Patriots head coach Bill Belichick remains busy before the Super Bowl even though his team isn't playing in it. After an early exit from the postseason courtesy of the Broncos in Denver, Belichick has had more time on his hands to prepare for the future. One of the advantages of having that time available is that Belichick can now spend more of it attending the off-season workouts and bowl games including the 2006 Senior Bowl.
In Mobile, where the Senior Bowl practices and bowl game are held, scouts, coaches and front office personnel gathered for the week of practices before the game. Many teams spent the time gathering information on players and conducting interviews with players expected to be drafted this April.
Belichick and personnel director Scott Pioli spent time taking in the practice sessions in Mobile, along with coaches and personnel executives from other teams. One of those executives, Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen spent his time soliciting advice from others, and Belichick was one of his targeted advisors. Millen had recently hired Rod Marinelli as the Lions new head coach, and was in the market for assistant coaches. So he cornered Belichick, who had been huddled with his own advisor and good friend, Nick Saban as the pair took in practice from the sidelines.
Belichick and Saban are good friends and both have a history of spending time together in the off-season talking football. Before taking over as the Dolphins head coach and Belichick's divisional opponent in 2005, Saban spent 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach, the first five at Michigan State and the last five at LSU. He joined Michigan State after a stint with Belichick in Cleveland as the Browns defensive coordinator (1991-94).
TFY Draft Preview has confirmed that a couple of the players the Patriots spoke with at the Senior Bowl practices were players in Saban's old college conference, the SEC. Auburn's giant tackle Marcus McNeill (previously reported) and Florida's center Mike Degory spent time playing against Saban's LSU tigers, so the coach had first hand information on that pair. Saban and Belichick could have discussed any number of potential recruits as it's assumed both coaches have similar needs to fill on their respective NFL teams.
Belichick and the Patriots staff finished their business in Mobile and returned home for the week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, but not before Belichick gathered some more information on possible assistant coaching candidates. Reports surfaced during the week that Belichick spoke with former Viking's coach Mike Tice about his knowledge of defensive assistant Chuck Knox Jr. Both Belichick and Saban were in the market for assistant coaches due to vacancies on their staffs created from promotions within and hires by other teams. Saban has since filled his openings, but the search continues for Belichick.
Belichick has to fill at least two positions in New England. He needs someone to fill the role Dean Pees held last season - linebackers coach - now that Pees has been promoted to fill the defensive coordinator's position. Knox may be a candidate for that job. On the other side of the ball, quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position that's been vacant since the departure of Charlie Weis. On the radar screen to replace him is University of Michigan quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler. Loeffler, a position coach at Michigan, was there when Tom Brady was a Wolverine, and knows the quarterback well. Reports have surfaced out of Michigan that Loeffler has an interview scheduled for a similar position with the Patriots.
On Sunday Belichick will be part of the ABC Sports Super Bowl XL Pre-game coverage from Detroit. Although it is certain to be difficult to not participate in the event for the first time in three seasons, Belichick has stated he's looking forward to the experience. While he's there, it's expected he'll rendezvous with Loeffler for that interview.
Coming up next for Belichick and the Patriots are college pro days, more player evaluations, more draft board maneuvering and the NFL Combine.
[EDITORS NOTE: Charlie Weis was the Patriots Offensive Coordinator through the 2004 season, not two seasons ago as originally reported.]
Jon Scott has been covering the NFL for over ten years. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association he is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, and has been a frequent guest on other websites and radio programs. You can find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Jon Scott" or Send him an email here: