FOXBORO, Mass. (June 11, 2005) -- Four months after the Super Bowl and six weeks before training camp, it's not entirely clear who will call plays for the New England Patriots this season.
Coach Bill Belichick doesn't appear worried.
"We don't have a game for a while," Belichick deadpanned at New England's minicamp. "But, when we do, we'll get the plays called."
The roomful of reporters broke into laughter, amused at the idea the Patriots coach would be unprepared for anything on a football field.
"We'll see how it goes," Belichick said.
The Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls, and though there has been a fair amount of turnover on the roster during that time, the coaching staff had remained mostly intact.
That changed last season when offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was hired to coach at his alma mater, Notre Dame. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was hired as the Cleveland Browns' head coach shortly after New England's 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville.
Defensive backs coach Eric Mangini was promoted to replace Crennel, but the Patriots will go without an offensive coordinator for now. And that leaves Belichick -- already known for being fanatically hands-on -- with even more responsibility.
Others will pick up some of the slack.
"In a lot of ways I feel I can coach too," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I can coach those receivers and I can learn from them and they can learn from me and the other quarterbacks. There's a lot of great input from a lot of places."
Brady evolved from a sixth-round draft pick to a two-time Super Bowl MVP under Weis. In practices, meetings and late-night calls to go over the game plan, the two grew close.
"Charlie was a great teacher," Brady said. "There's no question he'll be missed. He was a great coach. I think everyone else has to pick up the responsibilities he had. He took full responsibility for everything on himself. Everyone else now is realizing when a guy like that's gone, there's a lot of things that we lack. We're just going to have to be ready to pick up the slack in the next three months."
Mangini had been an assistant to Belichick since 1995, with the original Cleveland Browns. Mangini worked with the Patriots secondary last year, when they overcame a slew of injuries, including the loss of Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, to win another NFL title.
"I don't anticipate any problems. Eric's been in the system," safety Rodney Harrison said. "We love both of those guys to death. We have all of the respect in the world for Eric, as well as Romeo."
No matter what happens on the sideline, in one sense it won't be a change: Belichick has always considered himself ultimately responsible for every decision.
"A lot of times I've delegated that and will continue to do that," he said. "But at the same time, if there is something I don't feel comfortable with, or I don't like the call, or if (there is) something I want to do, then we'll do it. I don't see that changing."
Belichick, Weis and Crennel took a moment to savor the end of their run, hugging on the sideline near the end of this year's Super Bowl. Belichick has already gotten used to the fact that they are no longer around.
"We've been out there 12 or 13 practices, so that's kind of worn off," Belichick said. "I've watched ... a couple of the new guys and a lot of the old ones. I think they all are effectively coaching and installing the plays and the system as I would expect them to do it based on their experience and level of knowledge.
"I think that we're functioning fairly well. There is always going to be room for improvement and we'll continue to work on that. But, I think that we're moving along OK."