Q: What are your thoughts about taking on your former team?
MP: Well, you know obviously the Patriots are a great team, great ownership, great head coach, great players and we’ve got a huge challenge in front of us. You know, you just try to keep it to the game. I think you can’t make it any more than that, just us trying to go do better than what we did last week and trying to improve obviously with a very difficult opponent coming in here to play.
Q: Do you think all the familiarity between you and Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels balances itself out coming into this matchup?
MP: Yeah, you know, I think it does. You try to do a great job of scheming it up on either side of the ball and then there’s some things that they do that can hurt you and you know there’s certain things that hurt them, you know each other so well. But I think in the end, it really comes back to just having a good game plan and good execution, hopefully coaching well enough to give the players the opportunity to come out and do it the right way. I don’t think it’s anything really more than that. It’s really about the players and the game itself more so than I would say it is about anything else.
Q: How much of a challenge has it been to establish a culture and the kind of culture that you want with the team and how would you describe that culture?
MP: Well, you know, I think it’s always going to have some challenges when you go to a new place and you’re trying to do the best you can to coach it the way that you want it coached and do things the right way, do what you think is going to help the team win. There’s always challenges and there’s always actually rewards. There’s other aspects of it that come into play like the players and unique guys that when I got here have different ways to do things and different opinions, which is great because I think that helps you grow as a coach and kind of helps the program develop its own way. That’s the most important thing, is that whatever we’re trying to do out here is basically the collective kind of achievement where everybody has a say and we’re going to do some things a certain way but other things we’re going to try to do the best we can to just do it the best way or the way that suits us the best. I think that’s the best way to put it. So, kind of like any sort of change or new environment or whatever location may be, those are – those challenges are always there but there’s also a lot of positives that come out of it too. The relationships and just learning different ways to do things, being around different guys is good, there’s also a real benefit.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Patriots adding Josh Gordon and have you had to cram on him in the past few days?
MP: Yeah, I mean obviously a tremendous player. Again, I think unfortunately the last time I saw him, he caught a slant that he’s probably still running, just a really huge play for them when he was in Cleveland. So, dangerous guy, vertical threat, big receiver, great body control, great hands, really will be a big challenge for us. For us not to have anything on tape as far as what they’re going to do with him, in that aspect also is a little bit difficult.
Q: When you have such an intimate knowledge of an organization like you do this week, how do you go about sharing that with players and coaches who don’t have that same level of familiarity and put it to the best use?
MP: Good question, because I think you can really, I don’t want to say over-do it, but you don’t want to give them so much information that you just kind of paralyze what they’re doing. They still have to watch, they still have to play, they still have to react, they still have to execute a game plan. So you try to just give them good fundamental knowledge like we do every week about the opponent that we play, try to really explain to them what they need reps on, what they like to do and about the players that they use and how they use them and give them a good solid game plan to hopefully go out and execute at a high level. I think it’s a delicate balance.
Q: When you’ve been scheming for this Patriots team, what’s the biggest surprise you’ve seen on film from them to this point in the season?
MP: I think they’re pretty consistent with what they do. I think they use all their players in a way that really stretches you out in all three phases of the game. I think they obviously have their dynamic players that make plays for them. Some definite different scheme stuff that they’re doing based on the personnel that they have and their points of emphasis that they’re trying to get accomplished this year. So some of those are a little bit different but I think in the end, just solid fundamentals, really good techniques, they do a great job of just the basics. Tackling, throwing, catching, getting turnovers, capitalizing on opportunities, just all the smart football that you’re used to seeing.
Q: What was your secret to slowing Tom Brady down in practice?
MP: During practice? Probably the fact that it was practice.
Q: On that same line of questioning, do you have a new appreciation for Tom Brady now that you’re creating a game plan to slow him down?
MP: Just going back to Karen [Guregian] to make sure I answer her question. I’m sure, Karen [Guregian], just in regards to trying to slow him down, he’s obviously such a great player. Someone that you see every single day that I would practice against that I have the upmost respect for, the way that he approaches the game, his competitiveness, the way that he can just increase the level of his focus in the competition of practice was great. Lot of obviously great memories and great situations where every single day it’s kind of going against each other. I think he’s just a phenomenal player and an even better person. So the practice part of it was always fun, for the love of the game. So it’s a little bit different now I think from this standpoint. But, we’ll just try to do the best, to go back to the other question, just do the best we can like I said, to go out and execute a good game plan and hopefully try to close it out. We certainly have things that we need to fix first and foremost, to make sure that those are taken care of before we play the Patriots and that’s the biggest thing for us right now, that we just try to get the problems that we’ve had so far handled, so when we walk into the game, they’re still not an issue this weekend.
Q: How much have you leaned on the ex-Patriots you’ve brought in for leadership and trying to convey your message to the players?
MP: Well, you know the good thing is when I got here, there was obviously a tremendous amount of good players and great leadership here already so that was pretty easy for me from that standpoint. A lot of it has just been building those relationships and getting everyone to understand a little bit more about our big goal and how we need to play and some of the certain things that we need to do and obviously bringing in guys that are familiar with me I think helps that situation from the standpoint to translate or relate to those players from a player-to-player standpoint which sometimes is easier than a coach-to-player standpoint. But I think it’s all been consistent. I think those guys that were able to come in that know me, I obviously brought in because those are guys I think can help us win and play for us and do a good job of contributing. But there’s a great group of guys that were already here, great group of guys that have come in as rookies, free agents in the offseason and then guys that I’m also familiar with with the Patriots.
Q: Do you agree with the importance of having a pre-snap disguise so Tom Brady doesn’t know exactly what defense you’re in?
MP: Yeah, I think if you’re capable of doing that stuff, then that’s kind of where you’re at as a defense. You certainly want to do that against Tom Brady. With his level of expertise and his level to just understand defense, understand coverage, understand location, run-stick, I mean it’s the full package. So you get that done and you go out there and do that pre-snap, it’s great. I think you’re also in a situation though where people go out and try to do too much or trying to over-disguise something, you put yourself in a bad situation, [and] he’s going to find that pretty quick. You might be either out of position or slightly out-leveraged or just not really lined up where you’re supposed to be lined up because you’re worried about the disguise and in the end, the disguise kind of ruins your opportunity to execute and that’s where you can get in a lot of trouble.
Q: How difficult is it to separate yourself from Bill Belichick’s style and the way Bill did things when you spent the majority of your professional career working for him?
MP: Yeah, you know, that’s a good question. I think again, I’ve talked about that at length. I’ve really always appreciated how much time that Coach Belichick spent with me individually and taught me as a coach and taught me a lot about the importance of trying to coach a team and coach a defense, which I think has been really phenomenal from that standpoint. But I think even through the progression of my coaching career before the Patriots – Syracuse, Amherst, whatever it is – I do feel like I am kind of my own person, my own personality with the players. It’s still me, like I don’t think that you would ever change that as a coach. I think the guys that I had in New England, as a young linebackers coach, there was no other way to coach those guys. And I learned more from those guys than anyone. Great players, the Mike Vrabels, and Tedy Bruschis and Junior Seaus and Willie McGinests, Rosevelt Colvin and just the list goes on, Larry Izzo. I mean, just how to be yourself but also teach and coach the importance of what needs to be taught for everyone to be successful. I think that’s really the biggest thing.