Some news and notes on this Monday:
1) The discussion of the coaching staff remains a hot button topic this offseason and Boston Sports Journal writer Greg Bedard was asked a fairly good question by someone during his weekly Q&A on Friday, which centered on whether or not there was a precedent set by a previous coach who moved from one side of the football in the NFL to the other and what the result was.
Bedard mentioned that the only one he recalled was when former Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who had been in that role for 13 years, moved to the other side as defensive coordinator.
Bedard pointed out that it didn’t turn out very well.
“The only one that I recall recently is when Juan Castillo went from being the Eagles offensive line coach for about 13 years to defensive coordinator … and it was an epic disaster.”
He cited an article from NBC Sports Eagles reporter Reuben Frank, who mentioned the role change by Castillo that ultimately led to him being fired by then head coach, Andy Reid.
“Castillo wound up spending 17 seasons with the Eagles, including 13 as offensive line coach,” writes Rueben. “That’s the second-longest tenure of any coach in franchise history. Ted Williams, who also started under Rhodes in 1995, spent 20 years here under Rhodes, Reid and Chip Kelly.”
“Reid improbably promoted Castillo to defensive coordinator to replace Sean McDermott, who he fired after the 2010 season. Castillo had played linebacker at Texas A&M and in the USFL, and the Eagles had a top-10 defense in his first year as defensive coordinator. But the 2012 season was a catastrophe in many ways, and during the bye week Reid fired Castillo and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles.”
What does go unnoticed is the fact that Matt Patricia has essentially done the same thing, having gone from an assistant coaching the offensive line in 2005 to linebackers coach in 2006, to safeties coach before eventually becoming the team’s defensive coordinator.
The fact he’s moving back over is what obviously has everyone concerned. While Patricia and fellow coach Joe Judge have been the two biggest names discussed to this point, the team also quietly made a change with another coach after they moved Ross Douglas from defense to the offensive side of the football.
Douglas was a former cornerbacks coach at Richmond who was hired by the Patriots last offseason as a quality control coach on defense. He was all smiles last week as he talked about the change in his role, telling reporters that he’s been working with the receivers and he’s enjoyed the transition so far.
“I just like coaching football, to be honest with you,” said Douglas. “Whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, just put me anywhere. I love the game of football. I’ll coach whatever, doesn’t matter what position.”
He pointed out that having the perspective of coaching on the defensive side of the football has been beneficial, helping him pass along things that he believes will make guys more effective.
“Me having a secondary background on defense, flipping over to wideouts, I watch wideouts all day, every day,” said Douglas. “That’s who I was watching most of the time. Just being able to know how to cover wide receivers when I was coaching defense, now I get to flip over on offense. Now I get to coach how to be the DB so it’s kind of funny that way when I think about it.”
2) Bedard did get everyone a little up in arms over the weekend after revealing that he’s been talking to people within the organization and around the league about the transition going on throughout the coaching staff, and the news apparently hasn’t been completely positive.
He said during an appearance on NBC Sports with Tom Curran and Trenni Kusnierek that there is a fair amount of concern internally with what’s going on, and players aren’t completely on board with what they’ve seen so far.
“I don’t want to make a huge deal out of this yet because let’s keep in mind, this is a completely new regime on the offensive side of the ball,” said Bedard. “They could be doing things a different way and there could be a lot of people who aren’t used to the new way things are going to be done. And maybe they might be better, I’m allowing for that because it’s extremely early in terms of what they’ve done.”
“But so far, I mean I have countless people who have either been with the Patriots or are hearing from players on the team who they are alarmed to this point. And they’ve barely done anything so far.”
“And so, they are really worried about the direction of the offense, where this is going, especially off of what a lot of people heard. A lot of people around the NFL listened to what Joe Judge said the other day and almost all of them were like, ‘What? What is he talking about?’ And so there is a high level of concern about what’s going on with the Patriots.”
Bedard is referring to quotes by Judge, who last week said that he and the coaching staff will need to be on top of every position on both sides of the football, with each guy being able to coach “all the skill players” and “the line players.”
Judge pointed out that it’s important for everyone to be speaking the same language and to be on the same page so that there aren’t mixed messages being sent to the players, who then won’t know who to listen to.
The biggest issue, listening to the exchange, is the fact that obviously this philosophy is coming from above and Judge simply wasn’t the most eloquent at explaining it. A lot of it sounds like things we’ve heard from Bill Belichick in the past, but the biggest challenge that likely lies ahead will come from how those messages are received by the veteran players, which could potenitially become an issue at some point.
At the same time, Belichick does have an advantage in that there has been such personnel turnover in recent years that the coaches are now working with a significant amount of new faces on offense and a second-year quarterback, so there really isn’t anyone left who has been around long enough to challenge them the way there might have been in the past.
We saw Tom Brady get into verbal altercations with both Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels on the sidelines, both of which were experienced offensive coaches. He’s obviously not here anymore, which eliminates the fact there’s not a veteran here with an established way of doing things.
The entire starting wide receiver group, save for Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry, the latter of which probably won’t be here for much longer, have really only been with the club for one year. The same goes for tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
So if ever there was a time for a complete upheaval in terms of what they’re currently dealing with, this is clearly the best scenario they could have hoped for to try and undertake it.
It’s obviously going to be some time before we start to get a sense of whether or not there’s at least one coach who has difficulty during this process. Either way, while it might not be ideal, it sounds like the expectations have been set internally. Now the only question is going to be if every coach who is trying to execute it is going to be able to handle the role.
3) Peter King also jumped on that bandwagon this morning in his Monday Morning column.
King points out that how either Judge or Patricia handle things for Jones is obviously going to be crucial to their success coming off their blowout Wild Card loss the Bills in January.
“It’s crucial for Mac Jones to be better in year two if New England has a prayer to catch Buffalo and to stay above Miami in the East,” writes King. “But will he be better? Jones was a 69-percent passer while starting his NFL career 9-4; he was a 61-percent passer in finishing the season 1-4. And now he’s lost his mentor and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in favor of either Joe Judge, Matt Patricia or some combination of them. I’d check Wikipedia.”
“In 39 years of college and NFL coaching combined, neither Judge nor Patricia has ever had quarterback coaching as part of their job description. That seems problematic for a quarterback who needs to get better.”
One key advantage for Jones is the fact that his football accumen will likely help cover up for any deficiencies, especially considering Belichick will likely be involved in helping with the X’s and O’s side of things. As we saw in the past with Brady, players like that tend to also benefit from all the little nuances and things that Belichick tends to share in helping them pick up on various aspects of the game that other players don’t always see, and that’s what often made the difference.
Coming from Alabama and working with Nick Saban and O’Brien, as well as having to work his tail off to earn his starting role in a competitive QB room, both at Alabama and last preseason against Cam Newton, the similarities are certainly there with Jones. He’s a hard-working player with the right mindset, so a lot of what will need to be learned will likely come from his continued efforts behind the scenes.
We’ll see if he can elevate his game and overcome whatever deficiencies he’ll face this season, but as long as Belichick remains, it’s hard not to at least feel somewhat good about Jones’ chances of finding success in 2022.
4) Speaking of Jones, Jeff Howe of The Athletic all but confirmed part of the above in a notebook on Friday.
Howe wrote that the team has been extremely pleased with what they’ve seen from Jones this offseason, with the second-year quarterback putting in quite a few hours as he continues preparing for his sophomore season.
“This shouldn’t be very surprising, but the Patriots sound ecstatic with quarterback Mac Jones’ offseason dedication,” writes Howe. “Jones has spent long hours at Gillette Stadium, often beating the coaching staff into the building to get a jump-start on film study for the day. He is also taking ownership of the offense, willing to vouch for plays and concepts that he likes and pump the brakes on the stuff that hasn’t worked.”
Despite whatever turmoil that we may be hearing about in the media with the coaching staff, things at least seem to be also shaping up well in New England’s locker room. Howe reports that based on what he’s heard so far, reports are positive as the players continue preparing for the upcoming season.
“New England veterans have been extremely encouraged with the team chemistry this offseason,” writes Howe. “The free-agent additions have meshed well in the locker room, and there’s been a different vibe over the past month.”
On a separate note, best wishes to Howe and his family. The former Boston Herald reporter recently overcame a cancer diagnosis and is also just a terrific person, so here’s to hoping that things continue to go well for him.
5) Doing some digging, it was interesting that 18 years ago, New England was also dealing with some internal issues with their coaching staff and it involved a key member of that group.
At this time in 2004, coming off their second championship season, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis ended up in a contract dispute with the team. Contract negotiations between the two sides that offseason met an impasse, with reports surfacing that trouble was brewing between Weis and the Patriots, which set up what eventually became Weis’ final season in New England.
“It would be strange if he were to return after this season,” Weis’ agent, Bob LaMonte, told the Providence Journal at the time. “Given the present state of negotiations it’s highly unlikely.”
One week before that, LaMonte told the Boston Globe that Weis would not return to the Patriots if the team wouldn’t make him one of the league’s more highly-paid coordinators. Weis reportedly drew a middle-of-the-road $500,000 from the Patriots while a number of coordinators league-wide were making more than twice as much.
“We tried to reach an agreement and corporately the Patriots decided against it,” LaMonte told the Journal. “So for Charlie, all he can do is work as hard as he can, devote himself and know he will not be back next year.”
LaMonte’s also told the newspaper the Patriots stated reason for not paying Weis is because a larger salary doesn’t fit with their “corporate structure.”
At the same time, there were rumors back then about Weis’ growing interest in being a head coach and that there might have been some concern internally when it came to the amount they might have been willing to play him.
Weis ultimately was offered the head coaching position at Notre Dame that December, which saw him finish out his career as offensive coordinator in New England with a Super Bowl trophy after he and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel helped Belichick win their third title in four seasons.
That ended up being a memorable moment for the three coaches, with each photographed together for one final time at the end of that game as Weis admitted that it was an emotional time and he was glad they were able to go out on top.
“It was the last time we’ll be coaching together. Potentially the last time we’ll be coaching together,” said Weis. “It felt kind of different and strange. But if you have to go out, to go out a winner in the Super Bowl, that’s a real special feeling.”
Crennel also left after that season, as he was offered and accepted the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
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