New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Bill Belichick watches as Mac Jones and the Patriots warm up before a game. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

On Monday morning, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke to reporters for the first time since the team’s 2022 season ended in mid-January. Belichick was speaking from Arizona, where he’s attending the annual NFL league meeting.

Over the almost half an hour media availability, which took place with Belichick surrounded by reporters at a table in a hotel ballroom, a number of topics were addressed. The full press conference can be seen below…

  • Highlights of the session included Belichick commenting (or not commenting) on new additions to the coaching staff and roster, the quarterback position, the team’s spending, 2023 outlook, and more. Here are his most notable quotes from the morning…

  • On Mac Jones and the quarterback position

    Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) run onto the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) run onto the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Early on, Belichick was asked if the starting quarterback job still belongs to Mac Jones, or if it will be an open competition between him and Bailey Zappe this summer.

    “Well, everybody will get a chance to play,” he said. “We’ll play the best players.”

    As a follow-up, Belichick was asked if that was specific to the quarterback position.

    “Every position. Everybody will get a chance to play,” he responded. “Everybody that’s on our roster, if they earn the opportunity to play, based on what they do in practice and all that then they’ll get the opportunity to play. Certainly, veteran players who have been on our team before, if they’re still on the team, will all get an opportunity to play.”

    While that’s not a full defense of Jones – something Belichick hasn’t done since last spring, it’s obviously not a ringing endorsement either and more in line with the way Belichick spoke of Jones at the end of the season. Later on, Belichick was asked about Jones taking a ‘step back’ in 2022, and what that means for him as he enters his third NFL season.

    “As a team, we didn’t perform very well last year,” Belichick replied. “So I think we all need to do a better job. That’s all of us.”

    Staying at the quarterback position, Belichick was also asked about Lamar Jackson’s availability. However, as he did many times during the half hour, he told reporters he wouldn’t comment on players not on the Patriots’ current roster.

  • On the free agent additions

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 07: JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball at Allegiant Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 07: JuJu Smith-Schuster #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball at Allegiant Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    Belichick was asked about a number of the team’s offseason pickups so far. The first question was about JuJu Smith-Schuster, and elicited a simple answer “Good player. Good guy. Look forward to having him,” Belichick said. “I think we’re getting a good player.”

    However, Belichick pushed back when asked about what was a perceived swap in signing Smith-Schuster while letting Jakobi Meyers leave as a free agent. “Free agency is a process. It wasn’t a trade,” he said. Asked what strengths he thinks Smith-Schuster has in his game over Meyers, Belichick sat silently for eight seconds before saying “it wasn’t a trade. It wasn’t planned that way, it worked out that way. I get the question, but it wasn’t a trade.”

    Asked about Mike Gesicki, Belichick replied, “tough guy to gameplan for. Hard to cover. Look forward to working with Mike. We’ll see how it goes. He’s kind of a unique player, hopefully we’ll be able to use him productively.”

    That last note from Belichick stands out. Some of the issues Jonnu Smith had in New England seemed to stem from his usage. Smith and Gesicki are different kinds of players, but do play the same position.

    On the offensive line, Belichick didn’t confirm any positions, noting that Riley Reiff has played both tackle spots as well as guard. He also didn’t commit to a position for tackle Trent Brown, who has started at both tackle spots for the Patriots in his career but was the left tackle last year.

    As for any further additions, Belichick didn’t way much. Asked if he feels the team has done enough to add at wide receiver or will make more moves, he replied, “if we can improve our team, we’ll try and improve our team.”

  • On the coaching staff

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Special teams coordinator Cameron Achord (L) and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watch players warm up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Special teams coordinator Cameron Achord (L) and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watch players warm up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    We’ll start with the incoming coaches. The third question to Belichick was led to the hiring of new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. “Thought it was the best thing for the team,” he replied. Pressed on ‘why’ it was the best thing for the team, Belichick answered, “there’s a number of reasons. I have a good relationship with Bill and we go back a ways.”

    Belichick also spoke about the reported hiring of Adrian Klemm as the team’s offensive line coach – a hiring the Patriots haven’t yet officially confirmed. “I think he’ll do a good job for us,” Belichick said.

    Klemm was Belichick’s first ever draft pick with the Patriots, and spent five years with the team in the early 00’s. “Smart guy,” Belichick noted when asked what he remembered about Klemm as a player. “Had a really good understanding of, I’d say, some of the more complex things on the offensive line. Think he’s performed well in his coaching positions in various spots.”

    As for a (potentially) departing coach, Belichick was asked if Matt Patricia. Will be working for the Patriots in 2023. Patricia, who serves as the offensive play-caller last year, reportedly hasn’t been in the building in an official matter since the end of the season (although he did attend Devin McCourty’s retirement press conference) and has interviewed for other jobs.

    In response to the question, Belichick simply offered that he’s “not sure,” about Patricia’s status for the upcoming season.

    As for coaches currently on the staff, one of Belichick’s longer answers came when he was asked why he feels like Cam Achord is the “right coach” to lead the special teams’ unit after the unit’s struggles in 2022. “Last year was last year. A lot of things weren’t good enough,” he said. When asked more directly about Achord, Belichick called him “a good coach” and pointed out that the Patriots “led the league in special teams in [2020]. I don’t think that’s a problem.”

    Belichick declined to answer when asked about potential new roles for Jerod Mayo or Joe Judge. “We’ll talk about the staff later on this spring,” he said.


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  • On the team’s spending

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Belichick was asked about comments he made in January about the Patriots being towards the bottom of the league in spending the past few years. He insisted he was simply correcting the way the question was asked, and not trying to make a statement.

    “My comment was a correction,” he said. “Because I was asked a question about high-cash spending and how high it was, and some other things that went along with it. The fact is that’s just inaccurate. In a Polaroid shot, yes. But anybody that knows anything about the cap understands that it’s spread out over a period of time. You have high-cash spending, then you have low-cash spending. You can look at every team in the league and there’s no difference between our team and any other team – if it’s high, it’s going to be low; if it’s low, then eventually it’s going to be high.”

    “I think we’ve been pretty competitive every year that I’ve been here with the Patriots. That’s our overall plan,” he said, when asked about the overall relevance of spending correlating to team success. “So I expect it to continue that way. I think the team has been managed pretty well over the last 20-however-many years. So I think we’ll continue managing it the way we’ve been competitive every year. I expect we’ll continue to be competitive.”

    Belichick was asked about spending one more time towards the end of his availability, and seemed to be done with the topic. “We spend to the cap. We’ll have a competitive team,” he said. “And anybody who knows anything about the cap, which I’m sure you’ve studied it, knows that over a period of time, it evens out. So, that’s all I have to say about it.”

  • On catching Shula

    NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 01:  Former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula speaks as Head Coach Steve Specht, of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, is awarded the Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award during a press conference for Super Bowl XLVII at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on February 1, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    NEW ORLEANS, LA – FEBRUARY 01: Former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula speaks as Head Coach Steve Specht, of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, is awarded the Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award during a press conference for Super Bowl XLVII at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on February 1, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Over the past few years, there’s been plenty of talk about Belichick catching Don Shula as the winningest coach in the NFL. While many on the outside may be focused on that narrative, apparently the coach isn’t.

    “I haven’t really thought about it,” Belichick said when asked with the first question his thoughts on closing in on the record. He did acknowledge he is aware of it though, adding, “I mean, look, I have great respect for the game and all that. I’m not really focused on that right now. The 2023 season is all I’m concerned about.”

    Asked about it once more towards the end, Belichick said, “”I appreciate the question, but there will be a time to reflect back. Right now is not the time. Looking ahead.”

  • Looking ahead

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks onto the field as his team warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks onto the field as his team warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    It’s no secret Patriots fans have gotten restless this offseason, as the team trying to end a stretch of four seasons without a playoff win. So, what would Bill Belichick say to them? He was asked just that by ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

    “Long way to go,” he said. “It’s March. We play in September. We’ve got a long way to go, a lot of work to do.”

    As for reasons to be optimistic? “I don’t know. The last 25 years.”

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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