The New England Patriots’ official staff has Joe Judge listed as assistant head coach. And while some of his duties do include helping Bill Belichick, the most prominent part of his position appears to be working with the special teams unit.
Two weeks into the regular season, his impact already appears to be a positive one. Veteran special teamer and Patriots captain Matthew Slater even went so far as to label Judge returning to his roots a “fantastic” development.
“Joe is as knowledgable a special teams coach and as experienced a special teams coach as there is in the league,” Slater told reporters this week. “His understanding of the game, his understanding of how to call the game, how to scout an opponent, how to ready his players — it’s next level. ...
“To have Joe back in the fold has been really special for me at this stage in my career because Joe has really been instrumental in the career that I’ve had. It’s been fantastic and hopefully we can keep it going.”
When Judge first joined the Patriots in 2012, he served as special teams assistant under long-time coordinator Scott O’Brien. When O’Brien retired after the 2014 Super Bowl win, his assistant took over and played a part in New England adding two more championships to its collection.
Judge added coaching wide receivers to his area of responsibility in 2019, and one year later left to become the New York Giants’ next head coach. His stint with the team lasted only two disappointing seasons, after which he returned to his old stomping grounds.
With Cam Achord now running the special teams operation, however, Judge was installed as one of the leading coaches on offense: serving as quarterbacks coach, he was trusted with developing second-year QB Mac Jones — an experiment that failed, prompting the Patriots to move the 41-year-old away from the offense and to another department.
That department, once again, was special teams. Now, Judge is working extensively with Achord and Joe Houston to help get a unit back on track that had its fair share of issues in 2022.
So far, it appears the three are doing just that.
“We feel very fortunate to have the three coaches that we have coaching us,” said Slater. “I think it gives us a ton of insight; it makes us feel super prepared when we go play a game.”
The Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 was proof of that, with one particular play standing out: Brenden Schooler’s blocked field goal that saw him use a running start to his advantage to get into the backfield — a unique play design Slater admitted he had never seen before.
For Achord, it’s all part of trying to come up with creative ways to gain an edge.
“You try to think as much outside the box,” he said. “You’re trying to find that innovative thing to do that’s a little bit different.”
How exactly Judge was involved with that process is not known, but so far it appears his fingerprints are all over the Patriots’ kicking game operation. Coming off a rough season that cast a shadow of doubt over Achord’s future in particular, that is a definitive positive for everybody involved.
That group includes noted Joe Judge fan Matthew Slater.