ESPN conducted a media conference call on Thursday with NFL analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi. In his 13 seasons – all w/ the Patriots – Bruschi played in five Super Bowls, including the last Super Bowl in Arizona (XLII in 2008). Bruschi, who also played for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll early in his career, will be part of ESPN’s week-long Super Bowl XLIX coverage from Arizona, beginning Monday, Jan. 26. (Full audio replay.) Transcript:
Opening remarks on the Seahawks-Patriots matchup:
BRUSCHI: The first time I realized it was going to be Seattle and New England, I think, to my former coaches both Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, I think that I’m most closely connected to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. I think sometimes people forget that Pete Carroll spent three years in New England, and they were three very influential years of my career.
My second and third, fourth year, rookie year being with Parcells, we lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl that year. But Carroll came in ‑‑ I believe our records were 10-6 and 9-7 and 8-8, but there were so many young players like myself that learned a lot from Pete. And so I’m excited to see my two former head coaches square off in the Super Bowl. A lot of interest I have on very different levels with both organizations.
Q. Tedy, I just wanted to ask you about your media career after you retired. And so many of your Patriot teammates have done the same thing. … I’m curious, your thoughts on why so many of your teammates have ended up having successful careers on television?
BRUSCHI: It’s really simple to me. There have been some players that, even since I’ve been at ESPN, have come and gone for a year or two. I mean, it’s been, my sixth year, I’m pretty sure, at ESPN. And I’ve already seen analysts come and go but a lot of my teammates have stuck on and have been doing it for over five years, I think because of their intelligence and the players they were.
We were always pushed intellectually in that locker room. And I think that using our brains and our minds to look at football a different way, the way that we were coached by Bill Belichick, it really helps us looking at the game now in terms of some of the things that I like doing is breaking down film and watching it and explaining to the public and the viewer in a way that I feel that they can digest it, because it was sometimes football can be complex.
And I think one of the greatest tools that Coach Belichick had was making it so black and white for us in terms of here are all the complexities, but then you break it down to three simple goals and what you need to do to win the game.
So I take that in terms of when I need to present something to the viewer in terms of what I feel needs to happen for the Carolina Panthers, to play the Seattle Seahawks, just by watching them play. It’s like, well, this is one certain thing that they should focus on and now I’ll try to give that the best way I can to the viewer with the use of video or any type of way I can explain it vocally or verbally.
So a lot of smart players were on our team. A lot of smart players that had to adapt from week to week. And I try to just use that as an analyst.
Q. I was interested in just probing a little bit more on your memories of playing for Pete Carroll. What was it like to play for Pete? Do you see now the seeds of the coach that he’s become since he’s gone to Seattle, and in your mind has he changed at all?
BRUSCHI: Well, I don’t think he’s changed much. Maybe he’s grown as a coach in his own mind. I think you always try to improve. But I mean, I see that energy. I see the exuberance, the enthusiasm, the way that he speaks at the podium when I watch his press conferences is very similar to the way he handles things with us in the locker room.
Turnover Thursday, No Repeat Friday, things like that. The naming of the days. And the way that he’s able to relate to the new modern athlete, I think that’s new, on how he’s done that.
But with us, I always thought that Pete was a great coach. Very influential in my career. I mean, I was just learning to play linebacker when Pete came in. I mean, I was a defensive end at the University of Arizona. That’s all I did was rush the passer. So there was a lot I had to learn. And after my rookie year, which I was primarily a special teams player and a situational pass rusher, developing into the linebacker that I eventually became with Coach Belichick, Pete Carroll, Bo Pelini, Steve Sidwell, those type of coaches, really helped me develop as a player.
Q. Why do you think it didn’t work out? You just had three years there and some fairly successful years?
BRUSCHI: I really thought that in that third year I know we only went 8-8. But I thought I saw Coach Pete Carroll, saw him harden a little bit. It’s a different deal out here in New England. And his mentality is, the way he handles things was so different than Coach Parcells. And I thought we had some players that were much older and a lot of players that were very young that only knew one way and that was the Parcells way. Old school Jersey, if you will. And then coming in, new school California. I’m from California, like Pete. I was born and raised in San Francisco. So I immediately related. And Pete taught me a lot of things about becoming a leader, becoming that leader on the team. It’s just unfortunate, I wasn’t even ready to take that step yet, because I was still learning how to survive to stay on a team.
But I think that just that team was in a place where they weren’t ready to accept what Pete was trying to give and whether that’s them being in the wrong place in their career, not at the right time, maybe, with me, or maybe just being stubborn and too set in their ways. But those combination of things could be a factor in terms of it not working out. But never did I doubt that I knew ‑‑ did I know that we had a good coach with us there. I’m very happy to see him have the success that he had at USC and Seattle.
Q. You mentioned before that Coach Belichick would always kind of narrow things down to three or four things you have to do to win. When you look at the Patriots defense versus Russell Wilson, what’s the key to controlling him and not letting him go off and beat you?
BRUSCHI: Beyond the obvious answers, let me just say this: I think the Patriots secondary is more than enough to handle the Seattle receivers within the structure of a down. And now I say that last part of it because when you’re going up against Russell Wilson the structure of a down is always broken, because what I mean by structure of a down, I mean within the – under four seconds. Under four seconds, a play should be over on the defensive side of the ball. The ball is snapped. You drop back in coverage. Or it’s a run play and you read your keys, you drop back in coverage, you attack the run, whatever it may be, and, boom, the play should be over.
But with Russell Wilson, you’re going to venture into those areas of time where you don’t practice every day, or you’re not used to defending these types of plays, because it’s so organic. The fifth second, the sixth second, the seventh second, sometimes longer than that. And the routes – so say you’ve got a slant route. That slant route then becomes a zig and then a zag and then up field. You don’t go over these things in practice, you see.
So that’s what makes it so difficult for this secondary who I feel matches their receivers, that, okay, once you’ve overmatched them and the play goes longer, now you’re sort of playing street ball and how do you react to that. And that equals the playing field. So that’s where an advantage sometimes can be a disadvantage based on the relationships those receivers have with Russell Wilson.
Q. Looking at the franchises over the last few decades that have made the playoff year after year Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, Niners, the Patriots, but they weren’t doing it in an era of free agency, salary caps and CBA that limits practice things. How have the Patriots been able to do this in that era?
BRUSCHI: This modern era right now? Yes, I mean, that’s a good question. Because even as Coach Belichick anticipated these type of changes coming to training camps and during the season, if you look back to when he started to in training camps and he started on a regular basis having practices with other teams.
So you’re increasing the quality of competition on the limited amount of reps that you may get. So scrimmaging against other coaches and teams that you trust, like the New Orleans Saints and (Sean) Payton, like the Philadelphia Eagles with Chip (Kelly) and his squad, those little advantages in terms of we’re not going to be able to practice much, how do I maximize the practice? How do I maximize the reps that my players get? How do I make it more difficult for them? Well, let’s bring in another team and let’s scrimmage against another team, because that’s more reps that you’re going to get that you can watch on film that are meaningful. Because in preseason, I mean you don’t even have the preseason games.
There’s only a limited number of reps that you’ll see on film from your starters. So probably a majority of it you can see on practice. So little things like that in terms of those practice limitations that he has now, how to practice, really challenge the players mentally than physically, which he’s done for such a long time anyway in terms of meeting rooms and questions and quizzes and things like that. It’s those little things that keep the players on their toes mentally physically on the practice field and meeting room that keeps those players engaged.
Q. Also about the roster composition. You look back at the Packers and Steelers, they had the same guys in the same position five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years. Clearly that hasn’t happened with New England. How are you able to keep winning while you’re seeing new faces sometimes even in the same season?
BRUSCHI: I can only say that you point back to coaching, and I say that because I mean the game plans of the Patriots are constantly changing with the opponent. And so the player that they look for is one that can be a chameleon, the more you can do, the multiple positions you can play. So getting players that, getting the right players that come in that are, one, smart, that are, two, durable, hopefully. And three can play multiple positions because you’ll do it no matter who you are.
The quarterbacks not going to change very much. Maybe something like a running back, but still you have running backs that have split out as receivers that they have to know the route tree and things like that. The linebackers playing inside or outside and safeties playing both sides. Quarterbacks playing on the outside of a defense and inside of a slot. It’s mandatory. It’s mandatory in this system. And so the ability to be able to have players that can accept that and also coach them in a certain way, it’s a tough thing to do. And that’s why you can see sometimes when they struggle watching them on film, it’s because the time to get the New England Patriots is in September. September, maybe early October, because that’s not only a time where the players are still learning their roles, the coaches are still figuring out what they want these players to do and have them in the right position.
Q. Since the Patriots have now lost two Super Bowls in a row, how important do you think it is for Brady and Belichick to get another one under their belt or does what they did earlier in their career sort of give them that lifetime pass, so to speak, for anything that happened after?
BRUSCHI: If you just look at the success I don’t know what type of validation is really necessary, of course that would be great ‑‑ it accentuates everything that’s already been done. But there are two consecutive Super Bowl losses. I was part of one of those teams. But the success of this team is undeniable, if you ask me. It’s just hard for people to recognize that without another Super Bowl championship. It has been 10 years.
Q. I know it’s a different part of the state, but just returning to Arizona where you had so much success in college and maybe some of the memories that will maybe come back to you as you head out west for the Super Bowl?
BRUSCHI: Yeah, I really split that state in half in terms of memory. (Chuckling). The good memories I had down at the University of Arizona and then you drive up two hours, I don’t know how much it’s splitting it in half, but that drive, you know, up north to Glendale where we lost that Super Bowl, it’s something ‑‑ it’s THE loss in Super Bowl history. To me it is THE loss. We had a chance to complete a perfect season, 19-0. The Super Bowl that would trump all Super Bowls I would like to say at the time. And losing that game was a very difficult experience that I revisit very often, especially these type of times.
Especially when the New England Patriots play the Giants again I believe it was in Indianapolis. But those are all sort of offset by everything at the University of Arizona, the excitement they had this year with that football team, the great memories that I had down there playing for Dick Tomey. So it’s conflicting thinking about the entire state. When I think of Tucson, I’m coming home, whenever I go back. That’s a place that I still consider home and love the University of Arizona.
Q. Did you have fun watching Scooby Wright this year in particular?
BRUSCHI: I had a great time watching Scooby play. To do all the things that he did off the line of scrimmage and also on, very difficult to do in terms of rushing the passer and then playing an off‑the‑line linebacker and reading and diagnosing plays.
Totally opposite from me. I only had my hand down in the dirt, read the hip of the offensive tackle. Much more complex player than I was coming out. And the production, it’s just startling to me the production that he had and to see him win all those awards was something that ‑‑ every time I see his name called I smile. Just watching a TV screen and seeing him go up there and be humbled the way that he’s been, accepting all those awards, which is very proud that he was a Wildcat.
Q. Just how would you compare the coaching styles and personalities of Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick?
BRUSCHI: Well, let me put this in a way ‑‑ I think that I would say Pete demands a lot from you. He expects a lot from his players and puts a lot on his players in terms of ownership of the team, taking their assignment, taking it to the next level, things like that.
Belichick puts the demands in front of you. This is what you must complete. I don’t know if I’m saying that well. But that’s the difference a little bit. Pete would want ‑‑ he put it on us in terms of taking control of the leadership, taking control of the team, taking it to the next level, things like that. He’s really a player’s coach, really relates to his players. That’s the way I talk about him. But Belichick, I wouldn’t call him a player’s coach. He’s a coach that knows – he knows what he wants and then expects his players to get it done.
Q. I’ll be the one to ask you what is your take on the Patriots deflating the football and what do you think should be done if they’re found guilty?
BRUSCHI: I’d like to wait for the league and see what they come up with, see if they dole out any punishment. If they do, I just think that when it comes to my former team and when it comes to Coach Belichick, there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny no matter what it is. I think we all saw the press conference today. We’re waiting for Tom Brady to speak at 4:00. But I just know how hard they work. I know what they put in, those players in that locker room.
I can’t control what people feel about the New England Patriots, because it’s easy for this to bring out ill will, to point fingers and call for jobs and things like that and fines and draft picks because of the success that they’ve had. And of course the history of Spygate in the past.
This team, I know how hard they work and I know the motivation that probably is mustered because of this. I mean, this is something I just see them getting through and moving on to the Super Bowl.
Q. Two‑prong question: First, do you think what they’re doing to the Pro Bowl is enough to keep sustaining the level of excitement in it? And, I wanted to ask you about the ‘Patriot Way’ and what the core of that really means and why it works for that franchise.
BRUSCHI: I think they’re trying as best they can to tweak that Pro Bowl to keep it interesting. Watched a little bit of the Pro Bowl draft last night with my kids, and they enjoyed it. They enjoyed the whole ‑‑ because I think it’s looking more fantasy football‑based, with the draft and you get to pick your player and things like that, and that’s a big element of fantasy football. So putting a little bit of different spin on it. So long as the current players are still participating, this thing is always going to be successful. And you see them there last night and how they come out and they partake in the festivities. I think the fans appreciate that. So the game last year was a little better. Hopefully it’s good again this year. But I like how they’ve tried to tweak it to interest the modern audience, the modern, young audience. So I have no problems with that.
The ‘Patriot Way’, you know, it’s a hard way to live, if you ask me. There’s always pressure. I think what Bill said about the ball today is he tries to make it as hard as he possibly can for the team in terms of the ball, of making them muddy, sticky, wet, all that stuff. Imagine that type of approach to every single thing you do basically is what it is.
And I mean, that even comes to meetings when you’re anticipating questions out of the blue of who the third tight end is, or if you’re on the punt team who is the rusher on the wing. Which I was the rusher on the punt team, so I used to get that question all the time.
Always under constant pressure. And I could give you an easy answer of, oh, all for one and one for all, things like that, a little bit hunky‑dory, but it’s not really. It’s hard, it’s a hard way to live, with your coach that’s always putting pressure on you, a fan base that constantly puts pressure on you. You’ve got to love the pressure and live for the pressure to play in New England. That’s the way it is. You also have to know you’re getting pressure from outside sources. And they feel inside that locker room sometimes that everybody out there doesn’t want them to win. That’s the way we felt.
Q. I wanted to ask you about if the Patriots win, do you think Belichick deserves to be regarded as the best coach of all time?
BRUSCHI: A lot of good coaches out there. I can only speak to my knowledge. And I played for three Super Bowl winning coaches in Parcells, Carroll and Belichick. And they were all great in their own right. Ten years in between Super Bowls for him to come back again and win it, it would send a great message in terms of the job he’s done, but just focusing on the job he’s done this year and where everyone thought they were after that Kansas City game, he just has a way of only focusing on what the next step is. Whatever step you took five minutes ago didn’t matter. I mean, it’s about moving forward, and that’s a hard message to send and for a team to buy into in this day and age.
So I think he would be in the conversation. I don’t want to say he definitely is, because obviously I’m going to sound biased. But I mean he definitely would be up there, yes.
Q. Just the way he gets so much out of ‑‑ I mean, everyone, just like (Mike) Vrabel catching touchdowns back in the day and the year all the DBs were hurt, how does he ‑‑ does he think outside the box when he evaluates?
BRUSCHI: I think in the coaching profession, it is hard to think outside the box, because everyone knows each other in the NFL as coaches and as assistant coaches. And you go from team to team and from organization to organization. And it’s a stubborn profession sometimes. Even when you see offensive coordinators come in and they get a quarterback that’s entirely different than what they’ve had before but he’s got the height, weight, all the measurables and they bring him in and try to change them to their way because their way is the only way they knew it, because they’re stubborn.
And then the quarterback ends up failing because it’s not what he used to do. So that’s just a small example. I mean, thinking outside the box is here’s a player, this is what he can do best, why would I try to force him in to a role that’s not made for him? So he finds what that player does best and finds a role for him on the team in terms of a responsibility and he uses the best of the players. He really is organic in his thinking, if you ask me. I don’t think he’s old school at all, because he’s always changing from week‑to‑week, his game plan, in terms of what does best for the team. And I think that’s hard for some coaches in the NFL to grasp.
There’s so many ‘we do what we do’ type of teams and we’re just going to enforce our will on you. Now, there have been times when we’ve had a plan like that, but the majority of the time is what does that team do that we can exploit. And a lot of coaches don’t think that way.
Q. No Mistake, No Repeat Friday, what does that mean, no mistakes?
BRUSCHI: That was Pete’s philosophy, when it comes to Friday and you’ve had Wednesday and Thursday, sort of theme days but you should have everything down by Friday because you’re just summing up everything. So the goal is to practice perfect on Friday so you shouldn’t have any repeat plays.
Q. I hate to belabor this, but you talked about Belichick making things feel hard in practice and all. Why is it that there’s so many controversies seem to follow him? Is it just that pushing the envelope so much?
BRUSCHI: Well, I guess for a lot of people he’s a hard person to like. I don’t know what it is. You don’t get Rex Ryan up there. You don’t get a coach up there that’s going to give you what you want all the time, because I think he knows ‑‑ he knows the message that his players ‑‑ he knows the way he wants his players to conduct themselves in the locker room. And he can’t expect that unless he’s that way in front of you. So I think there’s a lot of people that have maybe skewed opinions of him based on the past, based on the way he’s handled certain things publicly. So maybe that affects their judgment. I mean, this is a guy that all he does is want to win football games and is a great coach to all of his players, his players love him. So if people have a problem with him in terms of perception, I think that’s their problem, not his.
Q. Is there anything different that we should expect from ESPN’s coverage and broadcast of the Super Bowl this year? And is it harder for you to be unbiased and step back from it when you know all the teams and the coaches so well and your past experiences, or is that a benefit?
BRUSCHI: Different, I think we’re always different when we’re on. For me, I don’t know what I’m going to say every time I get up on air. It’s not like I’m scripted totally. But in terms of different, in terms of how their coverage is, I think that’s a question best for some of the higher‑ups. I know some of the shows that are planned are still the same. I think the quality of the people that work there, that’s what makes us different than a lot of other organizations or the networks.
But your second question … Is it hard for me to be unbiased? Sure. It is sometimes. It is sometimes hard for me to be unbiased. For goodness gracious, I presented them with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after they won the AFC Championship.
So it is hard. There are moments where I’ve been critical of them. I think right out the gate, I don’t think it took me long to criticize fourth and two with Bill Belichick, things like that that I’ve disagreed upon. I’m not shy to disagree with him because I had a lot of disagreements with my coaches when I was there. The same way, as hard as they coached me, I try to give them my input back, too. That’s what I try to do as best I can. It makes me lucky that they win a lot, I guess, they make my job easy sometimes. But I was just as hard on the offensive line this year after the Kansas City game, just as everyone else was. And I knew they had problems that had to be fixed. So I’m not shy to recognize that. I guess that’s my answer.
Q. You’ve seen the game from both sides. You were in there as a player. Now you’re on the media side. When you started doing that what were the biggest changes for you or what sort of mental adjustments you had to make and maybe a sort of a follow‑up to what you were just saying, like how you approach the game now as opposed to when you did as a player?
BRUSCHI: Well, right now I watch the game the same in terms of seeing two plays ahead, three plays ahead. I mean, I was watching the NFC Championship game with Willie McGinest on the TV before the game started. And I mean we’re talking about situational football, before overtime even happened, if this happens do you go for two, what play to you run, does it have a run pass option. If it goes to overtime, do you want the ball, things like that. So there’s a big part of me still that’s a player that watches it, and what intrigues me is coaching decisions that they make and plays that they run and things like that, yes, but the change that I had to make is when I watch a game, I try to see it now as a viewer that doesn’t have the football education that I have. So I see a play. I know what happened. There was a big play in the game. Or maybe it wasn’t a big play of the game, because it’s easy to just show the big play and how it happened, how the play was run and the result was a touchdown.
Well, if it was a drive, where is the play that really set that up? So what can I give the viewer that possibly they didn’t get just by watching it themselves? Certain things that I see. And sometimes it relates to drives earlier in the game. I mean, even breaking down the Green Bay Packers NFC Championship game versus the Seahawks in week one when they ran a route on one drive and then three drives later they ran a route that was where they tried to give the illusion of it being one route but actually they tried to check the Seahawks and run a counter off it. You’re not going to see it. Just watching it. You have to remember a play from three drives ago. And I get that stuff by rewatching it the next day and I say to myself, this, the viewer probably didn’t catch, so why don’t I try to deliver it to them.
Q. Plus you can’t go out there and tackle anybody now if you see something you don’t like.
BRUSCHI: No, that’s a good thing, though, actually. Because I’d miss a lot, actually. I would.
Q. Can you break down the main defensive philosophies that you see between the Patriots and the Seahawks?
BRUSCHI: Sure. I think the main defensive philosophy of the New England Patriots is that there isn’t one. And that’s what makes them so hard to prepare for against sometimes is because the complexities of the different coverages that you can get and the different front variations you can get in terms of a week‑to‑week basis. So I would say their philosophy is to be a game-plan defense, to do whatever they feel does best to take away what you do well.
So then the general philosophy is basically take away the middle of the field, because I know Coach Belichick believes those are high percentage throws. And if you want to make it tough on a quarterback in the passing game, make him throw low percentage passes, which usually those are deep and outside the numbers.
Okay. Then going to Seattle, I think they’re very consistent in terms of what they do. They want to get after the pass or they want to control gaps on the line of scrimmage with quickness, with penetration and with speed, all over the place on the field. Cover three base team. Probably the best safety in the middle of the field in the NFL is Earl Thomas. And then a defense that is very intelligent in terms of reading route combinations. So they combine those philosophies with outstanding talent and you have one of the better defenses in recent memory.
Q. Without asking for a prediction, but what do you see on both sides of the ball as the key matchups for this game?
BRUSCHI: For the Seahawks, offensively, let’s see, Marshawn Lynch – I think Marshawn Lynch – I guess I can say this ‑‑ for them to win Marshawn Lynch needs to be the MVP. Him running the ball the way he’s done. So for them offensively it’s to establish him. And then to do a good job after the structure of a passing play is broken down, because that’s a lot of production for this team in terms of Russell Wilson, the fifth, sixth, seventh second of the play which I’ve talked about, that’s important for them to have success, the way he improvises.
New England Patriots defensively on the other side of that stop the run and really play well as the longer a play goes. So that’s simple. And offensively, for the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski to be the most valuable player, the value that he has for them, just a matchup with Kam Chancellor is something that I’m really looking forward to, so that’s the focus on, and the Seahawks defense is probably – they do what they do. I mean, if they prevent big plays and make the Patriots earn it up and down field, I think that’s probably one of their goals too.
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