"We just do what we do."
Every time I hear a coach utter this, especially at the NFL level, I just laugh. Whether it is an ego thing or simply an effort to send a message about his "system" or whether he truly believes what he's saying, it's a flawed premise.
The goal each week in the NFL is to win. That's it. Ever since Bill Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, there is no organization that has accomplished their objective of winning games each week more often than New England.
You know why?
Belichick doesn't have a "we do what we do" mentality. What the Patriots "do" is come up with a truly unique game plan specifically designed to counteract what their opponent's strengths and weaknesses are each and every week. Sounds like a pretty simple concept, yet you'd be surprised how many teams don't seem to understand this.
I played for five teams in seven years. Several coaches would preach how their system was great as long as we "executed' or had "good fundamentals." They'd boast about the fact that we were going to "run our stuff" and "not change what we were doing based on one opponent."
I understand what they were trying to accomplish and there is certainly something to be said for consistency in approach and mastering particular concepts, but what made the most sense to me was what Belichick would preach in his team meetings in New England. The first thing he would talk about at the start of each week was the opponent and what they did best. He was very specific. This wasn't, "We can't turn the ball over" coach-speak. It was, "If we take away Jimmy Smith on third downs they can't beat us" prior to a playoff game against the Jags in the 2005 season. He would harp on it all week and the game plan would be designed to accomplish that exact objective.
It worked that night. Still does, most of the time.
Just look at what the Patriots did in the last two weeks offensively. In Week 11 on Sunday Night Football, they went to their heavy package up front and ran the ball down the Colts throat to the tune of 200 yards and four touchdowns for running back Jonas Gray. A player who had been on the practice squad a month earlier was now the featured back in a big road win over a division leader.
Then this past Sunday against Detroit, the Patriots barely even tried to run the ball. Instead, Brady operated out of the gun and picked apart the Lions for almost 350 while mixing in five different receivers (who all received at least five passes each). It was total domination in a much different way than the week prior.
That's the Patriots. You never really know what they are going to do from week to week. That's their trademark. That's their "system." That's what they do.
That's also why they are absolutely maddening for fantasy football players out there. A week after Gray's big day, he didn't play a snap. That was mostly because he overslept and was late for practice on Friday, but even if he hadn't, it certainly doesn't seem like he would have had a big game against the Lions. Pounding the ball wasn't in the game plan against a very good run defense.
Belichick takes away whatever it is that makes the opposition successful. If that's tight end Jimmy Graham, that means Bill Belichick might put his top cover corner on him all day, like he did with Aqib Talib last year. He identified that Graham was what made the Saints click and he was going to do his best to eliminate him from the picture. (Expect a game plan against the Packers in Week 13 devised around making Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the pocket.)
In an era of coaches touting their "systems" at every level of football you really have to appreciate Belichick's grab bag approach. In recent years, they've played a 3-4 front before going to a 4-3. They used to play a lot of zone coverage, but this year, because of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. they are playing more man.
The bottom line is that Belichick almost always gives his players a great chance to win because he develops a better game plan than the opposing coaches.
Just look at his winning percentage.