Bill Belichick again expressed his appreciation and admiration for Tom Brady, who left the Patriots last month after a glorious 20-year career, but the Patriots’ coach made it clear in his first media session since Brady signed with the Buccaneers that it is time to move forward and get on with life after the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
“It would be impossible to sum up everything Tom did in 20 years into a comment, but I meant everything I said about him [in a team-issued statement last month], and I’m sure we’ll be talking about him for years and decades to come,” Belichick said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “Right now, we’re moving forward and focused on the draft, and that’s really where our attention has been and will continue to be. Our preparation is to have our team in the best position to compete in 2020.”
Belichick declined to say whether the Patriots wanted Brady back this season.
“I think that’s water under the bridge,” he said. “We’re really focused on this season and trying to look at our opportunities and make decisions and plan to be as competitive as we can this year.”
Asked if he was surprised by Brady’s decision to sign a two-year, $50 million contract with Tampa Bay after becoming a free agent for the first time in his career, Belichick wouldn’t say.
“Again, I think we’ve covered all that,” he said.
The Patriots currently have two quarterbacks on the roster — second-year passer Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer, who had been with the Patriots twice before re-signing in the offseason.
“We spent quite a bit of time with both Brian and [Stidham],” Belichick said. “I think Josh [McDaniels, the offensive coordinator] and I have a good feel for those players. Circumstances will be different this year, and we’ll see how everything plays out.
“To start with, I think the main thing is to give everyone a chance to compete, to get people comfortable with the position and the skills they’re playing, the communication involved. We’ll evaluate players as we get a chance to evaluate them.”
Belichick said the Patriots won’t be locked into how things were done during Brady’s tenure, which began in 2000.
“Whoever the quarterback is, we’ll try to make things work smoothly and efficiently for that player and take advantage of his strengths and skills,” he said. “We know the situation we’re in now is different, but along the same lines, we’ll get whoever the quarterback is ready.”
Might the Patriots draft a potential replacement for Brady? Belichick wouldn’t say, but he did acknowledge that the draft offers a variety of quarterbacks who possess different skills.
Belichick, whose team has the 23rd overall pick, declined to name any of the players who might interest the Patriots.
“There’s quite a range of players, and some of the systems they play in college are different from what traditional NFL systems are, and some are closer schematically [to the NFL],” he said.
“Each guy has his own set of skills, he has his own circumstances. There’s certainly a lot of interesting players, guys with really good arms, some players that have won a lot of games and shown their competitiveness. It’s a good, interesting group and one that has decent depth to it.”
Belichick said he is still getting used to operating remotely now that the coaches are working from their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. He expressed optimism that the team can adequately navigate the technological challenges associated with conducting free agency, the draft and the offseason program.
“It’s not normal,” he said, “but we’ve accumulated a lot of information and have had a lot of opportunity to talk to the [draft-eligible] players and all the other things that are involved here in this process.”