The New England Patriots have been relatively quiet this offseason, but they did make a few adjustments to their staff. After re-hiring former defensive coordinator and Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia and also bringing his assistant, Evan Rothstein, on board in January, the team has now also made a move to acquire Bo Hardegree earlier this week.
Hardegree, who was a college teammate of current Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, first arrived in the NFL in 2014 and has worked exclusively under Adam Gase since then: he served as offensive quality control coach for the Denver Broncos and as an offensive assistant for the Chicago Bears while Gase was the teams’ offensive coordinator. He later moved on to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets alongside his boss.
Now, Hardegree will join the Patriots. While this could be an emancipation of sorts from Gase, there is a chance that veteran coach also finds his way to New England.
Gase’s head coaching pedigree may be questionable — he went just 32-48 in five seasons with the Dolphins (2016-18) and Jets (2019-20) — but he has repeatedly been praised by New England head coach Bill Belichick in the past. Ahead of the regular season finale in early January, for example, Belichick praised the job Gase had done with New York’s quarterback, Sam Darnold.
“I know [Darnold]’s getting good coaching and has a good system that works through the quarterback,” said Belichick. “Adam’s always had an offensive system that really gave the quarterbacks all the opportunities to have tools that they need to be successful. So, I don’t think you could have anybody better coaching him then where he’s at.”
Gase has developed a close connection with Belichick over the years, with his coaching roots likely playing a part in this. The 42-year-old worked under Belichick confidante Nick Saban at LSU and later coached under Josh McDaniels — another Saban disciple — in Denver. Needless to say that there is a close connection to the Patriots and their offensive system.
There also is plenty of respect coming Gase’s way from Belichick.
“He’s a good coach,” Belichick said during the 2020 regular season. “They have a good system. He’s a good play caller. He puts a lot of pressure on defenses in the way he sets things up and uses personnel. His players improve. They get better. They execute better, gain confidence and perform better over the course of time. That’s weighted offensively. But you see it through the team. You saw that in Miami as well. ...
“His offense is well-designed and well-called. Fundamentally, you can see the improvements that they are making steadily through the course of the season. Coach Gase and his staff have done an outstanding job. The plays have individually gotten better and collectively they’ve performed better. They’ve done a good job there.”
For all the praises Gase received, his teams have not performed at an adequate level. After starting his head coaching career by leading the Dolphins to a 10-6 record and wild card playoff berth, he went just 6-10 and 7-9 the following two years before his firing. Gase later took his talents to New York but after going 7-9 and 2-14 was let go again.
So, why would the Patriots have any interest in adding him?
First, there is the Belichick factor. He truly seems to respect Gase’s coaching abilities and could opt to give him a chance in a lower-level role similar to the one Matt Patricia will have in 2021. Second, being a good coach and being a good head coach are not necessarily the same thing: the Patriots could see value in adding Gase to their staff in a clearly defined role — possibly as an offensive assistant or, if Hardegree doesn’t become the team’s next quarterbacks coach, in just that position.
There is, of course, no guarantee that such a move will happen. Gase might prefer to rebuild his status elsewhere or work in higher-level jobs. Alternatively, the Patriots might not even be interested in adding him despite Belichick’s praises in the past.
That said, we do know the future Hall of Famer likes to give those an opportunity who he deems worthy of receiving them — from Patricia to McDaniels. Adam Gase would fall into this category as well.
“I think he’s done an excellent job,” Belichick told the New York media ahead of the two teams’ Week 17 meeting last season. “I thought he did a good job with Miami and I think he’s done a good job with the Jets. He’s ... a coach I have a lot of respect for and he gives us a lot of problems. He’s a tough, tough coach to coach against, so that’s really the way I feel about him.”