Richard Seymour is being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame today, and Bill Belichick — who drafted Seymour in 2001 and coached him in New England until trading him to the Raiders in 2009 — took the opportunity to detail everything that made Seymour one of the great Patriots players.
And Belichick stressed the “Everything.” That was the first word Belichick said when asked what made Seymour great, before giving several long and detailed answers about what kind of player Seymour was.
“Everything. Yeah. Richard was a tremendous player,” Belichick said. “He had a tremendous skill set. He had great length. Explosive. Very quick for his size. He could do everything. He started his career at the nose, which was not really his best position, but he could play it for sure, and we needed him there in ’01. Then we moved him back to his natural position of five and three-technique. He played some on the nose in passing situations, but he was really more of a defensive end than a nose tackle, but he played there because we needed him, and then after we got Ted [Washington] and [Keith] Traylor and Vince [Wilfork], then he ended up outside. Again, long, athletic, very powerful. It was a tough matchup for the interior linemen. He could win with speed, and against some of the quicker guys, he could win with power. Smart player. Richard was very smart and had good awareness. He was a good situational player and certainly helped our linebackers a lot because he was either able to get penetration or able to draw blockers and tie up blockers that couldn’t get to the second level on some of our off-the-ball players. He was a very disruptive force. Good in the kicking game. Played in the punt return and had some big plays for us. Going back to ’01, like Troy’s [Brown] punt return against Cleveland. He had a huge block on that. He was an excellent field goal blocker. He had a lot of roles. He played in a lot of different situations. We won a lot of games with him. He was a great player. He certainly deserves to be in the Patriot’s Hall of Fame and the NFL Hall of Fame. Hopefully, that’ll be coming shortly for him as well.”
Belichick still remembers well the plays that Seymour made in his eight years with the Patriots.
“Oh boy. There are a lot of them. Again, we won so many big games, and he made an impact when he got here in 2001,” Belichick said. “Playing him on the center, which was kind of a new spot for him. He played defensive tackle at Georgia in kind of a four-man line, really more on the guard, but he adapted that quickly, and then his role shifted a little bit, but he was so consistent for the early part of his career when he was with us and through those championship years. On the defensive line, it’s not really about one flash play. It’s about down after down, being dominant. I just referenced the punt return play because you don’t see a lot of defensive tackles on the punt return unit, but I remember showing our team plays of that punt return unit being Troy Brown, who was obviously a starter, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, [Richard] Seymour, and then you had some of the other guys like Larry Izzo and other players like that, Eric Alexander, and those guys that were kind of core special teams players, but there were plays on our punt return team where we had four or five starters and Patriots Hall of Fame players and NFL Hall of Fame players on the punt return unit, and Seymour is one of them. So, those plays kind of stood out for me because they are just a little more unusual.”
Seymour’s scored a 68-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery in 2004, and Belichick said Seymour routinely made big plays on turnovers.
“Richard could run,” Belichick said. “He could run not only on fumble returns, but on interception returns. [Rodney] Harrison and [Ty] Law and Eugene Wilson and those guys, Asante [Samuel Sr.], he was one of those guys that could go from defense to offense in a hurry and made some big blocks and honestly caused a lot of those interceptions, certainly some of them, just because of his penetration, length, and pressure on the quarterback that were force disruptive or errant throws. He was very, very athletic, and when you look at that defense in Georgia, he played with [Marcus] Stroud. If I remember right, he was on the right, Stroud was on the left, and you talk about two big-time defensive tackles on the same defense at the same time. That Georgia defense, the entire defense was drafted. I think from either 2000 or ’99. Whatever it was, it was [Boss] Bailey and all those guys. Anyway, yeah. He had a lot explosive plays, field goal blocks, fumble scoop-and-scores, strip sacks. He was really certainly a big play guy, but I think when you look at those defenses, the combination of multiple players, and he was the centerpiece of the front, but between [Mike] Vrabel and [Willie] McGinest and [Tedy] Bruschi and eventually Ty Warren and [Vince] Wilfork, there was multiple players there, Jarvis Green, that if you got one guy, it was hard to get them all. Again, he was the centerpiece. He was the most disruptive player, and that’s why he’ll be in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and that’s why he’ll probably eventually be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Hopefully, this year.”
The Patriots took Seymour with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, which is still the highest pick Belichick has ever had in New England. Belichick said it was obvious that Seymour was worth it.
“He’s really unlike any other player that I had coached up until that point,” Belichick said. “With the Giants, we had some good defensive linemen, Leonard Marshall, but Richard Seymour is 6’7″. Leonard was 6’2″, so it was just a difference in posture, length. When I was in Denver, we had [Lyle] Alzado. He was kind of more like the guys we had in Baltimore, John Dutton, Mike Barnes, a combination of a Barnes and [Joe] Ehrmann and Dutton all rolled into one, between length, explosiveness, athleticism, quickness, and those guys were really, really good players, but there just haven’t been many like him. Obviously, you talk about Hall of Fame players, so it’s not a long list of those guys, but I just never really had anybody like that. He was very smart. He could do a lot of different things; game plans, pass rush plays, playing certain plays a certain way. That was all really pretty easy for him because the game came easy for him in terms of intelligence and anticipation and communication along the line. With guys like [Tedy] Bruschi and [Mike] Vrabel and [Willie] McGinest and those guys, they all communicated well, Rodney [Harrison], Lawyer [Milloy]. If they saw something, they were able to apply [their skills] quickly and use them to make a play or to take care of a problem that we could identify pre-snap, so those were big-time strengths. It was really the whole package, but it jumped out pretty quickly. It didn’t take long to see that this guy was going to really be able to help us.”
Far from his reputation as a coach who only grumbles short answers to reporters, Belichick can be one of the NFL’s most eloquent coaches when he’s discussing a topic he wants to discuss. And Richard Seymour was a topic he wanted to discuss this week.