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AFC East Report: Former Patriots coach Pepper Johnson among six New York Jets assistants not returning in 2017

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One of the Patriots’ division rivals is undergoing major coaching changes.

Ever since Bill Belichick took over the head coaching position with the New England Patriots, the team has had stability on the sidelines. While assistants came and went, Belichick and his coaching philosophy have remained constant – and successful.

It seems as if the New York Jets want a similar effect. The team, which finished the 2016 regular season with a 5-11 record and in last place in the AFC East, will retain head coach Todd Bowles for another season. However, six of Bowles’ assistant coaches will not return, according to a team press release:

Chan Gailey (Offensive coordinator)

Kevin Patullo (Quarterbacks)

Marcel Shipp (Running backs)

Pepper Johnson (Defensive line)

Mark Collins (Outside linebackers)

Joe Danna (Defensive backs)

While Gailey announced his retirement from coaching, the other five have been let go on the team’s initiative. The most intriguing of those names is defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who was a member of the Patriots coaching staff from 2000 until 2013.

After starting as an assistant, the former linebacker took over the Patriots’ defensive line from 2004 until 2011 and the linebackers from 2012 to 2013. However, after the 2013 season he left the team to join the Buffalo Bills, for whom he coached the defensive line. In 2014, Johnson left Buffalo to coach the Jets’ defensive line.

With the former Patriots assistant being let go, is is only natural to ask is if he could return to Foxboro. It likely depends on Matt Patricia. If the defensive coordinator leaves New England to become a head coach after the season and linebackers coach Brian Flores – who is seen as Patricia’s logical successor – moves up to become signal caller. With no current coaching assistants in line to take over, Johnson’s old position would become vacant.

However, the chances of him actually returning look slim even if Patricia left. After all, Johnson left the team on his own terms in 2013 to join a division rival who seemingly provided better career opportunities. If Patricia stayed in New England, the odds of a Patriots-Johnson reunion are almost nonexistent.