The New England Patriots’ sideline is going to look a little different next season.
The Patriots are experiencing some turnover with their assistant coaches this offseason, and panic has officially set in throughout New England.
It was notable when linebackers coach Pepper Johnson left the team after 14 seasons of wearing a headset over a backward cap on the sidelines. It was even a little concerning when Dante Scarnecchia decided to retire after 30 years with team. Tight ends coach George Godsey‘s reported decision to leave the Patriots to coach the Houston Texans’ quarterbacks had fans reacting like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb & Dumber, though.
“We got no food, no jobs. Our pets’ heads are falling off!”
If there’s anything positive to take away from the last few days of coach upheaval, it’s that the big three are sticking around. Bill Belichick will still be stone-faced and monotonous as head coach in 2014, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will still be directing their units.
There’s been speculation that Johnson, Scarnecchia and Godsey were deserting a sinking ship. Obviously, if that were the case, McDaniels wouldn’t have ducked out on the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching opportunity so early in the process. The Browns decided to hire Mike Pettine, which means McDaniels won’t be going anywhere for at least the next year.
There are simple reasons why all three coaches left. Johnson reportedly felt dishonored that Belichick had promoted Patricia (or Matty P as cornerback Aqib Talib calls him) to defensive coordinator over him. Johnson has worked with Belichick since 1986, when they were with the New York Giants — Johnson as a linebacker and Belichick as defensive coordinator.
Belichick said on WEEI this week that Scarneccia actually had intended to retire years ago, but he stuck it out longer than originally planned. The team knew he was going to retire at season’s end. No one was shocked or stunned — it was a strategic move. Scarnecchia is 65 years old, and he was the longest-tenured coach in the NFL. His time to leave the game had come.
And Godsey simply got a better opportunity. Tight ends coach is one of the lowest jobs on the NFL totem pole. That’s why Brian Ferentz left that role in 2012 to coach the University of Iowa’s offensive line.
Now, Godsey’s going to be coaching quarterbacks with the Texans — a job that’s traditionally just one step away from being an offensive coordinator (which is then one step away from being head coach). Godsey was a college quarterback at Georgia Tech, so it makes sense that he’s back to coaching his own position.
Houston is turning into lone star New England under O’Brien, who previously served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Patriots. He brought in former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to hold the same position in Houston, former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel to coach the linebackers and Ferentz to coach the offensive line. There are rumors that Johnson could pop up as an inside linebackers coach under Crennel.
There are nearly as many Patriots coaches in Houston as there are in New England.
Scarnecchia’s role already has been filled by former New York Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, which came as a bit of a surprise since offensive coaching assistant Brian Daboll had been working with that position throughout the season. Former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi also has been working with the staff.
The Patriots could make a splash signing to coach the linebackers. Belichick’s friend Greg Schiano was fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. Belichick’s former staffer from his days with the Browns, Jim Schwartz, was let go as head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Schiano was a defensive coach before becoming Rutgers’ coach in 2001. Schwartz was a linebackers coach with the Tennessee Titans before taking over as defensive coordinator.
Sometimes former head coaches will turn up as position coaches to stay in the league. Former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris took a gig as Washington Redskins defensive backs coach, and former Titans head coach Mike Munchak is now in charge of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line.
Scarnecchia and Johnson were mainstays in New England and great coaches to boot. But if the Patriots bring back most of the players from 2013, the team will still be fine. Change happens in the NFL — even in New England.
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