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Sport On Bill Belichick, platoons and answers to football questions

03:22  20 august  2020
03:22  20 august  2020 Source:   msn.com

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There is an old expression when it comes to asking New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick: Ask a football question, get a football answer.

Bill Belichick looking at the camera © Provided by Touchdown Wire

For example, back in 2018 the Patriots were becoming more of a 21 offensive personnel team down the stretch. Rookie running back Sony Michel was running behind fullback James Devlin in this package, with two wide receivers, a tight end and the two running backs on the field. Belichick was asked about the fullback position becoming more of a blocking option, and the head coach gave a history lesson in response:

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I’d say in the 70’s with college football really, I-formation. [John] McKay and people like that and then certainly by the 80’s you had one runner, so the one-back teams with Coach [Joe] Gibbs and [Don] Coryell and people like that, Mike Martz and so forth. Those guys all went to one-runner and the blocker was the blocker, so that became instead of the fullback, sometimes the tight end.

It was really in the 60’s with the Jim Browns and Jim Taylor and really all of them. [Rocky] Bleier and [Franco] Harris were probably the last kind of – actually Harris carried the ball more than probably Bleier did and they weren’t really an I-formation team. I’d say it kind of transitioned from there, and then when guys like [O.J.] Simpson and guys like that came into the league, the guys they put in front of them – with Simpson they put two guards in front of him. [Paul] Seymour was the tight end, [Jim] Braxton was the fullback and they were both offensive lineman, basically, and so you knew who was getting the ball rather than having another ball-carrier back there.

On Bill Belichick, platoons and answers to football questions

  On Bill Belichick, platoons and answers to football questions There is an old expression when it comes to asking New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick: Ask a football question, get a football answer. For example, back in 2018 the Patriots were becoming more of a 21 offensive personnel team down the stretch.…For example, back in 2018 the Patriots were becoming more of a 21 offensive personnel team down the stretch. Rookie running back Sony Michel was running behind fullback James Devlin in this package, with two wide receivers, a tight end and the two running backs on the field.

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They just had another, I would say, basically, an offensive lineman. But whether he carries the ball or doesn’t carry the ball, the blocking angles from the backfield are different than they are from the line of scrimmage, and the ability to build a four-man surface or a three-man surface after the snap is different than being in a four-man surface and then trying to get to a three-man surface or being in a three-man surface and trying to get to a four-man surface by running the guy all the way across the ball. There’s different blocking angles. It’s just a fundamental difference.

A football history lesson in response to a football question.

Something similar played out back in 2014 when the Patriots opened that season by using reserve offensive lineman Cameron Fleming in spots as an extra blocker up front. Belichick’s answer ended up, as you might expect, with a discussion of the Annapolis T-Birds.

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Seriously.

In eighth grade I played for the T-Birds in Annapolis. I think it was 110-pound football and so we were the T-Birds and so our coach played college football at Clemson so we ran the single-wing. That was our offense.

Whatever year that would have been, call it ’62, somewhere in there, ’63, whatever it was. So, for a whole year I got to experience what a single-wing offense was. It was pretty interesting, just being a lineman, which that was the game really, was the blocking play, the blocking patterns and the calls. That’s kind of all he knew, was to run the single-wing. So we ran the single-wing. Really looking back on it, it was a great experience I never would have gotten otherwise just because…hardly anybody was running it.

All those single-wing teams in the ‘50s had to make a decision when they went to the T-formation what they were going to do with the tailback, which when all those guys came into the NFL, was the decision the NFL had to make with them. Paul Hornung, you put him at running back. Johnny Unitas, you put him at quarterback; Bill Wade, you put him at quarterback. You had single-wing tailbacks that ended up becoming halfbacks in the NFL or they became quarterbacks in the NFL because that was their combination job in the single-wing offense.

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That was the whole single-wing offense was the balanced single-wing, then the overloaded single-wing then the box shift back to the weakside. It was all overload blocking angles trying to create. I don’t think the plays were checked back then. You were just trying to show power over here, now you’ve got power over there and show power over here and run counter back the other way and all that.

That’s really what football was in ‘30s and the ‘40s. That was a huge part of the game. It’s interesting to see how all that, how they tried to handle those different things, both offensively and what they tried to create and defensively what the answers were to them.

However, there is a corollary to this idea. That is, when you ask Belichick a question more about personnel, usage or even a specific player, you’ll likely get more of a “non-answer” in response. We all remember the infamous “we’re on to Cincinnati” press conference from later in that 2014 season:

What kicked that off was the first question, about a 37-year old Tom Brady.

Speaking of Brady, when asked about his veteran quarterback heading into New England’s playoff game last year, and how it could be their last game together, what was Belichick’s response?

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“I’m focused on Tennessee.”

Fast forward to today. One of the more interesting ideas bandied about among Patriots fans in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay is the idea that New England could run a two-quarterback platoon consisting of Jarrett Stidham and Cam Newton. So minds exploded and hearts began racing when Belichick on Wednesday gave this answer to a question about whether a potential quarterback platoon would benefit the offense:

It might. I always say I’ll do what I think is best for the team, what gives us the best chance to win. Whatever that is, I would definitely consider it — run unbalanced line, double unbalanced line, 23 personnel. Whatever it is, if it helps us win, I would consider anything.

Let’s all slow down, everyone.

Of course Belichick is going to give an answer like this, because it is both 100% true while being almost unresponsive to the question. This is a man who traded Richard Seymour, Jimmy Graoppolo and just let Brady walk out the door, and is always thinking of ways to “help the team win.” A man who saw his offense with Brady become that 21 offensive personnel package back in 2018, or use a reserve lineman as a tight end in 2014.

But at the same time, this is almost a generic response to the question. Many are running with the idea that since Belichick did not outright dismiss the idea, that it is almost a certainty. Perhaps there is evidence to support that position, because back in May Belichick was asked about his current crop of quarterbacks, and this was his response:

That’s where we are. You never know what’s going to happen down the road. We feel like we have four good players there. We added Brian (Lewerke) and J’Mar (Smith) to (Brian) Hoyer and (Jarrett) Stidham. Like to work with all of those guys and see how it goes.

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See! He did not dismiss the idea of adding a quarterback. Then they did, with Newton!

Precedent.

In reality, this was another of Belichick’s patented non-answers. This past season the offense struggled at times, including in a loss to the Houston Texans where they could not put drives together until the closing minutes. Belichick was asked about the offensive struggles. Here was his response:

We all got to do a better job. We gave up 28 points. That’s not — we’re not making any plays in the kicking game. We’ve got to perform better — coach better, play better.

He talked about the defense and the kicking game.

He was also asked a pointed question after that loss about his quarterback’s play. The response? “In the first half it wasn’t good enough in any phase of the game.”

So before everyone starts diagramming ideas on how to use both Stidham and Newton at once, stop. First off, you’d be late to the game, as the white erase board in my office already has all of the potential combinations on it, as I’ve given it more thought than I care to admit. But secondly, this was a non-answer. Belichick would probably wear a speedo on the sideline if he thought it would make the team better. He’d consider anything to make the team better.

Doesn’t mean we are going to see it.

Besides, in that answer he mentioned that they’d run 23 personnel if he thought it would help the team.

They’ve used that package four times over the past two seasons. Four plays. Yet a quick Google search does not turn up any columns about how the Patriots are moving to a 23 personnel offense…

Don’t get out in front of your skis, everyone.

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