Troy Brown’s status as a New England Patriots legend has been cemented regardless of how successful his time as an assistant coach will be. An eighth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 1993, Brown spent his entire 15-year career in New England — establishing himself as one of the most productive wide receivers and kick returners in franchise history: Brown appeared in 212 combined regular season and playoff games for the club and accumulated 12,203 all-purpose yards.
Along the way, he also helped the Patriots win their first three Super Bowls. A member of the organization’s Hall of Fame and 50th anniversary team, Brown’s nickname — “Mr. Patriot” — certainly is a well-deserved one.
With his legacy set in stone, the 49-year-old has now set his sights on a new challenge: coaching the Patriots’ running backs and return men. Brown was promoted to the job earlier this offseason, after already spending the 2019 campaign in New England in a minority coaching fellowship position. After one year as a de facto assistant, he has now been given a full-time role. And it looks as if he is already leaving his mark on the team.
“Troy’s been great to work with, just his understanding of the game. Of course he played many years here, so he’s familiar with the system and how things are run here,” said running back Rex Burkhead about Brown during a media conference call on Wednesday.
“I think the biggest thing is just technique-wise and route-running — certain things I’ve maybe never seen before or looked at it that way just because I’ve played running back,” Burkhead added. “He sees it from a wide receiver lens, so it translated over to some of our routes and how we run them. He’s been great with that and just teaching me, James [White] and all the other backs certain ways to get in position out there, and how to use our techniques.”
While Brown was listed as a wide receiver throughout his playing days with the Patriots, the coaching staff never shied away from using him in a versatile role. Whether it was returning punts or kickoffs, or serving as a ball-carrier on occasion, he was a serious candidate to get the football one way or another whenever a play needed to be made. This diverse usage is also carrying over to his coaching career, as Bill Belichick reiterated earlier this month.
“He’ll continue to work with other positions as well — the returners and the slot receivers,” New England’s head coach said. “But just given the conversations I’ve had with Troy, he’s very eager. He is a very instinctive football player and coach. I think that he was always great with the ball in his hands as a runner — he was obviously a great receiver — and I think that’s a big part of every running back’s job. And he was a strong player in the kicking game, as well.”
One of the receivers who has worked closely with Brown over the spring and summer is newcomer Damiere Byrd. The 27-year-old was signed as a free agent earlier this offseason, and has relied not just on position coach Mick Lombardi for some guidance but on the long-time Patriots pass catcher as well.
“It’s a great opportunity with those two guys — T.B. being here and playing well, and Coach Lombardi being here, knowing the offense for some time now,” Byrd told reporters this week. “We’re really building that relationship, learning as much as I can from them and seeing how they see the game. What can help me, whether that’s offensively or special teams in the return game?”
Brown’s expertise in both areas could therefore certainly prove valuable, not just for Byrd but the entire cast of skill position players and return men. It would not be his first time elevating the team as a whole.