Even though we do not yet know what it will look like, we know that change is coming to the New England Patriots coaching staff. The team said so himself, announcing that it is searching for a new offensive coordinator and in contract extension talks with linebackers coach Jerod Mayo — talks that might end up with him filling a different role moving forward.
It remains to be seen what all of that will actually mean heading into 2023. For now, however, let’s take a look back at the staff that was in place last season and guided the team to an 8-9 record.
Bill Belichick (Head coach): Despite not having led his team to a playoff victory in four straight seasons, we already know Belichick will be back as the Patriots’ head coach in 2023. He said so himself, and his post-season meeting with team owner Robert Kraft did not change any of that. However, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer is under some pressure: the Patriots need to fix their offense, starting with hiring a new offensive coordinator. Ultimately, Belichick is responsible for that — and for getting the entire unit and second-year quarterback Mac Jones back on track.
Matt Patricia (Senior football advisor/Offensive line): Matt Patricia is a smart guy and proven defensive coach. What he is not is a legitimate replacement for one of the best offensive coordinators in football. One of the main men in the Patriots’ collaborative effort in Year 1 after Josh McDaniels, Patricia served as play-caller and offensive line coach in 2022. Him losing play-calling duties is a near-certainty with a “real” coordinator being brought in. The question is whether or not he remains as O-line coach, or moves into a different role within the organization entirely. The second scenario appears to be more likely at this point.
Joe Judge (Offensive assistant/Quarterbacks): While rookie Bailey Zappe did look quite OK in his emergency role, the Patriots’ starting quarterback took a step back in 2022. Mac Jones failed to build on a promising rookie season, and the coaching he received played a role in that. That’s not to say that Joe Judge cannot be an adequate quarterbacks coach, but his lack of experience is certainly not ideal when tasked with developing a young passer. At the end of the day, it appears his time in that role will also be coming to an end sooner rather than later. What next for him if that happens? Maybe a move back to special teams.
Vinnie Sunseri (Running backs): Serving as his assistant in 2021, Sunseri took over for long-time running backs coach Ivan Fears in 2022. The position group was one of the bright spots on the Patriots offense, so unless the new coordinator has a different plan in mind Sunseri returning next season seems like a relatively safe bet.
Troy Brown (Wide receivers/Kickoff returners): New England’s receiving corps showed some flashes but ultimately did not do enough to elevate the unit as a whole The question is why. Was it talent? Personnel usage? Coaching? The answer could very well determine Brown’s fate under new leadership of the offense.
Ross Douglas (Wide receivers/NFL Coaching Fellowship): Moving over from the defensive side of the ball, Douglas assisted Brown in coaching the wide receivers. The same questions therefore apply to him, plus another: Will be brought back in a non-fellowship role in 2023? It does seem possible in some capacity regardless of how the new offensive staff will be structured.
Nick Caley (Tight ends): Previously considered a candidate to take over as New England’s offensive coordinator, there now appears to be a chance that Caley will not be back at all in 2023. He will interview with the New York Jets for their vacant OC spot, after all. If he does stay put, he still looks like the top internal option to take over the offense. The chances of that actually materializing, however, appear to be low.
Billy Yates (Assistant offensive line): With former offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo leaving alongside Josh McDaniels, the door appeared to be open for his former assistant to receive a promotion. However, Yates’ title remained unchanged in 2022 and he instead assisted Matt Patricia as O-line coach. With Patricia’s status up in the air, the Patriots might now finally turn to the ex-lineman to take over. Once again, though, it will all depend on the offensive coordinator brought aboard.
Tyler Hughes (Offensive assistant): A former high school and low-level college coach, Hughes is coming off his third season with the Patriots. He has worked as an offensive assistant ever since his arrival in 2020, and it will be interesting to see whether he will get a promotion of sorts or leave the team to pursue other opportunities.
Evan Rothstein (Offensive assistant): Rothstein arrived in New England alongside Matt Patricia in 2021, initially serving in rather nondescript role titled “Research and Analysis/Coaching.” He moved to a more hands-on role this season, but with change coming might find himself in a different position heading into 2023. Him moving back to an Ernie Adams-esque research job would not be a surprise.
DeMarcus Covington (Defensive line) New England’s defensive line played some very good football in 2022, in part because of its coach. Covington, who is coming off his sixth season in New England and third working with the D-linemen, is a young up-and-comer: at age 33, he could very well receive some coordinator looks in the future. For 2023, however, it seems he will continue to keep his current role.
Jerod Mayo (Linebackers): Mayo is the biggest question mark on the defensive staff. He turned down two interview opportunities this offseason, presumably to sign a new contract with the Patriots. What will it look like? More money, one would expect. Additionally, Mayo receiving a new title could be in the cards as well — whether as defensive coordinator or assistant head coach. There also is speculation whether or not he could be New England’s next head coach in waiting.
Steve Belichick (Linebackers): Bill Belichick’s oldest son is the Patriots’ longest-tenured defensive assistant, and serving as de facto coordinator together with Mayo. While all eyes are on his colleague so far this offseason, there is a chance that he too might get a promotion heading into 2023. Either way, Belichick is not going anywhere.
Mike Pellegrino (Cornerbacks): Despite losing Pro Bowlers Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson recently, the Patriots’ cornerbacks performed at a high level in 2022. Credit goes to the players, and to another young coach with a seemingly bright future: 29-year-old Mike Pellegrino. He will be back this year as well.
Brian Belichick (Safeties): New England’s best position group in 2022 was coached by another member of the Belichick family. Brian has been coaching safeties since 2020, and with the future of the group’s leader — Devin McCourty — in question keeping him in that role makes sense. That said, if changes are happening in regards to Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick there is a chance he gets moved after all.
V’Angelo Bentley (NFL Coaching Fellowship): Serving in a fellowship capacity in 2022, Bentley could take over a more stable role this season either as a coaching assistant or, less likely, a position coach in the secondary. Either way, his title could very well be a different one in 2023.
Cam Achord (Special teams coordinator): Cam Achord will likely not take the fall for the Patriots’ bad kicking game performance in 2022, but it seems unlikely that Bill Belichick will act as if there is no problem in that area. And with the coordinator ultimately responsible, he could make some changes. Achord getting demoted seems a bit out of character for how the team operates, but maybe adding Joe Judge — his former boss — in a consulting role would help right the ship. Regardless of what happens, something has to give.
Joe Houston (Assistant special teams): Houston’s fate is not directly tied to Achord’s, but his job is not fully safe heading into 2023. Could he be let go? If Achord remains in place that might not happen. Again, though, adding Joe Judge to the mix in some capacity would make sense.
Strength and Conditioning
Moses Cabrera (Head strength and conditioning): Cabrera joined the Patriots in 2011 and five years later took over the strength and conditioning department. He has run the show ever since and will continue to do so moving forward. Nothing to see here.
Deron Mayo (Strength and conditioning assistant): Jerod Mayo’s brother joined the Patriots in 2018 as Cabrera’s assistant. And with his brother set to stay with the team moving forward, it also seems likely that he will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
As can be seen, only a handful of roles on the Patriots’ staff appear to be truly set in stone. Most of the positions on offense and special teams, meanwhile, might see some changes after what was a disappointing year for both units.
Those changes will not come in a wave of mass firings, but some reassignments are entirely possible. The two biggest names to watch from that regard are Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, whose expertise in different organizational areas might allow the team to bolster its staff elsewhere once the new offensive coordinator — whoever it will be — comes aboard.