For years, those guys heard how the “system” was responsible for a large part of their success. And the way this season has unfolded, they think, might finally put that notion to bed.
“It is a great system,” the now-retired McGinest said at today’s ESPN Chalk Talk event. “But you’ve gotta have great players to play in that system, and talented players. In that system, it calls for guys to do a lot of different jobs. And they’ve got guys now where it’s hard enough for them to do one thing right. A lot of us were interchangeable in that linebacking crew. And the DBs were interchangeable, so we could do a lot of different things and substitute, move around, disguise, have one guy take another guy’s job.
“It doesn’t seem like they have that continuity on that side of the ball, or that interchangeability with the players. Guys are having a hard enough time now doing what they’re supposed to do,”
Law’s point on that was the same, although he explained it a little differently. Remember how the Patriots used to be able to plug spare parts into bigger roles defensively and get away with it routinely? Well, the coaching was part of it. But Law believes the guys around those spare parts were just as important to making it work.
“These weren’t just guys coming in,” Law said. “We had enough leadership and enough people around to pick up the slack, and Bill was smart enough to know that, ‘If this guy goes down, we’re gonna put the pressure on you. Hey Ty, we can’t do this over here, so you’re all by yourself. You’re getting no help.’ So he knew to put the onus on me, because he knew I could handle it. And same thing, he’ll put pressure on and say, ‘Hey Willie, you need to get there.’
“He knew how to manipulate the defense to the point where if we had a weak link, he was gonna put the pressure on his other guy because he knew we could handle it. We had the guys to do be able to do that. Right now, you look at the defense, I don’t know that there’s anybody there he can swing pressure to.
“We had so many people who could do different things, that was the blessing of the players that he had. Right now, putting anybody out there, let the system work? That’s absurd. Anybody who would say that, it doesn’t make sense, they don’t know football.”
Law took that idea. And ran with it.
“There’s definitely more on Tom, Stevie Wonder could see that, because of the youth that they have on the defense,” Law said. “It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve got a guy who you know can get you in the end zone at any moment and drive you down the field. But you still have to have pride, in yourself and your job. Some freak thing like what happened a couple years ago, you never know when that’s gonna happen, so you have to be prepared to carry the load for the team as a defense. That’s what we wanted to do. …
“We had a nice competition going with the offense. If there was too much of Tommy talking, it was, ‘We gotta step it up, guys.’ And that was the fun we brought to it.”
So do these guys think it’s going to be fixed?
Well, a couple things have to happen first. Mainly, McGinest thinks the players need to build trust in one another, and that takes time.
“You see guys try to do other guys’ jobs because they just don’t trust that the guys gonna be there. Guys aren’t in the right place,” McGinest said. “That’s one thing that Bill always said when he talked to people – ‘Do your job, and don’t worry about everybody else.’ If you do your job and everybody takes that approach, everybody will be on the same page. You don’t see that now.”
More than that, though, both Law and McGinest believe it’ll be a matter of the players being good enough to carry out Belichick’s vision.
And they’ve got a ways to go in that effort.
“It’s the players that have to play the game,” Law said. “The system and the coach, that helps, to know your players and put them in the right position, to be able to utilize their strengths and help the team win. But you can’t tell somebody to do the same thing I was asked to do. It’s too hard. Now, if you have a Darrelle Revis, OK.”