"Coaching is teaching," New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "My parents are both teachers and my dad was a coach. You just kind of learn at a young age. When you have those kinds of influences in your life, the more what you're trying to do is just instruct people and get them to accomplish something, whatever that is, whether it's a game plan. However you're trying to get them to learn is in essence teaching."
The New England Patriots have one of the youngest rosters in the entire league. Whether it's injuries or just the youth movement, the coaching staff has had their hands full preparing inexperienced starters to square off against savvy veterans.
If you remove QB Tom Brady, the Patriots rank 6th youngest
The offensive line has relied on rookies Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Tre Jackson and 2nd year players Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming. 25-year-old wide receiver Keshawn Martin had to learn on the fly after the Patriots acquired him the Texans in September.
In fact, the Patriots have just five 30+ year old players with five or more starts on the year: quarterback Tom Brady (38), left tackle Sebastian Vollmer (31), defensive end Rob Ninkovich (31), defensive tackle Alan Branch (31), and wide receiver Danny Amendola.
New England has made a point of grooming back-ups in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (24 years old), or featuring a rotation with tackle Marcus Cannon (27), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (26), and defensive tackles Akiem Hicks (26) and Sealver Siliga (25) to make sure the aging veterans have rest, and that the back-ups have experience.
Why? It's all a part of the education process.
"You can read it, you can hear it, you can write it down," head coach Bill Belichick said. "You can show pictures, you can stand and have kind of a spatial instruction as opposed to a picture or a diagram, and again, some players, some people learn in one way, some people learn in another way.
"I've done different studies or part of our testing on players includes information like that - how does a certain player learn best, what's the best way for him to process information - and again it comes in a variety of methods when you look at your entire roster.
"We probably do a little bit of everything and then with certain players if they want or need one more than another then the position coaches adapt to that and we give them more of that particular method that is most helpful to them. I think that's just fundamental teaching, which is really what coaching is - it's teaching."
Coaching is teaching the Patriots have the best education system in the league. There's no other way that a team suffering the most injuries, while featuring one of the youngest rosters would be able to compete every single week- and New England is on the cusp of clinching the #1 seed in the AFC.
"I think the coaches here do a great job of knowing their guys at much more at a level that's more than just football," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "And trying to really care about those guys that are around them, that we're around all the time.
"We really try to make it on a personal level. We spend a lot of time working together, both the players and the coaches and the staff, everybody here. I think when you have that sort of relationship I think the motivation for all of it kind of takes care of itself."
Every single player is different and requires an a la carte education and training system. Perhaps the Patriots don't provide smoothies after every practice, or don't track the sleep of their players, like Chip Kelly and the Eagles, but Belichick does a great job of promoting player management while avoiding helicopter coaching.
With injuries to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and Brandon LaFell fighting a foot injury, the Patriots could rely on an offense with Keshawn Martin and Leonard Hankerson- neither of whom spent the offseason in New England. The backfield is going to feature a heavy dose of Steven Jackson and Joey Iosefa- neither of whom spent the offseason in New England.
The Patriots coaching staff is working thankless miracles on a daily basis, educating an eclectic mix of personalities to achieve a common goal. But, hey, that's what teachers do.