Bill Belichick is the most successful coach in pro football history, but those leaving his nest recently trying to make names for themselves elsewhere have come nowhere near. The latest examples are Bill O’Brien and Matt Patricia, who were both let go by their respective organizations amidst some disastrous campaigns: O’Brien was fired by the Houston Texans in early October; Patricia was relieved from his duties with the Detroit Lions over the weekend.
Whenever moves like that happen involving former Belichick protégées two things take place: 1.) Belichick’s coaching tree gets criticized, and 2.) speculation about potential reunions gets kickstarted.
In fairness, there has been some precedent when it comes to the latter.
Josh McDaniels, who since 2012 is in his second stint as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator, was actually brought back one season before that after losing his job as the then-St. Louis Rams’ offensive play-caller. McDaniels returned as a consultant to then-coordinator Bill O’Brien during the playoffs and eventually took over the vacant role once O’Brien decided to leave for Penn State after the season.
Of course, as Belichick would tell you, no two scenarios are alike. O’Brien, for example, has remained on the coaching market since getting fired after the Texans’ disappointing 0-4 start. And as for Matt Patricia, New England’s head coach pointed out that his attention would be elsewhere at the moment.
“Right now we’re really focused on correcting the mistakes from the Arizona game and moving on to the Chargers,” Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Monday. “It will be a big challenge for us out there and then a short week out there with the Rams. That’s really where my focus has been in the last few hours since the end of the Arizona game.
“A lot of other things to talk about at some point. But I’d say, right now, this is at the doorstep.”
Patricia served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator from 2012 through 2017, and helped the organization win two Super Bowls along the way. He left for Detroit after New England’s title game defeat versus the Philadelphia Eagles — a game in which his defense surrendered 41 points — and subsequently went just 13-29-1 over the next two-and-a-half seasons; his best year was in 2018 when he led the Lions to a 6-10 record.
With him in Detroit, the Patriots never named an official coordinator on the defensive side of the ball. Brian Flores handled play-calling duties in 2018 before joining the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach, with Steve Belichick since taking over that role as the most senior assistant among New England’s defensive coaches.
“Collectively as a staff, I think our defensive coaches really work well together,” his father, Bill, acknowledged on Monday. “They all have a lot of responsibility. They all have a lot of input. They’ve done a good job since Matt left, certainly in ‘18 and ‘19. This year has had some challenges, but I think from a coaching standpoint the defensive coaches have done a good job.”
Given those statements plus the fact that the Patriots are facing no obvious vacancies on defense — as opposed to the O’Brien-McDaniels exchange of 2012 — it therefore seems unlikely that the team will bring Matt Patricia back into the fold soon. Nothing appears to definitively be off the table, but it appears that Belichick is happy with the work that his assistants have done on the defensive side of the ball.