RICHMOND — On Monday, Bill Belichick recounted his days with the Baltimore Colts, who essentially became Redskins North in 1975 after Baltimore hired Washington offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda as head coach and he brought his whole staff and playbook with him.
Part of Belichick’s job that season, his first in the NFL, was using Wite-Out to cover up “Washington Redskins” on pages of the playbook, type in “Baltimore Colts,” and then make copies of the “new” pages.
On Tuesday, he was asked about his relationship with Tom Brady and how it has developed over the years. That led to Belichick strolling down Memory Lane once again.
“Tom and I came in together the same year — his rookie year was my first year with the Patriots,” Belichick said. “I feel like I’ve had a good relationship with Tom since he’s been with the team. Even as a rookie, even though he didn’t play and wasn’t active on the field, he had a very active role off the field with the scout team and the preparation.
“We had a lot of young players; we had 20-some rookies on that team. He was kind of in charge of those guys doing extra [work] on their own and learning our system and so forth.
“He’s always had a real, I would say, strong leadership role on the team. As he became the starting quarterback in 2001, which was also just coincidentally the year that [former quarterbacks] coach [Dick] Rehbein died in training camp, about this time as a matter of fact, that [former offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis and I kind of split up the quarterbacking responsibilities that Dick had.
“So Charlie took the quarterbacks half the time and I took the quarterbacks the other half the time. That, I would say, started the kind of daily relationship with Tom. Really ever since then, since the 2001 season, I’ve met with the quarterbacks at least two times every week and then in a lot of cases, five or six times depending on the way the staff broke down that particular season over the last 15 years.
“I feel like Tom and I do have a good relationship and I have a lot of respect for Tom. No other quarterback I’d rather have quarterbacking our team than Tom Brady. I guess that’s the best way I could sum it up.”
Unlike Washington’s Robert Griffin III, who is already dealing with his second head coach and second offensive coordinator three seasons into his career, Brady has known no other coach but Belichick. And while he’s had a few different coordinators, they’re all running essentially the same offense.
That continuity has been beneficial for Brady.
“The expectations I know. He’s such a consistent coach,” Brady said. “I think he always expects the most out of every player and every day, every drill, every walkthrough, every meeting. He holds everybody accountable.
“It’s a great thing to be able to do, is all the players really on the same page. He’s a great coach.”
On Monday, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock caused a stir when he said Ryan Mallett “popped” in practice and that he believed Mallett was a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.
A league source indicated that the Patriots are happy with Mallett’s play thus far in camp. Having a second-round draft pick come into the locker room, a la Jimmy Garoppolo, probably helps improve one’s performance.
Brady, who has developed a good relationship with Mallett over three-plus years in New England spoke highly of his development.
“He’s done a great job,” said Mallett. “He’s just grown and become a great quarterback,” Brady said. “You see it when he has these opportunities out here like he’s been getting. He really hasn’t gotten many over the years. But I think the whole team is confident that he can go out there and do the job.”
Belichick was similarly complimentary of Mallett.
“I thought he got off to a decent start in the spring and then he missed the last week [with an injury], but that really hasn’t affected him now,” said Belichick. “He’s come back and done everything, done very well. Like everybody out there, some plays are better than others.
“Ryan has good poise in the huddle, good presence on the field, handles the team well, and absolutely knows the offense from A to Z.”
On Tuesday, Mallett was 8 for 12 in team drills, with two nice throws. He stepped up in the pocket in the face of the pass rush and delivered a strike to Derrick Johnson over the middle; he also had a pass for rookie tight end Asa Watson down the seam that likely would have been a big catch-and-run.
The Patriots’ offensive line has held up well in one-on-ones with the Washington defensive linemen, and in full team play as well. The unit has rotated some players in and out, particularly at center and right guard, but Logan Mankins likes what he sees so far.
“I think it’s coming together,” he said. “We’re one of those units where it just doesn’t happen overnight, or with the snap of the fingers — it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of plays, a lot of drills. Right now we’re just trying to come together and jell and be the best unit we can be.”
As this is the Patriots’ fifth series of joint practices over the last three years and with still more coming next week against the Eagles, Belichick clearly believes they are beneficial for his team.
“I think it’s very beneficial,” he said. “I mean, you do so many practices against your own guys, you kind of get in the groove of going against your own guys. It’s the same defense, same looks. They know our plays, we know their calls.
“So it’s good to face a different scheme, different coaches, players that use different techniques, different rush fronts. You get a lot more when you practice with someone else.”
Not the least of which is just wanting to prove you’re the better player going against an unfamiliar foe.
“Oh, definitely,” Mankins said. “And we’re going against different techniques that you’re going to see throughout the year that Vince [Wilfork] might not use, so it’s just good to see as many things as possible before the season starts.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.