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Patriots News 02-06, Replacing Josh McDaniels, One Voice on Defense

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 6, 2022 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 02-06, Replacing Josh McDaniels, One Voice on Defense(PHOTO: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Feb 06, 2022 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 9 minutes

Good morning, and we hope that you are all well. Sad to think that there is only one more game left in the NFL season until August. Here are your weekly Patriots news 02-06 and AFC East notes.

While I don’t watch the Pro Bowl, I’ll probably tune in today, just because I am hoping that none of the players become injured in such a meaningless contest. With the Patriots QB Mac Jones involved, it would be devastating for his development and for the team if he were to become injured. It is probably long past due to do away with the game. But it is a money grab for the league, and probably isn’t going anywhere. 

We have already taken a peek at the roster as it is currently constructed and the team’s free agents. But today we’ll look at replacing the team’s offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who left to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. The team also lost an offensive assistant Bo Hardegree who also left with McDaniels to the Raiders. He was the assistant QB coach with the Patriots. The offense is expected to take another hit as long-time RBs coach Ivan Fears is rumored to be retiring. 

We’ll also look at the Patriots defense, and maybe it is time to name another coordinator so that the defense has one voice, instead of several…at least in our opinion. 

And we’ll touch on the Brian Flores situation. With the way things have played out this week, (and we’ve just begun), he may have seen his last coaching gig in the NFL. And the chances of him coming back to New England now? Not so great. 

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Daniel Snyder: The owner of the Washington Commanders, who escaped any kind of accountability by the NFL last year after the toxic environment his team was unearthed, has been thrust back into the spotlight, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House held a roundtable discussion with six former members of the Washington franchise who all told their stories of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct around Snyder’s team. 

“We launched this investigation because the NFL has not been transparent about the workplace misconduct issues it uncovered within [Washington],” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), in a statement. “These victims are bravely coming forward with their stories, sharing details of despicable abuse in their workplace. … Our investigation will continue until the perpetrators of sexual harassment are held accountable.”

The NFL did an investigation and scanned 650,000 emails from the team and only found fault with then-Raiders coach Jon Gruden. They didn’t release any of the testimonies from the women who were harassed under the guise of protecting their identities. However, the women didn’t want anonymity, they wanted the stories in the public. The NFL never has an issue leaking out information when it suits them, in the Richie Incognito investigation, in Brady’s Deflategate farce, and in Gruden’s case. 

But this week, the women came out in public in Congress, and the NFL gave its stock answer, that they “will investigate” these latest actions that they did nothing to stop a year ago. The more things change…

Anthony Harris: Finally a good story to come out of the NFL this week. Eagles free agent safety Anthony Harris was in the news for all the right reasons this week. Audrey Soape, an 11-year-old living near Austin, Texas, lost both her father and grandfather last year. The family had been fans of Harris, since he was a member of the Vikings, and had often reached out through social media to ask if he wanted their prayers.

When he learned that the young girl didn’t have her dad or grandfather to take her to a father-daughter dance he stepped up for one of his biggest fans. He went to Austin, bought the young girl a new dress, shoes, and had her makeup professionally done. And accompanied her to the dance. After this week, the league should put this story on the front page of the league’s website. Harris now has a fan here…Well done.

Senior Bowl: The Patriots, according to the Globe’s Jim McBride met with two WRs down in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. They met with North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, who is 6’5, 208, with the obvious size, and has the speed and short-area quickness to work the entire field as well as with Nevada’s Romeo Doubs. Doubs is a 6’2,200 WR with very good deep speed and enough quickness to work out of the slot. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands. 

Brian Flores and Bill Belichick in happier times. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Belichick/Flores: This turned into more than just a botched text message when Brian Flores claimed that Bill Belichick had some influence on the Giants’ decision to hire Brian Daboll, something the Giants vehemently deny. Belichick hasn’t spoken since this came out and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say. 

Unfortunately, that last bit by Flores about Belichick, ostensibly recommending Daboll over Flores to the Giants will probably burn any bridges he has here in returning. I was all for Flores returning someday as Belichick’s successor rather than Josh McDaniels, something we talked about on our podcast. Now, I don’t see that as happening. 

Could I see Belichick recommending Daboll over Flores for the NY Giants? Yes, for two reasons. One is that it would take Daboll out of the AFC (he was rumored to be on Miami’s shortlist) and out of the division as well. Two, while Belichick still maintains close relations with the Mara family, he could have been asked if Daniel Jones is salvageable and if anyone can accomplish that, Daboll could. But I find it hard to say that Belichick would have done so (not that it has proven that he even did recommend Daboll) out of any sort of racism. He hired and retained Flores for more than a decade. 

One aspect of the whitewashing (pardon the inadvertent pun) of what the NFL is trying to do with the entire Flores situation is the allegation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross actually offered Flores money to purposely throw (tank) games so that the Dolphins could draft Joe Burrow. This one will draw outside interest and if proven, could actually land Ross in prison. The NFL doesn’t want that dirty laundry tarnishing “the shield” and their actions this week showcased that. 

While it is still only an allegation that Ross offered the money, however, this week Cameron Wolfe from the NFL Network posted a story that said he interviewed a witness to the offer that would corroborate Flores’ story. Wolfe works for the league as it owns and the NFL Network and Wolfe’s piece and all links to it have been removed…hmm.  

NFL/Goodell: As soon as Flores filed his lawsuit earlier this week, the NFL responded two hours later, saying it “was without merit”. Now today, (Saturday) Goodell sends out a letter to all 32 teams that the league is “retaining outside council to reevaluate our policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”  Hmm #2.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I discussed the team’s free agents last week and the Brady news.  

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Who Replaces Josh McDaniels at the Patriots Offensive Coordinator:

I’m sure many members of the fan base were jumping for joy at the news that the Raiders had hired Josh McDaniels as their next head coach.  But be careful of what you ask for. 

He was reportedly given full autonomy in calling the Patriots offense, and for the most part, called very good games, especially considering the limitations that the team has had in the past few years. Going with him is an offensive assistant and Assistant QB’s coach Bo Hardegree. Coupled with the reported upcoming retirement of Ivan Fears, that is a big brain drain of the coaching staff on offense. 

In replacing McDaniels, the team has to be very careful because they have a young 2nd year QB in Mac Jones. What they want to avoid is installing a new system and forcing Jones and the skill position players to learn an entirely new system again. 

Bill O’Brien – We’ve all read that the team and former OC Bill O’Brien who is the current OC in Alabama have “mutual interest” according to Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network. O’Brien would make the most sense on several levels.

He would bring the familiarity and the continuity that the Patriots offense has enjoyed since the days of Charlie Weis. An added plus would be O’Brien’s knowledge of the Alabama offense and there is no doubt that he could incorporate some of those elements with Mac Jones that would be best in fitting with his talents. 

Chad O’Shea – The former Patriots WR coach spent a decade with the team before leaving with Brian Flores in 2019 to Miami. There were reports that Belichick was quite upset with that move. For the past two seasons, he’s been in Cleveland. 

A big question would be if O’Shea burned any bridges with Bill on the way out the door to Miami. If not, he’d be the 2nd best scenario. 

Adam Gase – Heavens help us. This week, I’ve seen multiple reports that he could be in play as the next OC. We know that Belichick has always had a lot of respect for him back to when he was the Jets head coach. 

But after seeing what he did to Sam Darnold in NY, I believe and I’m sure many will agree, that I’d not want him to be anywhere near Mac Jones. 

Nick Caley – The Patriots’ current tight ends coach could see an internal promotion as Bill likes to keep things in-house. And although he’s been with the team just since 2017, and began coaching the fullback(s) in 2020, if Ivan Fears retires, he’d be the longest-tenured coach on offense. 

While getting a TE coach as the OC would probably see an uptick in TE usage in the offense, he’s never been a play-caller, and with a young QB, that may be a show stopper because of Jones’ lack of experience and the team wanting him to progress. 

Troy Brown – Here’s a very intriguing choice, if Belichick decides to promote internally. Like Calley, he’s never been a play-caller, so that may work against him. The other is that he’s only been a coach since the 2019 season. 

But as a long-time WR in the Patriots system and the WR coach now, he knows the ins and outs of the Patriots system from both sides of the equation. 

Mick Lombardi – The son of Belichick’s close friend and confidante Michael Lombardi, he’s been in the NFL and started as an assistant on the Patriots staff in 2011. Lombardi then bounced around the league coming back to New England in 2019. He’s the current WRs coach and is well respected, but the timing may not be right for him to make the jump to OC because of Jones’ inexperience. Time will tell. 

Joe Judge – The former Patriots WRs coach and special teams coordinator left to become head coach of the Giants. That didn’t go well at all. Plus the fact that he didn’t exactly get Daniel Jones to light the world on fire during his tenure in NY.

There was some speculation that he could return to the Patriots in his former STs position given the fact that the unit struggled badly in 2021. So, I would shut the door on Judge just yet, but as an OC, the odds are pretty low. 

 There Needs To Be a Defensive Coordinator in 2022:

The Patriots defense had a lot of cooks in 2021, but not a chef, unless Bill Belichick was the actual head of the defense. We all know that he had a lot to do with the defense after the Dallas game, so there’s that. 

But there may just be too many voices speaking to the defense which could point to why the unit struggled so badly down the stretch. With both Bill and Steve Belichick (who calls the plays), Jerod Mayo, and former DC Matt Patricia up in the booth, there could be too many voices for the players to reach their maximum effective potential. There needs to be one voice. 

It may be unrelated, however, I can’t help but go back to the comments by Matthew Slater (who doesn’t play defense) but has a keen sense of the pulse of the team. After the Patriots lost to the Bills in Foxboro, Slater had this to say: 

“ You want to make sure that there’s no splinter in what you’re doing, no splinter in the locker room, no splinter between the players and the coaches. Do you want to keep your head down and stay as positive as you can and just fight through it? We have some choices here. One of the choices is to let this spiral out of control and the other choice is to try to put our feet in the ground, make a stand, and fight.”

Devin McCourty, a defensive captain also questioned what the defense was doing several times during the season. Mayo interviewed for a couple of head coaching positions this offseason, but he’s back and he confirmed that it was Steve calling all the plays. 

With the losses on the offensive side of the ball and the front office, would Belichick be best served by naming coordinators on both sides of the ball? What made McDaniels and the offense so successful for so many years was the fact that he was the voice that the offense went through. Maybe it is time for the defense to do the same.


“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis


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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Bill O'Brien Brian Flores Chad O'Shea Devin McCourty Jerod Mayo Josh McDaniels Mac Jones Matthew Slater New England Patriots NFL Patriots Steve Belichick

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