The New England Patriots have been impacted quite a bit by the Coronavirus, but not just because they had to send four of their players to the newly created Reserve/Covid-19 list, had to shut down their facility on three separate occasions, and saw two of their games get postponed as a result. The Patriots also had to fundamentally change how coaches and players are working with each other due to the NFL’s social distancing guidelines.
That process is obviously the same for every team in the league, regardless of whether or not it has experienced positive Coronavirus tests or not. There may still be some nuance to how it is approached by individual organizations, though. As for the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick recently gave some insight into how the team has adapted in light of the league’s rules and how individual coaching has become more important than ever.
“We try to be thorough in the breakdown of our plays and the fundamentals that we use on each play and communicate those to the players,” Belichick said during his media conference call on Tuesday. “Some of it’s been more virtually, some of it’s been in position meetings, that kind of thing. I’d say we’ve probably had overall more individual meetings this year than we’ve had historically in the past to try to separate and distance.
“The good part of that is it allows more individual and direct communication between the coach and his players. The downside of that is there’s a little bit less overall communication and total understanding of everything that’s happening because you don’t hear other coaches tell the players beside you or in front of you or behind you what they’re doing and where it all kind of ties together. You rely on your position coach to do that.”
Belichick relying on those around him to take on added responsibilities is nothing new, as the behind-the-scenes documentaries Do Your Job, filmed after each of the Patriots’ last three Super Bowl wins, illustrate. Of course, the circumstances in 2014, 2016 and 2018 were markedly different than they are now, but the gist remains: the NFL’s best head coach may very well also be the best delegator in the entire league.
“Our coaches do a good job of that,” said Belichick. “I’d say the individual coaching might even be more than what it’s been in the past. I’d say the overall team meetings and team coaching or team group work — whether it’s film or installation or game planning, game plan adjustments and so forth — probably a little bit less than in the past. That’s kind of the trade-off, but that’s what we’ve tried to do.
“We’ve tried to make the meetings smaller, which are definitely better on the virtual end of it. When we had those in the spring, but carrying over into training camp and the season, there’s been probably a little more of that than what there’s been in the past in terms of the in-person meetings. I think the individual corrections are definitely getting made, and, like I said, maybe a little more than in the past.”
New England’s focus on the individual may have its advantages in terms of hands-on teaching and preparation, but Belichick still pointed out that the big picture cannot be left behind as a result. He also acknowledged that he would prefer having more time to work on “bringing together some of the overall things” that are related to working with the team’s players.
“We just try to handle them with the way that we’re set up so that we’re not spending more time together than we feel like is really necessary. It’s a balance and something we’ve talked about,” he said. “Maybe we have the right mix, maybe we don’t, but that’s something we’re aware of and we want to try to use our time as efficiently as we can to get everything covered.”