The New England Patriots’ coaching staff is set to undergo some changes this offseason, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Coming off a disappointing season that saw the unit and its second-year quarterback, Mac Jones, take a step back, head coach Bill Belichick is expected to make some moves. How exactly those will look like remains to be seen, but both bringing in outside help and moving under-contract personnel around appears to be on the table.
The gist, according to a report by NBC Boston’s Tom E. Curran, is that Belichick is “amenable” to making changes following his team’s 8-9 campaign. Those changes, however, will likely not come in the form of a wave of firings:
Don’t expect a dog-and-pony show announcing firings or who’s coming in for an interview. Belichick isn’t going to put anyone’s head on a spike for the pleasure of the masses. But my understanding is offensive coaching reassignments are going to happen and several offensive coaches are under consideration for the Patriots’ 2023 staff.
The need for change on offense become obvious throughout the season. Led by assistant coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge in their first year at the job, the unit failed to showcase any real growth — thus contributing to New England falling short of a playoff spot.
Despite an effort to “streamline” the operation following the departure of long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels following the 2021 campaign, it remained stuck in the mud for much of the year. While Patricia and Judge are not the only ones to blame for that, it seems as if they will have to make way for somebody else to take over.
There are, of course, several candidates to be considered. Recently fired Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury might be one of them, as might be fellow ex-Patriots backup quarterback Zac Robinson or the team’s former wide receivers coach, Chad O’Shea.
The most popular name, however, appears to be Bill O’Brien. New England’s offensive coordinator in 2011, whose contract with the University of Alabama will expire at the end of the month, is seen as a prime target.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano is the latest to share that belief:
I do expect some changes at the coordinator level in New England, and I believe there’s a real chance Bill Belichick turns to a former assistant, such as Bill O’Brien, to run the offense. Even if that happens, my sense is Belichick would likely find other roles on the coaching staff for Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who ran the offense this year. I’d be surprised if either of those guys was actually fired, as opposed to reassigned to different roles.
Bringing an experienced coordinator aboard and moving Patricia and Judge to different positions on the Patriots’ staff would make sense. They do, after all, still enjoy Belichick’s trust and he will likely not force them to take the fall for the offensive shortcomings.
What those reassignments would look like will be seen. There are some potential paths the team could go, however.
Patricia returning to the advisor/front office role he held in 2021 or focusing fully on coaching the offensive line would both make sense. Likewise, Judge might move back into a role with the kicking game operation — either as an outright replacement for current special teams coordinator Cam Achord or in an advisory role.
Those moves might not be the only ones, though. There is, after all, a chance that New England will also lose some of its assistant to job opportunities elsewhere.
One candidate to leave is linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who received an interview request from the Cleveland Browns; the team is looking for a new defensive coordinator. Tight ends coach Nick Caley, meanwhile, might find himself moving up the ladder as well (per Graziano):
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon impressed the Texans in interviews last year and should be a strong candidate for the job again this year. If he does get that job, I’ve been told one of the names to watch for his offensive coordinator is Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley, who has a connection with Texans GM Nick Caserio from Caserio’s time in New England.
No matter what will happen, it seems as if the Patriots will see some turnover on their offensive staff for a second straight year.
In 2022, the change was the result of McDaniels leaving and taking several assistants with him to Las Vegas. In 2023, on the other hand, the change will come as a reaction to the unit’s issues last season.
The only question left unanswered is what it will ultimately look like.