The duties of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge been one of the main storylines throughout the New England Patriots’ off-season. For the two former head coaches, they know their role in the big picture of the team.
That role? Making Bill Belichick happy.
“The assistant coaches’ job is real simple, make the head coach happy,” Judge told reporters Monday morning. “[Bill] has a vision for his team, he knows what he wants his team to look like, its our job to listen and go out and execute the way he sees it. And that’s the important thing as an assistant coach.
“You can't have 20 head coaches, there's one head coach. It’s our job to make sure that when he speaks in a meeting, we understand what he’s saying and to make sure that our players can go out there and execute within that vision. That’s our job. That’s my job. As far as defined roles, I come to work everyday with one simple policy: whatever [Bill] says goes. I’m not the head coach here, that's one certain thing. And my job is to do whatever he says to the best of my ability and get the players playing better.”
Following a two-year stint in New York with the Giants, Judge was fired after posting a 10-23 record. When the opportunity arose to rejoin the Patriots staff, he jumped at the chance, largely because of the ability to work with Belichick yet again.
“There’s a reason I came back here. There’s a reason I wanted to be here. There’s a reason I wanted to work for him,” Judge explained. “In terms of the level of football you learn working here. In terms of the level of conversation and education you get by having back-and-forths, and working, evolving.
“In terms of working here, there’s always open conversation. Coach is involved in all three phases, more so than any other coach in all football and that’s been true since I’ve been here back to 2012. It’s a great atmosphere. If you like football, you like learning, you like working and improving, this the place you want to be.”
With long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now in Las Vegas, the Patriots’ offense is now being led by the trio of Patricia, Judge, Belichick, who has taken a more prominent role with the offense this season.
“It’s just collaborative. We follow Coach Belichick’s lead,” Patricia said before practice Monday. “I’m just trying to do my job to the best of my ability, whatever he asks me to do on any given day. And that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I love, it’s always kind of new and exciting and challenging from that standpoint. We’re all just working together right now which is the great part about it.”
With a new offensive staff, the Patriots’ offense has looked different. Throughout training camp, New England’s has hammered home more zone-run concepts and play-action passing than year’s past. While it’s still to be determined how the offense will look in the regular season, it’s been a noticeable change during camp.
“I’ve never been around a more flexible football person than coach,” Judge said. “He’s flexible in terms of whatever is going to best for our team right now and going forward, that’s what we’re going to work on, and that’s our job. That’s really what’s helped me learn and see the game a different way. It’s not about having one system, one way of doing things and saying, ‘This guy has to fit this piece.’ One thing you’ve seen over the years, we change and we adapt based on who we have as players and what we have to do by game-plan.”
One thing that hasn't been seen over the years is shared play-calling duties. Without an official offensive coordinator, Belichick has not yet named an offensive play caller.
While Patricia appears to be the favorite in the clubhouse, that situation may have been complicated when he handed over play-calling duties in Thursday’s preseason opener to Judge after quarterback Bailey Zappe took over for Brian Hoyer.
While it still remains to be seen which coach will handle those duties in Week 1, a cheerful Bill Belichick hinted Monday morning that it’s not a competitive process. For the two assistants, they continue to keep their focus on helping the players succeed.
“We’re 100 percent just trying to make sure that we do everything as possible as coaches to allow our players to go do everything they can on the field,” Patricia said. “That’s what’s important, not the rest of it.”