Some great stuff from Patriots coach Bill Belichick today to New England reporters on his head coaching inteview with Al Davis before the 1998 season. As closed off as Belichick can be, occasionally he is expansive and illuminating. He’s said some of these things before, but they’re worth repeating:
Q: What do you remember from that meeting with Al Davis? What did you take away from that?
Belichick: I thought it was good. It was good. It was good experience for me. I went out there after the ’98 season. We had a good couple days of conversation. I told him when I got out there – it really seemed like a waste of time because I felt pretty certain that he wouldn’t hire a defensive coach, because he hasn’t since Eddie Erdelatz in (1960).
Note: Davis didn’t hire Erdelatz. He was working for Sid Gillman and the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s a parade of offensive coaches out there. He’s really a defensive coordinator and has been. You know, it was good because we talked a lot about football and he’s very, very knowledgeable about the game, personnel, schemes, adjustments and so forth. He was asking a lot of questions about what we did defensively. You kind of don’t want to give too much information there because you know, he’s running the defense. He wasn’t really too interested in talking about offensive football – a little bit. He’s a great mind.
It was unlike any other interview I’ve ever had with an owner because he was so in-depth, his interview was so in-depth really about football, about ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ and strategy and use of personnel and acquisition of – all the things really that a coach would talk about, that’s really what he talked about. That made it pretty unique. But he hired a good coach, [Jon] Gruden. Which is again, in all honesty, the way that I expected it to go because that’s been all the Oakland coaches from Art Shell to Mike White, Joe Bugel, [Mike] Shanahan, you know right down the line, Lane Kiffin, they’re all offensive coaches.
They have their own way of doing things which is interesting but certainly well thought-out and well planned. I’m not saying that in a negative way at all, they just have their own of doing it – they’ve had a lot of success. It was a great experience for me to have those couple days of conversations with him and also some other members of his organization relative, again, to the overall way of doing things.
Q: You’re obviously someone who has taken things from other great coaches and coordinators in the past. What mark did Al Davis leave on you defensively when you look back at his Raiders teams from the ‘60s and ‘70s?
Belichick: Well, you look at the same thing today, there’s not a lot of difference. Like I said, he’s really run the defense and to a large extent the kicking game out there for the ‘60s, ‘70s, 80’s, 90’s – 40 years, maybe more than that, I don’t know. But he’s, again they have their style of play, they have their way of doing things. As much as you can say this is a copycat league and things like that, you can’t really say that about them because they’ve done the same thing now for decades defensively and to a certain extent, offensively.
Through the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity, just as luck would have it really, that some people that I was very close to in coaching were in that organization. In talking football, I feel like I know a lot about what they do, how they do it, again through third parties now, not directly, but through third parties. It makes a lot of sense. They definitely have a plan. I think I understand basically what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it. I think it’s consistent and I’ve taken a lot from that.
The personnel side of it, the way they look at certain things in the game and what their priorities are. I definitely have tried to look at those and incorporate some of them into what we do. We do things a little bit differently than they do, but that’s okay. You just want it to be consistent and you want it to finish at the end game – where you want to be. That’s what everybody is trying to do. It’s well thought-out. I don’t think it’s a trial-and-error system. It’s a proven system, they believe in it and they’re going to follow it.
Q: You mentioned the Raiders way of doing things. Hue Jackson seems to have really taken on the Raiders persona and he’s talked about wanting to instill that Raiders and ‘Black Hole’ culture into the team. Have you noticed them transitioning back to the way things were when they were in the height of their organization?
Belichick: Again, I don’t know that that’s ever totally left. I definitely think he’s done a good job of building on the Raider pride and their historical success. Again, they played well last year, won every game in their division, which as we know is hard to do and [they] are off to a good start this year. He’s done a good job with the team – the team is playing well.
They were a good football team last year and they’ve been a good football team. I’m not saying their record has always reflected that. We’ve never played the Raiders or prepared to play the Raiders and not recognized the strengths that they had and what they’re capable of doing. I can’t speak to all the other games and so forth, but just watching them, they do a lot of things. They have a good team, they have a good program in place and its showing up in the win column so far this year and it did last year in their division. You have to recognize that.