JM: Well I think, you know, we go in each year trying to make sure that, starting in the spring and then carrying through training camp, that we do enough things and our system is broad enough that if we have to change a certain part of what we do or kind of morph styles from one week to the next or from one month to the next or whatever it may because of injury or because that’s what we choose to do against the opponent, we try to put that in place and train our players to think that way and put enough things in our offense and have a broad enough package to choose from that where, as those things come up it’s not like the first time we’ve discussed it. Mike and Matt have been a very big part of what we’re doing. I know that they may not have the production in terms of catches in the passing game, but that certainly doesn’t diminish their role that they play for us in the pass game. They definitely do a nice job in protection. We ask a lot of them in that regard. They also do some different things in the passing game where, if people don’t cover them, we’ve thrown them the ball plenty this year. Certainly, they know their assignments. They’ve done a nice job of being in the right place at the right time and have been dependable for us in those situations when they’ve come up. I think their overall toughness, their attitude, their availability to us on a week-in, week-out basis, their toughness and effort that they give us in the running game, the pass game, on the goal line, in special teams, those different things, all those contributions add up and make us a better football team. So, I’m really happy to have those guys here and I think the transformation or the usage of that position, I think we just base it on what we feel we need to do to try and win the game with the guys we have.
Q: Coming into the league as an assistant under Bill Belichick, from your experience in watching how the teams are built here, whether with Scott Pioli or Nick Caserio in the personnel department and Bill Belichick from the coaching side, what do you think are the key things that Belichick is looking for in terms of building a team that can compete year-in and year-out?
JM: I don’t want to answer that question for Bill. I certainly think he would do a good job of answering it. I think the big thing offensively for us in terms of what we kind of value, we definitely want our guys to be smart, tough, versatile, team-first guys that we can depend on and that are accountable to do the things we ask them to do on a daily basis. I think that’s largely comparable to what you’re referring to relative to Bill, but again I think that you’re looking for guys that can come in and do the jobs you’re asking them to do on offense. That’s what we try to help with, whatever process we play in the scouting department and those kinds of things – the things we feel like suit our system pretty well and give us the flexibility to do some of the things that we desire as the season goes on. It’s been a pretty consistent thing for us and it’s been something that – sometimes the players have changed, but I think the underlying theme of what we’re looking for, and especially I’m speaking to the offensive side of the ball, I think that’s really been a consistent thing and it’s allowed us to continue to grow as an offense.
Q: Since you’ve had a chance to lead your own team, I was curious from a depth perspective, what are your thoughts on having depth and being able to get some young players coached up because a player isn’t going to be the same when you get him in April as when you need him in December?
JM: I always, you know, you certainly want to have as much depth and as capable of depth as you can at every position on the team. I think part of creating the depth that you’re looking for is development. That, I mean, that’s what our jobs are as coaches. Ultimately we make selections or we sign players or whatever we choose to do to bring the player on to our team, and then once they’re here it’s our job, from the first minute we have an opportunity to spend with them in April or May or whenever that may be until the very last meeting or practice of the season, to spend our time, not only in trying to get them familiar with maybe an opponent that we’re getting ready to play, but also to still continue to focus on the skills that we need them to improve on to become better players themselves. I think the younger players really – they need all the instruction they can get. They need all the repetition they can get. Certainly the more veteran guys you have, maybe the less reps or what have you he may need because he’s gone through it before. Even though we’re going to get ready to play another playoff game this week, there’s still going to be a decent portion of our practice time and meeting time spent on trying to assist in the development of the younger players on the team because we know, even though a guy may be second or third team or practice squad or what have you, eventually we’d like for that player to be able to help us on our roster and play in games and do a nice job for us. I think that process is ongoing and I think that the development of those young players can’t be understated in terms of creating the type of depth that you’re looking for.
Q: Since we last spoke with you, word came out that you withdrew your name from the Cleveland Browns head coaching vacancy. I was just wondering if you could give us any insight as to why that is the case and whether this means that you will be returning to New England next year?
JM: Well, I’ll definitely be here. I think all it means is that, you know, I made the decision that this is the right time for me to be here. I’m really happy here – I’ve said that numerous times. There’s not really much else to it. I don’t think it’s – you know it’s a process you go through sometimes and you ultimately have to make choices based on what’s best for you and your family. That’s what I try to do.
Q: In looking at the offensive depth chart, about six of your 12-13 main contributors were guys that were not drafted in the league. Guys like
JM: Well, I think Bill [Belichick] has always done a great job of making sure that everything we do, I don’t care whether it’s coaching, scouting, game preparation, analysis of ourselves, whatever it may be, we’re very thorough. I think that the draft process and when you’re preparing for that all spring long, you really don’t know when players are going to get selected necessarily. You’re not necessarily sure who gets selected where and which teams feel good about this player, and it doesn’t really matter to us. We’re just looking for an honest, thorough evaluation of each player that we come across. Again, I think Bill has set that into motion, and Nick [Caserio] does a great job. He and Bill give us kind of our blueprint each year in terms of what we may be able to help with as coaches. It’s certainly not as much as the scouting department, but I just think it’s a process where we’re looking for guys that come in here with the traits that we think are important, regardless of what they have done or what their status may be to someone else. We’re just looking for guys that can come in here and try to compete in our system for our team and help make us better. I think that any time you’re talking about a player that comes in undrafted, I’m sure there’s a lot of motivation on his part. I think the same traits that make a player that was drafted in the first or second round a good player can make a player that wasn’t drafted a good player, you know? They just have to have great work ethic, they have to be intelligent and tough, committed and disciplined and team oriented. As long as you have those things and they’re willing to work at it, then once you’re here it really doesn’t matter to any of us what round you were selected, how you were acquired. We’re just trying to play the best players. I think everybody knows that here. It’s fair competition. Everybody gets an opportunity and I think the guys really enjoy that. It continues to keep things fresh and make players compete throughout the course of the year. So, we’ve so happened to get contributions from those players, but I’ll tell you this – I don’t look at any of those guys that way. I just look at them as Patriots – that they come to work just like everybody else and they’ve done a great job for us this year. We’re happy to have them on our team.
Q: Can you shed some insight on the most striking component of
JM: Well, Julian – you know, Julian has always had great ability. He’s a guy that has speed and can do a lot of different things – versatility. Certainly, I wasn’t here when we first got him the first years that he was here, and have had an opportunity to really get to know him the last couple years. His opportunities have certainly increased and he is a guy that embraces whatever role you give him each week. He’s capable of playing on the perimeter of the offense and he has for us. He’s also unselfish and will do whatever we ask of him in any role, whether that’s to be a clear-out guy, block the secondary in the running game, whatever it may be, and he’s always had a great attitude towards his work and his preparation. I just see a guy that’s driven to be a great player. He’s always tried to be the best he could be. He’s certainly had opportunities presented to him this year that he’s taken advantage of. I think he’s really led our receiving group with a tremendous amount of toughness, consistency. He practices hard, prepares hard, he’s on top of his game plan. He understands the defenses that we play and the players he’s going to compete against. I think he’s just really made himself a very well-rounded player that certainly has had a very productive year for us.