FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This is old hat by now for the New England Patriots. Or maybe "old helmet" is the more appropriate terminology.
The Patriots are in the playoffs, and their assistant coaches are in demand for head-coaching vacancies across the NFL, so how has the team become expert at balancing postseason goals with top staffers -- including director of player personnel Nick Caserio -- going through the interview process?
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is one of the hottest head-coaching candidates this offseason, shared his perspective on the topic.
"All of us here in this building always put the team first. If we don't, then we wouldn't be here, and that is not going to change," he said Monday. "We've put too much time and invested too much of our effort and energy and commitment to one another to put ourselves in a position that we all tried to be in heading into the postseason to try to play our best football, coach our best football in January, and that's the most important thing -- period.
"All of those other things, there's a time and a place for all of that stuff, but nothing is going to get in the way of us trying to put our best performance forward the next time we go out there on the field. That's what it means to be a Patriot, and we're going to do that, and I know I'm going to do that. Anything and everything else is secondary to that."
As for what that "time and place" will be for McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, linebackers coach Brian Flores and Caserio to pursue those opportunities, the Patriots have followed a routine schedule in recent years.
It has helped that the Patriots have had a first-round playoff bye in each of the past eight seasons. That has opened up wild-card weekend as a time for coaches to interview, with the interested teams coming to the New England region to meet with them, usually on one day, and the interviews sometimes going back-to-back-to-back.
The Patriots' experience with balancing interviews and the playoffs includes a defining time in 2005 when coordinators Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) and Romeo Crennel (Browns) both landed head jobs. When Bill O'Brien was hired as Penn State head coach in 2012, the Patriots were still in the playoffs, and Bill Belichick helped O'Brien by having a dedicated administrative assistant inside Gillette Stadium to help him balance his Penn State and Patriots responsibilities.
There have been several other years when assistants have interviewed but returned to the Patriots.
As for this year, both McDaniels and Patricia said Monday they spent the morning doing what they always do: grading the tape from Sunday's game. Patricia called it "normal mode." That work will continue throughout the week before things open up this weekend.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals have requested interviews with Patricia, while the Giants and Indianapolis Colts have done so with McDaniels. The Cardinals also have requested an interview with Flores. More requests could come.
"I've gone through it before," McDaniels said, "which is helpful in terms of being able to balance that and multitask it."