Bill Belichick hates to talk to the media; that’s what the national media tells us any chance they get. We collectively have heard that line so many times that it is presumed to be true, beyond any possible shadow of a doubt.
News flash: it’s a myth.
The head coach of the New England Patriots doesn’t hate speaking to the press; he does however detest irrelevant questions that have nothing to do with the game, or questions to which a reporter should know that he is not going to divulge an answer.
When you ask Belichick a quality question he will give you a response so lengthy that a columnist may need to split up his article into a two-part series. Ask him about something that relates to the history of the game of football, or as in this case the X’s and O’s of the game, and reporters need to go to their editor’s begging for extra space in tomorrow’s newspaper.
In Thursday’s cluster at Detroit the Patriots opened the game in a “12 personnel” (one back, two tight ends), with Stevan Ridley as the lone running back and two tight ends (Zach Sudfeld and Jake Ballard). Later, the Pats added fullback James Develin, and took a tight end off the field – i.e., a “21 personnel (two RB, one TE).
All it took was for a reporter to ask to compare the advantages of each personnel formation, and Belichick took the ball and ran with it.
“Just fundamentally, when you have one back in the backfield and you have four on-the-line receivers, that gives you an ability to get into the defense potentially with four people.
“Or even if it’s three of them, sometimes the defense isn’t sure which three of them it is. One tight end could be in it and the other guy could be in protection, that type of thing.
“I think you’re able to attack the defense from the line of scrimmage a little bit quicker and with a little less predictability, depending on who those players are, of course. That’s certainly a factor.
“But as far as your running gaps, I mean,you can put more width at the formation by having a guy on the line, whether it’s four on one side and two on the other side of the center or three and three. You just have a wider front, which there are some advantages to that.
“By having them in the backfield, you can create that same four-man surface or three-man surface after the snap so the defense doesn’t know where the four-man surface or three-man surface is.
“The fullback has to – he can build that from the backfield. And then there are also, let’s say, a greater variety of blocking schemes with the fullback in the backfield because he can block different guys and come from different angles. He’s not always behind the quarterback. He could be offset one way or the other and create different blocking schemes and angles that it’s harder to get from the line of scrimmage.
“Also, depending on who your tight end is, it can be a little bit easier to pass protect seven men because two of them are in the backfield instead of us having one in the backfield. And then when you start running guys up the middle in the gaps and things like that. I think fundamentally it’s a little easier to pick them up when you a have a guy in the backfield that can step up and block him from the fullback position as opposed to a tight end in the line of scrimmage who probably isn’t going to be able to loop back in and get him, so the line is probably all going to have to gap down or not gap down if the guy drops out and all that.
“It just creates a different – it creates some advantages, I think, and it also creates some things you have to deal with. You just have to decide how you want to deal with them. Obviously when you have a guy in the backfield, it’s harder to get those two receivers vertically into the defense in the passing game.
“They’re usually running shorter routes to the flat or checking over the ball or those kind of things, short crossing routes – versus having that fourth receiver on the line of scrimmage who can run some downfield routes, again depending on who the individual person is.
“The skill definitely changes what you can do with that guy. Those are the things that come into play. Some teams are very settled in one type of offense or another, so all of their plays and their rules or their adjustments come from that particular set. And other teams use multiple looks to, say, run the same plays or the same concepts to try to give the defense a different look. It’s harder for them to zero in on what they’re doing. But they’re able to do similar things from different personnel groups or different formations.
“That’s a long answer to a really short question, but I hopefully that helps a little bit.”
The response is not only an excellent primer for those that wish to advance their knowledge of the game, but it absolutely shatters the myth that Belichick does not like to talk to the media.
All it takes is asking an intelligent question.
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