New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, December 29, 2008.
BB:I'm going to follow up on what I said yesterday, I couldn't be prouder of the team and what it has done in the last four weeks after the Pittsburgh game. I think they've responded to every challenge and opportunity that has been put in front of them. Certainly yesterday's game in Buffalo - from a conditions standpoint - was as challenging as it could possibly be. They did what they could do and I respect them for it. I sure wish we were playing another week and had another game to get ready for, but that's not the case and this season has come to a conclusion. When you go at something like we have since the end of July - you go from meetings to practice, to watching film, to game planning, to making personnel decisions, to playing a game, to wrapping it up [and] going on to the next game. You are just on that treadmill and it's going pretty fast. It's always - even though it happens every year - kind of sudden when it stops. You still get a little bit of a jolt and I think that is kind of where we are now that the season ended abruptly yesterday. As I said, even though I've been through a lot of them, I don't think you are ever quite ready for it when it happens. So, that's we are here today. I know that there are a lot of questions out there and I'm sure you will have a lot of questions about the season, the future, players, decisions or those kinds of things. I would just say that what we do is we go through a very comprehensive analysis and discussion on all those things. There are no decisions that are going to be made today or that have already been made. Right now, we are just trying to wrap up all the things on the Buffalo game and bring those to a close. Then we will start our offseason process with all the evaluations that we do of our team, our scheme, the way we practice, our game plan - everything. We will look at everything and try to find ways to improve it, analyze it and do the best we can to identify what exactly our situation is, what we can do to make it better and then start taking some steps and decisions on how we want to address it. So, that being said, I am probably not going to be able to answer a lot of the questions that you would have about our team. I'm not sure that I know the answers to them, but that's the process that we will be going through. That will start in a little while. I think the last two years - with the AFC Championship game two years ago, then having to go out and coach the Pro Bowl and then last year finishing another season in February - those have been two very long seasons for our players and our staff, not just the coaches, but the entire support staff, everybody involved. That's always the way you want to finish the season. You want to be playing into February, but, at the same time, the last two offseasons that we've had were as condensed as they could be relative to most of the other teams in the league. Unfortunately, we are not playing this week. But it will give us a little bit more time to maybe do more of a thorough analysis and breakdown of everything that I just talked about than what we have in the past. I think one thing that we all need and deserve around here is a little bit of rest. Again, a lot of our players went in the past couple of years from the end of the season to rehabbing an injury, to jumping into the offseason program, to getting back on that treadmill again. I think that maybe this year is an opportunity for some of those guys to take it at a little bit of a different pace. I think that would include the coaching staff as well. I think that our guys around here work hard. They put in a lot of hours. They are very dedicated. I think that they could use a little break and I think you can include me in that group. That is about what I can give you for right now.
Q:Do you have a certain amount of confidence knowing the situation that Tom Brady's going to be back, healthy in 2009 and would that knowledge affect any potential free agency situation with Matt Cassel?
BB:I would defer all of that to - last week, we spent all week getting ready for Buffalo. As I said, it was a one-game season and the only thing we thought about was how to go out there and play our best against Buffalo. We are bringing that to a close today and all the other things as they relate to players, decisions, roster, scheme and all of that are things that we will deal with in due course. I haven't thought about it. I don't know any more than I knew yesterday. Those things will all come in time.
Q:Some changes around the league already today, it happened so fast - Rob Marinelli in Detroit and Eric Mangini with the Jets…
BB:I would just say, having been in coaching for a long time and growing up in a coaching family, it's something that I've unfortunately been a part of really my whole life - either in my family directly or with friends and associates at other teams. It's an annual thing at the end of the year and it's part of a coach's life and it's part of the job. Most of us have been there at least once during the course of their career. I understand that is part of it. It's a tough day I think for all coaches when those things happen because we have all been a part of those in one way or another and you don't like to see that happen to anybody. But you know it's going to happen and it happens every year. It seems like it happens quite a bit in some years and it looks like this is one of those years. There is nothing really that we can do about that other than maybe there is something that might affect us somewhere down the road. But, for right now, we are just trying to get through our situation here in the short-term. Then, whatever the other things are down the road, we will deal with those in due course. I don't think today is a great day for coaches, period - college, professional, anybody in the profession. You hate to see what's happening happen, but it's inevitable.
Q:What does the schedule look like for your players? Do they automatically just pack up and go home?
BB:I think the players are in a lot of different situations. Some guys are rehabbing injuries. Other guys are going to have maybe things they were playing with during the year looked at and decide what to do about those. Some guys live in this area - maybe that didn't play very much - that will start their offseason [or] that have really already started it [and] they're already getting ready for next year. I think guys are in different situations. For the guys that live further away, they haven't been home for six months so I think each guy falls into one of those categories somewhere in some mix. So it's a mixture. I don't think there is any set formula for anybody.
Q:How do the guys who are going to the Pro Bowl stay in shape? Do they stay here and work out or do they do it on their own?
BB:It's up to them.
Q:How much could the evaluation process that you go through every offseason be complicated by opportunities that might arise for people in the organization?
BB:That's something that we've had in previous years. Whatever all the things that come up are - if and when they come up - then we will take them as they come. In the meantime, we will integrate that with our process of doing what we need to do to evaluate and improve our football team going into the 2009 season.
Q:There was a report out of Cleveland that they have asked for permission to speak with Scott [Pioli].
BB:Whatever happens, there are league rules and policies for all those things. Whatever they are, we'll comply with them. I am not going to talk about somebody else's job or somebody else's situation. We will comply with the rules as they are as we always do.
Q:While you can't speak about Tom Brady's health, there seems to be two conflicting reports as to what the situation is. With that being the case is there any interest in your part or the team's part to sit down with him and make sure everybody is on the same page?
BB:Tom's here on a regular basis. I see him all the time. I see our doctors and trainers all the time. I don't need to go read a report and see what somebody else has to say. Those people are all here. We do it on a regular basis.
Q:How different is it for you to have a little uncertainty at that position? You've been blessed for so many years with one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league and now there are questions.
BB:There're questions on everything and I'm sure you can ask a lot of great questions, as you usually do. But, as I said, our focus has been on Buffalo. We just got through playing the Bills on Sunday and that's all I've been thinking about for the last week. So all of the other questions that come up about scheme, players, personnel, coaches, what other teams are doing, all the different things going on around the league, and all the scenarios and so forth - right now, really - are things that haven't been addressed. I'm not saying they're not important. I'm not saying they're not good questions. I'm not saying it's not legitimate. I'm just saying; right now, that's not where we're at. I'm sure at some point in time we'll get to all of those things, but for today we're wrapping up the end of our season. We're wrapping up the Buffalo game. We're going to take a little time to relax, kind of recharge and get refreshed a little bit, deal with some things that come along, take them as they come and we'll go through our offseason process. That's what it is: a process.
Q:Do you get more involved in the college scouting process now that the season is over earlier?
BB:We become involved in that when our season is over, whenever that is. Whether it's now or whether it was last year in February, then you pick up the end of your season. Part of it is evaluation of your team and part of it is looking at new opportunities; whether it is at the collegiate level, in the different free agents, players that are released, or guys that are in the National Football League that become available in one way or another. That's all part of a continuing process, too.
Q:If someone had told you before the season started that 11-5 wasn't going to be good enough to make the playoffs, would you have been surprised?
BB:As you know, I don't make many predictions before the season. We just take it game to game. We try to prepare for each game as it comes and do the best we can in every one of our competitions. That's really where our focus is. I know the teams that a lot of the experts picked to do different things this year, some of them are not in the picture now. Some of them that nobody thought would be in the picture that didn't have good records last year are division winners and playoff teams this year. So I don't think looking at things six months ahead of time is really too productive. We try to take it day to day.
Q:How different was this year with all of the injuries and the way the team and coaching staff had to manipulate things and adjust?
BB:As I said, each week is its own challenge. Whatever those challenges are that week, you meet them and you face them. That's what every team in the league does. That's what we all do. When they come up, you look at what your options are, what your opportunities are, and you look at what your opponent does and what you feel their strengths and weaknesses are. You put it all together and try to get ready for them on Sunday. So you really don't sit around think about, 'well if we had this guy' or 'if they had that guy'. If that's what it is then that's what it is and you just take it and go with it.
Q:Now the season is over looking back on…
BB:I think the most important thing right now is to look at next year. Some of the players that maybe didn't play this year are expected to play next year. Then, you put those [players] into your plans, knowing that you need depth, as we know that every year. We need depth all around on our team. Sometimes you use that depth that you have and sometimes you don't. But you certainly have to plan for it. Right now, we're more thinking about next year than we are [about] what could have been last year - although an analysis of last year is important to move forward. I'm not saying that [it's not]. What we really want to do is start to put together our team - not just players - but how we do things, scheme, plays, emphasis, schedules and so forth for the 2009 season. The majority of our focus will go toward looking ahead. But we can certainly learn a lot from what happened last year. We have a lot of snaps and a lot of plays and players to evaluate on film and different schemes to look at and so forth. And so, as part of building for 2009, we'll look at a lot of the results that came in from 2008.
Q:So your process is to immediately start looking forward while simultaneously looking back?
BB:The first thing we'll do is look at 2008 - while it's fresh in our mind - and then project that into 2009, going forward. If a play was good in 2008, that's great. How can we make it better in 2009? If a play wasn't so good in 2008; is that a play we want to continue to work on? Is it worth the time that we've invested in it? Or should we get rid of it and do something else? Or here's what we need to do to improve it. With personnel, with players, with scheme, with game plans, with all those things, we try to look at every area of our operation and see how productive it was, how it can be improved, and - if it was deficient - what we can do to upgrade it, or maybe even eliminate it. Sometimes that's a better thing to do; just invest your time and energy in something that's more productive.
Q:Would you ideally like to have Junior Seau back next year?
BB:Haven't I just said something about that? Twenty-four hours - even less than that - 24 hours after the game is not the time to make a lot of decisions and we're not making them today. It's a process, a process.
Q:Not will he be back, but would you like him to be back?
BB:I said it's a process. I'm not going to make any decisions today. Players? Scheme? Plays? Are we going to run slip screens next year? Are we going to use more motion? I can't answer any of those questions. Those are all things we'll look into. They're are all great questions. You're staying up late thinking up these things. You've got some good ones. They're good questions. It's just now is not the time. I just don't have those answers now. Now is not the time to deal with it.
Q:Looking beyond 2009, do you anticipate the possibility of an uncapped year in 2010 having an impact on your decisions at all?
BB:Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. In terms of planning? Yes. That's the way it is right now so you have to look at that. If things didn't change, that's the way it would be. Now, things could always change, but yeah. Whatever the rules are for the salary cap - as far as how things are counted, and where different monies are allocated, and what your budget is, or what your cap is - however you want to look at it, yeah. Absolutely, you have to look at that.
Q:Is the fact that you were able to go 11-5 - with all of the injuries that you had - an organizational success, a system success, just that these players worked really hard, or a combination?
BB:I think that everybody that participated in this season, in the 11-5 season, has a lot to be proud of. That includes all of the above: the players, the coaches, the organization, the scouts, everybody. We feel good about a lot of the things that we accomplished this year. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for us to keep playing next week and so we're disappointed with that. But what we did accomplish this year, I think it goes to the hard work of all of those people that are involved. We had some things to deal with. We had four West Coast games. We had some weather games. Our last five games of the year were all played in difficult weather situations. I understand the teams on the other side of the field played in those same situations; I'm not looking for any sympathy there. I'm just saying those are challenges for our team to meet, whether it is rain, wind, snow, or a combination. You can go right down the list. There were a number of things that we dealt with this year and I think that - organizationally, including the operations people setting up the trips on the West Coast, to the players, to the coaches, to our medical staff, to everybody - they worked hard and there were a lot of positive things this year. I wish it could have been a little bit more. I think there are a lot of things that we did that I'm proud of the way we did them.
Q:Do you feel like you got a lot out of your rookie class?
BB:I think, yeah. I think they had good production from top to bottom, really. Even from the first pick to some of the players that weren't drafted like BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] and Gary Guyton, guys like that that weren't drafted that contributed for us, too. Some of the picks in between [contributed too] and as we always say, 'you never know about a draft class until you get a couple years down the road.' We've seen players that as rookies didn't contribute a whole lot that ended up being very big contributors: [Tom] Brady, for example, based on his rookie year. It's hard to measure how some of those players will do in the long run, but we certainly got a lot of production out of our younger players this year. Again, that goes from some of the ones that were drafted and some of the ones that were drafted high to some of the ones that were drafted in later rounds or not drafted at all. So that was good. That was good work with some of those kids. I thought they gave us an element of youth to our team that was probably good for us, collectively. And I'd say overall it was a hardworking group, too. I think our rookie class was mature. They worked hard and it was a group that we really didn't have to get on very much in terms of doing extra, or 'this is what you need to be doing.' For the most part, once we said, 'this is what we want;' they pretty much jumped in there and did it without a lot of prodding or extra motivation that was needed. They pretty much did it on their own. I think that was really positive for that entire group. [I] wouldn't single anybody out. But I think, as a group, they were very good that way.
Q:The last time you missed the playoffs, you bounced back and won back-to-back Super Bowls. Was there anything in that longer than usual offseason in 2002 that helped you prepare better for 2003?
BB:Again, you want to finish the year playing the last game of the season so that's all our objectives. Collectively, every team wants to do that. But when it's not that way, then you have a little bit more time and you try to use that time as productively as you can. How that all will turn out? I don't know. But we'll try to use the time as productively as we can. Although I think part of that production is just - because of the length of the last two seasons - just getting a little bit of rest and not feeling like we're quite on the edge, like we kind of have been the last couple years. But, yeah, I hope we can use that time productively, absolutely.
Q:Do you feel that this team is better positioned as a non-playoff team than the 2002 team?
BB:I don't know. I think, as I said at the beginning, you look at some of the teams - Miami was 1-15 last year, Atlanta, those teams, Arizona, division winners - that were one year they're one place, the next year they're somewhere else, and vice versa. If you guys haven't figured out by now that there's not much correlation from one year to the next, then I don't know what it would take. We've seen that time and time and time again. What we do next year I think will be reflective of what we do next year, not what we did last year. That goes for the other 31 teams, too.