Bill Belichick Talks Notre Dame Football, Manti Te’o… Sort Of

Bill Belichick
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick before the AFC divisional round playoff game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick is in town for the Notre Dame Coaches Clinic as a guest of Brian Kelly this week.  Prior to speaking with the coaches in attendance for the clinic, he met with the media and talked about Notre Dame football, his relationship with Charlie Weis, and the talent and depth he sees on the Irish roster.

Here are some of the things Belichick had to say today.

On how much of the Notre Dame defense he saw this year and what his thoughts were:

“I don’t watch a lot of college football during the season, but I see a lot of it 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.  Bob (Diaco), Coach Kelly and his staff.  I think tthese guys are really well schooled.  They’re disciplined.  They play real good defense in every area.  They’re good fundamentally.  They have good schemes.  They play good early downs, runs downs, rush the passer, good situation football.  They didn’t give up a lot of points this year.  They played really sound and consistent.  Of course they have a lot of good players, but they’re well coached.  I thought they did a real good job.

Would have liked to hear Belichick talk about possibly some of the similarities and differences between the 3-4 defense that the Patriots have used over the years vs. the 3-4 defense that Bob Diaco has installed at Notre Dame, but also not surprised that he was a little vague here.

On the spread offense and if he thought we would see more of it on the NFL level.

That’s a tough question.  It’s something I’m not real familiar with.  We saw a little bit of it in the NFL.  We saw a decent amount of it two years ago in 2011. We played against the Broncos and Tim Tebow.  Some of the things they were doing, but we relaly haven’t seen a lot of it on a regular basis.  I see it in college football.  As we see it in the NFL we’ll have to adjust to it.  Maybe Chip Kelly will bring it more to the Eagles.  I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.  We play Carolina with Cam Newton and that offense this year so maybe we’ll see more of it there.  I’m really no expert on it.  We haven’t seen too much of it, but I’m sure we’ll start seeing more of it in the NFL

Very interesting that he specifically mentioned Chip Kelly in his response even though the Patriots aren’t slated to play the Eagles this year.  It will be interesting to see how successful he will be offensively at the next level with his offense.

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On defending the tight end position in the age of fast, athletic tight ends such as Tyler Eifert.

It’s a tough position to match up with.  It always has been.  It’s hard to find guys on defense that are 240 to 260 lbs that can run and are as athletic as some of the premier tight ends in college football and the NFL.  You can put linebackers on them, but usually they aren’t able to match up with the speed and athleticism of the tight ends.  If you put DB’s on them with athleticism, they lack some size so its hard to find that matchup defensively for a 245 to 260 lbs tight end that runs sub 4.7s and has great balls skills and quickness in and out of cuts.  It’s a tough position to match up on.  It always has been and they certainly have a good one here and looks like some good ones coming behind him.  We’re fortunate to have some good tight ends as well.

Brian Kelly referenced what the Patriots did at tight end quite a bit last year when using Eifert in the slot similarly to how the Patriots utilize both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at the position.  It will also be interesting to see if Notre Dame is able to continue to utilize multiple TE sets with Eifert headed to the NFL next year.

On his impressions of Notre Dame players that he’s coached in the past.

We had David Givens.  We had Mike Richardson.  I can 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 to get through four years here with the program Notre Dame has both academically, socially, and from a football standpoint it takes a lot from a kid – a lot of discipline – and I think thats 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.  Kids that have done a lot of things here interacting with the student body and so forth the way they do that.  Not too many red-shirts.  I mean, there’s some, but for the most part a lot of these kids go through in four years whereas in other programs that’s the exception rather than the rule.  They’ve certainly played on a big stage.  They’ve played in front of a lot of pressure – TV games, sell out crowds. The expectations of the Notre Dame football program are extremely high as we know so I think when they get to the next level that’s not something they are in awe of because that’s what they’ve experienced here.

I’m sure Belichick doesn’t realize that technically there is no such thing as a typical “red-shirt” at Notre Dame, but other than that it’s great to hear one of the allt-time coaching greats be as complimentary of Notre Dame players as he was.  It was also interesting to hear how much he knew about the role of being an actual student athlete at Notre Dame as opposed to just an athlete.

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On Mark Bavaro, who Belichick coached while with the New York Giants.

Mark Bavaro.  That guy’s rght at the top of as good a football player as I’ve had the opportunity to coach and be around.  Not just his athleticism which was good but all of the other things he 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 he gained from his teammates and his coaches and everyone who interacted with him.  Of all of the players I’ve been with I couldn’t put any more of a Notre Dame stamp on a guy than Mark.

Bavaro may have been before the time of a lot of our readers here – myself somewhat included as I was too young to remember him from his playing days at Notre Dame although I certainly remember him terrorizing my Eagles at the NFL level – but really neat to hear him speak as glowingly about him as he did considering Belichick hasn’t coaching him in over 20 years.  Bavaro doesn’t get mentioned as much as some of the more recent great tight ends to come through Notre Dame, but he most definitely was one of the best to put on a gold helmet at the position.

On whether or not Charlie Weis tried to get him to draft Notre Dame players.

I had a great relationship with Coach Weis and he had a lot of great players and recruited a lot of the ones who are coming out this year.  Charlie had a great impact on this program and had a lot of success here and his mark is still here.  Coach Kelly is certainly taken that to a great level in his three years here and last year.  Notre Dame has a great tradition of coaches obviously so I don’t think that’s ever been a problem here.

Now this was the response that was really interesting.  Belichick went out of his way to give Weis credit not just for having some great players, but also recruiting the players who are headed to the NFL this year from Notre Dame.  A lot of people speculated that the two didn’t have the greatest of relationships after he left New England, but Belichick didn’t have to give Weis as much credit as he did here making it pretty clear that he still thinks very highly of his former offensive coordinator.

On the Irish players other than Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert who are eligible for this year’s draft.

They’ll have a lot of guys in the NFL.  A couple guys were injured so we’ll see how that affects their draft situation on defense, but they have plenty of players.  We’ll see how it all plays out on draft day.  That’s always a hard thing to predict, but there’s good football players here and there’s good players behind them.  This looks like a team that’s got good depth and good players so I’m sure they’ll be competitive in years to come.

Not too much here and that is definitely not surprising.  Belichick is not one to ever tip his hand about anything so it’s not shocking that he gave such a generic answer here with the draft just a few weeks away.

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On his thoughts of Manti Te’o on and off the field.

I saw him along with all of the other defensive players.  I’d say with any 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, their interview process, their injuries, their production, their circumstances that surrounded their playing career on and off the field.  Each guy’s unique.  Each guy’s special in their own way.  We try to evaluate each of them and put a value on them and then do what we feel is best for our football team.  All players have strengths, all players have weaknesses.  All players have things that are positives and then there’s some things maybe aren’t up to the standard they would like them to be or that is standard for their position and rarely do you get a player that’s exceptional in all areas.  We just evaluate each guy and look at his composite independantly and it’s unique value and try to figure it all out.  It’s a very inexact science as we all know.

Again, good luck trying to figure out how Belichick feels about Te’o based on that comment.  In fact, that response could pretty much be used to describe any player that he and his staff may have evaluated this off-season.

Overall, nothing too earth shattering here.  It is impressive that Kelly was able to get a coach of Belichick’s stature to the coaches clinic this year considering that he really doesn’t have any ties to the NFL as a college football lifer.





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  1. woody o hardy 7 years ago

    Bavaro was a BEAST!!!

    RE: Bavaro

    I remember him being interviewed after G-Men won the Super Bowl. He had a monster game. The interviewer asked him something like “what part of your game are you going to work on in the off season?” MB says “all parts…I can get better in all areas of my game”. He the best of all our awesome TE’s, IMHO. I love them all though! Really happy to see Kyle R. doing so well…….


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  2. tom 7 years ago

    As a big Pat’s fan here in New Hampshire, I think you can find a youtube video of Belichick gushing about how good Bavaro was when he was with the Giants. He says Bavaro was left to block Reggie White one-on-one and that the best competition Bill ever saw as a coach was in training camp when Bavaro matched up with LT and Carl Banks every year.

    Even Tedy Bruschi talks about how Belichick would reference Bavaro in team meetings.

    I, for one remember Bavaro growing up a Giants fan in N.Y. He was as tough as it comes and didn’t come off the field.

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  3. duranko 7 years ago

    There is a significant implied, not express, endorsement of the Kelly
    regime contained in Belichkick’s remarks.

    We were all initially puzzled by what seemed to be an unduly rigid
    approach to “profile size” by Kelly with respect to the DE/OLB position.

    But Belichick is clear, crystal indeed, that even at the NFL level that the tall 240-260 lbs players with the athleticism to cover TES in space are hard to find.

    Kelly’s staff has been resolute in its determination to bring in the
    Okwara/Councell/Ishaq Williams/Andrew Williams types. And just to finish the job, look at the TE/WR recruiting with a lot of tall guys, consider
    Corey Robinson, who’s here, Justin Brent, and Mark Andrews, to challenge
    those long, athletic DE/OLBS.

    Belichick didn’t quite say this so directly but hinted that a significant
    future battleground in top-level football will be the battles between multiple TES and the OLBs chasing them.

    We are ahead of the curve here.

    Kelly is ahead of the curve.

    Kelly is outstanding, just outstanding.

    We are lucky to have him. On many levels.

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