by Ravens, it was Brady’s offense that saved the defense. In SB, the defense allowed a quick TD by Russel Wilson to tie the game before half time, and almost collapsed again if not because of the mistake by Peter Carrol. WITH 28 POINTS, BRADY COULD HAVE WON WITH LOT OF OTHER DEFENSES, LIKE PACKERS’ DEFENSE.

  33. Even though he was totally trolling the Reporter as someone mentioned earlier, this was an awesome read. I love learning about the nuts and Bolts of Football and the history as well.

  34. How many games would Tom Brady, or any other QB for that matter, win without a long snapper, holder and/ or a kicker?

  35. How many games would Tom Brady, or any other QB for that matter, win without a long snapper, holder and/ or a kicker?

    ———————–

    That is like asking how a Boeing airplane lands without landing gears. I think China, India, maybe even Vietnam and Bangladesh, are able to manufacture landing gears for Boeing if they are asked to.

  36. Every field has greats like this in it, people who really love and appreciate and understand the fine details, nuances, and history. You also have guys who sort of stumble into fame through a short period of focused superficial effort, and I feel like everything is kind of heading that way. But it’s guys like Belichick who give the game depth and a sense of tradition, which is why the game has the cultural cache it does.

  37. But it’s guys like Belichick who give the game depth and a sense of tradition,

    ————————————————

    There have been so much hollow talks about Belichick, like here “game depth”, WTH is that? and of course, “do you jobs”, like once Belichick yelled it, players became more talented and were able to make plays; like “We are on to Cincinnati”, his believers talk like it was the reason Pats won the game.

    Of course, the (in)famous “system” for 20 years, no one has pointed out what is special about it that other coaches couldn’t do with Brady. It is like his believers don’t even know the meaning of greatness. Oh, sorry, his believers did point out what is special about the “system”: they claim “being cheap (on offense) is a system”.

  38. Brady versus Belichick is dumb ass argument. Look at the stats of Brady’s first year as a starter and his last SB year in new England. Running game and defense won both SB titles. But at same time Brady was MVP in 4 SB titles in between. The Patriot Dynasty that lasted 20 years will not be duplicated. Best in History. And BOTH Bleichick AND Brady are responsible.

    Of course all the media and haters and excuse makers just love the controversy and like to stir up the masses who really are still envious of greatness.

  39. Brady GOAT Belichick GOAT. Together they built greatest Dynasty NFL has ever seen.
    Both were instrumental and needed to create a Dynasty. Argument over. Period.

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