How Bill Belichick Explained Patriots’ Unorthodox Coaching Staff Setup

'Ultimately, I'm responsible for everything'


Jul 26, 2022

The New England Patriots made it official last week: They will buck convention by operating without a named offensive or defensive coordinator this season.

Twenty-seven of the NFL’s 32 teams have an official OC and DC listed on their coaching roster. Four more (Arizona, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay) have one of the two, plus at least one additional coach with the word “coordinator” in his title (run game, pass game, etc.).

The Patriots are the only club with neither. Their lone coordinator is Cam Achord, who heads up their special teams.

Why employ this unusual and controversial setup? Asked that question Tuesday morning, head coach Bill Belichick repeated a line he uttered multiple times this spring.

“We’re not really big on titles and all that,” Belichick said in his first virtual news conference of Patriots training camp. “I think it’s important that we all work together and create a great final product, so that’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s what we’ve always done.”

This isn’t the first time the Patriots have gone with a no-coordinators approach. They also did so in 2010, with Bill O’Brien and Matt Patricia calling plays on offense and defense, respectively, before eventually receiving coordinator titles in subsequent seasons.

Linebackers coaches Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo have served as New England’s de facto co-DCs since 2019. Patricia and Joe Judge are expected to spearhead the offense this season, jointly replacing former longtime coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Belichick has yet to reveal who will take over offensive play-calling duties from McDaniels, but multiple reports have suggested it will be Patricia. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran wrote this week that Patricia is the “acting offensive coordinator” and that Belichick chose not to give him that official title to both shield him from media scrutiny and allow the Patriots to pay him a lower salary. (Patricia still is being paid by the Detroit Lions, who fired him as their head coach midway through the 2020 season.)

Belichick seemed to confirm one aspect of that report Tuesday, shifting pressure onto himself when asked when he plans to announce who is calling plays.

“Look, I’m the head coach,” Belichick said. “Ultimately, I’m responsible for everything. So just leave it at that. That’s what it is.”

Patricia’s title is “senior football advisor/offensive line coach.” Judge’s is “offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach,” meaning he’s tasked with ensuring promising young passer Mac Jones makes strides in his second pro season. (Belichick said he’s seen “dramatic improvement” from Jones, so so far, so good there.)

Patricia and Judge both are former NFL head coaches and longtime Patriots coordinators, but neither has significant offensive coaching experience. Patricia was New England’s DC from 2012-17 and hasn’t coached offense since 2005. Judge, a former college QB, spent eight seasons coaching Patriots special teams, adding wide receivers to his workload in 2019 before leaving to become head coach of the New York Giants. He was fired from that job in January and returned to Foxboro weeks later.

“I think I’ve said many times that I think Matt and Joe are two outstanding coaches in every sense of the word,” Belichick said. “Whatever those duties entail, they’re very good — exceptional at the entire gamut. I’m glad we have both of them. They do a good job.”

Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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