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Coaches believe filling out staff can be difficult

Bill Belichick still has two coaching openings, including his offensive coordinator position. But it looks like Belichick will handle play-calling duties himself.

The continuity on the Patriots coaching staff over the last four seasons certainly played a role in the team's on-field success, but with that success comes losing valuable members of the staff and the coordinators in particular. Replacing departed coaches with quality replacements, though, can be quite difficult.

It's a process Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick started Wednesday when he added Joel Collier and Harold Nash to the staff, but it's also an incomplete process. New England still has two coaching vacancies on the offensive side of the ball, including the offensive coordinator spot.

It was widely speculated that former tight ends coach Jeff Davidson would take over for Weis, but when that didn't happen, he joined Romeo Crennel's Cleveland staff as the offensive line coach.

It's becoming more and more likely as time passes that Belichick may act as his own coordinator this coming season and perhaps beyond until he either finds or grooms his ideal replacement for Charlie Weis. Even if Belichick does name someone to that post this season, it's a real possibility that the head coach will handle play calling while acclimating the hire into the system or position gradually.

Quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels is certainly an up-and-comer on the staff, but with only one season as a position coach under his belt, it's hard to imagine him earning such a fast promotion, although that's only an assumption based on McDaniels' experience. But if Belichick handles the coordinator job himself, he could certainly add to McDaniels' responsibilities incrementally just as he could do for any current member of his coaching staff, including wide receivers coach Brian Daboll, another young assistant that has climbed the coaching ranks under Belichick and could be groomed to someday take over as the coordinator. Certainly one of those two could be assigned to handle some of the duties Weis undertook while not being given the play calling duties as of yet.

It's hard to say what the unpredictable Belichick will do to fill the coordinator post, and everything now is merely educated speculation. Belichick may well be interviewing potential candidates this week, but he certainly isn't volunteering that information.

Time isn't on Belichick's side when it comes to hiring a staff. He could certainly find willing replacements, but he surely wants to find the right replacements, something that can be a tedious and challenging task.

"I think putting a staff together is the most difficult thing for a head coach," said former Patriots assistant and current Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who had to assemble a staff when he took over the Cleveland Browns head coaching job upon that team's return to the NFL. "It's important to build a staff that's cohesive, works together, understands their role and are team players. That's the toughest thing for a head coach.

"I think most head coaches have a plan for if a guy leaves [the staff]. You don't know when your coaches are going to leave. Circumstances are going to dictate that. I would say that most coaches generally have a succession of who will step in and he may or may not be ready and you as the head coach will have to help that situation until you're comfortable with it. Knowing Bill Belichick, he has a plan. He may not have shown his hand yet, but he definitely has a plan."

He definitely hasn't shown his hand, but new 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan did point out a necessary qualification for a coordinator.

"[It's important that he] command the room real well," Nolan said. "If you don't have that command presence, it's hard to do that job. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you have a difficult time in front of a group, your message doesn't come across good.

"[Hiring a staff] is really difficult. There are an awful lot of good coaches in the league, but it's tough to get all the guys you want."

One reason for that is that many coaches are under contracts and unable to leave for a new job. It's no longer mandatory for a coach to be made available for an interview if the job represents a promotion. All assistant coaches are treated the same way and can only interview with permission if under contract. Since the Patriots just finished their season in early February, it was difficult to approach candidates about openings or potential openings. The pool of available assistants wasn't likely abundant when the Patriots finished their season on Feb. 6.

"League rules [make it difficult]," Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's true. Finding the right people. Finding the right mix. Getting quality people in the right spots. It doesn't matter when you start. It's hard.

"It's finding the right people, pushing the right buttons, making sure the way you fill in the staff is properly done -- the complement of coaches and the understanding of the chain of command, which is very important, especially when the fur starts to fly. It's not easy."

It may not be, but it's a task still facing Belichick as he prepares for the 2005 NFL Draft. The continuity of the staff may have been disrupted, but that only means that Belichick must find a way to re-create it. That may take time, but it's a situation Belichick will gladly accept if it's the price he must pay for winning Super Bowls.

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