New England coach Bill Belichick spoke with the Miami media this morning. No, he did not reveal his plans for playing (or sitting) his starters in what is effectively a meaningly less game for the Patriots versus the Dolphins.
But he did give his opinions on Cameron Wake, Tony Sparano, the Miami running game and other issues of note. Here's what he said:
Q: How good did you expect your rookie tight ends to be and why were they able to immediately contribute to your team?
BB: Well, I think anytime you get a new player on your team, especially a rookie, you never know how it’s going to go, so you just take it day by day and see how they develop and see how they are able to perform the skills that you ask them to do. It becomes a gradual process, but both guys have played a lot of snaps and taken a lot of plays in practice and worked hard and gotten better, so they’ve improved on their skills and been able to develop a role for us in our offense.
Q: What was it about what you were doing after that perfect regular season in 2007? It seems like you guys were rebuilding while you were consistently winning. What was that process like and what does it all start with? Does it start with rebuilding that defense?
BB: Well, I think every year we kind of go through the same process. At the end of the season, we look at what our results were and how our team performed and then try to look ahead as to what players we anticipate will have a similar role, what players’ roles may increase and what players’ roles might decrease, and try to take advantage of the opportunities we have to improve our team, whether that’s the draft, free agency, trades, other free agent signings and so forth. Really, it’s the same process every year; we try to evaluate our team and find a way to improve it, and that can come in a lot of different areas. And again, I think regardless of what your record is, you still have to give a fair and critical evaluation of your team, whatever the record was, you still have to look at how it actually performed and what areas you need to improve in and what areas you feel like you want to try to maintain that level of production that comes at a winning level.
Q: I think we know the answer to this question, but we have to ask it anyway. It’s Week 17, obviously. What’s your plan for how much you want to play your starters?
BB: Well, we’ll do what we feel like is best for our football team. It’s the same thing we do every week.
Q: What have you seen out of Cameron Wake from the first time you guys went against him to where he's at now?
BB: He's really a good football player. We saw that last year. We’ve seen it this year. He's good in the running game, good in the passing game. He's got good length. He's got a good motor. He's strong. He’s got a good variety of pass rush moves. He can get the edge. He can play with power. He can come inside. He's a hard guy to block. He really, I think, does pretty much everything well. He’s got a lot of strong points.
Q: Does it surprise you that he had to take the route that he did? The first go around he didn’t even make it past training camp and now two years after Canada he's developed this far.
BB: Well, I think you see that with players on every team. Every team has got their players that weren’t drafted or had their set of circumstances where, for whatever reason, they didn’t start as fast or didn’t have the opportunity early in their career, but then it came later on. So I think the big thing – and again, a lot of those players have improved, too. We’ve certainly had our share of players that where they were when we first got them and where they ended up were two completely different levels. I mean, I wasn’t with him early, so I’m not sure exactly how much that took place, but I’m just saying that I think that players have different paths to success. And you certainly have to give him a lot of credit for his consistency and sticking to it and improving and becoming the player that he has. He's really a good football player.
Q: With this running game, in previous seasons The Dolphins have done pretty well. This year they’re averaging 3.7 yards per carry. What have you seen from the offensive line or Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams that you can attribute what’s going on to?
BB: I think the Dolphins are a good running team. They’re well coached. They have good running schemes. They certainly present a lot of problems to the defense with their blocking patterns and formations and the way they run the ball. That’s not easy, but there are a lot of factors that go into it and again, the score and game situations and so forth, that has a lot to do with it. I know the Dolphins have had a little transition on the offensive line. [Vernon] Carey is an outstanding player. That’s in transition there at guard with [John] Jerry, [Pat] McQuistan and so forth. But Vernon Carey is a big player for them. But in the end, there are a lot of factors and it really comes down to team offense. It’s not just running or passing. All that has to be tied in together with everything: field position, third down, and balance in the offense. I think the Dolphins have a lot of good players. They move the ball consistently. They’ve gotten production out of three receivers. They get production out of their tight end. They’ve got backs that can carry the ball in regular situations [and Lousaka] Polite in short-yardage, so they have a lot of weapons on offense. They’re still a hard team to stop.
Q: In your estimation, how long does it typically take a quarterback to develop in the NFL coming straight out of college?
BB: I don’t think there is any set answer for a quarterback or any other position; it can vary. I know when we were at the Giants and had Phil Simms, he was a real high pick – sixth, seventh pick in the draft, whatever it was – in ’79. He had three or four years when the fans and the media and all were talking about him being a bust and wasted draft pick and all that. He's one of the best players that ever played for the Giants. So you look at guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in their first year or two [and] Phil Simms. There are a lot of examples of guys that didn’t go out and be rookie of the year, but they are some of the best quarterbacks in the league, too.
Q: What has it been like to coach against Tony Sparano’s teams the past few years? How would you define his teams?
BB: Tough. Disciplined. They don’t commit very many penalties. You’ve got to go out there and beat them. They don’t beat themselves. You’ve got to go out there and play well. They’ve always been a physical defensive team, hard to run against, a good tackling team, a lot of big, strong, physical guys. Same thing on the offense: good backs, good running game, explosive receivers. I think they’re a tough, physical football team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes penalty-wise and things like that. You’ve got to work to turn the ball over. You’ve got to play 60 minutes against them, and we’ve split with them the last couple of years, so it’s always a tough battle with the Dolphins.
Q: I know you guys still have plenty of season left, but down here after this week it’s going to be the offseason. As a head coach, with the current labor crisis, how could all that uncertainty affect the way you prepare your team for the 2011 season?
BB: Right now we’re thinking about this Sunday against Miami. That’s my focus: the Miami Dolphins. And that’s plenty for us to great ready for, so all those other things will come in due time.
Q: Since the special teams performance that they had against you guys, the special teams coach has been fired and there have been a couple of personnel changes. From film study, what differences have you seen?
BB: Well, a good return game, of course, with [Devone] Bess [who is] obviously one of the best returners in the league. [Nolan] Carroll – I think that was his first game against us when he returned kickoffs, and he's done a good job for them. [Patrick] Cobbs, you’ve got to be ready for him. I think their coverage players do a good job – [Reshad] Jones and Cobbs on the punt team. They’ve got some good, physical guys inside – [Lex] Hilliard and [Tyrone] Culver and [Jonathon] Amaya. So, I think they are a good, solid team. They rush the punter. They put pressure [on you], they test your protection. They’ve got good returners. They cover well. They scatter around on the kickoff a little bit and make it hard for you to figure out who’s exactly coming down where. I think [Dan] Carpenter is an excellent kicker. Like any kicker or any specialist, it’s not always perfect, but over time he’s been a pretty solid player for them and he's had some great kicks and some great plays – the 60-yarder or whatever it was. He's certainly capable of hitting them from pretty much anywhere.
Q: The last few times you’ve played the Dolphins you’ve moved Vince Wilfork out to defensive end. Is that just a strategic thing or how often do you do that with Vince?
BB: Vince is a versatile player. He’s played a number of different positions for us. He actually played defensive end here his rookie year, so we had Keith Traylor on the nose and Vince play end that year. Again, on a weekly basis, we’ll do what we feel like gives us the best matchup against our opponents to try to win.