Belichick praises James White for his coach-like questions
Patriots running back James White has developed into a productive and important member of the offense in New England, and he’ll take on even more importance in the short term, given that rookie Sony Michel is week-to-week with a hamstring injury.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick offered high praise for White.
“James was a very productive player at Wisconsin and he filled both a running and a receiving role there over the course of his career,” Belichick said. “I think all of his skills were evident in college. He didn’t really get a chance to play much his rookie year here. That was Shane [Vereen]'s last year. But he’s always been a very hard worker, a very diligent guy, knows his assignments very, very well. Asks questions like a coach would ask them. Has an ability to think really far ahead of what problems could occur on certain fronts or looks or what have you. He does a great job of that. Always has, but as he’s gained more experience he just knows more and is able to continue to push ahead, like Tom [Brady] has at his position or Devin [McCourty] has at his position or Patrick [Chung] at his position. [Dont’a] Hightower, guys like that. They start off good and they just kind of keep going. As they learn more and experience more, they’re able to process more and do more and James has done that. He works very hard in the offseason. He works hard in season, works hard off the field, on the field, knows what his assignments or responsibilities are and does his very best to carry them out. You can’t ask for any more than that.”
Belichick then was asked to explain what it means to ask questions like a coach, and the man who quite often mumbles and grumbles provided a meaningful and lucid response.
“Well, if you were talking to another coach about a play, the coach would think ahead to what are the problems that could come up on this,” Belichick said. “If they do this, if they do that, if they do something else, what if this guy lines up here instead of there? Those are the kinds of things that a player, like all of the ones I just mentioned, [Matthew] Slater in the kicking game, [Nate] Ebner in the kicking game, they ask those same kind of questions. It’s not just, ‘What’s my assignment?’ It’s, ‘OK, well, what if these other things happen? How do we handle it? Are we going to switch it? Are we going to stay with it? Can I make this call? Can I make that call?’ I think when you talk to a coach about a play that’s the way a coach looks at it. He sees the whole play, sees all the issues, ‘Here’s what we’re trying to do but if they took that away from us, what would we do? Would we go to a different play or would we adjust this play? How would we adjust it?’ Things like that.”
That’s one of the reasons why the Patriots have been so good for so long. They can spot players who will behave that way, and they collect them. They nurture them. And they make them into, essentially, a collection of coaches on the field.