By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — “What are we doing?”
It’s a phrase that rings out inside of Julian Edelman’s head, even now in retirement. It’s a phrase of disbelief, dismay, and disgust that was uttered countless times by head coach Bill Belichick during Edelman’s decade-plus tenure in New England. A bad mistake, a missed assignment, a mental error — a predictable response.
What are we DOING?
So, when the Patriots turned the ball over twice and committed eight penalties for 84 yards in Sunday’s Week 1 loss to the Dolphins, Edelman knew that Belichick could have only had one response.
“What are we doing? Sorry, I had a mental nightmare, because I heard it so many times,” Edelman said Tuesday night on Inside The NFL on Paramount+. “What he used to say was, basically, ‘What are we doing out here?’ when there was any kind of bad fundamentals, bad football.”
Edelman shared that Belichick had a couple of mantras. One was that the coach felt he was “on a mission to stomp out bad football.” Belichick also used to push the credo that “you can’t win until you keep from losing.”
“He was on a mission, as he would quote, to stomp out bad football. And to lead into that he would always be like, ‘What — what are we doing out here?'” Edelman shared. “New England goes, they have eight penalties,  yards. We know that you can’t win until you keep from losing, right? That’s what Bill always says: You can’t win until you keep from losing, so you know they’re gonna hear it for that. And then also two fumbles, the last one on the [9-yard line] yard line with [3:30 left in the game], going in to score to take the lead. Like, what are we doing? You can’t do that. There’s a premium on the football. What are we doing?”
I can't un-hear these four words. https://t.co/WywBDG1n0D
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) September 15, 2021
Edelman was was a three-time Super Bowl champ and will be a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, but he nevertheless had his fair share of miscues, fumbles, drops, penalties and mistakes over the course of his career. He recalled what Belichick used to tell ball carriers when stressing the importance of ball security.
“There’s a premium for keeping the ball in your hand in New England,” Edelman said. “I remember Bill Belichick used to say, ‘When you are carrying the football, you’re not only carrying the football for the team and everyone in the building, but you’re carrying it for everyone in the region. The fate is in your hands.'”
It’s obviously a demanding place to work, one where mistakes like the ones committed on Sunday aren’t accepted. Edelman said that’s what drove a lot of the team’s success during his playing career.
“It’s what makes them the best,” Edelman said. “I mean, when you your trees are growing high, you’ve gotta prune them. You gotta cut ’em. And when the trees aren’t growing, you gotta feed ’em.”