Giants game, thoughts of Ray Perkins send Bill Belichick down memory lane

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The days are getting shorter, the temperature is starting to get cooler, and the New England Patriots are getting ready to face the New York Giants.

It must be the preseason finale.

This marks the 13th consecutive year that the Patriots and Giants will cap off the preseason by playing each other, and the 27th time overall, which makes the Giants the most frequent preseason foe in Patriots history.

It’s a nice match for both organizations at a time when the focus is shifting toward the regular season -- AFC versus NFC and close proximity, so when the game is on the road it’s a relatively painless trip home.

And, for an added bonus, it gives Patriots coach Bill Belichick a chance to take a trip down memory lane if he so desires.

Such was the case a few days ago when Belichick was asked how Ray Perkins, who coached with the Patriots (1974-77; 1993-96) and Giants (1979-82), helped shape both organizations.

“On a personal level, Ray had a huge influence on my life and my career. When I went to the Giants in 1979, Ray hired me as the special-teams coach. That was really a tremendous opportunity for me and a break in my career at a pretty young age -- 27. I did that some in Detroit, but the special teams was a bigger responsibility,” Belichick said, noting that Perkins had played under legendary coaches Bear Bryant (Alabama) and Don Shula (Colts).

As a player, Perkins had been viewed by Belichick as being “very tough” with a “hard-nosed mentality” at receiver, which was the same mentality he brought to coaching.

So, naturally, Belichick was influenced by seeing that approach in the early years of his coaching career.

“He was a tough coach. The receivers blocked. He conditioned the team hard. He practiced hard. He coached the team like he played, and he was a real grinder; everybody always remarked about his toughness and competitiveness as a player, and I think that came across in his coaching and he instilled that in his staff and players,” Belichick said.

One could say the same is true with Belichick and his approach, especially as it relates to special teams.

“I learned a lot from Coach Perkins and he was very supportive of me in the kicking game to give me the time and ability to use the players that he felt would make a difference in the game,” Belichick said. “We used a lot of starters on special teams when I was coaching there, players like Lawrence Taylor and so forth. They had a big impact on the game in the kicking game and Coach Perkins was behind that, so that was a great opportunity for me as well. I learned a lot about managing a team and handling a team in those four years that I was with him.”

Belichick, who regularly uses starters on special teams, also pointed out how in Perkins’ initial time with the Patriots (1974-77) he crossed paths with Ernie Adams, one of Belichick’s longtime friends who now serves as the team’s football research director.

Because Perkins coached in New England under Chuck Fairbanks, he brought a lot of the Fairbanks system to the Giants. Belichick said that system is, in many ways, still alive and well in New England.

“He’s had a strong influence on both organizations and then helped develop a lot of the coaches that had come up through those systems,” Belichick said. “A lot of the systematic things that are done are probably very similar. There’s a tremendous connection between those two organizations.”