1. ESPN’s Adam Schefter went on the media circuit this week and the New England Patriots were an important part of his discussions. Let’s take a look a what he had to say and what it means.
First, Schefter joined the Murph & Mac show and explained the Patriots decision to trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. Schefter says that “the Cleveland Browns had been calling the Patriots last spring over and over,” and that “they tried apparently this fall and never got to first base with them,” as the Patriots rejected their offers.
Then “the day before the trade deadline,” the Patriots spent five minutes constructing a trade with the 49ers because, as Schefter hypothesizes, Bill Belichick thought the 49ers would “treat [Garoppolo] the way that they thought he should be treated.”
This whole story requires us to believe that Belichick’s heart grew three sizes this winter, but more importantly it totally adds context to the Jamie Collins trade, right? If he didn’t want to send Garoppolo to the Browns because he thought they would ruin his career, then sending Collins to Cleveland was ice cold.
2. Schefter also reports that “there’s some sort of issue” between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s personal trainer Alex Guerrero. Schefter won’t say the extent of the issue, but “that the Guerrero thing has been an issue at some point this season. It has come up. It is not the first time it has been brought to my attention.
Guerrero has a history as a snake-oil salesman and he’s also collected a roster of Patriots players under his care, including Brady, wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Guerrero has been in the Patriots locker room multiple times as of late as Brady recovers from an Achilles injury and I wouldn’t be shocked if Belichick was not happy with his presence since Guerrero is not on the team staff. Belichick runs a tight ship and would probably prefer to only have people on his staff interact with his players in an NFL-preparation capacity.
I wouldn’t expect it to be too much of an issue, so long as Brady stays healthy and Guerrero doesn’t have a negative impact on the team, but I’d be curious to know if Guerrero played a part in Brady not practicing over the past few weeks and if that’s what caused Schefter to start hearing this “issue” from his sources.
3. Schefter also joined WEEI to discuss the potential departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Schefter does not believe there is “an excess of candidates” for the “8-10 head coaching jobs” he expects to open up this offseason and that’s why McDaniels and Patricia are “the first names you go back to.”
With McDaniels, Schefter says the offensive mastermind is looking for “a spot where he’s comfortable with the GM [and] happy with the quarterback,” which is probably the most generic sounding request for a heading coaching job.
I think teams are going to wait for McDaniels to become available to hire after seeing so many teams strike out on early hires just for the sake of getting someone in the building. The New York Giants really do make plenty of sake.
4. Schefter believes that Patricia is less likely to leave, noting that the defensive coordinator’s wife is from the area and that they are happy and not actively looking to leave. But with Patricia having every reason to stay in New England, Schefter also thinks that “teams are going to make it hard for him to stay because I think there’s going to be enough interest.”
Patricia has been with the Patriots organization since 2004 and has served as the defensive coordinator for the past six seasons, helping the Patriots to a top 10 finish in points allowed in each year and a #1 finish in 2016 (New England is on pace for 5th-best in 2017).
There will be a lot of demand for Patricia because of how he’s made the defense succeed with a different cast of defenders in every single year. Devin McCourty is the only defender to play more than 50% of the defensive snaps in each year Patricia has served as coordinator. Rob Ninkovich (retired) and Dont’a Hightower (hurt) did so in every year but 2017. Chandler Jones and Patrick Chung achieved 50% in four years and Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan did it in three years.
I think Patricia will stay another year or two until the Detroit Lions or Tennessee Titans job opens up because those are both favorable landing positions due to his familiarity with their general managers (both former Patriots execs) and their young, established quarterbacks. I would expect a Lions marriage would involve the retention of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who could possibly serve as assistant head coach, and that would be the ideal landing spot.
5. Schefter notes that head coaches can make between $4-6 million per year, which is a nice boost from the $1-3 million that coordinators usually make. McDaniels was making $1.5 million as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were making close to double that in New England, although that’s pure speculation on my part based on the understood range for coordinators. Patricia should be close behind.
It would certainly be enticing to take an offer that could provide more than double the salary, but I would expect that the money isn’t as important to Patricia and McDaniels as finding a stable position.
Of the 14 head coaches hired in 2015 and 2016, five are already gone (Rex Ryan, Gary Kubiak, Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly, and Ben McAdoo) and three more are on the hot seat with their job in serious jeopardy (John Fox, Dirk Koetter, and Hue Jackson).
The ones that are safe include the Falcons’ Dan Quinn, Raiders’ Jack Del Rio, Jets’ Todd Bowles, Eagles’ Doug Pederson, Dolphins’ Adam Gase, and the Titans’ Mike Mularkey. Other than Bowles and the Jets, it certainly helps to have a franchise quarterback to buy some time.
If a coach can be fired within two years, it would make more sense for McDaniels and Patricia to wait for an opening that has an established quarterback, or else their increase in salary will only be temporary.
6. But neither McDaniels or Patricia should stick around with the hopes of being the eventual successor to Bill Belichick because Schefter doesn’t think that time is coming in the near future.
“I don’t think Bill thinks he’s near the end right now,” Schefter said. “I know he’s done it for a long time and you wonder how much longer- his energy level and his drive are as great as it has ever been. I don’t know whether he coaches two more years, or eight more years, 15 more years, I have no idea. I don’t think he knows.”
Schefter says that Belichick would consider it unfair to have either coordinator stick around without a known retirement date in the future, which makes some sense if you believe the earlier report that Belichick sent Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers because he wanted him to be successful. Belichick isn’t going to mess with the future of his top assistants.
I think a pretty easy guess is that Belichick is going to coach until he’s #1 in wins in NFL history. He currently ranks third with 273, behind Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324), and ahead of Tom Landry (270).
That means Belichick needs 75 more wins to claim the top spot for himself. He’s averaged 13.9 wins per season over the past decade, which would require 5.4 more seasons to take over the top spot, which is roughly when Tom Brady is expected to retire. A conservative estimate would need Belichick at the helm for seven more seasons when Belichick would be 72 years old. I think that’s a good over/under.