So I thought when I asked Bill Belichick about going through an in-season coaching change in Detroit in 1976 — something this week’s opponent, Buffalo, has endured this year — it might’ have been hard for him to recall the details.
The question was general: what it’s like to go through that kind of upheaval in the middle of the season. The answer was far more specific.
“I think each team and each situation is different, so it’d be hard to put them all into one pot,” he started. “But that particular time for us in Detroit, I think we were 1-3, 1-4, whatever it was, and we were playing New England, and they were coming off three huge wins – Oakland, Pittsburgh and somebody else by 20 or 30 points.”
Now, stop for a second. Belichick’s recollection of the team’s record right there (1-3), and the opponents the Patriots had played (Oakland, Pittsburgh) was right on. And so before that game, Rick Forzano resigned, Tommy Hudspeth took over, and …
“We decided to something a little different, a little new, and went into a formation with Charlie Sanders (the HOFer pictured above) and David Hill, two tight ends and one back, which was something that, now it’s common, but back then it really wasn’t,” Belichick said. “We had a pretty good day with that, won pretty handily at home, and then the rest of the year was kind of up-and-down, that was the high-water mark, that particular game against the Patriots during the week of that change.”
Back to the “interim coach” thing. Here’s what Belichick thinks:
“I think when the new coach comes in, you can’t change everything,
you’ve already had a training camp and a certain number of
regular-season games already under your belt,” said Belichick. “You’re already at a
certain point in those areas. You can go in and modify some things,
change them a little bit, maybe change an attitude or an approach if
you feel it’s needed, then you can address that. How easily that’s
modified would depend on the situation.”
The eerie thing about all this? The man who was fired from the Bills, Dick Jauron, was, as Belichick pointed out, a star defensive back on that Lions team back in 1976.
Pretty weird, I’d say.
“I have a lot of respect for Dick Jauron,” Belichick said. “Dick is an excellent coach, I’ve known him a long time. In fact, he was on that Detroit team in ’76. He does a good job, he’s well-prepared, we had a lot of respect competing against them a lot. I mean, hell, they played us as well as anyone other than New Orleans in the first game.
“One fumbled kickoff, and that’s probably a different game, so I have a lot of respect for Dick, but I have a lot of respect for (interim coach) Perry (Fewell) too.”