Bill Belichick is typically a man of few words. But when he’s talking about the intricacies of special teams strategy or the NFL’s rulebook, the buttoned-up Patriots head coach can’t seem to stop talking.
Earlier this season, Belichick had approximately three words to say about his team’s highly anticipated showdown with this the Chiefs (a game that actually lived up to its hype).
But ask him about punt coverage and your hand will hurt from transcribing:
Belichick's 1,256-word answer on matchups on punt coverage. He went for over 2,000 words total on special teams today. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/f2dyLGcVTf— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) October 26, 2018
This is hardly the first time. Last year as his team prepared for the postseason, Belichick took the opportunity to talk about his favorite topic:
Bill Belichick: "It's great to be sitting here on Tuesday talking about all this punting."— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) January 2, 2018
He didn’t stop there.
A very Belichick encore: Finished off the conference call by listing off, unprompted, many of the kickers/punters/longsnappers he's worked with.— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) January 2, 2018
"It's nice to put your head on a pillow and not have to worry too much about those positions."
He’s not even effusive on the sideline during games. He’s direct and to the point. But there are just a handful of things that bring out his Professor Belichick persona, and he’s always happy to explain them in great detail.
It’s time to learn about the NFL from Bill Belichick. Here are his favorite subjects, in order of how many words he had to say about each one.
1,020 words: Bill Belichick will teach you every detail of Patriots special teams history
If you haven’t figured this out yet, Bill Belichick absolutely loves special teams. And he went on and on and on about former Patriots kicker Gino Cappelletti kicking field goals back in the 1960s. Here’s a brief excerpt:
When I first came into the league in 1975, I think we talked about this before, I would say most teams had a kicker. Some teams had a punter, other teams had a guy that played a position and also punted. Then most every team had a position player who was the long snapper, either an offensive lineman or a linebacker or tight end or somebody like that. There were very, just pure long snappers like every team has now. There were, as I said, some punters, probably there were more punters than there were positon players punting, but there was an element of both. I would say the kickers had almost all transitioned at that point. I think one of the big things with kicking, unlike punting, is timing. You have the snapper and the holder and the operation and when the kicker starts a little bit early then that fouls up the timing. If the kicker starts a little bit late then it doesn't foul up the timing, it just puts you more at risk to have the kick blocked. So, one of the things the kicker deals with is just the timing and some of that is the anticipation. So the more the kicker knows the snapper, the more he can kind of anticipate that mannerism or length of time, anticipation of when the snap is going to occur and then start into his approach to the ball and kick. Obviously, the better that operation is and the more experience those guys have together, to include the holder, then theoretically the better it will be, the smoother it will be.
That’s not even a third of what Belichick had to say about the evolution of special teams in the NFL. This is why it’s always the smart play for reporters to lead with special teams questions when talking to Belichick.
939 words: Bill Belichick on tailoring coaching to a player’s talents
Jacoby Brissett said after a preseason game that he needed to work on his fundamentals. Belichick explained how he approaches teaching mechanics to his players. Here’s just 207 of the words Belichick said about that. Notice he also talked a whole lot about special teams AGAIN:
Their mechanics may have some variation and so there are a lot of different, I would say, styles. You look at the golf tour — not every swing is exactly the same, but all of those guys are pretty good. I think what you try to teach in that situation — and I’ve talked to people who coach those specific skills like that and when I was the special teams coach and coached punters and kickers — is that there are certain fundamentals that are inherent and good in good passes, good kicks, good punts. The way that the ball is released, and the angle and the spin on the ball, and the delivery, and so forth.
The same thing is true, as I said, in golf or punting or place kicking. I think you try to teach the players the basic fundamentals and if they can adjust their mechanics in a way to improve and still feel comfortable with it, then we try to do that. And if it’s an adjustment that they’re really not comfortable making for whatever the reasons, then I think you just have to decide if you can live with what the deficiencies are in the mechanics and look at if the punts are good.
820 words: Bill Belichick is all about the NFL’s obscure rules
Belichick was asked how he teaches his players about the NFL’s boring old rules. His response took over eight minutes.
“I think it’s a really good question, but it would entail probably a pretty lengthy answer,” Belichick warned from the start. He was right:
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 had 743 more words to share on this topic. It’s near and dear to his heart.
683 words: Bill Belichick has a lot to say about punt protection
Belichick’s affection for special teams runs deep. He also loves talking about the role of punt protectors in the NFL. It came up because the Patriots placed key special teamer Nate Ebner on injured reserve, and Belichick was asked what impact that would have on the Patriots.
683 words from Bill Belichick today on the role of the punt protector. "A lot goes into that position." pic.twitter.com/HotcOj1GfD— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 1, 2017
513 words: Bill Belichick respects the hell out of Johnny Hekker’s skill set
It’s not often that you hear a punter referred to as “a tremendous weapon.” But Belichick said all of that and much more about Rams punter Johnny Hekker:
Hekker is a tremendous weapon. I mean, this guy is as good a player as I've ever seen at that position. He's a tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fakes, can throw, can run, very athletic ... He's dangerous. Absolutely. He's like a quarterback. He can throw. He can run. You gotta defend him like you defend one of those guys.
490 words: Bill Belichick on Jim Brown’s influence on the NFL
Belichick’s coaching career with the Browns ended unceremoniously when then-owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore. But he’s got a ton of respect for former Browns great Jim Brown and his football legacy:
Well, I think honestly any person, football player or otherwise, can learn a lot from Jim Brown and what he represents and what he stands for. But particularly as it relates to our football team, Jim Brown's in my opinion the greatest player that ever played. I've had an opportunity to have known him Jim for over 20 years now. I met him when I was the coach at the Browns and just had so much more respect and appreciation for him knowing him well as a person and as a friend, even just as an observer from a distance, but I think he's meant so much to this game. He's paved the way for all of us; players and coaches. [He's] part of many people who have made professional football, the game of football, the great game that it is.
450 words: Bill Belichick knows what makes great players stand out
He used Lawrence Taylor as his top example:
I’d say, in my experience, some of the good or great players have been able to identify and achieve that kind of play. Lawrence Taylor was one. He played hard. He was a tough player, one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached, but every play wasn’t the top play. But, every important play was. If it was the fourth quarter or third-down situation, you were going to get his top effort on that play, which is when you really needed it.
Not saying that he didn’t play the other plays hard—he did—but there was another gear based on the situation or the importance of a particular play. And he could recognize that. He could identify, ‘OK, this is it.’ And he had the ability to reach down and get that top effort on that play when you needed it the most. So that’s, I’d say, one thing about the great players like L.T.
220 words: Bill Belichick calls Buddy Ryan’s defense “pretty unblockable”
Belichick is a student of football history, and he’s always happy to wax philosophic about it:
In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems. I think that’s what Buddy really, where the genius of that was; he had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable.
Sometimes he’s able to get his point across with just a few words, like he did when talking about playing on a short week:
Is playing on the road off of a short week more of a challenge? Belichick gives the most Belichick answer he can give. #Patriots #Broncos pic.twitter.com/s8MaJZ5InJ— Chad Amaral (@chad_amaral) December 14, 2016
Belichick is not big into social media, so don’t expect him to teach you much about InstaChat and SnapFace. But if you want to learn every detail about special teams or NFL history, Bill Belichick is your guy.