“Reunion” is one of the themes of the New England Patriots’ 2021 offseason. Offensive tackle Trent Brown was returned via trade; linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Harvey Langi were re-signed in free agency; offensive lineman Ted Karras was added to the fold after one season away; running back Tyler Gaffney also came back four years after his departure.
Brown, Van Noy and company are not the only ones to return to their old stomping grounds, though. Before making any of these moves, the Patriots had already brought Matt Patricia back into the fold as an assistant to head coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick himself seems very happy with what the 46-year-old is bringing to the table in his second stint.
“I’m extremely glad that he’s here and appreciate the contributions that he gives us on a daily basis,” he said during a media conference call last week.
Patricia spent 14 seasons in New England, including six as the team’s defensive coordinator between 2012 and 2017. He did leave to take over as the Detroit Lions’ new head coach in the spring of 2018, but was fired again after two-and-a-half seasons of inconsistent performances by his squad.
It did not take long for Patricia to find a new home, though.
While his new role with the Patriots is looking differently — he is not expected to resume his defensive coordinator duties — it is hard to pin down what it exactly entails. We do know that he was brought in to not just assist the coaching staff in various roles, but that he also has been involved in free agency, draft preparation and contract negotiations. He even signed new contracts on the team’s behalf.
Patricia has seemingly emerged as a jack-of-all-trades Belichick and the Patriots since his return.
“It’s great to have Matt here,” New England’s head coach said. “He’s obviously an outstanding coach and has a lot of experience and gained some experience in areas in the last three years that he didn’t have as much of an opportunity to be in prior to that when he left. His advice and counsel and presence has been valuable for us in a lot of ways.”
While it remains to be seen how his role will evolve over the coming weeks, months and possibly years, Patricia seems to have helped the team replace Nick Caserio. The Patriots’ director of player personnel left the organization in January to take over as the Houston Texans’ new general manager.
It does not look like Patricia has been asked to replace Caserio one-for-one, though. Assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, college scouting director Matt Groh and scouting consultant Eliot Wolf also played a role in filling the sizable shoes the long-time executive left vacant. Still, Patricia has been a prominent presence both in the draft room and on the practice fields last week.
This does not mean that he should be seen as the frontrunner to take over as Belichick’s heir one day, as was speculated by Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. However, it is clear that New England’s head honcho trusts his input and appreciates what he brings to the team regardless of title or responsibilities.
When it comes to the 2021 Patriots, Patricia therefore certainly looks like an important piece of the puzzle.
“It’s good to have Matt Patricia back,” Belichick said about his long-time assistant in mid-April. “He’s very familiar with our process, his process and all the things that go around that. He’s been really a very valuable resource and confidant, somebody to talk to who’s been through the same things that we’ve been through. His experience and perspective have been extremely valuable.”