Like clockwork, New England Patriots coordinators are being requested to interview for head-coaching vacancies opened up on the NFL’s Black Monday.
Patriots de-facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who only has the official title of linebackers coach, is even more popular than offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels so far this winter. Flores reportedly has received four interview requests, while McDaniels has one thus far.
Flores took over defensive play-calling duties this season after the Detroit Lions hired ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to be their head coach. Flores has held different roles within the Patriots’ organization since 2004.
McDaniels started with the Patriots in 2001. He left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009 and returned to New England in 2012 after a one-year stint as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator. He agreed to become the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach last offseason but ultimately withdrew to return to the Patriots.
It’s possible neither Flores nor McDaniels leaves for greener pastures this offseason. Flores could benefit from a year with the official title of defensive coordinator before leaving. McDaniels always is a top head-coaching candidate, and he has yet to leave, so what necessarily would change this offseason?
But if Flores and/or McDaniels do leave, then who would take over play-calling duties on both sides of the ball?
The favorite on offense would be Chad O’Shea, who’s been the team’s wide receivers coach since 2009. O’Shea was a rumored candidate to take over as OC during McDaniels’ brief departure last February. He’s handled play-calling duties in preseason games.
Other candidates would be assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and tight ends coach Nick Caley. Schuplinski only has been in the organization since 2013, while Caley joined the Patriots in 2015. Both, like McDaniels and Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, are John Carroll grads.
There’s no obvious answer on defense. DeMarcus Covington likely would take on the role of linebackers coach, since he’s already helping Flores in that position. The Patriots’ top defensive assistants are defensive line coach Brendan Daly, cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer and safeties coach Steve Belichick. Former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema also is on staff.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick likely would call plays on defense for at least one season unless he handed the reins to Bielema. Among the Patriots’ positional coaches, Daly might be the most likely option to ascend, but that’s purely conjecture. He’s coached defensive line since joining the organization in 2014. Steve Belichick only has coached safeties, and Boyer only has coached defensive backs. Boyer is the Patriots’ longest-tenured defensive assistant after Daly.
Losing Flores and McDaniels would be difficult for Bill Belichick. He’d likely have to take on more responsibility on both sides of the ball. In an ideal world, the Patriots lose neither coach. But given the interest one day into the head-coaching carousel, that seems unlikely.
Despite his tenure, losing McDaniels might actually be an easier pill to swallow for the organization. O’Shea seems more ready for added responsibility than any Patriots defensive assistant, and having quarterback Tom Brady as a resource would be invaluable.