Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has restructured his duties for the 2010 season, most notably taking on more responsibility with the defense. However, with these new challenges — and no official coordinators on staff — is Belichick taking on too much responsibility?
Aside from saying that job titles are overrated, it’s unlikely Belichick will ever address his decision not to name a coordinator on either side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees left his post after last season, and Belichick opted not to promote linebackers coach Matt Patricia or defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. Patricia, though, appears to be the de facto coordinator, as he was the coach most involved in the defense during spring practices.
Quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien will also resume his role as the offensive play-caller — though O’Brien wouldn’t confirm it, he was handling the same practice responsibilities as last season — despite a rocky showing in 2009.
While Belichick shared some of the load with O’Brien last season, if the offense continues to struggle in the second half in 2010, it’s only natural to believe Belichick will increase his involvement on that side of the ball, too.
Because of Belichick’s resume in New England — resurrecting a franchise, winning Super Bowls, dominating the hoodie and that kind of stuff — he’s typically been safe from preliminary criticisms. But, deciding against naming a coordinator is one of those things that has left him open for condemnation.
After all, there’s a reason why these coordinating positions exist — delegating tasks has proven to be successful. Right now, the Patriots are the only team in the league without an offensive or defensive coordinator. (Although, technically speaking, two head coaches — Wade Phillips and Raheem Morris — also double as defensive coordinators, and the Cardinals have a “passing game coordinator” and “running game coordinator” who divide their responsibilities.)
The real curious decision came in relation to O’Brien. Obviously, O’Brien was flawed in 2009, but Belichick liked him enough to keep him in New England for another season. Why, then, wouldn’t Belichick promote O’Brien in similar fashion to Josh McDaniels in 2006?
If Belichick didn’t want to reward O’Brien for his performance with a better job title, it wouldn’t make sense to employ him in 2010. And make no mistake about it, these titles are important for assistant coaches, both financially and in future interview processes.
As for the defense, it’s pretty intriguing to see what Belichick can do for the unit. A defensive mastermind, Belichick can only help the unit by spending more time with them in the film and meeting rooms. That will also do wonders for the growth and development of Patricia, a 35-year-old with considerable coaching potential.
However, as enticing as it may be for Belichick to get more actively involved with the defense, is there a chance that it comes at the expense of another area? It would be foolish to think Belichick would just leave a bunch of loose ends with his team, so this is a process that will just have to play itself out.
NESN.com will be answering one Patriots question every day until July 24.
Monday, July 12: how can the Patriots get more production out of their tight ends?
Wednesday, July 14: How will Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman change the dynamics of the offense?