1. The 2018 offseason should remind many New England Patriots fans of the 2005 offseason when both coordinators, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, departed for head coaching jobs and a lot of the team veterans decided to cash in on free agent contracts after winning three out of four Super Bowls.
The Patriots are favored to win three out of four Super Bowls yet again, both coordinators are expected to leave, and there is a question about the age and future of First Team All Pro quarterback Tom Brady. So let’s look at how I think everything will play out, starting with that quarterback.
Brady will be 41 years old next season and he’s currently the best quarterback in the NFL. That’s incredible. But New England should absolutely look for his replacement and heir this offseason because the timing will be perfect.
Brady wants to play for five more years and if the Patriots draft a quarterback in the first round that player will be under a five-year contract. New England can assess Brady over that span of time and be assured of a contingency plan in place if Brady elects to retire or suffers an injury. The Patriots could even draft a quarterback in the second round and have the franchise tag as an option- something they didn’t do with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Right now, there are five quarterbacks entering the draft that are considered first round- or fringe first round- prospects: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. One of these players should be available for the Patriots first round pick, or their first second round pick courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers.
Don’t be surprised if the Patriots make one of these players the heir to Brady.
2. I also expect Bill Belichick to stay in New England and to stay with the Patriots until he retires. He has literally no incentive to leave the team he built for another rebuild. Sure, he might be butting heads with Robert Kraft and Tom Brady every now and then, but have you seen other teams?
Like, what team could Bill Belichick go to where a) he wouldn’t have the owner stepping on his toes; b) he has the best quarterback in the NFL; c) he has full control of the team without a general manager to worry about; and d) he has an impossibly long leash for the reload when that best quarterback in the NFL actually retires.
He’s not going to join the New York Giants or Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers or whatever ridiculous speculation is being tossed around. Belichick is staying with the Patriots for 2018 and he’s going to outlast Brady.
3. And speaking of the Giants, I expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to leave this offseason, too, and to join the New York Giants. Call it Belichick’s third gift to the Giants.
The Giants have a top draft pick for their next head coach to help groom the eventual replacement for Eli Manning. Oh, and they have some time too because Eli is an average quarterback that can be a placeholder until the first round pick is ready to play. They have the pieces for an elite defense, so long as they have a coach capable of complementing the characters.
And New York has historically shown solid loyalty to the head coach, with the previous five coaches (before the Ben McAdoo disaster) spending an average of 6.4 seasons with the team. It’s a good place for McDaniels second stint as a head coach.
I expect the Patriots to have wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea ready as the offensive coordinator when McDaniels departs, although a return for Brian Daboll from the University of Alabama would make sense too.
4. I think defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will join the Detroit Lions to help fix the defense, while current Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will stay with the team as an assistant head coach and continue to develop Matthew Stafford and the 7th-ranked offense.
Patricia knows how to maximize the abilities of players on the roster and there is certainly talent in Detroit- there just wasn’t a good defensive mind in place to put it all together.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn is a former Patriots exec and knows how Patricia ticks, making their union a perfect pairing.
I expect linebackers coach Brian Flores to receive the promotion to defensive coordinator unless...
5. ...what if Brian Flores gets the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job? I don’t think he will because there are so many questions on offense with the retirement of quarterback Carson Palmer and the questionable future of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. It’s not an ideal first job spot.
But if Flores left, I would expect the Patriots to not have a defensive coordinator in 2018 or even 2019 as Bill Belichick himself would run the unit. I would think cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer would be promoted to linebackers coach to eventually be the defensive coordinator, with safeties coach Steve Belichick promoted to defensive backs coach.
A surprise move could be the return of Patrick Graham, who was considered the Patriots top replacement for Patricia at defensive coordinator a couple years ago. Graham left to become the New York Giants defensive line coach in 2016, but with that coaching staff up in the air, perhaps Graham could have a spot in New England.
Alternatively, I think McDaniels as my theoretical Giants head coach would be smart to promote Graham to his defensive coordinator to ensure the coaching staff is speaking the same language.