Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady reflected Monday on the New England Patriots' season and talked about improvements needed in the upcoming offseason, hitting on themes like leadership, self-evaluation and commitment.
Belichick, who addressed reporters at Foxborough on Monday morning as Patriots players cleaned out their lockers and packed up for the offseason, faces a lot of big decisions in the weeks ahead after Sunday's 33-14 playoff loss to Baltimore. But he said he found it beneficial to take a step back before diving into the evaluation process.
"I'm sure there are a lot of questions about things in the future and I understand those questions," Belichick said. "And in all honesty, we're asking ourselves maybe some of the ones you would ask. But right now is not the time to make those decisions. We go through the process we usually do, whether it's scheme, personnel, program, system, how we do things, so forth and so on, and take a look at all of it."
In Brady's estimation, one of the areas the team needs to improve upon most is in the mental toughness department, something he mentioned several times in the last few weeks and reiterated in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday morning.
"Coach Belichick always has the pulse of the team," Brady said. "He knows when we're ready to play and he knows when he feels like we haven't prepared the way we need to prepare. Part of that mental toughness, part of that commitment, is doing whatever he asks us to do to be prepared to play. I know at times he was frustrated by that and I know we as leaders on the team, were trying to convey that message to everybody, and we obviously didn't do a very good job of that. It's something that we, moving forward in 2010, need to do a better job of."
"Other guys have to step in and fill those shoes," Brady said. "Guys who were here with those type of players have to take those lessons of leadership they learned from them and apply those to what was happening this season. ...
"The reality is obviously the leadership on our team wasn't where it needed to be. I'm speaking for myself. I was one of those leaders that certainly needs to do a better job in getting everybody on the same page and filling the void of those key players you mentioned."
Belichick seemed to acknowledge as well that leadership is one of the areas the team will need to address.
"I respect what Tom says and what Tom thinks," Belichick said. "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."
How does a team quantify leadership? There are no statistics to measure as there are in other areas, such as sacks, rushing yards or interceptions, for example. Belichick talked about the challenge and importance of evaluating intangibles.
"It's very inexact science or inexact analysis, but we do the best we can on all those things and there're 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," Belichick said. "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."
Brady was given another chance Monday morning to lay blame for his poor play Sunday to injuries to his ring finger, ribs and shoulder, but he wasn't making excuses.
"I don't think [injuries were] the reason [for poor play Sunday]," Brady said on WEEI. "I don't think any of those injuries are the reason for any of it. You either play or you don't play. To sit here and play and then, and you don't have a great game and then you blame all the things that are bothering you, to me that's not real mental toughness."
Besides deciding what to do about players whose contracts are expiring -- a list headed by nose tackle Vince Wilfork, running back Kevin Faulk, defensive end Jarvis Green, offensive guard Stephen Neal, cornerback Leigh Bodden, defensive end Derrick Burgess, tight end Benjamin Watson and pass rusher Tully Banta-Cain -- Belichick said the evaluation process extends to the coaching staff. Belichick stressed the importance of getting challenged by his assistants.
"[Former Patriots coordinators] Romeo [Crennel] or Charlie [Weis], they wouldn't really be afraid at times to say 'What are you doing? Are you serious? Really seriously considering that?' And then there is certainly another level of coach that at that time, or at this time, they wouldn't say that to me," Belichick said. "I understand that. I was like that. There was a point of time where I would never say [anything], whether it was to Ted Marchibroda or Red Miller. Then there was a point in time where I would, mostly with Bill [Parcells]. ... We try to have an open communication, an open forum. Some things aren't open, it's 'this is the way they're going to be.' I think that is something, as a head coach, you have to be conscious of. And I am."
ESPNBoston.com Patriots reporter Mike Reiss contributed to this report.