Patriots

Belichick: 'Disappointing' Eagles didn't give Kelly more time

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Belichick: 'Disappointing' Eagles didn't give Kelly more time

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick didn't hide his feelings when asked about coaching changes that are handed down across the NFL at this time of year. The Patriots coach immediately expressed how he disagreed with how one of his confidantes in the coaching ranks, Chip Kelly, was treated in Philadelphia. 

The Eagles released Kelly from his contract on Tuesday after going 6-9 through 15 games this season. Kelly went 26-21 overall in his nearly three seasons as head coach in Philly. 

"Yeah, I would say it's actually disappointing," Belichick said. "Chip Kelly to me is a really good football coach. He does a great job. I think he's done a good job with that team. It's disappointing to see, you know, Josh [McDaniels] in Denver . . . There's a lot of examples. But pretty much everybody's on a one-year contract in this league. I don't know how you build a program in one year.

"Chip's a great coach. He'll end up somewhere, and he'll do a great job there. I'd say a lot of the players that were on the Eagles that are no longer on the Eagles aren't really doing too much for anybody else, either."

This was Kelly's first season in the dual roles of both head coach and personnel chief.

Belichick handles both of those duties in New England, and he called his situation with the Patriots "the best situation in the league" on Thursday given the stability throughout the franchise. From ownership to the quarterback, things have gone unchanged since 2001.

Still, Belichick expressed disappointment at the fact that coaches he deems to be capable have had their tenures ended before they could insert their programs completely. All over the league -- not just in Philadelphia -- there are owners who expect coaches and personnel people to be able to install a program and create a winner in a very short period of time, Belichick explained. 

"It's disappointing to look at coaches like coach [Greg] Schiano or coach [Mike] Shanahan or coach Kelly or guys like that," Belichick said. "But, I mean, look, I'm not there. I'm not a part of those programs. I just know those guys are good coaches. They do a good job. I have a lot of respect for them."

Belichick was open in discussing his own career as an example of how it can take multiple years to establish a system. It wasn't until 2003, Belichick said, that he felt his entire program had been installed. 

"You have to change the culture," he said. "Normally one coach is different from the previous coach. You don't see a lot of, whoever the first coach is, the second coach is a carbon copy of the first coach, the third coach is kind of a carbon copy of the second coach. I mean, you rarely see that."

With a new coach comes a new philosophy, Belichick explained. And often with a new philosophy, a new scheme isn't far behind. 

"That means you're going to turn over a high percentage of the roster," he said, "because the players that the other coach had don't fit the new philosophy. A lot of the players are going to have to change, in part because of the philosophy, in part because of the scheme. Those role-type players, now that role's not needed in the new scheme, and a different role's needed so you need different players."

Even with an overhaul in personnel, it takes time for those adjustments to pay dividends. A few months of practices aren't enough, as far as Belichick is concerned.

"You're going to have to go through a lot of tough situations," Belichick said. "Tough games, tough losses, tough stretches in the season, whatever it happens to be. To build that up over time, it doesn't happen in training camp. I mean, look, training camp's training camp but those games don't count. Even in the early part of the season, you might have some tough games, but it's not like playing in January, playing in December. It takes some time to go through that. I don't think there's any shortcut to it.

"I mean, I know there's a lot of other people in the league who think there is. Like, they're just instant -- after two weeks all of a sudden after two weeks, everything's going to change dramatically. I'm not really a part of that. I don't buy into that."

Belichick had the benefit of winning a Super Bowl in 2001, which clearly helped his grasp on the head-coaching job in New England. But in Thursday's press conference he admitted that those bumps in the road of program development were felt when the team went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2002.

Then in 2003 and 2004, with his program established, the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls.

"We won in '01, but in '02 we had a lot of issues," Belichick said. "[In] '03, that was a good football team. [In] '04, that was a good football team. I don't think there's any doubt about '01. That wasn't the best team, but that team played the best so we won.

"But I think we saw in '02 more of probably overall where the '01 team was. It's just the '01 team played great when it had to in critical situations in big games. That's why they won. Can't take anything away from them because they deserved it because they were the best team. But that wasn't the case in '02."

Belichick went 5-11 in his first season as Patriots head coach and personnel chief in 2000, yet he was given time to build his team the way he wanted. Clearly he feels owners around the league, and particularly Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, should be more willing to adopt a similar approach.

Free agent Trent Brown "would love" to re-sign with Patriots

Free agent Trent Brown "would love" to re-sign with Patriots

The New England Patriots traded for left tackle Trent Brown in a deal with the San Francisco 49ers last April, and it turned out to be one of the best moves off the entire NFL offseason.

Brown had a very good year for the Patriots, and Pro Football Focus graded him as the fifth-best offensive tackle in the AFC East during the 2018 season. The veteran offensive lineman was excellent in the playoffs, too, and he played a key part in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being sacked only once in three playoff games.

Brown is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March, but he recently said on ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter's "The Road Less Traveled" podcast that he is open to returning to Foxboro.

“That’s definitely something I would love," Brown said when asked if there's any chance he comes back to New England. "But hey, we’re going to cross that bridge when we get there."

It's hard to blame him. Who wouldn't love coming back to a team that has been to three consecutive Super Bowls and won two of them?

Making the money work for both sides can be a challenge. Left tackles are highly sought after, and the Patriots (wisely) let starting left tackle Nate Solder walk in free agency last year. New England has shown a willingness not to overpay to keep free agents throughout the Bill Belichick era, but protecting Brady obviously is very important.

Brown earned a little less than $2 million in 2018 and should get a massive raise in free agency. Whether the Patriots will be the team giving him that raise remains to be seen. 

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As franchise tag window opens, potential Patriots-Flowers marriage about to get complicated?

As franchise tag window opens, potential Patriots-Flowers marriage about to get complicated?

You don't need to be Bill Belichick or Nick Caserio to see that if money were no object, retaining Trey Flowers for the foreseeable future would be in New England's best interests. 

Drafted in the fourth round in 2015, Flowers has been arguably the team's best defensive player since 2016, serving as a key component to two Super Bowl-winning defenses. He doesn't have eye-popping sack numbers (21.0 in three seasons), but he plays the edge just as the Patriots like: He's a more-than-effective run-stuffer when asked; he can maneuver up and down the line of scrimmage in passing situations to win one-on-ones with tight ends, tackles or interior linemen; and he can impact opposing offenses by running two or three-man games up front to generate pressure. He's also established himself as a leader in the locker room and handles himself off the field with the kind of quiet demeanor the Patriots seem to value. 

But, of course, money matters, and as Flowers is set to hit unrestricted free agency, there's only one card the Patriots can pull to truly ensure that he's back for 2019: the franchise tag. 

The window to tag players begins on Tuesday and ends at 4 p.m. on March 5. Based on a $190 million salary cap -- the league projected in December it would fall in that range -- the franchise tag number for a defensive end would be about $17.3 million. 

Would the Patriots ever go to those lengths to keep Flowers for next season?

If you look at the team's history of the tag, it's not something to which they've typically resorted. Since 2002, they've used it just nine times, and only three times did players play out the season on their one-year guarantee: Adam Vinatieri in 2005 (departed as a free agent the following year), Asante Samuel in 2007 (departed as a free agent the following year) and Wes Welker in 2012 (departed as a free agent the following year). The last time the Patriots used the tag was in 2015 on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who signed an extension thereafter. 

Keeping Flowers on a one-year guarantee for $17.3 million (and a $17.3 million cap hit), would give him the second-highest cap hit on the team behind only Tom Brady ($27 million), who could agree to an extension this offseason that would reduce his figure. 

The Patriots might like the idea of locking up their most consistent front-seven player for one more year to make another title run. Or the tag might be an effective way for the team to buy itself more time to eventually come to a long-term extension. But based on that $17.3 million amount -- the second-highest tag number behind only quarterbacks -- it's not unreasonable to assume the Patriots wouldn't go there, especially since the Patriots have only about $18 million in cap space at the moment. While contract restructures, releases and potential retirements would boost New England's cap space, keeping Flowers on the tag might limit what the Patriots can do to address other needs.

Even if the Patriots don't act during the tag window, what transpires around the league with the franchise tag could impact the team's ability to sign Flowers long-term. 

For instance, the defensive end free agent class is scheduled to be one of the most star-studded in recent memory. Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, Dee Ford, Demarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, Brandon Graham and Ziggy Ansah are all at the ends of their deals. Should a handful of those players end up getting the tag to remain with their teams, that could leave Flowers as the most attractive free agent in the class when the new league year begins. 

If the Patriots approach negotiations with Flowers in a fashion similar to those they had with Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty -- allowing him to go to the market to see his value, then taking the opportunity to make an offer of their own -- they may find that he's been offered something exorbitant that would be difficult to match. 

The opposite could be true as well, no doubt. If all of those ends mentioned above end up not being tagged, saturating the market with talent at that position, then Flowers' price tag could become more manageable. 

That's why what happens in the two-week tag window, starting Tuesday, is so critical to the future outlook for the Patriots defense. Even if Belichick and Caserio sit it out, if others don't, that could factor into whether or not Flowers is back.

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