Bill Belichick Goes on Rant About Unheralded Position

Bill Belichick

Getty Bill Belichick gave a long-winded answer about the need for a long snapper on the roster.

New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona will not make headlines this season — unless something goes drastically wrong. Despite that fact, head coach Bill Belichick could not stop talking about the role Cardona plays.

Belichick gave a 10-minute answer to Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin’s question about the importance of an exclusive long snapper position versus training several players for the task. Cardona, or any long snapper, only appears on the field for extra points and field goals with the role of snapping the ball to holder for the kicker.

“Is it that hard? It’s a pretty hard job, yeah,” Belichick explained in the Wednesday, September 6 press conference. “It’s a pretty hard job.”

“He not only has to snap, so that gets into whether you’re a blind snapper and you look at the rush and just snap the ball or whether you’re a look-back snapper and snap it,” Belichick continued. “And then after the snap you have to look up and recognize what’s happened and make the proper block.”

“There’s just a much higher level of skill, which there should be,” Belichick said. “But yeah, I think it’s a pretty tough position.”

Patriots Spent on Joe Cardona

New England even spends at the position. Cardona became the second-highest paid long snapper annually in the league this year behind New Orleans Saints long snapper Zach Woods.

The Patriots gave Cardona a four-year, $6.3 million deal this year, and he will get $2.6 million guaranteed from that contract. New England drafted Cardona with a fifth-round pick in 2015 out of Navy, and he played on two Patriots Super Bowl championship squads.

Bill Belichick Explains History of Designated Long Snapper

Belichick, 71, has been coaching in the NFL since the 1970s, and he shared his wealth of knowledge on how the designated long snapper came to be.

“I would say honestly during the course of my coaching career has traveled that long and winding road from when I came into the league,” Belichick said. “First of all, there were no long snappers, but the specialist — the kickers and the punters — were frequently positioned players. And that’s where they came from in college as well.”

“So a lot of the good college punters and placekickers also played a position, and then as time evolved, starting with like [Pete] Gogolak and guys like that .. they specialized in kicking, and then you had some of the punters that specialized,” Belichick continued.

Gogolak kicked for the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s followed by the New York Giants until 1974. Belichick also mentioned Tom Tupa, late Patriots star Gino Cappelletti, and Danny White as examples of past players who played a high-profile position and kicked or punted.

Belichick said that evolution of kicker or punting only came down to “the importance of the kicking game” and “the number of plays that the kicking game” involved. He noted that the same applied to punt and kick returns as “very few were just pure returners”.  

Long  snapping took a similar road in the mid 1980s, Belichick explained. He credited former Giants linebacker and long snapper Steve DeOssie as a trailblazer in that trend.

Belichick said DeOssie served as “the first center that really truly allowed a spread punt formation against the all out rush” back then. The Patriots coach also noted that development of teams using gunners on defensive special teams necessitated that.

“So it was nine on eight, and the idea was to block the most dangerous eight and let the ninth guy go and punt away from him,” Belichick said.  

He pointed out that the snapper needed to “deliver the ball 15 yards deep on the money” plus “still block a good rusher”. As players “became more efficient at” snapping and blocking, it led to teams designating a long snapper on the roster, Belichick explained. It beat out getting a punt blocked, he added.

“Plus there was also the level of consistency and durability with those players, so if you lose a position player who’s also a long snapper, you’re looking at some real problems,”  Belichick said.

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