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Bill Belichick: Now is not the time for decision-making

FOXBORO — To Bill Belichick [1], Monday was a day to reflect not only on the AFC championship loss but another winning season for the Patriots. It was not the time to make personnel decisions on key players like Wes Welker [2], Aqib Talib [3], Kyle Arrington [4], Danny Woodhead [5], Julian Edelman [6] and Sebastian Vollmer [7].

All of those players are among those are not signed for next season. Some can become free agents (like Talib) and some can be franchised (like Welker).

Whether he has a good feeling about a player or not, he and the franchise will not be making knee jerk reactions, considering there’s college scouting at the Senior Bowl [8] this week and a market of free agents to consider in the next six weeks. Belichick was asked specifically about Talib but used it as an opportunity to paint with a broader brush.

“We will not make any decisions on any players into the future now,” Belichick explained. “You just can’€™t do it. There are too many factors, too many unknown things. All the things I said about Aqib, I meant and I still feel that way. Nothing has changed, but I can’€™t put into place an entire plan for the team at this point in time. There’€™s just not enough information; it’€™s too early.

“And again as I said, I don’€™t think you can, as much as you want to just go case by case and list each guy and what his deal is, I think that there is some of that, no question ‘€“ but at the same time, when you’re trying to put together a team, you’€™ve got to look at the entire team before you just say, ‘€˜OK well, we want to try to keep this guy. Well, we don’€™t want to keep this guy’€™ or ‘€˜We want to try to get somebody else,’€™ or whatever. You’€™ve got to look at the entire context of the team and not just take it one guy, piece by piece. I don’€™t think that’s the way you put together an entire football team. You’€™ve got to see the big picture and how it all fits together and there are a lot of factors that go into that. That’€™s why it takes some time.”

Welker, who signed his $9 million franchise tag last April, went out and had another Pro Bowl [9] season. What about his future? Will he be franchised again at just over $11 million or will he be allowed to play the field? Will he want to come back or will he want to test the market.

“It’€™s the same answer [as Talib],” Belichick said before the question could even be finished on Monday.

Some of the key dates to consider coming up:

  • Jan. 26 Senior Bowl, Mobile, Ala.
  • Feb. 20-26 NFL Combine, Indianapolis
  • March 9-11: Clubs are permitted to enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the current League Year.
  • March 12: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must exercise options for 2013 on all players who have option clauses in their 2012 contracts.
  • March 12: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit Qualifying Offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
  • March 12: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2012 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.
  • March 12: All 2012 player contracts will expire at 4 p.m. ET.
  • April 25-27: NFL Draft [10]

    “On balance I still thought that certainly there were a lot of positives from this football team,” Belichick said. “It’€™s a team that I enjoyed coaching. I thought that the players worked hard behind the scenes; everybody doesn’€™t see that, but on a day-to-day basis they worked hard, they competed well, they didn’€™t make excuses. They got better over the course of the season, both individually and collectively. We wouldn’€™t have gotten to where we were without a lot of good, consistent performances from a lot of people in a number of games and countless practices and meetings and all the things that lead up to that. That part of it, I thought there were, again, a lot of positives that we accomplished. Certainly, the outcome [Sunday] is not where we wanted to end up. I give these guys a lot of credit for what they did do and the number of times they did it and the number of times they did it in tough situations. Hopefully we can continue to build on that. I don’€™t think anything this year really means too much for next year. Each year is a new year and we start all over again just like everyone else does. Some of our younger players will have a little bit more experience. Hopefully that will be a good thing, but that doesn’€™t really count for anything until we go out there and start doing it again.”

    “So, we’€™ll start the offseason process of evaluating the team, our schemes, and start putting a team together for next year when those opportunities come. A lot of preparation in the next couple months relative to free agency and draft and so forth, so a lot of that is really preparation work as well as some decisions we have to make on players that were on the team this year that are not currently under contract for next year. But again, all of that will take place down the road; nothing will happen today, tomorrow or the next day, so now is not really the time to talk about that. That’€™s for a later point in time when we can take evaluation, make an evaluation of the entire football team and put it all together. Things aren’€™t necessarily done on an individual, case-by-case basis. Certainly every individual is important, but collectively it has to be looked at in context of the entire team, and that process takes a little thought. It takes a little while to go through that process and encompass all the factors that really need to be considered. So that’s pretty much where we are for now.”

    Here is the rest of Belichick’s season-ending press conference:

    Q: The Senior Bowl is this week. Do you jump right into that as a staff?

    BB: Yeah, that will be part of it, sure. That will be part of it. We’€™ll have certain people in our organization that will be down there. I don’€™t think we all could get down there if we wanted to. But yeah, sure, of course ‘€“ just like we were at the East-West Game with members of our organization last week and then the Senior Bowl. Yeah, that’s all part of it, sure.

    Q: What are some of the things you’€™ll be doing over the next three or four days?

    BB: Well, really planning for the offseason. Looking at what our staff is going to be doing, how we’€™re going to manage our time and our priorities relative to evaluating our players, evaluating our scheme, evaluating how we did things this year from a logistical standpoint ‘€“ practice, meetings, all those kinds of things ‘€“ and then moving forward into draft preparations, free agency preparations. Again, all of that is kind of in a planning state; not that we haven’€™t done it before, but specifically laying it out so everybody knows what they’€™re doing and when they’€™re doing it and how we can manage our time most effectively to get all those things done.

    Q: When you look at the cap space the team has and the players under contract for 2013, how do you feel the team is positioned to make another run?

    BB: Well, I think obviously right now, that’s part of what we’€™re going to be doing: looking at all those things and trying to manage it the best way we can. How all that is going to work out, I don’€™t know. As you said, I think cap space is a very misleading term. I don’€™t really think it has too much meaning until you take into [account] the number of players that are not under contract with that cap space. You can have not much cap space and a lot of players under contract, or you can have a lot of cap space and not as many players under contract. I mean, who’€™s better? I don’€™t know. Each situation is different and cap space can be maneuvered, as we all know, in a number of different ways.

    I think the bottom line is that you collectively take a look at all your different resources and try to put together the best plan to formulate your team and develop your team throughout the entire course of the offseason. It doesn’€™t all happen in March. It doesn’€™t happen in April. It’€™s a continuing process that goes all the way, I would say, really into September, and each stage of it is important. Or in our case, it even went into October with the acquisition of Aqib [Talib]. But of course, we had to have our team pretty well formulated before that point; I’m not saying we waited until then, but it was still part of the process then. I’€™d say it’€™s really a six-month process that isn’€™t anywhere close to being finalized or certainly planned for completion at this point.

    Q: When you think back to the losses in the playoffs over the last five years, is there anything that stands out to you as a common thread as to the way the team was built that just couldn’€™t allow the team to finish it off in those games?

    BB: I think each of those games have their own individual characteristics. Obviously they’€™re all losses, so that’€™s the thing you want to point to. Then there are certain things that go with when you lose games. Just like if you point to all the playoff wins, you’€™re going to find some common threads there, too. I think rather than trying to look from the back forward, I think really the way that I would try to analyze it is to look at it as the process, piece by piece, each step along the way, rather than say, ‘€˜OK, here’€™s the final result.’€™ Let’€™s backtrack it. I think you take it step by step. Whether you won or lost, that’€™s not always the determining factor. It’€™s what can you do better along the way, even if you did win or what did you do well even if you lost. Then, obviously, try to improve the things that didn’€™t go well, win or lose. That’€™s really what we try to focus on. Do more things right, try to correct mistakes and build on the things that are right and try to do more of them.

    Q: You often describe this situation as being on a treadmill and then it just stops. For you, do you feel like you’€™re ready to hop back on that treadmill?

    BB: Well yeah, that’€™s the NFL. The last game ‘€“ [if] you’€™re playing a game this time of year, [it’€™s] either euphoria or crash landing. For us yesterday, it was crash landing. A year ago at this time, it was the other feeling. It’€™s one or the other; there’€™s no in between. There’€™s certainly no soft landing. A season that’€™s very much alive and with great hopes and expectations and energy suddenly crashes and it’€™s over. That’€™s the way it is. It’€™s going to be for every team but one this year. That’€™s the NFL. It’€™s not going to change; that’€™s the way it is. Unfortunately, that’€™s where we were last night; that’€™s where we are today. It’€™s stopped, it’€™s over; we’€™re onto next year.

    Q: With the number of times you were in second-and-short, third-and-short after positive plays on first down and missed opportunities, do you look at this and say ‘€˜We were so close on some of those plays. Give the Ravens credit but there was a lot we had to do with our demise?’€™

    BB: I couldn’€™t have put it better myself. Give the Ravens credit; they did a great job, they deserved to win, [and] they were the better team. We had opportunities that we didn’€™t capitalize on and they obviously hurt us. The Ravens had opportunities that they did capitalize on and that’€™s why they’€™re still playing. They did a better job of playing and coaching than we did last night. They deserved to win the game and they did. Take nothing away from them. We missed our opportunities.

    Q: There’€™s a lot of youth on defense. Do you feel like there’€™s a lot of potential for those guys to improve going forward now?

    BB: I think there’€™s opportunity for everybody to improve. I think there’€™s opportunity for all of us to improve. I hope that I can do it; I hope that as a staff we can do it. I hope that individually and collectively as players and a team we can do it. Sure, I think that’€™s the way it always is. We’€™re always trying to get better, each year, every week, every season. I think we’€™ll hopefully learn things from this season and use it as experience; work on things in the offseason that will individually and hopefully collectively take us to higher ground.