Published 1: 19 PM EST Jan 5, 2020
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick walked up to the podium on Sunday morning focused on the present. The Patriots coach, sporting a blue cutoff windbreaker and jeans, spoke as if he hadn’t slept much following his team’s disappointing exit from the 2019 season. His voice was raspy and lower than usual. His hair was unkempt and his temper was short.
Belichick already knew the questions before anyone had a chance to ask on this day. He just wasn’t ready to give any answers about the uncertainty surrounding the Patriots heading into 2020. He wasn’t willing to talk about the future because less than 24 hours after the Pats 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, not even Belichick knows what it holds for this franchise.
“We’re less than 12 hours from the end of the game,” Belichick said. “I’m sure there are a lot of questions about the future. Nobody’s thought about the future. Everybody’s been focused on working on Miami and then Tennessee. That’s where all the focus should’ve been and where it was. Whatever’s in the future, we’ll deal with at some later point and time. We’re certainly not going to deal with it now.”
At some point in the coming months, Belichick and the Patriots will need to figure out all the answers to these questions.
In the final press conference of the 2019 season, which last just over 15 minutes, Belichick wouldn’t say whether he thinks or wants Tom Brady back. For the first time in his 20-year career, Brady’s set to become a free agent in March. Belichick was so focused on the present, he wouldn’t even say if he’d be back with the Patriots in 2020.
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It’d be the shock of the century if Belichick isn’t back. With Brady, however, there’s a chance that the quarterback is somewhere else next season. Figuring out the quarterback situation for 2020 is the No. 1 priority for the Patriots.
The new NFL league year starts at 4 p.m. on March 18. Does Belichick want to have clarity on Brady’s situation before then?
“Look, I know it’s out there just like there’s a lot of other things out there. We could bring up 50 questions just like that one and I told you what my state is on that,” Belichick said. “You can ask all 50 of them and it’s the same answer 50 times. Been working on Tennessee. It’s 12 hours after the game. Not going to talk a lot of things about the future because I’m not prepared to talk about it.”
Brady, 42, is coming off a down season, but his offensive weapons were lacking. There’s no denying that he’s closer to the end of his career, but it’d be hard for the Patriots to find another quarterback to give them a remotely close effort.
Brady’s the biggest question mark, but not the only one. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be interviewed by the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers for their head-coaching positions this week. Special teams/receivers coach Joe Judge will be interviewed by the Giants and is also reportedly receiving interest from Mississippi State for their head-coaching job.
In the front office, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of college scouting Monte Ossenfort are up for new contracts.
Along with Brady, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Elandon Roberts and Danny Shelton are set to become free agents. That’s the Patriots offensive, defensive and special teams captain, four defensive starters and their only offensive All-Pro.
“Everybody’s situation on the team is different. There are no two that are exactly the same. The future is the future for all of them just like it is for Tom, and anybody else you want to bring up,” Belichick said. “Certainly, Tom is an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do.
“I respect all the other players and all the coaches in the organization, too. I think everybody that is part of it is an important part of it. I want to give proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions. Any decision that is made, it is not an individual decision – there are other people involved. There has to be some type of communication and understanding, agreement, whatever you want to call it. That is not a one-way street.”
Does Belichick think he’ll be back in 2020?
“All the future questions are the future,” Belichick said.
For the Patriots, only time will tell what truly means.