Q&A with Patriots coach Bill Belichick
Below is a Q&A from Bill Belichick's interview with ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss:
Q: What have the last two months been like for you? I know how disappointed you were with the way the way the 2009 season ended.
A: "Pretty normal at this time of year. Reviewing the '09 season, trying to schematically and personnel-wise make adjustments where we feel like they would be most beneficial. We started on the free-agency process, started on the draft process. That, of course, has picked up some speed. We worked on other football organizational-related things. We've been involved with some re-signings and some team-building, player acquisitions, reacquisitions, or whatever you want to call them."
Q: On the composition of the coaching staff, what went into the decision not to name coordinators?
A: "I just think titles aren't that big of a thing. The most important thing is for the staff to work together and be efficient and help the players, and coach them to play better. That's what we're really focused on doing. I think some of our younger staff members have gained a year of experience and we have a number of veteran people on our staff that do a good job. In the end, we'll try to coach the football team to the highest competitive level that we can. That's our goal this year and that's our goal every year."
Q: When word came out on that, it was noted that you'll spend more time with the defense. How will that work?
A: "Over the course of a season, as a head coach, there is an ebb and flow sometimes of time. Initially that's the way it will be, but we'll see how it goes. Sometimes during the year, in the past, I've spent more time on offense, or defense, or special teams. That sometimes has fluctuated throughout the course of the year. In the spring, it will start that way and we'll take it from there."
Q: Will you call the defensive plays?
A: "Again, right now, the next step is the spring workouts, the OTAs, the minicamps and stuff like that. We're a long way from playing a game or getting into training camp."
Q: Any concern on if players won't know who is in charge without the official coordinator titles?
A: "No. Ultimately it comes down to, as I said, having an efficient operation between the coach and the players. That's what we'll strive for."
Q: On the rest of the coaching staff, is there a tight ends coach, or any other changes of note?
A: "No. All the players will get coached, including the tight ends. They'll all be coached. We'll work that out."
Q: For you, managing the workload, is there any concern with you taking on more responsibility?
A: "I'm not going to take on more workload. It just might be distributed a little differently. That's the way it's been in the past. My workload hasn't changed in the last 10 years. It's been distributed differently, from year to year, or even within a year, within different timeframes of the year -- between personnel and football, or offense, defense and special teams as it relates just to football."
Q: Is it fair to say that is still evolving this year in terms of how your time will be divided?
A: "There are different periods of emphasis during the year. Right now, we're in a period that certainly involves some team-building and personnel decisions, and planning, and that kind of thing. As we get into the spring, then training camp, and then the regular season, those are all different. It may change. It may. It may not. We have a lot of good coaches; we have a lot of good people in our organization, including in the personnel end with Nick [Caserio], Jason [Licht] and Jon Robinson, and all the people that work with them. It will all get done. How all that gets distributed over the next few months or ultimately for the 2010 season, there may be some variation with that."
Q: The coaching aspect of the Patriots has been a hot topic. Corwin Brown is one significant addition.
A: "I have a lot of confidence in our staff. We added Corwin and I think that he brings a lot of positives to our program. The people that are here have done a good job and will continue to do a good job, and just collectively, we're always trying to improve as a staff -- individually and our overall operations, not only how we coach, but also the schemes that we utilize with our team. It's an ongoing, never-ending process."
Q: The Patriots have re-signed some key players: Vince Wilfork, Leigh Bodden, Tully Banta-Cain, Kevin Faulk and Stephen Neal. The focus seemed to be within. Was it a case that a lot of guys had contracts expiring, which was unusual, or an overall type of strategy?
A: "Some of the best players in free agency this year were Patriots. We re-signed a number of them, and a couple we didn't. The players that we did re-sign are quality players, and I'm glad we have them. That's been something that has really occurred over the last six months, when you include [Rob] Ninkovich, Nick [Kaczur], Sam Aiken and [Mark] LeVoir, and guys like that. It's not any one guy, it's a group of guys. Ultimately, you can't keep everybody, and everybody can't be the highest-paid; you can't have the highest-paid player at every position, either."
Q: How has the uncapped environment factored into the team's decision-making along those lines?
A: "There were a number of changes this year and I think Robert [Kraft] has addressed that."
Q: Every day it seems like there is a report about the Patriots working out a new prospect for the draft. There are a lot of names attached to the team.
A: "I checked on it over the weekend and when you include the Senior Bowl, combine and other recent things like that, we've either worked out or interviewed 212 players. So we talk to a lot of players; some will end up with us, most won't. That's just part of the whole process and it's an ongoing process. Sometimes you end up on a player late and it ends up not meaning anything at all. Sometimes you end up on a player late, like [Julian] Edelman or like [Matt] Cassel, guys that probably at this point of the process in their respective draft years, we hadn't even talked to. For whatever reason, they came into focus later. There is not a master plan on that. You talk to players that you're interested in, and sometimes that perpetuates more of an interest, and sometimes it diminishes it a little bit, depending on whatever the process is, how that plays out."
Q: What are your thoughts on this modified overtime proposal?
A: "As you know, I like the rules of the game as they are in regulation. I think that's the way it should be in overtime, but that's not the way it is. So whatever it is, it is."
Q: Are there any trends or themes in the league that stand out to you right now?
A: "No, I think there are a lot of cyclical things. I think there are short-term trends; whether those end up becoming long-term trends, we'll see. Certainly, the number of teams playing the 3-4 defense has increased dramatically. The number of plays, particularly last year but maybe in the last two years, where offensive linemen have lined up in eligible receiver positions offensively, at tight end or fullback, have increased. We've done it to some degree, but I'm saying leaguewide. Whether those trends continue or don't, I think some of that is a function of the personnel on the team, and some of it may be a function of who the coaches are and what their background is. Some of it is more scheme-related, and some of it is personnel-related. Whether that's a long-term trend or not, we'll have to see. It's little things like that. I don't know if there are any big things. A lot of rule changes that came up last year, like the wedge and stuff like that, I don't know how much of a factor they were. I think a lot of the rules we are talking about this year, I don't know if they would affect 10 plays a year. I don't know."
Q: Scheme-wise, do you expect any dramatic alterations for the Patriots? The team has been a spread offense of late, while running the 3-4 on defense. Will that remain the same?
A: "I think over the course of time, you've seen us do a number of different things schematically, and we continue to have that ability or flexibility. Ultimately what we decide to do will be dependent on our team, our personnel, our opponents and their scheme and their personnel on a game-plan basis. I don't really see that changing. How that will unfold, we'll have to see. We have a lot of new teams on our schedule, teams we haven't faced. It's like we always do, but we've had a [coaching] change in Buffalo. Probably half the games this season are schemes we really haven't faced. We'll have to see what opportunities they present."
Q: Personnel-wise, it seems like Adalius Thomas' situation is lingering over the team. What is his future with the Patriots?
A: "I think at this time of the year, between the end of the season, the first of March, and opening day in early September, your roster undergoes a lot of changes via signings, releases, trades, draft choices, etc. I'm sure our roster will undergo changes, not specific to any player but on a full-time roster basis. What the composition of the roster will be in September, and what it is now, is going to be different. We all know that. How it will all turn out, we'll have to wait and see."
Q: There have been reports on a contract agreement with tight end Alge Crumpler. Is that something that can be confirmed?
A: "We visited Alge. We have a lot of respect for him as a player. He's had an outstanding career. We've had negotiations with him, but we don't have anything official to report at this time."
Q: How about the possibility of signing veteran free agent Josh Reed?
A: "There are a lot of players out there. Again, I think our roster will have additions, it will have subtractions. It will have changes in some form or fashion over the next six months."
Q: On a personal note, how much longer do you want to keep doing this? Are you still energized?
A: "Yeah. I don't have any number on it, but I'm excited about the 2010 team. I think we have a long way to go. I hope that we can put together a good club. I know this will be a very competitive division -- the Jets played in the AFC Championship Game; the Dolphins won the division two years ago. I'm sure Buffalo will be re-energized with Chan [Gailey]. It's a real competitive situation and I hope our team can be competitive in our division and in the AFC, which is also very strong, with the North and of course Indy in the South, and the West, we'll see San Diego. There are some other strong teams out there, too."
Q: Tom Brady hasn't been at the start of the offseason program ...
A: "In the spring, between the offseason program, OTAs [organized team activities], minicamps and all that, which lead up training camp, we have a lot of players who are on a number of different schedules based on some personal things they have, and I'd expect we'd see all our players in the spring at some point, maybe for varying lengths of time. Some guys will be here for everything, some guys will be here for most things, some guys will be here for some things but not all. We have various players that fall into those categories -- some guys that are here early may not be here as much later; some less early may be here more later. It's a compilation of that."
Q: When you went back and assessed the 2009 season, what stood out to you? In your own words, it wasn't good enough.
A: "That's obvious. Couldn't win on the road. Just didn't really do very well against the best teams, and a number of those were on the road. We played some good teams. We played some good teams and we didn't win enough of those games."
Q: Where do you go from here in your offseason preparations? This would seemingly be a key time on the NFL calendar.
A: "Every week in the offseason is a big week. It's something we're doing that is designed to help our team in the coming year, whether that be player acquisition, or player evaluation, or scheme evaluation, or preparation for spring, training camp, whatever it is. I think they're all important and we have a lot of balls in the air. We're trying to balance that and get the most important things done."
Q: There are reports that the Patriots will visit the Lions on Thanksgiving ...
A: "I'm kind of excited about the Thanksgiving Day game. That's sort of a traditional game. Those of us who have played those games in high school, especially in New England, that's a big day for football. So to be a part of that -- we did that in '02. It's a short week, but it's a special day."