Belichick Is Taking A Real Risk With His Offensive Coaching Staff Choices
The New England Patriots are going through a transformation on their offensive coaching staff. Since the end of last season, the team has lost offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels, running backs coach Ivan Fears, wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, and quality control coach Bo Hardegree. Except for Fears, all of them moved to form the new Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff. Meanwhile, Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick decided to use few resources to replace them. The legendary coach invested more in organizational background and less in offensive experience to build the group who will try to keep young quarterback Mac Jones' development on track.
Even though the prevailing argument is that Belichick controls everything and knows more than everybody else (which are good points), it's fair to question the Patriots' approach, especially considering the Patriots are a different (and worse) version of themselves since Tom Brady left in 2020.
According to reports from Boston media members, the offensive coaching staff will be led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. They both have some experience coaching the offense, but it's not a significant one, and both came back to the Patriots after failed stints as head coaches — Patricia with the Detroit Lions, Judge with the New York Giants. What immediately comes to mind is the fact that Patricia and Judge climbed the coaching rankings in other areas — as defensive and special teams coordinators, respectively. And their offensive track records are uninspiring.
Patricia was an offensive lineman in college football, but has limited experience coaching that side of the ball. He was an offensive graduate assistant for Syracuse between 2001 and 2003, and started his NFL coaching career with the offense, being an offensive assistant in 2004 and assistant offensive line coach in 2005 for the Patriots. But that's it. He moved to the defense in 2006 and was linebackers coach, safeties coach and defensive coordinator until 2017.
You can argue that a successful defensive coordinator is totally able to call offensive plays, but the last years of Patricia's previous tenure with New England were questionable as well. The Patriots' defense was 31st in defensive DVOA in 2017, and improved to 16th under Brian Flores the following season.
In Detroit, even with Matthew Stafford as the quarterback for two and a half of the three seasons, the Lions were 23rd, 18th and 16th in offensive DVOA.
Now, the expectation is that Matt Patricia will be some kind of run game coordinator, working primarily with the offensive line, and he is the favorite to call plays — he has never called offensive plays in his career. His official title is senior football advisor.
Judge has even less experience as an offensive coach. Even though he had a small experience coaching linebackers for Birmingham-Southern in 2008, he always was tied to special teams — he was the ST coordinator there in addition to his defensive assignment. He then was the Alabama ST assistant between 2009 and 2011, before going to the Patriots in 2012. He was the assistant for three years, then got promoted to coordinator in 2015. In 2019, Belichick made an effort to improve Judge's case to be a head coach and gave him the wide receivers coach role in addition to the special teams. And that year is his only experience coaching an offensive unit — it was a good season for Julian Edelman, who had 1,117 yards and six touchdowns, but no other Patriots wide receiver surpasses 400 receiving yards.
Patriots wide receivers in 2019:
Julian Edelman 1,117, 6 TDs
Phillip Dorsett 397, 5 TDs
Jakobi Meyers 359, 0 TD
Josh Gordon 287, 1 TD
Mohamed Sanu 207, 1 TD
N'Keal Harry 105, 2 TD
With the New York Giants, the offense was bad during the two seasons under Judge. Former Dallas Cowboys head coach was the coordinator through last season's week 11, and then former Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens was interimly promoted. But the Giants' offense was 26th in 2020 and the worst in the entire league in 2021. Back in New England, he's officially an offensive assistant. Practically, he will coach quarterbacks and be a pass game coordinator.
The New England Patriots enter the second season of Mac Jones' career without naming an offensive coordinator, a quarterbacks coach, or an offensive line coach. Vinnie Sunseri, who was a co-RBs coach, is going to work with the group. Troy Brown, who helped the WRs and kick returners, is also now the only responsible for them. The only coaches who keep the same responsibilities as last year are tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley, assistant offensive line coach Billy Yates, and offensive assistant Tyler Hughes.
Everything has a chance to work in the NFL, but it's a bold move by Bill Belichick. And the decision to be the only team in the league without official offensive and defensive coordinators is a real risk.