In an unprecedented move, the New England Patriots announced last week that they would begin the search for an offensive coordinator shortly. The Patriots, of course, are coming off a season in which they did not hand out the title.
After losing long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching vacancy in the offseason, the team decided to hand the keys to the offense — and the development of sophomore quarterback Mac Jones — over to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The duo, which had limited experienced working on that side of the ball, led a collaborative coaching effort in 2022.
The experiment did not go as planned, with New England’s offense and its young quarterback taking a step back in Year 1 after McDaniels. As a consequence, the Patriots are now openly looking for a replacement.
There are several suitable candidates available, but the Patriots will make the decision based on a multitude of factors. What could those look like? Here is our best-guess estimation what head coach Bill Belichick and his organization will value in a new offensive coordinator.
Vision: One of the biggest issue for the Patriots’ 2022 offense was the lack of a real identity. It wanted to throw the ball downfield, but ended up actually decreasing Mac Jones’ average depth of target from 8.3 to 8.2 yards. It had the personnel to establish a run-based attack, but ranked only 22nd in the league in rushing attempts. Play-action proved itself successful, but was called on just 16.7 percent of Mac Jones’ dropbacks.
The next offensive coordinator will need to address these problems, and establish a clear plan for the offense. That vision extends beyond play-design and play-calling, though. It also touches on personnel usage.
That means playing into Jones’ strength as a rhythm and RPO passer, getting the high-prized tight ends involved at a higher rate, and committing to the strengths along the offensive line (rather than try to implement a wide zone scheme for a group better suited for man blocking), among other things. It also means adding wrinkles to an offense that was pretty basic throughout the 2022 season.
Additionally, it means assembling a staff that can work with the players available. How much leeway a coordinator will have in that regard depends largely on Belichick, but the need for change is apparent and something the new guy needs to recognize.
Communication and leadership: You can be the best Xs and Os person in the world, but if you are unable to properly convey your ideas and messages to those around you your success will be limited. The Patriots obviously know this, and they do place a premium on coaches and players alike to be able to communicate and exude leadership.
Obviously, there are different forms of that. Bill Belichick, for example, has a different leadership style than, say, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel. However, the bottom line is similar: either as coordinators or head coaches, both have a track record of getting their players to buy into the system.
As those two examples show, there is no blueprint to really work with. But the bottom line remains the same, namely that the Patriots need a good communicator to lead their offense.
Connection with Mac Jones: Whether or not he truly is the future of the franchise remains to be seen after what was a disappointing season, but the Patriots are committed to building around Mac Jones. Case in point: entering a crucial third year in the system, the 15th overall selection in in the 2021 draft will again get a real coordinator to guide his development.
Finding somebody able to do that will be highly important for the selection process. Whether that means hiring somebody who is a former player, or somebody who has considerable experience as coordinator, the goal remains the same: New England needs to find a coach who will build a productive relationship with Jones in order to get the best out of the young QB by all means necessary.
That is especially true with the fifth-year decision coming up. After their 2023 campaign, the Patriots need to decide whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract.
Familiarity: In his 23 previous seasons with the Patriots, Belichick has only once hired a coordinator from outside the building. Back in 2019, after previous defensive play-caller Brian Flores left for Miami, he brought in long-time associate Greg Schiano to take over the unit.
Schiano resigned from the position just six weeks later, citing a commitment to “faith and family” as the reason, but the gist remains: the Patriots hiring somebody who they do not have at least some level of familiarity with would be a surprise. That does not necessarily mean they will throw themselves at ex-coordinator Bill O’Brien or former draft pick Zac Robinson, but experience of working with candidates like these will likely be a plus.
Commitment: While it may not look that way, the Patriots gig is an attractive one. For starters, the team is one of the marquee organizations in football even despite its inconsistencies in the three years since Tom Brady’s departure; a coach joining New England will get his fair share of prime time opportunities and compete for a playoff spot.
Additionally, working with the offense is a chance to prove oneself as a coordinator capable of fixing things. New England, as noted above, was not good on offense in 2022. A sudden turnaround to the better would be a good thing on any coaching résumé.
Of course, the Patriots need to be concerned about one thing only: getting the most out of their team and the offense by any means necessary. They therefore will look for a coordinator who does not just see the job as a potential springboard for other opportunities in the league. They will be looking for somebody who is committed, ideally in the long-term.