This might not need to be said. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a smart guy who’s been hired as an NFL head coach twice. But the Patriots would benefit from simplifying their offense this season.
If there’s an example to illustrate this conclusion, it’s the reported details that emerged Wednesday behind the firing of Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea. The former Patriots receivers coach tried to bring New England’s offense to Miami, and players’ heads were swimming. The system that worked for Tom Brady and the Patriots for 20 years was too complex to learn in a short span.
McDaniels has the benefit of some carryover with the 2020 Patriots. Guys like Julian Edelman, James White, Shaq Mason, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Bolden, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon and Joe Thuney have been playing in the complicated offense for years. But Brady is gone and either Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham will be taking over at quarterback. Neither player has actually started a meaningful game in a Patriots uniform.
Adding to that, the majority of the Patriots’ pass catchers have only been in New England for one or two years. There’s a base in place with the aforementioned names, but Brady was the strongest form in the foundation. Things could easily crumble if McDaniels tries to carry over all of the options and checks and calls and terminology that were built up with Brady for 20 years. The Patriots’ offensive playbook got comically large as Brady’s experience grew. It’s time to cut it back and make it simpler to learn no matter who is under center.
One of the issues the Patriots’ 2019 offense faced is things were too complex for receivers like N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Mohamed Sanu to learn in mere months.
Stidham or Hoyer might be more patient than Brady with growing pains from the receivers, but it would probably be more beneficial to mold the offense around the younger guys who were underwater last season than the handful of veteran players who actually might also benefit from some simplification.
Hey, maybe some retooling could even get 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel finally involved in the passing game. Brady never seemed to trust targeting Michel. Maybe Stidham or Hoyer could.
It just feels like there’s a lesson to be learned from O’Shea getting canned and the Dolphins bringing in Chan Gailey to run the offense. McDaniels won’t get fired if the Patriots’ offense falters with Stidham or Hoyer at quarterback. But things might run more smoothly if McDaniels can make the system a little more straightforward.
We haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Patriots lost offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and wide receivers coach Joe Judge, moved assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi to receivers and added Jedd Fisch, who seemingly has no significant history in an Erhardt-Perkins offense, as assistant quarterbacks coach.
Fisch ran a West Coast offense with the Jacksonville Jaguars as offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. He worked under West Coast offenses with the Baltimore Ravens from 2004 to 2007, the Denver Broncos in 2008, the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 and 2019. He coached in college in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015 through 2017.
The Patriots are holding virtual meetings with players because they’re not allowed in Gillette Stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organized team activities and minicamp are unlikely to take place, and no one knows, at this point, when training camp will actually begin.
Oh, and they drafted two tight ends in the 2020 NFL Draft who have more upside than the players they already had on the roster at that position.
If there was ever a year for McDaniels to dumb down the offense a little bit, this would be it.