Belichick: ‘It’s good to sit back, reflect, and take stock’

Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke with reporters this morning in the
wake of the Patriots’ season-ending 33-14 loss to the Ravens yesterday
at Gilette Stadium, and while he didn’t offer any solutions to the
Patriots’ issues, he was candid about the evaluation process regarding
his players and coaches in the offseason. To read the full transcript,
as provided by the Patriots media relations department, click the “full
entry” button below.

Belichick’s opening remarks: “All
right. Well, as we talked about yesterday, that was definitely a very
disappointing end to our season. There really wasn’t much to feel good
about in yesterday’s performance all the way around. We’re all
accountable for it. It starts with me. We worked long and hard this
season and to finish that way is certainly a big disappointment for all
of us, everybody involved. I think that on the other hand when you stop
and take a look back and reflect on the entire season there were
certainly some positives – winning the division. It was a tough
division. It was certainly a goal of ours and we reached that one. I
thought the way the players handled themselves over the course of the
year, we had our ups and downs, but they were very professional. It’s a
hard-working group. I thought we had a good attitude and a good
approach to the things we tried to do. The results weren’t always what
we wanted and that’s something that we certainly need to improve on.
Yesterday’s game put an exclamation point on that. I’m sure there’s a
lot of questions about things in the future and I understand those
questions and in all honesty we’re probably asking ourselves some of
the ones that you would ask, but right now I don’t think is the time to
make those decisions. We’ll go through the process that we usually do,
whether it’s scheme, personnel, program, system, how we do things, so
forth and so on, take a look at all of it and ultimately try to make
the decisions we feel are best for the football team in 2010 and
beyond. How that will all go, I really don’t know. Again, that’s a
process that we’ll begin shortly. And there are certain timetables
along the way for certain decisions to be made and we’ll make those in
a timely fashion. But at this point I probably wouldn’t be able to shed
too much light on a lot of that speculation going forward because we
really need to go through the full process and look at the entire body
of work for the entire season before making those kinds of decisions.
Based on my experience in the league, I think that’s the best way to do
it. It’s tough to see the season end yesterday and be here today, but
that’s the reality of NFL playoff football. We’ll have to work hard
next year to get to the point we were at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon.”


Brady just talked about some of the player transition that happened
over the last year and some of the leaders you guys lost. He said he
didn’t feel the leadership on the team was where it needed to be. Would
you agree with his assessment?

Belichick: “I respect
what Tom says and what Tom thinks. Again, I think those are the things
that we can take a longer look at, a longer process and just take a
full evaluation of it.”

What is the process?

“The first thing we do is try to evaluate our team in all the things
that we do – how much motion do we use, how each player played, what
type of progress was made or wasn’t made, if there was a direction –
whichever way the progress was going, whether going forward or if it
was declining, and take a look at the team going forward in terms of
what players we have, what players we don’t have and then gradually
make determinations on how to improve those things. We’ll take a look
at all of our practices, all of our mini camps, training camp
schedules, all those things. We’ve done that a little bit along the
way, but then we put all that together and discuss it, whether it’s as
a coaching staff, or an organization, or sometimes in consultation with
different players, whether it’s a specific situation or a group
situation, whatever it happens to be. All that is put together, we talk
about it and eventually we make decisions on players, on system, on
scheme and how we do things. Some things stay the same and some things
change. It’s inevitable there will be change next year. That happens
with every team, we know that. That’s not anything unusual, but just
how to improve. We don’t look at 2010 as anything other than 2010.
We’re not trying to replicate some other year or something else. We try
to look at the 2010 team and figure out what will make that the best.
It’s an ongoing process. It will be thorough and hopefully we’ll make
good decisions that will improve our football team.”


You didn’t have an offensive coordinator in name this year, would you like something more formal going forward?

“I don’t know. I think what’s important is the process and how things
work. I’ve never been a big believer in titles. I’ve had them; I
haven’t had them. I don’t think that’s an important thing. I think it’s
how an operation works, how it functions.”

How do you think the process worked this year?

“We’ll go back to the comments I made at the beginning. I think, on the
overall body of work, there were some positives. We had a lot of good
things this year. It wasn’t the consistency and we didn’t have the
results in the end that we wanted, so there’s certainly a lot of room
for improvement. I think there is some of both. There are some good and
there are some things that weren’t as good as we want them to be. And
that goes for everything – offense, defense, special teams, playing,
coaching, you name it. You can put everything in that category.”

How do you breakdown something that you can’t measure on film?


Belichick: “There
are a lot of intangibles like that and you’re right, it’s subjective.
And it’s not the easiest thing to breakdown. There’s no statistic that
really necessarily reflects it or all the components that go into it.
It’s very inexact science or inexact analysis, but we do the best we
can on all those things and there are a number of things that probably
fall into that category, the intangible type things – the work ethic,
the motivation, the toughness, the intelligence, the ability to adjust,
all those things that are hard to really quantify, but they are very
important. That’s something we discuss on a regular basis, but now at
the end of the year we need to go back and revisit the whole thing and
certainly those are all parts of the discussion and the analysis.”

Is that an early portion of a discussion?

“I would say all that kind of comes a one point maybe in a two-week
period to cover all the things that we talk about and not necessarily
every decision is made the following day, but then we kind of go
through the timeliness of the decision, whether those are some player
decisions, which there are some deadlines on that, as we start working
on the playbook and setting up systems and dates and start planning for
things like mini-camps, training camps, offseason program, OTA’s and
all that. There is a certain timeliness to that, to get the information
to the players and make sure that we can set up everything to function
efficiently on our end. There’s a certain time to it, but as I said, I
wouldn’t necessarily say that after a couple weeks of those kind of
discussions. And sometimes when we get through those discussions, one
of the conclusions is we need to look at this a little more carefully;
we need more time on this; let’s spend more time talking about X, Y or
Z and really feel like we get to the bottom of it. Sometimes when we
come out of those type of meetings and feel like we’ve really
identified what we need to do and it’s pretty clear cut and there’s a
charted course of action and then there’re other times we feel like
it’s a little murky and we really need to think about it, give it more
analysis, more thought, get more information, whatever the case is and
dig into it a little bit deeper. Again, there’s no real set formula on
that. We’ll just have to see how that plays itself out, but some things
will happen sooner than others. Other things will be addressed at a
later point in time, not saying they aren’t important, there are just
some things you can address in February, there are some things you can
address in March and in all honesty there’re other things you can’t
address until the start of training camp. We all know what the schedule
it, that’s the way it falls.”


The offensive line has been together for a long time, Stephen Neal
yesterday talked about the decision of retirement. Do you like the
group here going forward or is that a situation where you might go out
and find other players?

Belichick: “Do I like the players and the job they did this
year? Again, could it have been better? Yes. Was it overall a good
acceptable level? It was good, but it can always be better and I
thought that group of players worked hard and it’s a dependable group.
Again, I can’t really speak to any individual or even collective
situation. We’ll do what’s best for the football team and as I tell the
players and I tell myself this, I think a few hours after the outcome
of the season and we’ve had different outcomes. We’ve had a
disappointing day like yesterday and we’ve had some very good days. But
I think that’s a bad time to really make a lot of long-term decisions –
a few hours after the final game of the year. It’s good to sit back,
reflect and take stock of more than just your emotions and your
feelings after that final game. That’s what we’ll do and that’s what
I’ll encourage the players to do. I’ve been around long enough to see a
lot of players say or feel one thing today or yesterday and feel
another thing a few weeks later or a few months later. Brett Favre
would be exhibit A, but that’s true for all of us. We feel one thing
after the game and then another thing at a different point in time. I
personally wouldn’t read too much into anything anybody says today
other than that’s what their emotions are at that time, whether that
really is in fact a long-term feeling, I think, my experience has been,
sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.”


Does your time to reflect necessarily have to be shorter because your season ended later?

Belichick: “I think the process, it really, it is what it is. It
takes a certain amount of time to accumulate the information and to get
everything into a position where you can discuss it and evaluate it. We
really couldn’t do that this afternoon. There are just too many things
that need to be pulled together and organized so we can do it
efficiently. Once that takes place, then you do it, whether it’s after
the last regular season game like it was last year or whether it’s
after a Super Bowl game like it was the year before. You kind of do it,
not quickly to get it done, but as quickly as possible so you can at
least start charting the course to the direction you want to go in the
future, whatever that is. Again, it could be all different types of
things, schedule, players, system, scheme, you name it.”

How challenging is this offseason going to be with the number of
guys who have expiring contracts and the uncertainty of the CBA and how
you want to construct things going forward?

Belichick: “There’s no question that this year we’ll be dealing
in some unchartered waters as a league. Collectively, every team’s
playing under the same set of rules or lack of rules, however you want
to call it and that will be something that we’ve talked a little bit
about. We haven’t been oblivious to it, but now is where the real
decision making time relative to the 2010 season will start to come up
once we get into the uncapped year at the beginning of March and all
that. One of the things in that whole process has been — and we’ve all
seen it — the progression of information, what it was back last March
and then what it was in April and then what is was in June and what it
was in October. There’s been gradually more and more insight or
decisions or direction to that and things have occurred. Other teams
have done things that have taken away or put into play other aspects of
it. Long story short, I think as we get closer to that — the 2010
uncapped year — and all the rules that apply to it we’ll probably know
more than we know today. Do we have some general plans now? Yes. Will
they be refined? I’m sure they will. And is it challenging? Absolutely,
because there’s really no precedent for it. It’s different than any
other year. Even before when there was no cap you didn’t have the free
agency. With free agency came the cap, now it’s sunk to [a] situation
where you have both of them to a degree.”


In terms of the emotions, even for you that was an incredibly down game and downbeat performance.

Belichick:  “What was there to be upbeat about?”

Was it because you had high hopes or was it confirmed worse fears about life after Wes Welker?

Belichick: “Our season ended. It’s the finality of it. It’s like
you’re on a treadmill and you’re running however fast you run. I mean,
I don’t run all that fast, but you’re on a treadmill and you hit the
stop button, it stops and you fall off. And that’s where you’re in the
NFL playoffs, at whatever point it is, whether it’s the first round,
whether it’s the divisional round, or whether it’s in the championship
game or whether it’s in the Super Bowl. If you don’t win at any one of
those or even last year, as you’re playing to get into the playoffs and
the treadmill stops, then you don’t take another step, it doesn’t go
and you fall off it. Then the other teams that are playing keep
playing. No matter when that feeling comes, it’s a pretty disappointing

How much of your evaluation process involves getting away and not thinking about football?

Belichick: “I think it’s good to go from a clean slate. Again,
and I’ve been through this so many times, but you sit here today and
what do you remember? You remember yesterday’s game. You remember the
Houston game. You remember the Jacksonville game. But you kind of
forget – and it’s not as fresh in your mind – some of the earlier games
in the season and the first half of the season or the first 10 games of
the season. [I’m] not saying we don’t remember anything from those
games, but you certainly don’t remember the details of them like you do
the last couple. And I’m not minimizing the last couple games,
certainly the Baltimore game is an important game in our evaluation
process because there was so much at stake and clearly it was the best
effort from both teams, there was nothing else to play for but that
game. But, on the other hand, you can look at an entire body of work
and see something that was relatively good over a longer period of time
and then something that wasn’t good over a shorter period of time. And
I don’t know if the best thing is always to say, ‘Well let’s get rid of
that because it wasn’t good yesterday’ when over a longer period it was
probably one of the more productive things you did or what you feel
like was a strength of your team. That’s a balance. I don’t know what
the answer to that question is, but I think that’s why I would say it
takes a little time to sort of back off and then come back and
recalibrate and look at the shorter term, look at the longer picture.
Sometimes you make comparisons to other years just as a relative basis,
your overall production in a certain area over the last couple years.
Why it was at one place at one time and another place another time?
What were the factors that went into that? And so forth. But do I think
it’s good to step back a little bit and just let the dust settle?
Absolutely, I think that’s important. [It’s] not always possible.
Sometimes situations come up that you have to address that are timely
and you’ve just got to deal with them.”


Is there any explaining to the first quarter?

Belichick:  “If I had a good answer for it I would have done a better job with it yesterday, I guess.”

When you look back, the pass rush was an issue and it seemed like
toward the end of the year Tully Banta-Cain’s production increased. Is
that an area you need to address going forward?

Belichick: “I think it’s always an area that’s a big concern for
the defense – third down, two-minute, protecting the lead and all those
kind of things. There’s really nothing more important at that
particular point in the game than the pass rush. And certainly pass
coverage is important, but a lot of times the pass rush can override
that if it’s good or your coverage can be exposed if it isn’t. That’s
always an important area. I think like a lot of things this year there
were times when it was good and there were other times when it could
have been better. And that’s an area you are always working to improve
– pass rush, pass protection. You always want it to be real good and
that’s what you’re striving for.”

How will it work with the players? Will you address them today and will they come in the rest of the week?

Belichick: “Their obligations are really up today with some
things they have to do to close out the year contractually and so
forth. But after that, I would say it’s more of a case to case basis.
There will be guys in. There will be guys in getting treatment. There
will be guys in doing different things. We’ll talk to different
players. Other players will leave and we’ll talk to them at a later
point in time, nothing really structured after today unless it was on
an individual basis.”


How about for the coaches? I know you talk about going through the
process, but also taking a step back. How will this week work for the

Belichick: “Well, the coaches, the coaching staff will take a
little break here and then we’ll come back at some point and regroup.
And again, as I said, it takes awhile for some information to really be
compiled and some of that will be done by our computer and IT people,
by the video people, by our training staff – injury analysis and all
those things – individual coaches grades and so forth. So a lot of that
is a lot of individual work and there will be some free time and then
also some time where they’ll be compiling that information and then at
whatever point we come back to regroup on it then we will be back.
There will definitely be some of that for me and the other coaches.
Again, that being said, this is an unpredictable time of year and
things can come up, as they have in the past, that you have to deal
with at that point in time because that’s where they are.”
If there is a value for your young players going through the year –
and obviously you are younger in some spots – what would you hope it
would be, going through what they went through yesterday and going
through the experience as a whole? What would you hope that some of
those younger guys learn?


Belichick: “I think the rookie players learn a lot every week.
There are so many things, we could talk about that for hours, but
certainly the length of the season, the intensity of the season, the
amount of preparation that goes into the game, all of those things. And
we could talk about them and we do talk about them. We talk to them
about them when we draft them or sign them. We talk to them about them
in training camp, but until they actually go through it and experience
it, it’s hard to really understand that. My first year in the league,
it was a huge revelation for me. I’d been around coaching my whole
life, but I’d never been through an NFL season as a coaching assistant,
which is what I was. The next year, the season was a lot easier for me,
as a coach, just knowing what to expect, have an idea of how to pace
yourself and all of those kinds of things. I don’t know if you can
really … Probably, for each player, it’s a little bit different,
dealing with injuries, coaches, scheme, with veteran players, with all
the other obligations that they have. Just finding that balance and the
second time around, hopefully it will be an improvement for everybody.
I think a lot of it is on an individual basis, though. Some guys are in
different situations: [some] played, others didn’t, some guys had
injuries to deal with. The length of the season is the same for
everybody. The number of practices is basically the same for everybody,
but there were a number of different situations and roles that each
individual player was in that varied from player to player.”

Jerod Mayo was a captain for the first year and Brandon Meriweather
took on more communication responsibilities in the secondary. I know
you talk sometime about the rookie to second year transition being big
for all players, do you think that is the same as far as leadership
roles? Do you expect a big leap in leadership in guys going into their
second year as leaders?


Belichick: “Yeah. I think that’s much more of a gradual thing. I
thought that Jerod really gave a lot of leadership to our defense his
rookie year by the end of the year. And not that he didn’t at the
beginning of the year, but I think there’s a point where rookie players
or young players – they don’t have to be rookies, they can be first-,
second-year players – they’re just so worried about doing their job,
they’re not really worried about helping anybody else out or trying to
provide a lot of leadership to somebody else. They’re just worried
about what they’re trying to do. But then there becomes a point where
they become confident in what they do and they realize that role does
expand and they’ve usually gone through it because that’s probably what
it was like when they were a freshman or sophomore in college or
whatever it was.  And then, as they became a senior and more of a
veteran player on that team, then their role grew. In a lot of cases,
that’s a parallel in the NFL, whether it’s their first year or their
second year, there’s a point where you have a kind of a level of
comfort and confidence in what you’re doing, that you can start to pay
more attention to what everybody else is doing and work together with
them, especially as you see other guys on your team and how they exert
themselves at that. It’s an interesting dynamic. I don’t know that
there’s any set pattern for it. I don’t think it has to occur from year
to year. I think it’s kind of a gradual thing.”

Is there anything in the rest of the NFL that surprised you this weekend?

Belichick:  “At this point in time, not really…I mean, every
team that’s playing is good. Whichever team plays the best on Sunday is
going to win.  It doesn’t matter what somebody else’s record was or how
many guys they have in the Pro Bowl, or how much experience or
inexperience or anything about that. I don’t really think that has too
much to do with it. I think it’s whichever team goes out there and
plays better. And is any team capable of having a good day, with the
teams that are playing at this time of year? Yes. Is any team capable
of having a bad day? We know the answer to that question. I think
that’s why so many people watch it. It’s such a popular – it’s the most
popular sport. Fans love it because it is unpredictable. You never know
what’s going to happen. Really, anybody can beat anybody. That’s true
any given Sunday in the NFL, but particularly at playoff time when you
have the teams that are playing. They’re all good teams or they
wouldn’t be here.”


When your season ends, how long is the mourning period for players
and coaches, just having to go through it and maybe digest it and get
over the pain of it being over?

Belichick: “You know, honestly, it really goes until the first
day of training camp. Minicamp and [the] offseason program and all of
that, at least you’re back on the field. At least you feel like you’re
doing something about it. And I think you can do something about it in
January and February in terms of decision-making and plays and scheme
and things like that. But I think when you get to training camp, that’s
really your first time where you can start the new season and therefore
try and get to a higher level than you were at the year before. Up
until that point, it’s really … there’s a lot of work that goes into
the offseason, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to minimize the
offseason, but it’s a lot of hot air. ‘Well, this is going to be
better, that’s going to be better.’ Or, ‘We’re going to do this.’ Or
‘We’re going to do that.’ But until you actually get out there and
start really doing it, that’s when you feel like you can really make
some progress. There are a lot of steps that lead up to that point. But
I’d say the first day of training camp – that’s when you finally
address … you’re in the 2010 season. You’re in it before then, but
that’s when you’re really in it. So it stays with you for a while.”


Is it too early to tell if there will be changes on the coaching
staff? And when you think back to the season and losing Josh McDaniels,
how tough was it for you to transition to a younger staff?

Belichick: “There’s transition every year. I don’t think we’ve
had a year where there wasn’t transition. There’s transition on the
coaching staff, transition on the player end, transition in the
scouting department — Tom Dimitroff, Scott [Pioli]. Maybe it’s not like
that for every team, but we’ve had a lot of that. I think we just
accept that there’s going to be change. I mean, every team is going to
have changes. Maybe there will be one or two coaching staffs that stay
the same in the NFL, but there won’t be many. And there won’t be many –
obviously there are no rosters that are going to stay the same. Teams
make changes in their scouting departments and all that, too. It’s just
the course. That’s just the way it is. I don’t think it’s necessarily
bad; I don’t think it’s necessarily good. I think whatever it is, you
deal with it and make the best you can out of whatever opportunities
you have.”
This is kind of a hard one, but a lot of the guys that are on your
staff now – as talented as they may be – weren’t on your staff before
you were Bill Belichick, three-time Super Bowl Champion. I wonder if
there isn’t a level of awe that they may feel to be on your staff,
whereas Josh McDaniels, Tom Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, Charlie Weis, you
all came up together.  What I’m driving at is are you getting enough
pushback from the guys on your staff? Do you know what I mean?


Belichick: “Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve talked to other coaches
about that – coaches that are pretty well established, and I get the
nature of your question. There’s definitely Romeo [Crennel] or Charlie
or somebody; they wouldn’t really be afraid to at times say, ‘What are
you doing? Are you serious? Are you seriously considering that?’ And
then there is certainly another level of coach that at that time or at
this time, they just wouldn’t say that to me. And I mean, I understand
that and that’s … and I was like that. There was a point in time where
I was like that, where I would never say to, whether it was coach [Ted]
Marchibroda or Red Miller or whoever, I wouldn’t. And then there was a
point in time where I would, whether it was Bill [Parcells] or – mostly
Bill. There’s a point in time where you reach a point or you have a
relationship and you feel more comfortable saying things that you just
wouldn’t have said – even with that guy – a few years earlier.  I
definitely get where you’re at on that and I mean, I understand that.
We try to have an open communication, an open forum on some things and
some things aren’t open. Some things are ‘This is the way they’re going
to be.’ But I understand what you’re getting at and I think that’s
something, as a head coach, you have to be conscious of and I am. I’m
not saying a do a great job of it. I don’t know whether I do or not,
but I’m definitely conscious of that and I get what you’re saying



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