The New England Patriots saw some major personnel turnover over the course of the offseason: Not only did the team lose four of its core players of years past to free agency, it also had to watch defensive coordinator Matt Patricia become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. So far, the vacant position has not been filled by the Patriots – and it reportedly will stay open, at least in title, this year.
Brian Flores is expected to take over play-calling duties from Patricia, though, and will thus continue his climb up the coaching ladder. How exactly this entire situation will look like once organized team activities, training camp and preseason start remains to be seen, but it sure appears that New England is in the process of bringing in another coach to assist the transition from Patricia to Flores.
According to ESPN's Field Yates, ex-Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema continues to work for the organization. The 48-year old, who was let go by the Razorbacks last November, first popped up during the scouting combine in March when he was spotted wearing Patriots gear and attending the event alongside the team's scouting staff. Now, according to Yates, Bielema is expected to be involved with coaching duties as well.
He brings plenty of experience to the table, also when it comes to coaching defense: Before leading Arkansas to a 29-34 record and two bowl victories during his 4.5 seasons as head coach, he served as Wisconsin's head coach – Bielema went 68-24 from 2006 through 2012 while also winning two bowl games and three Big 10 titles for the Badgers. Prior to his ascension to the head coaching ranks, he was primarily a defensive coach.
Bielema held defensive coordinator titles at Wisconsin and Kansas State after starting his coaching career as linebackers coach at his alma mater Iowa. And while he should not be expected to be given any of these titles in New England right away, it would not be a surprise to see Bielema be named defensive assistant or assistant to the coaching staff later down the line – and thus serve as Flores' right-hand man in coordinating the defense.