When Matt Patricia returned to the New England Patriots in January 2021, he brought one of his former colleagues with him from the Detroit Lions: Evan Rothstein, whose initial title with the organization read Research and Analysis/Coaching.
That job description was a rather vague one, and it did not become much clearer in 2022. The Patriots’ media guide has now listed Rothstein as Offensive Assistant, even though his responsibilities apparently go beyond working on that side of the ball.
In fact, head coach Bill Belichick revealed on Friday that Rothstein has also had a hand in helping replace none other than long-time research director Ernie Adams.
“Evan’s done some of the things that Ernie did,” Belichick said. “Has a really good understanding of situational football and organization of various things that we need to do as a staff. So, he’s been a good addition. He’s helped a lot of us in a lot of different ways. Wears a lot of hats.”
Wearing a lot of hats is nothing new for Rothstein. His role with the Lions, after all, sounded a lot like the one Adams held in New England between 2000 and 2021.
Rothstein started his career with the team as a Quality Control/Special Teams coach from 2012 to 2013, before moving to Special Projects in 2014 and working as an Offensive Assistant/Research & Analysis between 2015 and 2017. When Matt Patricia was hired as Detroit’s new head coach during the 2018 offseason, he moved to Head Coach Assistant/Research & Analysis — a role he held until leaving the Lions.
Rothstein primarily worked in the background during his 12 years with the team, but he did find himself in the spotlight during the 2020 season and after Patricia was let go.
When interim head coach Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin and three other assistants were quarantined due to the NFL’s Covid-19 protocols, Rothstein was called upon to serve as the Lions’ defensive play caller for a Week 16 game against none other than Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 5-9 Lions were crushed 47-7 in a game that saw Brady post a perfect passer rating. The result certainly was a negative one for Detroit and Rothstein, but the fact that he was called upon to step in speaks for itself.
After all, he had never served as a coordinator or position coach in any capacity in his career. While he did work briefly with the offensive line at SUNY Cortland in the spring of 2010, he never was given a full-time position in a similar capacity.
Nonetheless, Bevell and the Lions saw him as their best choice to call the defense against the greatest quarterback of all time and his arsenal of weapons — a decision Bevell justified as follows ahead of that contest versus Brady and the Buccaneers.
“He’s probably our most knowledgeable... Not probably, is our most knowledgeable in terms of our defense, what we’re doing really all the way across the board,” he said at the time. “He is very involved in game day already. He’s been in tough situations on game day, helping with information and communication, so we felt like he has the most experience and will be able to get that done at a high level for us.”
Does that description sound at all familiar? While he did not appear to have quite as extensive and high-profile a role in Detroit as Ernie Adams’ had with the Patriots, Bevell and other then-members of the Lions organization have praised Rothstein’s ability to wear multiple hats.
Among them also is a former Patriot, Duron Harmon. The defensive back spent the first seven seasons of his career in New England, and alongside Adams.
“Very, very smart guy — very smart,” Harmon said in 2020. “Handles a lot of the situational stuff we do as a team, smart, understands the game. He has a good handle on it, and I put my trust in him to do what he has to do to put us in the right defense and make the right calls so that we can go out there and play fast. ...
“He has his meetings each week where he talks about tendencies, signals, cadences, you know, just all the little nuances of the game that a lot of people might overlook. He’s that guy who is pointing it out for us so that we can have a good tip or a good tendency that we can hold our hat on.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Rothstein will ever become the Patriots’ next Ernie Adams. Based on his experience, smarts and Belichick’s description, however, he already appears to be a valuable resource for the team.
And, like Adams, somebody nobody outside of the team really knows all that much about.