Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, visited South Bend this week to view a couple of Notre Dame practices, talk to players and speak at the school's annual coaches clinic.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick met with the press in South Bend Thursday night.
Belichick said he met Irish head coach Brian Kelly in February at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, where Kelly convinced him to join the coaches clinic on campus.
“We were able to spend some time together out at Pebble Beach and he asked me to be here to come to the clinic today. Of course, I have great respect for him and his program,” Belichick said. “I spent time with some of the players today and also his fine staff. I have the utmost respect from the program he runs here and I’m privileged to be part of the program tonight.”
The three-time Super Bowl winner took some time to speak with the media before meeting the roughly 1,200 high school coaches in town this weekend.
When you come to events like this do you like to pick the brains of other coaches?
“It’s great to be able to get out on the road and be at great programs like Notre Dame and see some of the things they do — the way the facilities are set up and the way they operate. We talk football, talk shop and converse about some of the similar problems or issues or things that we face. It’s great I certainly got a lot out of being out here and meeting with coach Kelly and his staff.”
How did you get to know coach Kelly?
“We spent a lot of time together in Pebble Beach. He was the winner on that one. He played well, made the final cut. We played together for three days, but when you’re out there and hitting as many shots as we did you get some extra time to hang out and get caught up about a lot of things, certainly football and some things that we have in common in our career and families and situations. We were hitting a lot out of the same bunker.”
Did you get a chance to see Notre Dame’s defense play at all last year? And if so, what was your impression?
“Well I don’t really watch a lot of college football during the season, but I see a lot of college football in February, March and April. I see a ton of college football. I watched a lot of Notre Dame’s film this spring and certainly over the last couple days.
“I think they’ve done a real good job defensively, Coach Kelly and Bob [Diaco] and his staff. I think his guys are very well schooled. They’re disciplined. They play real good defense in every area. They’re good fundamentally. They have good schemes. They didn’t give up a lot of points this year and they played very sound and consistent. Of course, they have a lot of good players but they are well coached.”
Notre Dame and the Patriots have both used tight ends as versatile weapons. Do you think that will continue to become a bigger threat in the future?
“It’s a tough position to match up with. It always has been. It’s hard to find guys on defense that are 240-260 pounds that can run and are as athletic as some of the premiere tight ends in college football and in the NFL. You can put linebackers on them but usually they’re not able to line up with speed and athletically as the tight ends.
“You put [defensive backs] on them that maybe have the athleticism and they lack the size. It’s hard to find that match up defensively for a 245- to 260-pound tight end that runs sub-4.7 and has great ball skills. They certainly have a good one here, and it looked like some more good ones coming behind them. We’re fortunate to have some good tight ends as well.”
What’s your experience coaching Notre Dame grads and what do you get from them?
“We had David Givens. We had Mike Richardson. I go back to Mark Bavaro I think he’s about as Notre Dame as they come. They’re all smart. They’re tough. They’re disciplined. I think you get through four years with the program that Notre Dame has both academically and from a football standpoint it takes a lot from a kid — a lot of discipline and I think that’s the kind of player you see come out of here. Kids that are smart, that are well-versed, that have more than football in their life, that have done a lot of other things here and interacted with other people in the student body here. Not really too many redshirts, there are some but for the most part a lot of these kids go through in four years whereas in other programs that’s more the exception than the rule.
“They’ve certainly played on a big stage. They’ve played in front of a lot of pressure — TV games, sellout crowds. The expectations of the Notre Dame football program are extremely high, as we know, so I think when they go to the next level that’s not something they’re in awe of because of what they’ve experience here.
“Mark Bavaro, that guy is probably right at the top of as good a football player as I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach and be around. Not just his athleticism, which is good but all the other things that Mark brought — his toughness his dependability, his passion for the game, his values and what he brought as a person to the football team and the respect that he gained from his teammates and his coaches. Of all the other players I’ve been with I couldn’t put anymore of a Notre Dame stamp on a guy.”
Was Coach [Charlie] Weis always trying to get you to pick Notre Dame guys?
“I had a great relationship with Coach Weis, and he had a lot of great players and recruited really a lot of the ones that are coming out this year. Charlie had a great impact on this program and had a lot of success here. His mark is still here and coach Kelly has certainly taken that to a great level. Notre Dame has a great tradition of coaches, obviously.”
Is there anyone in this year's draft class from Notre Dame that has impressed you?
“I think they’ll have a lot of guys in the NFL. They have a couple guys that were injured and we’ll see how that affects their draft situation, but they’ve got plenty of players. We’ll see how it all plays out on draft day really. That’s always a hard thing to predict. There’s good football players here, and there’s good football players behind them. It seems like a team that’s got good depth and good players and I’m sure they’ll be competitive in years to come.”
Did you watch Manti Te’o on the field and how did you process what happened to him off the field?
“I saw him with a lot of other defensive players. I’d say with every player — not him in particular or anybody else in particular — each player has their own composite. It’s a mosaic of their football career which can have a lot of twists and turns to it, their personal side, their testing, the interview process, their injuries, their production, the circumstances that surrounded their playing career on and off the field. Each guy is unique and special in his own way. We try to evaluate each of them, put a value on them and then do what we feel is best for our football team.”