Bill Belichick was in a pretty good mood on his Tuesday morning conference call, though perhaps that was only because of the subject matter.
The work of the Patriots’ special teams units, particularly punter Ryan Allen, came up following the 26-6 victory over the Jets in Sunday’s regular-season finale in which Allen averaged 42.3 yards per punt and landed five inside the 20-yard line in the kind of weather (13 degrees) in which the ball doesn’t travel as far.
“It’s great to be sitting here on Tuesday talking about all this punting,” Belichick said, with enthusiasm, at the end of the call.
At least it was supposed to be the end of the call. Belichick, known for his brevity, gave a rare encore performance, speaking off the cuff for an extra minute or two about many of the specialists he has worked with in his career, both past and present.
“I enjoyed coaching [Dave] Jennings, [Sean] Landeta, [Tom] Tupa earlier in my career,” he said. “Those guys were all right-footed punters and they were all good and could really — they could do a lot of good things.
“We’ve had a lot of left-footed punters recently. You just kind of have to look at it a little bit differently, but still the fundamentals are the same. I’ve been fortunate.
“I’ve had a lot of guys that have had good hands, could handle the ball, and could place the ball pretty well at those positions throughout the years. It’s been a good thing. The kickers, really, you go back to [Matt] Stover; he was pretty good. Obviously, Adam [Vinatieri] and Steve [Gostkowski] here. I’ve been real fortunate to have good specialists, good guys at that position.”
And lest you think he would forget: “Same thing with snappers — Lonie [Paxton] . . . Joe [Cardona]’s done a real good job for us. Lonie was great. It’s nice to put your head on a pillow and not have to worry too much about those positions.”
Those who know Belichick and his love for special teams would note that the most surprising thing, other than the extended chat with reporters, was that the coach implied that he actually does sleep.
The Patriots might not be the only team on Josh McDaniels’s mind this week because the offensive coordinator is in high demand among teams searching for a new head coach.
McDaniels has interviews scheduled with the Colts on Thursday and the Bears and Giants on Friday, a league source told the Globe. All of McDaniels’s interviews will be conducted in Foxborough.
The interview process is nothing new for McDaniels, who left the Patriots to coach the Broncos in 2009 and has received many other overtures since his return to New England in 2012. McDaniels spoke with the Jaguars, Rams and 49ers about their vacancies last season.
McDaniels also isn’t the only Bill Belichick assistant in demand these days, as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is another hot name and has been linked, in particular, to the Giants and Lions jobs. The Cardinals also have reportedly requested to interview Patricia, as well as Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores.
Even though the Patriots are still playing, coaches are allowed to interview with teams during the bye week. Should teams request second interviews, Patriots coaches would be allowed to sit for those between the AFC Championship game and the team’s departure for the Super Bowl, should they make it that far. Otherwise, second interviews could take place after the team has been eliminated.
Both McDaniels and Patricia said on conference calls Monday that they would take the process as it comes to them and that they are remaining focused on their tasks in New England.
Belichick praised his disciples, as he’s done many times in the past when they have been mentioned as potential hires.
Belichick spent a portion of his New Year’s Day watching college football.
“There were a lot of great games on. Certainly, Notre Dame, that was a big finish, too,” Belichick said in reference to Irish receiver Miles Boykin’s 55-yard touchdown catch at the end of the Citrus Bowl to give his team a 21-17 win over LSU.
Belichick has spent some time with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly since the two met at a golf tournament several years ago. His friendship with Kelly is just one of many connections in the college game that often lead to conflicting rooting interests.
“I have a lot of friends in college football, and sometimes they play each other, so it’s hard to root for one and root against another,” Belichick said. “But, yeah, definitely happy for the SEC teams.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was on Belichick’s staff with the Cleveland Browns, and former Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll, currently the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide, will face Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs in the national championship game. Smart was Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama, so the Belichick coaching-tree connections are many.
Once again, the Patriots were given the Saturday night divisional game slot (Jan. 13, 8:15 p.m.), as opposed to the Sunday afternoon kickoff.
That means if the Patriots win, they’ll have an additional 17 hours between that game and the AFC Championship game than their opponent. That was the case last year, when the Patriots beat the Texans on a Saturday night in the divisional round and the Steelers beat the Chiefs on Sunday night after the game was postponed from that afternoon because of weather.
That set up an AFC Championship game between New England and Pittsburgh a week after the Steelers played and eight days after the Patriots had.
“I think you’re talking about a few hours of difference between 8 o’clock Saturday night and whatever it is, 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon,” Belichick said. “So, it’s a few hours. I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference going forward.
“I mean, if you win — which is a big if — I mean, if you win, it gives you a few more hours than a team that played a little bit later. But, I guess that’s about it.”
Last year, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was shown on a Facebook video posted by receiver Antonio Brown after the Chiefs game noting that the schedule had “spotted those [expletive] a day and a half,” referring to the Patriots with colorful language.
Belichick said Monday that playing a wild-card game obviously affects preparations, but other than that, the scheduling differences are slight.
“Preparation-wise, the bye teams have a different schedule than the teams that are playing,” Belichick said. “We all know that. But I think at this time of year, a few hours of preparation one way or the other, as we saw when we played Pittsburgh, I certainly don’t think those things are insurmountable ever, but definitely not at this time of year.”
Tickets for the Jan. 13 game will go on sale via Ticketmaster on Friday.
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