Six months after losing Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching vacancy, the New England Patriots have yet to announce their new offensive coordinator. There is no timeline when they will do so — if they name one at all — but there are a few things we already know about how the new-look unit will operate.
For starters, it has become obvious that second-year starting quarterback Mac Jones has taken full control of the Patriots offense this offseason. Additionally, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge will take on crucial roles on the rebuilt coaching staff; both were the leading offensive voices during offseason workouts alongside head coach Bill Belichick. Finally, the team has changed some of its terminology on that side of the ball.
According to Belichick, that latter aspect was meant to “streamline” the entire offense after being led by McDaniels for the last 10 years.
While that process does raise some questions, the players themselves do not appear to be worried about the modifications.
“You just go back to Square 1,” said running back Rhamondre Stevenson earlier this month. “It’s a new year, anyways. New scheme, that’s going to be a part of it, anyway. No matter what the coaching changes are or not, just learning new things and getting familiar with the new system. ...
“You just have to get in your books and know the playbook. It doesn’t matter what it was called last year. You just have to be a student of the game and pick it up quickly. That’s the NFL.”
For Stevenson, the changes this offseason extend beyond McDaniels’ departure. Long-time Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears, after all, has announced his retirement and handed the keys to the position group over to his former assistant, Vinnie Sunseri.
Patricia and Judge helping replace McDaniels and Sunseri taking over for Fears are just two of the moves the team had to make. It also will have new assistant coaches working with the wide receivers and the offensive line.
If the offseason discourse is to be believed, however, the biggest issue for the team will be the lack of an offensive coordinator (for now) and how the show will be run with McDaniels gone. The players themselves, however, have seemingly embraced this new era of New England offensive football.
“So far, it’s been kind of like they took out a little bit of thinking for you,” starting offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn said during mandatory minicamp. “They kind of dumbed it down just a little bit so everybody could play faster.”
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, meanwhile, downplayed the changes.
“Like they say, the NFL is definitely a ‘not for long’-type of league,” the fourth-year wideout said. “That’s not just players, that’s terminology, systems being changed up. As long as we are all doing it together, which we have for the most part — everybody’s been in it together and willing to learn — I think we’ll be alright. ...
“I would say [it’s] a smaller thing. Football, at the end of the day, is still football. You have to go out there and execute, and trust the guy next to you. As far as that, our standards stay the same. We still believe that we’ve got good players in the locker room and a great system in plays. But the plays and just what we call it, those are things that changed.”
Those remarks essentially echoed Stevenson’s thoughts on the offensive terminology in Year 1 after McDaniels.
“It’s just a new set of play calls,” he noted. “That’s it. It’s not too difficult.”
Stevenson, Meyers and Wynn are all projected to play prominent roles within the Patriots’ offensive attack this upcoming season. However, no player on the team’s roster will be more important or closely tied to the club’s success than the aforementioned Mac Jones.
Whether it be Bill Belichick, Joe Judge, Matt Patricia or a combination of the three, whoever will be leading the New England offense this year will be working closely with Jones. Likewise, all procedural or schematic changes will have a direct impact on the former first-round draft pick.
Still, Jones took a pretty neutral stance when speaking about the Patriots’ offense following minicamp.
“At the end of the day, football is football, and offensive football there’s only so much you can do. You can’t recreate the wheel with every different system,” he said. “You either run it or you throw it, it’s really that simple and you know that’s pretty much all there is to it.”
Obviously, football at any level is never as simple as Jones makes it sound. That said, it appears New England will be trying to trim one of the most extensive playbooks in the game for the sake of simplicity.
It sounds like the players are not losing any sleep because of that.