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The Belichick era begins

The 25-day search for a new head coach in New England is over. The Patriots made it official at a Thursday evening press conference when Bill Belichick agreed to a five-year contract and was named the team's 14th head coach, ending almost a month of rampant speculation about who would follow Pete Carroll as the team's head man.

But the team did not name Belichick to the dual post of head coach and general manager as expected, leaving some uncertainty as to who will take charge of personnel.

Currently Bobby Grier remains the Vice President of Player Personnel, but Patriots Owner and CEO Robert Kraft indicated that the front office, including Belichick, will decide on a personnel chief in the coming days. That does not rule out the hiring of former Steelers personnel chief Tom Donahoe as a possibility to fill that position. It also remains a possibility that Belichick could still take on the double duty as both he and Kraft cited the speed in which this transaction took place as a reason for not deciding on the GM duties.

According to Kraft and the Jets Bill Parcells, the two spoke Tuesday and Wednesday before ironing out the details at 11 p.m. Wednesday night on a compensation package that would allow Belichick to escape his New York obligation and become the new Patriots head coach.

"This is a great day for the New England Patriots," Kraft said. "I'm very excited to introduce to you our new head coach, Bill Belichick. He's a man with intimate knowledge of our team, intimate knowledge of the AFC East division and understands our competition better than anyone I know."

Parcells phoned Kraft Tuesday night to initiate further discussions regarding compensation for Belichick, but remained steadfast in his desire to obtain New England's first-round pick (16th overall) in the upcoming draft. After initially refusing to part with that pick Kraft changed his mind and called Parcells back late Wednesday night.

"The thing that really got me to call Bill [Parcells] back last night was the Robert Edwards situation and the uncertainty we all have with draft picks," Kraft said. "No. 1, will they make it but when they do make it, someone like Robert Edwards who was a similar pick to what we have this year, we thought we had the running back position solved. And what happened through an act of God, that changed fast and we're still dealing with it now.

"I said here's a chance to solve our problems with all positions in the organization – someone who gives me piece of mind that he knows what he's doing and he knows what it takes to win and that's why we're all in this business. And with a No. 1 draft choice, we can bring in a man that I feel certain can do something rather than an uncertainty of a draft pick. It wasn't even close when I thought about it like that."

So in addition to giving up this year's first-round pick, New England also forked over fourth- and seventh-round picks in 2001. The Patriots received, along with Belichick, a fifth-round selection in 2001 and a seventh-round choice in 2002. Both Kraft and Parcells called it a "win-win situation."

Belichick greeted the local media with some quick wit. "Hopefully this press conference will go better than the last one I had," he said, referring to his resignation press conference in New York back on Jan. 4.

"I am tremendously excited to be here and be part of the New England Patriots organization. This is a first-class operation.

"My basic philosophy on defensive football and overall winning games is to have a strong, tough team both mentally and physically and to try to be as well prepared for all situations that will come up in the course of a game and a season," Belichick said.

When questioned about his responsibilities beyond that of just head coach, he said, "I'm the head coach and I spoke with Robert about the structure of the organization and I think we'll address those questions later on.

"I think it's important for everyone in the organization to be on the same page and working in the same direction 100 percent," Belichick said when asked about the importance of having final say on personnel matters. "That's what I think is right. I don't think it's important who's right, it's what's right."

This is Belichick's second go around as a head coach. He spent five seasons at the helm of the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995 where he compiled a 37-45 record and one playoff appearance. He was fired following a 5-11 season in 1995 after which he joined Parcells' staff in New England and helped the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI.

Belichick hopes to build on what he did in Cleveland and learn from that experience that ended on a sour note. "The two biggest things I feel I've learned from the previous coaching experience and from 25 years of coaching is [first of all] to delegate more. Previously I think I tried to do too many little things that maybe took away bigger picture things I should have been doing. Secondly, I've learned that as much as the game is played on the field and it's extremely important to do everything right when you reach the football field in order to win in this league, there are also a lot of things on the outside, off the field that are also important toward winning and I'll put more time and effort into making sure those things are right for the organization."

Belichick entered the NFL coaching ranks in 1975 with the Baltimore Colts and moved on to Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos before joining the New York Giants coaching staff in 1979. He was named defensive coordinator when Parcells was elevated from defensive coordinator to head coach in 1983. He coached under Parcells until taking over the Browns in 1991.

Belichick was born in Nashville, Tenn., before moving to Maryland where he attended Annapolis High School. He then moved on to Philips Academy in Andover, Mass. Before enrolling at Wesleyan University in Connecticut where he earned an economics degree while playing center and tight end on the Cardinals football team. He and his wife Debby have a daughter, Amanda, and two sons, Stephen and Brian. His father, Bill, was a long-time assistant football coach at the Naval Academy.

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