Bill Belichick made it crystal clear he wasn't in the mood to hear anything negative about his 0-11 opponent at today's presser, or any presumption by the media that the Indianapolis Colts should be judged solely by their record. To listen to the head coach, the only difference between this team and the one they faced in 2010 will be the number on the quarterback's jersey.
I feel like we're back in the division again; getting ready for the Colts, a lot of familiar faces. We never really worry about a team's record; we just worry about trying to get ready to play them and the matchup that we have on Sunday - that's all that really matters. It doesn't really matter what anybody's record is; it just matters how the two teams play and compete on Sunday afternoon. That's really what this week is about for us. The Colts have been competitive; been in just about every game.
Belichick went on to talk about the team that defensively has "a lot of the same cast of characters" and some "young linebackers that have been very productive." Offensively, he talks up the production of receivers Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne while pointing out that this is the Colts' most productive rushing season in a decade.
But the media in attendance wasn't buying it and instead chose to press him about the Colts' record and how he prepares his players for a team that hasn't won a game all season. It's at this point that Belichick gets a bit testy, even considering how he is obviously fighting a bad cold. The verbal exchange starts about the 14 min. mark of the video, but he makes clear how he prepares each week for whatever team is on the schedule - be it the 6-4 Colts from 2010 or the winless 2011 version without Peyton Manning.
See what you think.
I know you don't like to talk about a team's record but obviously the players have heard it, they know their record -
They've heard me talk about every week, saying we don't care about the record and we don't. What difference does it make? How somebody played two weeks ago against somebody else - who cares? Us or anybody else, it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is how we and the Colts perform against each other on Sunday. That's all that matters. Who cares who won three weeks ago in some other game with some other players? It doesn't matter.
Is there something you do when you have these situations to convince them of that?
We talk about it every game. It doesn't matter. The 16 games on our schedule, they're all the same. It's our team against that team that week. We look at, try to learn about our opponent and scout them and pick up tendencies and strengths and weaknesses and all that, but how we match up against that team that day is all that matters. The rest of it is a bunch of garbage. You guys can write about it all you want but it doesn't matter, really. The winner of this game will be decided by which team plays better on Sunday, not what happened four weeks ago. This is a news story, but it's like that every week, every week.
How do you measure how much you have improved week-to-week when you're playing against teams that maybe are not improving week-to-week?
It's simple. We judge ourselves on our performance. Go out there and things that we do well, we do well and things we don't do well, we need to improve on. I don't know how else to put it.
I know you're saying that the record doesn't matter but you obviously can gauge your team's performance better against a team that is more competitive or has a better record -
[Interrupts] I don't agree with that, so you can go ahead on your soliloquy, but I just don't agree with that. You don't think you can gauge a team based on how a player blocks Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? Who else would you gauge it against? Are you kidding me? Covering Reggie Wayne and [Austin] Collie and [Pierre] Garcon - you don't think you can gauge your coverage based on those players? I don't care what their record is. You think there are better receivers around than them? Better pass rushers than Freeney and Mathis? I'm not sure what games you're watching here.
It was an uncomfortable back-and-forth, but I can see it from both sides. It is in Belichick's core nature to prepare for each upcoming matchup the same way every week - regardless of the opponent. He's not giving faint praise for it's own purpose, to somehow trick his own players or to mock the other team - he prepares as if that team will give the Patriots their best fight, and that each of the opposing players will be playing at their best. Anything less than that would be a failure on his part to properly prepare his team for what they need to do to win.
It's only natural that fans and the media look first at the absence of Peyton Manning and the woeful backups who have filled in for him, and then at their winless record. Personally, I chalked this up as a win a while ago but have also noted that the Colts have given some teams a real run for their money - such as the Steelers, Chiefs, Browns, Bucs and Panthers.
So while I don't blame the media for not taking this game as seriously as they did the Jets game, I can't argue with Belichick's philosophy either. In fact I want New England to be as prepared as possible. If the Colts gear up for this game and come out hard as if it's their playoffs (Lord knows enough teams do this already), I don't want any Patriots caught off guard because they're supposed to be a bad team this year.