FOXBORO, Mass. — Jerod Mayo’s transition from New England Patriots star to New England Patriots coach has garnered considerable attention this summer.
But Mayo isn’t the only Super Bowl-winning ex-Patriot who’s now playing a key role on the team’s coaching staff.
Since the start of spring practice, retired wide receiver Troy Brown has served as New England’s unofficial assistant receivers coach, working with Patriots wideouts at practice, in meetings and in the film room on a daily basis.
Brown’s presence has allowed position coach Joe Judge to split his focus between receivers and special teams, and the experience he gained over 15 seasons as a Patriots player — including seven with Tom Brady as his quarterback — has made him an invaluable resource for the team’s current wideouts.
“He has all the answers,” veteran receiver Phillip Dorsett told NESN.com this week. “He?s played with Tom. He?s played for Bill (Belichick). So you can ask him anything. It?s just learning the ins and outs of how to play the position — all the positions, because he was one that played all the positions. Just learning how Tom thinks, the trust (part) about playing with him, being in sync with Tom, knowing what he?s thinking when you?re running routes. He?s a big help on that.”
Added second-year pro Braxton Berrios: “It?s been awesome. Obviously, he?s done this. He?s been in this offense and done these things. It?s one thing for a coach to say something, and then it?s another to hear it from a coach who?s actually done it in the same offense. So it brings an awesome perspective and a different dynamic.”
Brown, who was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2012, played on the franchise’s first three Super Bowl-winning squads, making vital contributions as a pass-catcher, punt returner and emergency cornerback. He was Belichick’s first great slot receiver, pioneering a position that’s been so crucial to New England’s offensive success during the Brady/Belichick era.
Having Brown in the building has been especially beneficial for players like Berrios, who’s attempting to crack the roster as a slot receiver/return man after spending his rookie season on injured reserve.
“(I’ve learned) a ton, just asking what he sees,” the 2018 sixth-round draft pick said. “It’s funny because we?ll sometimes bring up the film of back in his day, so you get to see how he did it. And that?s it — just going through what he sees, how I saw it and kind of just bouncing things off of each other. I?ve learned a lot.”
Like Mayo, who retired after the 2015 season, Brown did not pivot directly to coaching. In fact, it took him more than a decade. After calling it quits on his playing career in 2008, he worked as a Patriots analyst on TV and radio, wrote a book, did speaking engagements. Not until this offseason did he link back up with his former team.
“I loved coaching Troy when I had the opportunity when he was still playing,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who first joined the Patriots’ staff in 2001. “We stayed in contact, and I told him years ago I thought this would come back around. And players, they have a funny way of trying to take a break from the game of football, but ultimately, it kind of brings you back in.”
For Judge, who’s attempting a rare juggling act this season after exclusively focusing on special teams from 2012 to 2018, Brown’s presence has been a huge help.
“Troy is tremendous,” Judge said. “He’s awesome. He’s fun to work with, man. He comes to work every day with a great attitude. Everything I ever heard about him as a player — I can only imagine — but it’s all held true working with him as a coach. Troy’s done a great job.”
It remains to be seen whether Brown’s coaching tenure will extend into the regular season — McDaniels wouldn’t confirm whether he’s staying on past Aug. 31 — but this role seems to fit the 48-year-old well.
“He?s been a great influence on our guys,” McDaniels said. “He?s got a lot of wisdom. Hey, look, I didn?t play pro football as a receiver. Neither did Joe. So anything Troy says, it?s really well-respected and well-taken, because this guy?s been out there against good players and had to deal with the things that the receivers are doing.
“I think it?s a blessing for us that we have him here to help us.”