Bill Belichick has pretty much been through it all in his time in New England.
That includes other teams showing interest in his coordinators over the nearly two decades since he first installed his highly-successful program with the Patriots.
With Black Monday upon us – the day after the regular season concludes and on which struggling NFL teams annually fire their head coaches – the men in the football offices of Foxborough are again very much in the mix as teams search for new field bosses.
According to many reports, both Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are going to draw interest from teams across the league for possible promotions. Both have interviewed for head coaching jobs in recent years only to return to Belichick’s staff.
During his day-after-game conference call with the New England media Monday morning, Belichick was asked about the rumored interest in his coordinators and how much the consistency of having the duo on staff together has aided the Patriots success in recent years.
“I think our staff has done a good job this year, as they have throughout the years,” Belichick responded. “I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of great coaches and coordinators on the staff, so that’s been a real positive for me and a positive for our team and our organization. I don’t really know about the rest of it. We'll see how it goes, but those guys have done a great job for me.”
Beyond what could be a busy bye week in terms of his coordinators dealing with interest from other franchises – Detroit reportedly has Patricia high on its list, while McDaniels could get his second shot as a head coach with any number of teams – Belichick’s New Year’s Day conference call highlights included his thoughts on how Rob Gronkowski, Lawrence Guy and James Harrison stood out on the season finale win over the Jets.
*1. “Just the way it worked out” for no Gronkowski targets: *Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowksi played 58 of 86 offensive snaps against the Jets. Though he missed a day of practice to illness last week, the team’s leading receiver was fully healthy and did not record a reception – or even get targeted with a Tom Brady pass – for essentially the first time in his career.
It could speculated that the lack of targets was a way to try to keep Gronkowski out of harm’s way. Or, less likely, it could simply be that New York dedicated its resources to taking the big target out of the game in a way no previous foe had been able to.
Asked about the unique catch-less, target-less game for Gronk, Belichick didn’t really offer up a specific reason.
“That’s just the way it worked out. That’s just kind of the way it worked out yesterday,” Belichick said. “Again, sometimes you call plays and they work out one play, and then you call the same play and you hit it against something different and it turns out another way. It’s the quarterback’s job to read the coverage, find the open receiver and Tom [Brady] does a good job of that. That’s the way it goes.”
Gronkowski finishes the regular season leading the Patriots with 69 catches for 1,084 yards with eight touchdowns.
*2. Guy has “been great”: *New England’s struggling run defense played probably its best game of the season in Sunday’s finale, holding the Jets to a mere 40 yards rushing on 19 attempts, and that included a 24-yard run for Bilal Powell. The front was dominant and a big reason for that was the play of the veteran defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, who tied for second on the team with five tackles, including one for a loss.
Beyond what he’s done on the field, including the standout performance against New York, Belichick said Guy has impressed everyone throughout his first year in New England with the way he approaches his job on a daily basis.
“He’s been great. Lawrence is a great teammate,” Belichick said. “He does a real good job of, I would say, trying to help the team in any way he can, whether that’s on the field, off the field, scout team reps. Whatever he can do to help the team, he’s always trying to do that. So, he’s earned the respect of all of his teammates, all of his coaches, everybody in the organization because he has that kind of attitude. He’s a very unselfish player, but hardworking and he’s been productive for us. He'll do whatever the team needs him to do and wants to do what the team needs him to do. That’s a great attitude. As I said, that’s the type of attitude that everybody admires, respects and makes him the type of teammate that everybody looks up to.”
3. Harrison “had some productive plays”: Less than a week after arriving in New England, linebacker James Harrison played 27 defensive snaps against the Jets. The former Steelers star tallied five tackles, including a pair of sacks on the final two snaps of the 26-6 win.
Though the sacks, including a forced fumble, may jump off the stat sheet, Harrison’s best play may have been dropping into coverage in the third quarter and coming up to make a nice hit/tackle on Robby Anderson to hold the explosive receiver to a 2-yard gain on third-and-5.
Belichick praised the former Defensive Player of the Year not just for his work on the game field, but for what led up to it.
“I thought James worked real hard last week to try to, in the roles that we put him in, to try to understand those jobs, the communication, the adjustments that need to be made and tried to play and do things the way that we needed him to do them in the game,” Belichick said after breaking down the tape of the win. “It wasn’t perfect but I thought he did a good job of trying to do that. He had some productive plays for us. The strip-sack was certainly an experience play where he went for the tackle but was able to wrap his arm around and put some pressure on the ball and knock it out. Those are the kinds of plays that experienced players that have been there that can make more than the tackle. They can cause ball disruption as part of the tackle. But, we'll just keep going forward with it and see where it goes next week. I’m not sure how that will evolve. I don’t know who we're playing or what we'll be doing. We'll try to put all of our players – not just him – but all of our players in the best position we can to have the most competitive performance that we can get because that’s what we're going to need.”