Curran: '01 Belichick transcripts are treasure trove for what Jones must do originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
With Mac Jones now in the fold, there will be a point when -- for the first time in 20 years -- the keys to the Patriots offense are handed to a guy in his early 20s. And while Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels won’t be standing arm-in-arm and waving goodbye as he drives away, things are still going to be out of their control when he’s out there.
Since this is a rare event -- even with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2016, it was a temp job -- it’s interesting to look back at the only other time this changing of the guard happened. Or was beginning to happen.
And that was in the days after Drew Bledsoe was injured in September, 2001 against the Jets.
Going back this week to find a specific quote from Belichick on Brady taking over for the injured Bledsoe, I got down the Belichick Transcript Rabbit hole. It’s not for everyone.
Over the next day or so, I’m going to share a few excerpts from those Belichick press conferences in September 2001. There’s just so much to chew on here that each one kinda stands apart.
My personal favorite that I’ll get to in a later installment? Belichick entertaining the question of signing Jeff George like it was the most reasonable question in the world. The face, THE NOISES we would get if we asked about a Jeff George equivalent now. Who is a Jeff George equivalent? I guess Jay Cutler? Anyway.
We’ll start with Belichick quotes from the Tuesday before the 2001 season opener against the Bengals when he announced Brady had leapfrogged Damon Huard on the depth chart and would be Bledsoe’s backup. The question Belichick was fielding related to the running back rotation and Antowain Smith. During his answer, he veered to talking quarterback.
“The one position that I feel like we had to make a decision on in terms of moving forward to be able to be competitive in how we are going to practice and how we are going to play, was the quarterback spot. We are going to have [Tom] Brady as the backup quarterback. Damon [Huard] will be the third one.
“I'm not saying that that situation will be that way every week through the year, but based on preseason we feel that Tom right now is a little bit ahead of Damon in terms of handling the team. But I think that everyone has plenty of confidence in all three of our quarterbacks to be able to go out and win with. And that is a good feeling to have."
Q: You said earlier that you were reluctant to put anyone ahead of Damon because he had NFL experience what made you change your mind?
BB: "Four preseason games. Yeah, I think that Tom has done a good job. I'm not…nobody is down or disappointed with Damon in any way, but I think Tom's had a real good preseason and he's played well in some opportunities that he has gotten against good competition.
“He played the first half against Carolina, you know, teams like that. It wasn't just all mop-up, fourth quarter type things. I feel like he's done a good job and…maybe it's because he has been here for a year and has a little bit better, little bit more knowledge of the system. But I just feel like right now he's the next best in terms of being able to handle the whole team. But like I said, I have plenty of confidence in Damon. I am glad he's here and that's not to say that this is the way it will be every week.”
Q: Does Brady's maturity and progression surprise you?
BB: "Not really. Tom is pretty mature. I thought that, you know last year we had, I forget the number now, 23 or 24 rookie first year players in here last year by the end of the year. And I don't think there is any question in anybody's mind that Tom clearly took over the leadership of that entire group—offense, defense, everybody that was involved.
“And I think he was well respected because he had the most contact with those players. You know doing extra work on the practice field after practice and meetings and that kind of thing. Tom has a lot of natural leadership and so as he kind of took that situation over, not in a…I don't think he was overly assertive or confrontational in any way. I don't mean it in that way.
“I just think his natural leadership was something that all those players saw and looked up to and it was easy to see as a coach that it was a natural thing for him and he was very comfortable doing it without being obstinate or confrontational in any way. So I'm not really surprised. Tom continued to make steps in the offseason and then carried the hard work and improvement he'd made in the offseason onto the field in training camp and then in the preseason games.
“You know unfortunately, and this is always a tough situation for a coach, unfortunately there are some players who have worked as hard as anybody did in the offseason program and even in training camp, but unfortunately when they got an opportunity to play they just didn't or weren't able to produce the same or as many positive results as the effort they put in to the practice and preparation.
"You know you'd always like to see that go from the practice field to the game field or from the meeting room to the game field. And with some guys like Tom it did, and unfortunately with other guys who really worked hard, but it just for whatever reason weren't able to quite show that same leap in progress. You know, even though they put in just as much time and effort as anybody else did."
As for Huard’s response? Here’s what he said in a story from our guy Michael Smith, who at the time was with The Boston Globe.
“He’s a great competitor, a real high-energy guy, and he plays with lots of enthusiasm,” said Huard. “He’s very intelligent. He’ll play a long time in this league.”