HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
BB: All right. You know, disappointing finish there today. I have a lot of respect for the way the players competed. Have all year. You know, I thought that was indicative of the competitiveness. You know, at the end, Hunter's [Mike Gesicki]'s strip after the interception and the recovery by [Vederian] Lowe, really gave himself up on it and just played hard. But you know, we just couldn't make enough plays to win. So it's a disappointing year for all of us, players, coaches, staff. Entire organization. Not anything that any of us are in any way content with but it is what it is. So I'll address some questions on the game. As far as the future goes, I'll sit down with Robert [Kraft] as I do every year at some point at the end of the season and we'll talk about things as we always do. I'm sure that will happen. But that's really about all I have to say about that right now because there isn't anything else to talk about. So any questions on the Jets game, happy to take a few of those.
Q: Did Nathan Rourke outperform Mac Jones in practice that led to him being the no. 2 quarterback for the game today?
BB: Nathan had a good week of practice. You know, we activated him for the second spot.
Q: Coming off the field today, did you have any different feelings about the end of today coming off that field?
BB: Disappointed about the way the game turned out, sure. Yeah, let's leave it at that.
Q: Do you expect to be coaching the team here next year?
BB: It's disappointing the way the game finished, yeah.
Q: This was potentially Matthew Slater's final game. One of the handful of players you've coached who are arguably the best in their position in the history of the NFL. What do the players like Matthew and those players meant to you in your career?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I've spoken about Matthew at length. Just would be reiterating the same positive comments about his greatness on the field, off the field, as a teammate, his work ethic, his training, his unselfishness. On a daily basis, he's just exemplary. And to watch his growth from, you know, when he was a rookie coming out of UCLA and trying to find a little bit of position on offense and defense and ultimately becoming as good a special teams player that has ever played this game. Certainly he has everything to back that up based on his long, sustained success and being the targeted guy every week. Then his leadership and presence for the team, not just the players, for the organization, the staff. I mean, he's an inspiration to all of us.
Q: From Bailey Zappe's play as the starting quarterback over the last few games, what have you seen from him in terms of his ability to lead the team and where do you see him standing in terms of his competition for the starting quarterback position moving forward?
BB: Yeah, moving forward, that's a whole another conversation about everything. So I think he's progressed weekly in his preparation. He's certainly learned from the experiences that he's had. He's a young player that has a long way to go and has a long future in front of him. So we'll see.
Q: Is it your preference to come back next season and coach the team?
BB: Yeah, so I just finished the game here with the Jets. Put everything I had into it. Disappointed in the results.
Q: It's our understanding that you're under contract for next year. Is it your hope to come back?
BB: I just finished the game with the Jets, Phil. It was a very – I put everything I had into it this week and tried to prepare our team the best I could to play in it.
Q: The loss to the Jets did drop to you 4-13. Would you characterize this as one of the most difficult seasons you've ever coached and has it taken any of the wind out of your sails as far as the effort it takes to coach?
BB: No, I mean, I enjoy coaching. Like I said, it's a disappointing season. I covered that in the opening statement. I don't have anything to add. That's how I feel. But no, I still – I like coaching the team. I like preparing the team, game planning, coaching on Sundays. But the results weren't good and none of us are happy with those.
QUARTERBACK BAILEY ZAPPE
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
Q: We know about your background, growing up in Texas. What's your experience in playing in conditions like these and just for those who are in our line of work, how hard is it to throw a football accurately in these sorts of conditions?
BZ: Yeah, I mean, this was probably my first time in weather like this, this bad. As far as throwing the ball, I mean, you've got to think about it. I mean, the wind is blowing a little bit. If it's snowing hard enough, then that affects how the ball spins; if it hits the ball, things like that, just come into effect. But the biggest thing is just when the snow like starts building up on the field, receivers getting in and out of the breaks, it's hard. Your foot, half your foot is stuck in snow. I mean, it's hard. I mean, that's all kind of goes in together. I mean, there's no excuses. Both teams have play in it. You can't sit up here and say, "weather screwed us." I mean, both teams had to play in it.
Q: Were you playing today thinking about Bill Belichick on your mind, that it might be his last game? Did that cross your mind and change anything the way you did it out there?
BZ: No. I mean, if it is, it isn't, I'm sure they will decide that in the off-season. For me, I was just trying to win. Didn't do enough, obviously. It's the last one, got to go back to the drawing board in the off-season and get ready for next year.
Q: That play by Vederian Lowe late in the game, just what did you think of that effort from him late in the game?
BZ: Yeah, that was – I mean, that's a phenomenal effort. That gives us – gave us another chance to have more plays, to have more opportunities to go down there and score. For him to be able to go and make that play, like I said, just kind of gives you a little bit of juice, momentum maybe a little bit. You know, but we weren't able to capitalize on it.
Q: How would you describe just this season from coming in for the off-season program, preseason, everything that unfolded there to standing here now?
BZ: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of things that I feel like I improved on. There's a lot of things that going into this off-season, talking with the coaches, I'm sure this week, there's some things that I'm going to have to fix and get right before next year, of course. Turnovers is one of them. Starting from, you know, when I – first season started, being cut, out of here – I mean, it's a blessing, of course, to be standing here today. But you know, I wish we came out with the win of course. But there's a lot of things I've got to get better at this off-season so we can come win games next year.
Q: Can you talk about the fourth-and-one to Pharaoh Brown ? How long has that play in the bank waiting to use it? Was it this week? And was it hard throwing on that side of the field? Seemed like the wind might have been in your face or sideways. Was it underthrown a bit or was he open in your opinion?
BZ: Yeah, I mean, we usually have a few of those plays in the game plan. I'm sure that play, I think we've had it for a few weeks of course. Just the right time for it. I would say, yeah, I think it was a little underthrown. I think if I put it, maybe, six inches further, he catches it. I left it a little bit short. The guy was able to put his hand in between Pharaoh [Brown]'s arms and that falls on the quarterback, ball placement, things like that, that at my job, you have to be able to do.
Q: After spending two years here, your rookie season, your second season in the league, starting in each season, learning a lot from Bill, what do you take away the most from these first two years of you in the NFL and learning from Bill Belichick?
BZ: Yeah, I mean, can't win till you keep from losing. The more you turn the ball over, the more opportunities you give the opposing offense, is less opportunities that you get. So that's the biggest thing. And, of course, you look back at the last two weeks, turnovers were a thing that kind of haunted us as an offense. Going into this off-season, we've just going to have to clean some of that stuff up. Watch film, understand what you did wrong, fix it, and again, get ready for next year. Can't come in – can't say that and then come in next year turning the ball over. You've got to fix those things.
CENTER DAVID ANDREWS
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
(On how he would describe the emotions in the locker room)
"Yeah, you know I mean, there's finality to everything and obviously it won't be the same next year. You know, the results weren't what we wanted this year obviously, I think everybody knows that. But the work, the time you spend with the guys, it's tough to see it end. It's part of it, but it's always tough."
(On how the conditions affected the offensive line)
"I mean, look, we've got to do a better job up front and needed to do a better job all year. I mean, look, rain, snow, ice, whatever, wind – it's football. You have no control and you've got to go out there and perform, that's what they pay us to do. There's some things we could do better and we'll look at that and correct it and try to now look at it as a whole and go in and – it's a good learning experience for these rookies, three rookies, they played a lot. They got a lot of experience. You take the good with the bad, you try to learn from it. Something I talk to them about because I thought I saw a lot of growth in myself in my year one to two. It's a whole offseason you know because they didn't get here until May or whatever it is. You've got a whole offseason to train, focus on what you need to do other than the combine stuff and all that. For them, it's a big year for them coming up. So something I'll try to help them with and like I said, that's where I felt like personally I saw a lot of big improvement in my game and other things."
(On playing every snap on offense this season and how important that was to him)
"I think you try to start something, you're going to try to finish it. Look, it doesn't say that much about me. There's a lot of luck involved in it, right? My job is to go play football, I get to play football. So I was very fortunate not to have something major come up. A little rabbit foot somewhere I guess. I take a lot of pride in it, I take a lot of pride in this organization, take a lot of pride in what I do, lot of pride with the locker room. That's what I'm going to do, is go play football."
(On Matthew Slater)
"I've been asked a lot about Slate. I don't know how many more words I can say about him, but I think we're all better for knowing Matthew Slater. If you've got to spend some time with him, which a lot of you guys in this room have, you know that to be true. We're all better for Matthew Slater."
LINEBACKER JA'WHAUN BENTLEY
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
(On how he would sum up the season)
"This season, it's been a long year for multiple reasons. But one thing I can say is that the guys we've got on this team are resilient, came to work every single day and had the passion for the game and that's all you can ask for. Especially in tough seasons like this, you've got to have guys that have passion for the game and win, lose, or draw are ready to work and go after it every single day. So credit to those guys for sticking it through for sure."
(On what he's learned about leadership from Matthew Slater)
"I mean, where do I start? Just on and off the field – he's shown that leadership is just not on the field. Leadership doesn't have to do with your sport, it doesn't just have to do with what you do on a day-to-day. But everything kind of falls, goes hand-in-hand in a way. When you leave this building, you're still looked at in that light, you're still seen in a leader whether it be him involved in social justice and all the other things. I mean, when Slate walks into the room, the whole energy changes. You can't necessarily pinpoint what that is, it just is. You can credit to him and all the work he's done to get there, you can credit that to his pops for just being I guess a model for him. But he's coming in this building every single day, here to go to work, willing to drag whoever he needs to drag along. In the tough moments, he always just happens to find the right things to say. That's just leadership qualities that you can't teach. There's no class for it, there's no book you can read, there's no pill you can take. That's just something that just is. That's just a gift that he's had and we're grateful for everything that he's done in this building."
SPECIAL TEAMS CAPTAIN MATTHEW SLATER
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
(On if this is his last game)
"Let's talk about that another day. I just want to express my thanks to those guys in that locker room today. So, I'm very appreciative of all the love and support that I've received this whole season, with certainly today and this week. I'm just proud to be a part of that group. Even though the season was what it was, to come here every day and be able to work with those guys, it really meant a lot to me."
(On what it was like to see the whole team wearing sweatshirts during warmups in honor of him)
"You know, it's – it meant a lot. It meant a lot. I was blown away by it. I never wanted anything about my experience here to be about me, so it did make me a little bit uncomfortable. But to have the guys do that, I just – I'll never be able to put that into words as long as I live. So, it meant a lot to me."
(On his message to the guys in the locker room today)
"Yeah, look, for me, I look at life as a race. Paul talks about it in his writings. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, 'I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.' I think, to me, as you're running your race in life, there's going to be some ups, some downs. You're going to fall, you're going to fail, you're going to succeed, and you've just got to keep running that race. No matter what the people around you may say – the detractors or naysayers – you keep running that race until you get to the finish line. For these guys in that locker room, yeah, this was a part of the race where we failed. We've got to get up, and as an organization, we've got to keep running. We've got to find a new path – a better path – and keep running that race."
(On his message to the fans)
"Just thank you. Look, I told you earlier this week: I came here, I had no expectations. I didn't think I was going to be here very long. I'm just a special teams player, you know? I'm not the quarterback, I'm not catching balls, I'm not out there sacking the quarterback. So to be embraced by the fans and the community the way that my family and I have, it means a lot. I thank them for that, I thank them for their endless support for our team, I thank them for challenging our team, spurring us on. But to be embraced by this community and this fanbase has meant a great deal to myself and my family, so thank you."
(On what Bill Belichick means to him)
"Without Coach, I'm not standing up here talking to you. He took a chance on me. A lot of people when I got here thought I got drafted because of my dad. So, he took a chance on me and has taken chance on me for 16 years, so I'm very grateful for that. He's the best coach that's ever coached this game in my opinion, so I'm thankful for the 16 years that I've been with him."
(On if he would have expected the career he's had)
"I would've called them a liar. No, I wouldn't. I didn't have that expectation of myself at all. I tell this story all the time: I called my dad during rookie minicamp and asked him if they could release me before I got my signing bonus. So I didn't have a vision for this type of career, to be a part of the special teams and work alongside the people that I have. But really my career is a testament to the goodness of God. His grace in my life, His favor, I don't deserve any of the credit. The people around me deserve all the credit: my wife, my family, my parents, my brother and then God. I mean, God has just been so kind to me and I'm very humbled by it."
(On what the team accomplished this year to build for the future)
"Well, in my opinion, there are a lot of players on this team that have to learn how to win. That's a process for everyone when they come into this league, and if you're fortunate enough to be in the right place around the right people, you learn how to do that. Maybe this year was necessary for this team to learn how to win and realize what it takes: the commitment, the sacrifice, the detail, all those things in order to get to winning. Sometimes, you have to be broken down to rise again, and it's my belief that this organization is not going to be shackled by its failures this season. We're going to rise again. So, I have a lot of confidence in that, from the ownership all the way down that we'll figure it out."
(On how Coach Belichick finished out the season)
"I saw no quit in Bill Belichick this season. You know, as a team, we're a reflection of our coach in that we competed all the way to the end. Regardless of the scoreboard, regardless of our record, regardless of what was going on around us, we kept fighting. I think a lot of that can be attributed to the man who's steering the ship. So for us, we see him come in here every day – if you had sat in these team meetings this week, you would've thought we're getting ready to go play in the AFC Championship game. That's how he's coaching the team. He didn't turn it down, he didn't shut it down, and I have so much respect for him, especially in a year like this. Again, when you're winning, you're doing well and going to Super Bowls, everybody's having a good time. You guys are pumping us up, we're all kee-keeing; it's a great time. But, when you're in moments like this, you find out who people are, and I certainly found out a lot about Bill Belichick this year."
(On the one thing Coach Belichick gave him that he didn't have before he got here)
"That's a hard question. I think if you want to have a team, a true team, a championship-caliber team, and you want to have a team that's together and is competitive, everyone on the team has to be a star in their role. But everyone's role looks different. I think as a young player, especially coming out of college, you don't have an appreciation for everyone's role on a football team. But he taught me how to appreciate that, and I certainly tried to embrace my role in my time here. So I'm looking at my kids play sports and I'm thinking, everybody on this team has a role, and everybody's role is a little different. To me, that's a Biblical concept. Every member of the body – we talk about as Christians – has a different role, but nobody can do anybody else's role. You have to be a star in your role, and the reason that this place was so successful for so long is we had people that understood that, bought into it and we did it at a high level. I believe that's important, and I believe that's something that will certainly continue to live on here."
(On the love from the fans today)
"It's very humbling. Again, I came here as a no-name guy, fringe player for a lot of my career. A lot of you guys said I was getting cut early on. I thought I was getting cut, too. To have a fanbase embrace me the way that they have and appreciate what I do on the football field, appreciate what my teammates do on the football field is very, very humbling. It's hard to articulate. I never thought when I came here in 2008, 22 years old, so far from home, I never thought that I would feel like this place was home for me. But, 16 years later, it feels like home, and the fans are a big part of that – the way that they've embraced me and my family and been so kind and generous to us. So, like I was saying earlier to Steve, I'm just very thankful for that and it's something that I'll never take for granted."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DEATRICH WISE JR.
Sunday, January 7
Postgame Press Conference
(On his relationship with Matthew Slater and what he has meant to the team)
"My relationship with Matthew this year, or my whole career, has been great, more of a mentorship, that's how I always saw it. His relationship and how much he has meant to this team is – you can't really describe it in words but if I was to describe it in words to it would be, 'very important.' He is the last voice we hear at the end of every game, he talks, he motivates. His words carry emotion and his words carry inspiration. His words definitely allow us to see things that sometimes we can't always see. His words have vision to them. He's been around the game for a long time and he's able to keep everybody motivated and allow people to see things that aren't always seen. I know I keep repeating myself, but that's kind of what it is. And that's kind of what he's been to us this season."
(On the defense and how they stuck together and continued to play hard)
"Our defense, our mentality is pretty much, 'not in my gap, not on my side, force the ball out, make a big play, give it back to the offense.' That's kind of what we had been doing all year. We kind of hold ourselves on limiting them to scoring and rushing yards. There were three or four games that we didn't do that but other than that, that's something that we hang our hat on. Stopping them, creating TFLs [tackles for loss], getting to the backfield, creating havoc."
PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Jahlani Tavai, LB
(On emotions after the game knowing it's the end of the season)
"It's kind of crappy. We wanted to go out on a bang for Slate [Matthew Slater], it was the right thing to do for us. It's tough. But I'm proud of each and every one of the guys, whether they suited up or were on practice squad. There was a lot of effort that got put into this week, and I know it's tough to play in these kind of situations – it's a wet game and a lot of snow. But all the effort that was put into it, I'm proud of each and every one of the guys."
(On the run-heavy approach)
"I really don't care if it's heavy run. That's our bread and butter. Unfortunately, we didn't execute as well as we should have. It is what it is. Again, regardless of the situation, regardless of the season, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm grateful to have played with Matthew Slater and everybody else in this locker room. I'm not sure what's next, but I'm happy and proud of each and every one of them."
(On playing with Matthew Slater)
"Slate is the definition of a great human being. A lot of us strive to be someone like him, and I was just fortunate to be here and learn from him. I'm grateful for every talk that we had and every practice that we had together. Like I said, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's just a blessing to know a great human being like Slater."
Ezekiel Elliot, RB
(On how the conditions impacted the game plan)
"It's tough to throw the ball in that weather. Wish we were a bit better on the ground today. Wish we were able to run it more. Glad for the way the guys competed today."
(On this season for the offense)
"It was tough for us to get momentum. I think early in the season, not even just early, but throughout the season we struggled a lot with turnovers and being consistent. I think that this probably had to do with the injuries on the o-line early. I don't know how many times we had the same o-line combination. Maybe two games. That was tough. I'm so proud of this group of guys. Everyone competed their tails off all year. I had such a great time here. I had a fun season."
(On playing for Bill Belichick)
"I feel very lucky. Feel very lucky to play for the best coach ever. You can tell by the way he attacks every day. The way he demands excellence from everyone top to bottom. He loves to coach. He's going to coach you up; you're going to get coached up. I'm very appreciative to play for him."
(On his expectations for the rest of his career)
"I love this sport. I love playing football. I want to do this as long as I can. I'm going to do everything I can to be able to do that. Obviously the big goal for me is, I want to get a gold jacket, so I've got to continue to play. I have to find a way to get a championship and help that resume."
Jalen Reagor, WR
(On the weather conditions)
"It's kind of tough, but you can't make an excuse. It's not ideal. I feel like we had a little benefit being on turf and not grass, so it was slick, but it is what it is."
(On the importance of Matthew Slater this season)
"For me, just special teams, and him being a leader. Regardless of the outcomes, he is very resilient. He is a legend, a Pro Bowler, so I respect him."
(On the opportunity to play for the Patriots)
"I'm just grateful for getting the opportunity. I just came in and did everything they asked me to do and let everything else handle itself."
Jabrill Peppers, DB
(On the conclusion of the season)
"It is what it is. We wanted to build some momentum for next year. You never want to end the season off with a loss."
(On playing for Bill Belichick)
"It's been amazing. He's arguably one of the greatest coaches to ever do it. I've learned so much from him. He pushed me in a way that I have never been pushed before. It's been cool playing for all the coaches. We have a good staff. I'm just mad we couldn't get it done for them."
(On executing in the inclement weather conditions)
"The conditions are the conditions. I'm not just talking about this game, but it's on us to stop the run. We knew the conditions. We're a good run-stopping team, but I tip my hat to [the Jets]. They had a great gameplan. They just ran hard, broke a lot of tackles. [Breece Hall] was their bell-cow."
Kyle Dugger, DB
(On areas of improvement for the team looking back on this season)
"It's hard to just put it on a couple of things. It's never easy in a situation like this. I really can't speak to anything specifically."
(On Bill Belichick's message in the locker room after the game)
"He just continued to reiterate fighting, learning, growing."