How Patriots Coaches Are Approaching Ongoing Play-Caller ‘Process’

'The assistant coach's job is real simple: make the head coach happy'

by

August 15

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots had not one, but two offensive play-callers in last Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants.

Which one will handle those duties once the real games begin? They’re still not saying.

It’s all part of the “process” — the word head coach Bill Belichick used to describe his team’s mysterious plan to replace longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

That process is being spearheaded by Belichick, senior football advisor/offensive line coach Matt Patricia and offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach Joe Judge. Patricia and Judge both called plays against the Giants, with the former doing so during Brian Hoyer’s two opening drives and the latter taking over after rookie Bailey Zappe relieved the veteran backup QB.

Is Belichick holding a midsummer play-calling competition between the two former NFL head coaches he has on staff? He says that’s not the case.

Patricia, who’s handled the majority of play-calling responsibilities in training camp practices, also said he does not feel like he’s competing with Judge for that role.

“Honestly, it’s just collaborative from that standpoint,” said Patricia, a former Patriots defensive coordinator. “We follow Coach Belichick’s lead. I’m just trying to my job to the best of my ability, whatever he asks me to do on any given day. And that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I love. It’s always new and exciting and challenging from that standpoint. We’re all just working together right now.”

Last Thursday marked the first time either Patricia or Judge had called offensive plays in an NFL game. It’s unclear whether New England will utilize the same setup in this Friday’s exhibition matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

“I think the experience of all preseason games are really about the process,” said Judge, whose background is in special teams. “Developing as a team, getting to know the chemistry with your players. It’s as important for us to get to know them as them to know us in terms of how we interact on game day.

“Obviously, I haven’t been here in a couple years, so getting back in the fold with Coach (Belichick), with Matt, with Troy (Brown), even working with Cam (Achord) on special teams throughout the in-game operation. These are all things we have to work on. No one’s coached a game in months; no one’s played a game in months. For all of us, it’s a full season, and we have to start fresh.”

Patricia added: “Last week was last week. We’ll see what it looks like this week for us.”

Belichick was peppered with play-calling questions after the Giants game. To one, he replied: “Don’t worry about that” before making another reference to the Patriots’ “process.

His two offensive lieutenants seem to be taking that advice to heart.

“I’ll just say this, and this is as transparent as I can be,” Judge said. “And this isn’t coach-speak. The assistant coach’s job is real simple: make the head coach happy. That’s your job. He has a vision for his team. He knows what he wants his team to look like. It’s our job to listen and to go out and execute the way he sees it. That’s the important this as an assistant coach. …

“That’s our job. That’s my job. So as far as defined roles, whatever it may be, I come to work every day with one simple policy: whatever he says, goes.”

NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

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