Bill Belichick isn’t someone who likes to be told how to run his football team. But the New England Patriots head coach could make an exception this offseason.
Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard reported Tuesday that Belichick is aware of the mistakes he made in structuring his offensive coaching staff this season and “may be OK” with team owner Robert Kraft demanding an overhaul of that staff.
Kraft made clear Monday in a letter to Patriots season-ticket holders that he was not pleased with the team’s on-field product this season, and multiple reports have indicated he isn’t happy with New England’s Matt Patricia- and Joe Judge-led coaching setup on offense.
“Despite his largely blameless Monday press conference, Belichick understands that he screwed up the offense this season with his decisions and will set out to fix that,” Bedard wrote. “How? No one knows, Belichick keeps his own counsel. Ownership wants changes to the offensive coaching structure — and may want those changes to be widespread.
“Belichick is open to this and, in fact, may be OK with Kraft coming down heavy-handed with demands about certain coaches because it would free up Belichick to make those changes because he could, in essence, blame ownership for forcing his hand.”
The Patriots lost longtime coordinator Josh McDaniels and four other offensive assistants last offseason, with receivers coach Mick Lombardi, O-line coach Carmen Bricillo and assistant quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree following McDaniels to Las Vegas and running backs coach Ivan Fears retiring.
To fill those holes, Belichick tapped Patricia to call plays and coach the O-line and brought back Judge to coach quarterbacks. He promoted ex-Patriots players Troy Brown and Vinnie Sunseri to replace Lombardi and Fears, respectively, making them lead position coaches for the first time.
Patricia, who won multiple Super Bowls as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, had never called offensive plays and was the only O-line coach in the NFL to handle those duties this season. Judge, whose specialty is special teams, had never coached QBs.
Under their direction, the Patriots went from a borderline top-10 offense in McDaniels’ final season to one of the league’s worst in 2022, ranking 24th or lower in yards per game, first downs per game, third-down offense, red-zone offense, goal-to-go offense, expected points added per play and Football Outsiders’ DVOA, among others. They finished 17th in scoring but were buoyed by a league-high eight defensive/special teams touchdowns.
“Certainly something we need to do is score more points,” Belichick said Monday.
In his end-of-season news conference, Belichick said “nobody’s satisfied” with how the Patriots performed this season and that he would “evaluate everything that we’ve done” in the coming days and weeks. He sidestepped repeated questions about whether he plans to replace Patricia and/or Judge with an experienced offensive coach.
“I always do what’s best for the football team, and at different decision points, we’ll always do what’s best for the football team,” Belichick said. “That’s what we’ve done, that?s what we’ll continue to do.”
As for who the Patriots could bring in to fill this role, Bill O’Brien is an obvious candidate given his prior experience in New England. O’Brien was a Patriots assistant for five seasons from 2007-11 and was the team’s QB coach and play-caller for three of them.
Beyond O’Brien, who could be a candidate for OC jobs in Tennessee and Tampa Bay, as well, other rumored candidates include Chad O’Shea, Kliff Kingsbury and current tight ends Nick Caley, New England’s longest-tenured offensive assistant. Kraft is fond of Caley and “would like to keep him,” according to a report last week from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
The Patriots likely would need to move quickly with any potential hire, as capable offensive coordinators tend to be in high demand. They also would need to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule in order to bring in a coordinator from outside the organization.