FOXBORO, Mass. — No, the Patriots don’t have any official coordinators, but the defensive players know there is one man leading the meeting room. There's one man in charge on the practice field and one man in command on the sideline.
It's head coach Bill Belichick.
While linebackers coach Matt Patricia appears to be the guy in charge of making the play calls — based on the fact that he wears the headset during practices to communicate with the inside linebackers who wear the communication devices within their helmets — Belichick is viewed by the team as the defensive coordinator, the leader of the whole operation, and sources have acknowledged as much.
They believe that Belichick is the man behind the defense, and everything runs through him. Longtime assistant Pepper Johnson, who is the defensive line coach, hit on that Tuesday.
"We have an understanding, plus the head man is up there; he's making the final say," Johnson said. "For the most part, we all have experience with [Belichick] and have an understanding with him. I have 23 years of experience with him, so we know what he wants and what he's looking for, things like that."
Lineman Vince Wilfork, who is one of the three longest-tenured members of the Patriots' defense, said Belichick has been the same guy, but he's taken a more expansive approach with the defense.
"Bill's been Bill," Wilfork said. "Now, I see him every day in our defensive meetings. I look at him as the same Bill — a great coach, a great defensive-minded coach. He's one of the best. To get taught by one of the best, I'll sit down and get wisdom from him any day. He knows his stuff, and he's proven. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about why he's taken over."
Belichick has still delegated responsibilities to the assistants, including Patricia, Johnson and defensive backs coaches Josh Boyer (cornerbacks) and Corwin Brown (safeties). In fact, the defensive players believe the coaching staff has done a better job of communicating this season, and the structure of the new system has had nothing but benefits.
"I think this year, we're doing a real good job of players actually getting taught the right way to do things, and how it needs to be done," Wilfork said. "It's showing up on film. At the end of the day, we need to be more consistent. Once we get the consistency where we need it, we'll be able to compete with the big guys."