As they do each year once their season comes to an end, Bill Belichickand his assistants take some time to get away. From the office, from Gillette Stadium, from football in general.
They return with clear heads and fresh sets of eyes to evaluate the past year and plan ahead for the next. The latter task can be the more challenging considering that Belichick's staff, like every other in the NFL, undergoes change. To what degree varies, of course from year to year.
However, now that the dust from 2009 has settled, it seems the Patriots coaching staff will remain largely intact. But there has been some notable reshuffling in New England's coaching ranks this offseason.
Last month, with his contract due to expire, defensive coordinator Dean Peesannounced that he was not returning to New England. To fill the void left by Pees, Belichick will not name a coordinator, but will instead be more involved on defense to share the workload with his assistants.
That includes the newly arrived Corwin Brown, a former Patriots safety from 1993-96 who has experience both as a player and a coach in Belichick's systems. Brown, who most recently served as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, will be assigned to assist the defense, where he will share responsibilities with Josh Boyercoaching New England's defensive backs.
The other members of the defensive staff from 2009 are expected to return as well, and Belichick expressed his desire to work with them more closely in the coming season.
"Titles are fine, nothing wrong with them," Belichick explained, "but the most important thing is each person's role, that we do everything we can to help the players succeed – everyone collectively getting the job done.
"Corwin Brown is one of the high-class people in football. He was a tough, smart leader who was great to coach and those are the traits he brings to our staff. He has stepped in well with Josh Boyer, Matt Patricia, Pepper Johnson, Pat Grahamand myself, and as a group we are committed to putting a competitive defense on the field. This is the best course for us to move forward in 2010."
On the offensive side of the ball, the core of the staff remains the same. Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchiaand running backs coach Ivan Fears, long-time New England assistants, will be back, as will quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien, who oversaw much of the play-calling last season.
"Bill O'Brien has demonstrated excellent leadership and organizational skills in our offense," Belichick continued. "He is a sharp and passionate coach. It is a good mix on that side of the ball, with Bill working with some extremely experienced coaches in Dante Scarnecchia and Ivan Fears, who have been here my entire time in New England, and some more recent additions to the staff in Chad O'Sheaand Brian Ferentz."
It is still only February, of course, and the Patriots offseason evaluation process is far from complete. After all, as Belichick has often indicated, it is a work in progress.
"That first step of the process is always very important," he added. "The teambuilding process for next year starts with evaluating ourselves on every level – plays, players, coaching, practice, how we run our meetings, basically everything we do from A to Z."
So, it's possible that further changes could be made in the future, but at the moment, it appears that New England's coaching staff for 2010 has essentially been established.