Belichick asked about Patriots swagger: 'I don't really know what that means'

Belichick asked about Patriots swagger: 'I don't really know what that means'

FOXBORO -- We won't write a blog post each and every time former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi goes on a podcast or a television program or a radio show and makes some comment about the team for which he used to work. Promise. 

But this will be one of those blog posts because it directly relates back to something coach Bill Belichick was asked on Friday morning. 

During Lombardi's weekly interview with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Lombardi made mention of his belief that this weekend's game between the Patriots and Niners will serve as a good indicator of where the New England defense -- and its intensity level -- sits at the moment.

"I think this game is more about the Patriots," Lombardi said. "I think we're in November, we're before Thanksgiving, I think the Patriots need to figure out how they're going to play better defense. And it starts to playing with emotion. Defense is all predicated on playing with emotion and playing with some passion, and I don't see that on the field.

"I think most fans would agree that when you watch the Patriots play defense, it's more lethargic. You can't get your tempo, you can't get your enthusiasm [or] intensity from the offense. You can't rely on the offense to do that. I think it's time that the Patriots defense start to play with some emotion and passion . . . When you have a kind of swagger like Seattle does, you see them have some confidence because they've made some plays."

With that comment, Lombardi trampled what was already well-trodden ground.

Since dropping last Sunday night's game to the Seahawks, myriad questions have surrounded the Patriots defense. Most of them concern the intangible: On this very website, we've published articles and videos that have taken a look at the leadership on that side of the ball, and the energy with which defensive players have played.

Is there anything that can be done for those areas to be impacted in a positive way? Are there issues with those areas at all? It can be a difficult thing to grasp, but Belichick was asked a question on that very topic during his press conference Friday morning.

Looking at the identity of this team at this point in the season, Belichick was asked, do you think this team needs more swagger, more of an edge?

"Yeah, I don’t really know what that means, so I can’t answer the question," Belichick said. "I’m just trying to win games. I’m not trying to create, I don’t know, I don’t know what the identity is.

"The identity I’d like to have is a team that wins a lot of games. We’ve had some of that around here, so I’ll take that rather than being known as a, ‘this kind of team’ or a ‘that kind of team.’ I think if you’re a smart, tough football team that wins games, that’s what you want to be. The rest of it, I don’t really know what that means."

Belichick's opinion of the word swagger hasn't changed, it seems, in 14 years. 

In Michael Holley's book "Patriot Reign," the author relayed an anecdote from one Patriots team meeting back in 2002, the season after they captured their first Super Bowl title. At that point, the Patriots were 3-3, and Belichick was frustrated with his team's attention to detail. He was also fed up with some of the things he was seeing players say in the media about recapturing the attitude they had during the championship season.

"I've read a couple of comments," Belichick started. "Now, I don't spend a lot of time reading the paper. I really don't. But I do watch a little about what we say and what we think. I've seen a couple comments here, some of the players talking about we need to get our 'swagger' back. Our attitude back . . . 

"You know what? We didn't have a 'swagger' last year. If you [expletive] think about it, we didn't have a swagger. What we had was a sense of urgency, a sense of urgency about playing well, being smart, and captializing on every opportunity and situation that came our way . . . It wasn't about a [expletive] swagger. You can take that swagger and shove it up your [expletive], okay?"

So . . . we know that he knows what the word means. And we know what he thinks of it. And we can infer that what he really cares about is attention to detail, to execution. Though Belichick and Lombardi share ideas on a multitude of football philosophies, in this instance, it sounds as though their interpretations of what's plaguing the Patriots defense at the moment don't exactly line up.

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

File Photo

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year.