For a change, Patriots coaching staff should have familiar look
|05.13.13 at 2:31 pm ET|
Bill Belichick has always maintained that the only thing in the NFL that’s permanent is change, but barring a sizable late-spring surprise, for the first time since Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots will not have a significant offseason alteration to their coaching staff.
Last year, the coaching changes (an annual event around Foxboro) were announced on May 10, so you never say never. But with the first steps of preparation for the 2013 underway — the rookies recently finished up their minicamp, and the teamwide OTAs and minicamps are set for later this month and early next month — the current staff would appear to be pretty locked in going forward.
The Patriots almost always have one of the smallest coaching staffs in the NFL, and this season will likely be no exception — including Belichick, they currently have 17 coaches on staff. (By way of comparison, that’s the fewest total in the AFC East: the Jets have 20 coaches, while the Bills and Dolphins have 21 each.)
It’s a group that includes coordinators Josh McDaniels (offense) and Matt Patricia (defense) coming back for the second straight year. If both stick — and again, there’s no reason to think otherwise — it’ll mark the first time since 2007-2008 seasons where the Patriots will have the same coordinators in place in back-to-back years. They’ll join a crew of assistants that includes Pepper Johnson (linebackers), Patrick Graham (defensive line), Chad O’Shea (wide receivers) and George Godsey (tight ends).
They will join several veteran coaches who are regarded as some of the best in the game in their particular area, a group that includes Ivan Fears, who will be going into his 12th season as New England’s running backs coach; special teams coach Scott O’Brien, who will be going into his fifth season with the Patriots and his 23rd overall year in the NFL; and Dante Scarnecchia, New England’s offensive line coach who took over his current duties in 1999 and has been working in the NFL in various capacities since 1982.
When you consider the stability inherent in the Patriots’ power structure, it’s remarkable when you consider the amount of turnover the Patriots have had on their coaching staff. Part of it is the transitory nature of the business, while some of it has to do with New England’s run of success over the last decade-plus.
To be fair, some of the changes have come with simple change in job title — Patricia had defensive coordinator responsibilities for at least two seasons before he was officially named DC last May. And McDaniels and O’Brien made similar moves on the offensive side of the football, working as quarterbacks coaches before inevitably assuming the mantle of offensive coordinator. And some would say the only job titles that really matter are head coach and quarterback — Belichick and Tom Brady have worked together since 2001, and the coach/quarterback relationship is currently the longest in the league. Every other team would kill for that level of continuity.
However, when it comes to positional coaches, a lot of the moves on the New England coaching staff over the years have involved personnel changes on multiple levels. As an example, last year, tight ends coach Brian Ferentz was ticketed for Iowa and a job with his father Kirk as an assistant coach of the Hawkeyes. Last offseason, the team also moved split the duties in the secondary, promoting Brian Flores from defensive assistant to safeties coach and moving Josh Boyer from defensive backs to cornerbacks. They also moved Johnson from the defensive line to linebackers, and Graham took over the defensive line.
Regardless of the fact that the coordinators and position coaches figure to stay in place going forward, the one area that could see some tweaking this offseason comes in the return of Daboll, an assistant who made his bones in Foxboro as the wide receivers coach from 2002 through 2006 before taking positions with several other teams, including the Jets (quarterbacks coach, 2007-2008), Browns (offensive coordinator (2009-2010), Dolphins (offensive coordinator, 2011) and Chiefs (offensive coordinator, 2012).
When trying to assess what sort of role Daboll might play in the organization, it’s worth remembering that he was the receivers coach when the Patriots were last about to consistently draft and develop wide receivers (Deion Branch and David Givens, both of whom were selected in 2002). It’s unclear how that might change the role of current receivers coach Chad O’Shea. Regardless, its clear Daboll will have some wide-ranging role with the Patriots on the offensive side of the ball.
‘We didn’t bring him here to tape ankles,’ Belichick said of Daboll. ‘He’s going to be involved with different guys.’
Despite the return of Daboll, it remains to be seen how much the consistency on the coaching staff affects the play on the field. For a team that has seen some pretty substantial turnover at some key positions, including wide receiver and defensive back, it will likely bring some continuity that could bode well for 2013.
One thing to note is that the Patriots are a relatively young team — 17 of the 22 projected starters are under 30 years old — and to have the same position coach in place for an extended stretch can create a level of continuity — and possibly comfort — that’s familiar for a young player. If that helps turn them into better players, well, then the steady-as-she-goes approach this offseason will turn out to be a positive development.