Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, January 11 , 2010.
BB: All right. Well, as we talked about yesterday, that was definitely a very disappointing end to our season. There really wasn't much to feel good about in yesterday's performance all the way around. We're all accountable for it. It starts with me. We worked long and hard this season and to finish that way is certainly a big disappointment for all of us, everybody involved. I think that on the other hand when you stop and take a look back and reflect on the entire season there were certainly some positives - winning the division. It was a tough division. It was certainly a goal of ours and we reached that one. I thought the way the players handled themselves over the course of the year, we had our ups and downs, but they were very professional. It's a hard working group. I thought we had a good attitude and a good approach to the things we tried to do. The results weren't always what we wanted and that's something that we certainly need to improve on. Yesterday's game put an exclamation point on that. I'm sure there's a lot of questions about things in the future and I understand those questions and in all honesty we're probably asking ourselves some of the ones that you would ask, but right now I don't think is the time to make those decisions. We'll go through the process that we usually do, whether it's scheme, personnel, program, system, how we do things, so forth and so on, take a look at all of it and ultimately try to make the decisions we feel are best for the football team in 2010 and beyond. How that will all go, I really don't know. Again, that's a process that we'll begin shortly. And there're certain timetables along the way for certain decisions to be made and we'll make those in a timely fashion. But at this point I probably wouldn't be able to shed too much light on a lot of that speculation going forward because we really need to go through the full process and look at the entire body of work for the entire season before making those kinds of decisions. Based on my experience in the league, I think that's the best way to do it. It's tough to see the season end yesterday and be here today, but that's the reality of NFL playoff football. We'll have to work hard next year to get to the point we were at one o'clock yesterday afternoon.
Q: Tom Brady just talked about some of the player transition that happened over the last year and some of the leaders you guys lost. He said he didn't feel the leadership on the team was where it needed to be. Would you agree with his assessment?
BB: I respect what Tom says and what Tom thinks. Again, I think those are the things that we can take a longer look at, a longer process and just take a full evaluation of it.
Q: What is the process?
BB: The first thing we do is try to evaluate our team in all the things that we do - how much motion do we use, how each player played, what type of progress was made or wasn't made, if there was a direction - whichever way the progress was going, whether going forward or if it was declining, and take a look at the team going forward in terms of what players we have, what players we don't have and then gradually make determinations on how to improve those things. We'll take a look at all of our practices, all of our mini camps, training camp schedules, all those things. We've done that a little bit along the way, but then we put all that together and discuss it, whether it's as a coaching staff, or an organization, or sometimes in consultation with different players, whether it's a specific situation or a group situation, whatever it happens to be. All that is put together, we talk about it and eventually we make decisions on players, on system, on scheme and how we do things. Some things stay the same and some things change. It's inevitable there will be change next year. That happens with every team, we know that. That's not anything unusual, but just how to improve. We don't look at 2010 as anything other than 2010. We're not trying to replicate some other year or something else. We try to look at the 2010 team and figure out what will make that the best. It's an ongoing process. It will be thorough and hopefully we'll make good decisions that will improve our football team.
Q: You didn't have an offensive coordinator in name this year, would you like something more formal going forward?
BB: I don't know. I think what's important is the process and how things work. I've never been a big believer in titles. I've had them; I haven't had them. I don't think that's an important thing. I think it's how an operation works, how it functions.
Q: How do you think the process worked this year?
BB: We'll go back to the comments I made at the beginning. I think, on the overall body of work, there were some positives. We had a lot of good things this year. It wasn't the consistency and we didn't have the results in the end that we wanted, so there's certainly a lot of room for improvement. I think there is some of both. There're some good and there're some things that weren't as good as we want them to be. And that goes for everything - offense, defense, special teams, playing, coaching, you name it. You can put everything in that category.
Q: How do you breakdown something that you can't measure on film?
BB: There're a lot of intangibles like that and you're right, it's subjective. And it's not the easiest thing to breakdown. There's no statistic that really necessarily reflects it or all the components that go into it. It's very inexact science or inexact analysis, but we do the best we can on all those things and there're a number of things that probably fall into that category, the intangible type things - the work ethic, the motivation, the toughness, the intelligence, the ability to adjust, all those things that are hard to really quantify, but they are very important. That's something we discuss on a regular basis, but now at the end of the year we need to go back and revisit the whole thing and certainly those are all parts of the discussion and the analysis.
Q: Is that an early portion of a discussion?
BB: I would say all that kind of comes a one point maybe in a two-week period to cover all the things that we talk about and not necessarily every decision is made the following day, but then we kind of go through the timeliness of the decision, whether those are some player decisions, which there're some deadlines on that, as we start working on the playbook and setting up systems and dates and start planning for things like minicamps, training camps, offseason program, OTA's and all that. There is a certain timeliness to that, to get the information to the players and make sure that we can set up everything to function efficiently on our end. There's a certain time to it, but as I said, I wouldn't necessarily say that after a couple weeks of those kind of discussions. And sometimes when we get through those discussions, one of the conclusions is we need to look at this a little more carefully; we need more time on this; let's spend more time talking about X, Y or Z and really feel like we get to the bottom of it. Sometimes when we come out of those type of meetings and feel like we've really identified what we need to do and it's pretty clear cut and there's a charted course of action and then there're other times we feel like it's a little murky and we really need to think about it, give it more analysis, more thought, get more information, whatever the case is and dig into it a little bit deeper. Again, there's no real set formula on that. We'll just have to see how that plays itself out, but some things will happen sooner than others. Other things will be addressed at a later point in time, not saying they aren't important, there are just some things you can address in February, there're some things you can address in March and in all honesty there're other things you can't address until the start of training camp. We all know what the schedule it, that's the way it falls.
Q: The offensive line has been together for a long time, Stephen Neal yesterday talked about the decision of retirement. Do you like the group here going forward or is that a situation where you might go out and find other players?
BB: Do I like the players and the job they did this year? Again, could it have been better? Yes. Was it overall a good acceptable level? It was good, but it can always be better and I thought that group of players worked hard and it's a dependable group. Again, I can't really speak to any individual or even collective situation. We'll do what's best for the football team and as I tell the players and I tell myself this, I think a few hours after the outcome of the season and we've had different outcomes. We've had a disappointing day like yesterday and we've had some very good days. But I think that's a bad time to really make a lot of long term decisions - a few hours after the final game of the year. It's good to sit back, reflect and take stock of more than just your emotions and your feelings after that final game. That's what we'll do and that's what I'll encourage the players to do. I've been around long enough to see a lot of players say or feel one thing today or yesterday and feel another thing a few weeks later or a few months later. Bret Favre would be exhibit A, but that's true for all of us. We feel one thing after the game and then another thing at a different point in time. I personally wouldn't read too much into anything anybody says today other than that's what their emotions are at that time, whether that really is in fact a long term feeling, I think, my experience has been, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
Q: Does your time to reflect necessarily have to be shorter because your season ended later?
BB: I think the process, it really, it is what it is. It takes a certain amount of time to accumulate the information and to get everything into a position where you can discuss it and evaluate it. We really couldn't do that this afternoon. There are just too many things that need to be pulled together and organized so we can do it efficiently. Once that takes place, then you do it, whether it's after the last regular season game like it was last year or whether it's after a Super Bowl game like it was the year before. You kind of do it, not quickly to get it done, but as quickly as possible so you can at least start charting the course to the direction you want to go in the future, whatever that is. Again, it could be all different types of things, schedule, players, system, scheme, you name it.
Q: How challenging is this offseason going to be with the number of guys who have expiring contracts and the uncertainty of the CBA and how you want to construct things going forward?
BB: There's no question that this year we'll be dealing in some unchartered waters as a league. Collectively, every team's playing under the same set of rules or lack of rules, however you want to call it and that will be something that we've talked a little bit about. We haven't been oblivious to it, but now is where the real decision making time relative to the 2010 season will start to come up once we get into the uncapped year at the beginning of March and all that. One of the things in that whole process has been - and we've all seen it - the progression of information, what it was back last March and then what it was in April and then what is was in June and what it was in October. There's been gradually more and more insight or decisions or direction to that and things have occurred. Other teams have done things that have taken away or put into play other aspects of it. Long story short, I think as we get closer to that - the 2010 uncapped year - and all the rules that apply to it we'll probably know more than we know today. Do we have some general plans now? Yes. Will they be refined? I'm sure they will. And is it challenging? Absolutely, because there's really no precedent for it. It's different than any other year. Even before when there was no cap you didn't have the free agency. With free agency came the cap, now it's sunk to [a] situation where you have both of them to a degree.
Q: In terms of the emotions, even for you that was an incredibly down game and down beat performance.
BB: What was there to be upbeat about?
Q: Was it because you had high hopes or was it confirmed worse fears about life after Wes Welker?
BB: Our season ended. It's the finality of it. It's like you're on a treadmill and you're running however fast you run. I mean, I don't run all that fast, but you're on a treadmill and you hit the stop button, it stops and you fall off. And that's where you're in the NFL playoffs, at whatever point it is, whether it's the first round, whether it's the divisional round, or whether it's in the championship game or whether it's in the Super Bowl. If you don't win at any one of those or even last year, as you're playing to get into the playoffs and the treadmill stops, then you don't take another step, it doesn't go and you fall off it. Then the other teams that are playing keep playing. No matter when that feeling comes, it's a pretty disappointing feeling.
Q: How much of your evaluation process involves getting away and not thinking about football?
BB: I think it's good to go from a clean slate. Again, and I've been through this so many times, but you sit here today and what do you remember? You remember yesterday's game. You remember the Houston game. You remember the Jacksonville game. But you kind of forget - and it's not as fresh in your mind - some of the earlier games in the season and the first half of the season or the first 10 games of the season. [I'm] not saying we don't remember anything from those games, but you certainly don't remember the details of them like you do the last couple. And I'm not minimizing the last couple games, certainly the Baltimore game is an important game in our evaluation process because there was so much at stake and clearly it was the best effort from both teams, there was nothing else to play for but that game. But, on the other hand, you can look at an entire body of work and see something that was relatively good over a longer period of time and then something that wasn't good over a shorter period of time. And I don't know if the best thing is always to say, 'Well let's get rid of that because it wasn't good yesterday' when over a longer period it was probably one of the more productive things you did or what you feel like was a strength of your team. That's a balance. I don't know what the answer to that question is, but I think that's why I would say it takes a little time to sort of back off and then come back and recalibrate and look at the shorter term, look at the longer picture. Sometimes you make comparisons to other years just as a relative basis, your overall production in a certain area over the last couple years. Why it was at one place at one time and another place another time? What were the factors that went into that? And so forth. But do I think it's good to step back a little bit and just let the dust settle? Absolutely, I think that's important. [It's] not always possible. Sometimes situations come up that you have to address that are timely and you've just got to deal with them.
Q: Is there any explaining to the first quarter?
BB: If I had a good answer for it I would have done a better job with it yesterday, I guess.
Q: When you look back, the pass rush was an issue and it seemed like toward the end of the year Tully Banta-Cain's production increased. Is that an area you need to address going forward?
BB: I think it's always an area that's a big concern for the defense - third down, two minute, protecting the lead and all those kind of things. There's really nothing more important at that particular point in the game than the pass rush. And certainly pass coverage is important, but a lot of times the pass rush can override that if it's good or your coverage can be exposed if it isn't. That's always an important area. I think like a lot of things this year there were times when it was good and there were other times when it could have been better. And that's an area you are always working to improve - pass rush, pass protection. You always want it to be real good and that's what you're striving for.
Q: How will it work with the players? Will you address them today and will they come in the rest of the week?
BB: Their obligations are really up today with some things they have to do to close out the year contractually and so forth. But after that, I would say it's more of a case to case basis. There will be guys in. There will be guys in getting treatment. There will be guys in doing different things. We'll talk to different players. Other players will leave and we'll talk to them at a later point in time, nothing really structured after today unless it was on an individual basis.
Q: How about for the coaches? I know you talk about going through the process, but also taking a step back. How will this week work for the coaches?
BB: Well the coaches, the coaching staff will take a little break here and then we'll come back at some point and regroup. And again, as I said, it takes awhile for some information to really be compiled and some of that will be done by our computer and IT people, by the video people, by our training staff - injury analysis and all those things - individual coaches grades and so forth. So a lot of that is a lot of individual work and there will be some free time and then also some time where they'll be compiling that information and then at whatever point we come back to regroup on it then we will be back. There will definitely be some of that for me and the other coaches. Again, that being said, this is an unpredictable time of year and things can come up, as they have in the past, that you have to deal with at that point in time because that's where they are.
Q: If there is a value for your young players going through the year - and obviously you are younger in some spots - what would you hope it would be, going through what they went through yesterday and going through the experience as a whole? What would you hope that some of those younger guys learn?
BB: I think the rookie players learn a lot every week. There are so many things, we could talk about that for hours, but certainly the length of the season, the intensity of the season, the amount of preparation that goes into the game, all of those things. And we could talk about them and we do talk about them. We talk to them about them when we draft them or sign them. We talk to them about them in training camp, but until they actually go through it and experience it, it's hard to really understand that. My first year in the league, it was a huge revelation for me. I'd been around coaching my whole life, but I'd never been through an NFL season as a coaching assistant, which is what I was. The next year, the season was a lot easier for me, as a coach, just knowing what to expect, have an idea of how to pace yourself and all of those kinds of things. I don't know if you can really ... Probably, for each player, it's a little bit different, dealing with injuries, coaches, scheme, with veteran players, with all the other obligations that they have. Just finding that balance and the second time around, hopefully it will be an improvement for everybody. I think a lot of it is on an individual basis, though. Some guys are in different situations: [some] played, others didn't, some guys had injuries to deal with. The length of the season is the same for everybody. The number of practices is basically the same for everybody, but there were a number of different situations and roles that each individual player was in that varied from player to player.
Q: Jerod Mayo was a captain for the first year and Brandon Meriweather took on more communication responsibilities in the secondary. I know you talk sometime about the rookie to second year transition being big for all players, do you think that is the same as far as leadership roles? Do you expect a big leap in leadership in guys going into their second year as leaders?
BB: Yeah. I think that's much more of a gradual thing. I thought that Jerod really gave a lot of leadership to our defense his rookie year by the end of the year. And not that he didn't at the beginning of the year, but I think there's a point where rookie players or young players - they don't have to be rookies, they can be first-, second-year players - they're just so worried about doing their job, they're not really worried about helping anybody else out or trying to provide a lot of leadership to somebody else. They're just worried about what they're trying to do. But then there becomes a point where they become confident in what they do and they realize that role does expand and they've usually gone through it because that's probably what it was like when they were a freshman or sophomore in college or whatever it was. And then, as they became a senior and more of a veteran player on that team, then their role grew. In a lot of cases, that's a parallel in the NFL, whether it's their first year or their second year, there's a point where you have a kind of a level of comfort and confidence in what you're doing, that you can start to pay more attention to what everybody else is doing and work together with them, especially as you see other guys on your team and how they exert themselves at that. It's an interesting dynamic. I don't know that there's any set pattern for it. I don't think it has to occur from year to year. I think it's kind of a gradual thing.
Q: Is there anything in the rest of the NFL that surprised you this weekend?
BB: At this point in time, not really...I mean, every team that's playing is good. Whichever team plays the best on Sunday is going to win. It doesn't matter what somebody else's record was or how many guys they have in the Pro Bowl, or how much experience or inexperience or anything about that. I don't really think that has too much to do with it. I think it's whichever team goes out there and plays better. And is any team capable of having a good day, with the teams that are playing at this time of year? Yes. Is any team capable of having a bad day? We know the answer to that question. I think that's why so many people watch it. It's such a popular - it's the most popular sport. Fans love it because it is unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen. Really, anybody can beat anybody. That's true any given Sunday in the NFL, but particularly at playoff time when you have the teams that are playing. They're all good teams or they wouldn't be here.
Q: When your season ends, how long is the mourning period for players and coaches, just having to go through it and maybe digest it and get over the pain of it being over?
BB: You know, honestly, it really goes until the first day of training camp. Minicamp and [the] offseason program and all of that, at least you're back on the field. At least you feel like you're doing something about it. And I think you can do something about it in January and February in terms of decision-making and plays and scheme and things like that. But I think when you get to training camp, that's really your first time where you can start the new season and therefore try and get to a higher level than you were at the year before. Up until that point, it's really ... there's a lot of work that goes into the offseason, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to minimize the offseason, but it's a lot of hot air. 'Well, this is going to be better, that's going to be better.' Or, 'We're going to do this.' Or 'We're going to do that.' But until you actually get out there and start really doing it, that's when you feel like you can really make some progress. There are a lot of steps that lead up to that point. But I'd say the first day of training camp - that's when you finally address ... you're in the 2010 season. You're in it before then, but that's when you're really in it. So it stays with you for a while.
Q: Is it too early to tell if there will be changes on the coaching staff? And when you think back to the season and losing Josh McDaniels, how tough was it for you to transition to a younger staff?
BB: There's transition every year. I don't think we've had a year where there wasn't transition. There's transition on the coaching staff, transition on the player end, transition in the scouting department - Tom Dimitroff, Scott [Pioli]. Maybe it's not like that for every team, but we've had a lot of that. I think we just accept that there's going to be change. I mean, every team is going to have changes. Maybe there will be one or two coaching staffs that stay the same in the NFL, but there won't be many. And there won't be many - obviously there are no rosters that are going to stay the same. Teams make changes in their scouting departments and all that, too. It's just the course. That's just the way it is. I don't think it's necessarily bad; I don't think it's necessarily good. I think whatever it is, you deal with it and make the best you can out of whatever opportunities you have.
Q: This is kind of a hard one, but a lot of the guys that are on your staff now - as talented as they may be - weren't on your staff before you were Bill Belichick, three-time Super Bowl Champion. I wonder if there isn't a level of awe that they may feel to be on your staff, whereas Josh McDaniels, Tom Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, Charlie Weis, you all came up together. What I'm driving at is are you getting enough pushback from the guys on your staff? Do you know what I mean?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. And I've talked to other coaches about that - coaches that are pretty well established, and I get the nature of your question. There's definitely Romeo [Crennel] or Charlie or somebody; they wouldn't really be afraid to at times say, 'What are you doing? Are you serious? Are you seriously considering that?' And then there is certainly another level of coach that at that time or at this time, they just wouldn't say that to me. And I mean, I understand that and that's ... and I was like that. There was a point in time where I was like that, where I would never say to, whether it was coach [Ted] Marchibroda or Red Miller or whoever, I wouldn't. And then there was a point in time where I would, whether it was Bill [Parcells] or - mostly Bill. There's a point in time where you reach a point or you have a relationship and you feel more comfortable saying things that you just wouldn't have said - even with that guy - a few years earlier. I definitely get where you're at on that and I mean, I understand that. We try to have an open communication, an open forum on some things and some things aren't open. Some things are 'This is the way they're going to be.' But I understand what you're getting at and I think that's something, as a head coach, you have to be conscious of and I am. I'm not saying a do a great job of it. I don't know whether I do or not, but I'm definitely conscious of that and I get what you're saying there.