With no New England Patriots game on the schedule this weekend, expect to hear a lot of talk about assistant coaches over the next few days.
Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores reportedly are garnering significant interest from teams seeking new head coaches, meaning the Patriots could be forced to replace one or both of their coordinators this offseason.
With that possibility in mind, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked during his Monday afternoon conference call what makes a good coordinator. He offered an unexpectedly thorough response, speaking for four-and-a-half minutes about the intricacies and challenges involved in coaching an entire side of the ball rather than just one position group:
“There’s so many components to being a coordinator, and when I was a special teams coordinator (in the late 1970s), that was a little bit different because at least at that point in time, we really didn’t have a staff. There was maybe one other person you were working with. In my case, it was Romeo Crennel. But as an offensive coordinator or a defensive coordinator, you’re running an entire staff.
“And the play-calling is a huge responsibility. And you have to work with the coaches in order to get everybody on the same page. Sometimes, there are different opinions or options as to how you want to do something. And there’s one reason to do one thing, and there’s another reason to do another thing.
“You have to make those decisions, and you have to do it in a way with a leadership style or a communication ability to — I don’t want to say satisfy everybody — but do it in a way so that you’re not creating confrontation and dissension. And that you’re doing it in a cohesive way, because it is a decision that has to be made and not everybody can be happy with every decision. Although we are all apart of once a decision is made, we go forward with the decision whether we’re happy with it or not.
“So I would just say from a leadership standpoint, decision-making, being responsible for the entire game on your side of the ball or whatever area it is; as opposed to a position group, which is quite different. So there are so many things that go into all of those. It’s dealing with coaches, it’s dealing with players, it’s play-calling, it’s game management and certainly understanding the bigger picture on the other side of the ball, too — what they’re trying to do.
“Again, as a position coach, you’re very in tune with what’s directly across from you. If you’re coaching the defensive line or the linebackers, maybe you don’t look the secondary as closely. Or if you’re coaching the secondary, you don’t look at the defensive line and offensive line as closely.
“But when you’re the coordinator, you have to find a way to look at everything but at the same time rely on your assistants to look at those things in more detail than you can, because you don’t have time to allocate the time to the details in every area. You have to pick and choose the ones you want to focus in on and still be responsible for all of it.
“There are a lot of things that are involved in that position.”
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