FOXBOROUGH – According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bill Belichick is the only man in NFL history to serve 20 or more seasons as an assistant coach and at least 15 seasons as a head coach.
Bill Belichick (Reuters)
So when he talks about the history of the NFL, or the rule-making arm of the league and how it has evolved over time, it often leads to a thought-provoking dialogue.
Such was the case this morning when Jeff Howe of NESN.com asked Belichick the following question: When did the long snapper position become so specialized?
Belichick answered the question (around the mid-1970s) before veering off course to an NFL issue that has percolated of late: Expanding the game-day roster to more than 45 players.
Teams currently have 53 players on their overall roster, but only 45 can dress for games. Increasing the number past 45 has been a hot topic as owners consider expanding the regular season.
Belichick likes the 45-man limit. His comments:
“There is a certain movement out there among different teams and coaches and media, and so forth, about expanding the rosters. They are saying if we have more players [on game day], we’re already paying a certain number of guys, so why not let them all play? But I think the downside of that, the more players you have, the more specialization you have.
“So now you have a kickoff guy, a field-goal guy, a snapper, a punt return guy, a kickoff return guy, a blocking tight end on goal line, a receiving tight end on third down. Then defensively you need all the people to match those, so before you know it, you have a plus-50 punt return guy, then you have a guy on a long field to return punts, you have a lot of ball-handling situations.
“So yeah, you can take the roster to 70 and find a spot for everybody, for that one situation, kind of like in college – you have a field-goal snapper, you have a punt snapper, you get 20 guys to do 20 different things. I’m not sure that is good for the game. … I don’t know if the fans want to see that or don’t want to see that. I think that’s an interesting question. Do they want to see 50 guys out there playing, or do they want to see 30 they know and can keep track of? …
“It’s obviously a longer discussion here, and I didn’t mean to get carried away. I just love to help you guys about [laughter].”