FOXBORO -- As if Tom Brady wasn't valued enough in New England, Bill Belichick recently reeled off another reason to appreciate the quarterback.
"Nobody really understands this, but I can’t think of a game, certainly not any recently, where there isn’t some type of communication issue with either the headsets or the coach-to-quarterback system, where you either have to replace it, change the helmet which we’ve had to do several times this year, or the system just goes in and out," the coach said.
"It’s not uncommon at all for the quarterback not to get the play that’s called in or the defensive signal-caller for that matter, to not get the play that’s called in because there was interference or he only heard part of the call and didn’t hear the whole thing or whatever it is. Then that starts the process all over again."
The fact there's a 15-second window to communicate the play complicates things further. If the call doesn't come through the signal caller can take a timeout, but it's often to precious a commodity. So the quarterback must make a snap decision, and it must be the right decision.
It's no wonder Belichick is grateful to have a 14-year veteran at the helm.
"It’s a serious part of the game that needs great judgment and management from the people on the field, both the coach and the signal-caller, the quarterback. Fortunately we have a great one in Tom who has dealt with everything you can deal with and more. He’s been in our system a long time and I think he has a pretty good idea of when we would and wouldn’t want to use timeouts or change plays and that kind of thing. But it’s definitely a significant issue that is part of every game."
Brady gave the praise with his usual 'Just-doing-my-job' shrug.
"I’ve been in that situation a few times over the course of my career where we haven’t had [communication] for extended periods of time," Brady said. "We have a backup plan; if that backup plan fails and you’re sometimes below that 15-second mark, then you’ve just got to try to scramble and call a play with the guys you have in the huddle. So you try to use your best judgment and go with it. But yeah, we’re used to that. We’ve practiced that."
Not every game situation can be simulated, of course.
One of the variables that adds complexity to Brady's decision-making process is personnel. Belichick commented on how substitutions and injuries, like New England dealt with Sunday when Rob Gronkowski went down with a knee injury, can change the way the offense lines up. Not every player has a backup so things can change significantly when a guy must play multiple positions.
"I’d just say the combination of all those things: the system not functioning at 100 percent, just the game management, the, obviously, variable of what’s on the other side of the ball," the coach concluded. "Getting those plays, getting the plays and the defenses called, getting them done properly, getting them done without some kind of glitch is, I’d say, it’s almost impossible that you’re not going to have a few of those during every game."
And it all comes down to the quarterback. Luckily for Belichick, he's got one of the best.