One of the biggest questions surrounding the Patriots heading into 2022 isn’t about their roster, but the coaching staff. Turnover among Bill Belichick’s assistants over the last few years has left roles to be filled, and the team has been mum at times about how they’ll go about that. Last season, the team never acknowledged who was calling defensive plays. Meanwhile, last year’s offensive play-caller Josh McDaniels went to Las Vegas this offseason and took a number of Patriots assistants from that side of the ball with him.
On Monday, the Patriots’ top assistants spoke with the media for the first time this offseason. While there was some clarity given as to the structure of the coaching staff in 2022, some bigger questions didn’t get an answer.
The defensive coaches were more elusive in questions about titles, although the entire staff returns from last year would could suggest little reorganizing.
At the same time, a more versatile defensive staff makes sense for the Patriots. They have a number of multi-positional players on that side of the ball. For instance, safeties like Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, and Jabrill Peppers project to play linebacker-like roles.
“We all coach each position. We don’t do titles around here,” Jerod Mayo said when asked if he’s worked with the safeties. Mayo was listed as the team’s inside linebacker coach in 2021, a position he’s held since 2019. Given that’s also the position Mayo played during his eight years with the Patriots, it seems logical that he wouldn’t end up in a different role in 2022. However, he didn’t give a direct answer when asked about his assignment for the upcoming season. “I just like to say I’m a football coach,” he said. “I coach football players. I’m a teacher.”
Mayo was considered one of the team’s more influential defensive coaches last year, along with Steve Belichick. Belichick has moved around the defense a bit more, starting as a general defensive assistant in 2012 before becoming a safeties coach in 2016. In 2019, he had ‘secondary coach’ added to his title, then the next year was moved to outside linebackers coach.
Asked if he expects a similar or more expanded role in 2022, Belichick mirrored Mayo’s comments. “I don’t really know and I don’t really care,” he said. “Honestly, I just love coaching football.”
The ‘expanded role’ many expect for Mayo or Belichick is defensive coordinator. It’s believed the two split the unofficial defensive coordinator role last season, along with Bill Belichick. Monday added no information towards figuring out who will call defensive plays in 2022.
There was some more clarity given on the offensive side of the ball, where the staff has undergone an massive overhaul. McDaniels’ departure vacated both the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach positions, and he took assistant QB coach Bo Hardegree, wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi, and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo with him.
Given the significance of the relationship between McDaniels and Mac Jones last year, the quarterback coach role is one of the more focused on on the staff as Jones continues his development in his second NFL season. That job will mainly be held by former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge, who said as much on Monday.
“I am working with Mac, as well as some other people on the offense,” Judge said, adding his role is mainly but expands beyond spending time with the quarterbacks. “I’m working with all the skill group on the offense. I would say all of us are working collectively as a coaching unit to work with the entire offense. So that’s the most direct and specific answer I can give you on that, guys. In terms of who’s coaching each position, you’ll see me on the field with the quarterbacks.”
The other big addition to the offensive staff is Matt Patricia, who spent last season as a ‘senior football advisor.’ Although he was a defensive coach for most of his first stint in New England before becoming the head coach of the Detroit Lions, Patricia told reports he has been and will mainly work with the offensive line this year.
“I came here a long time ago, and I came in as an offensive line coach,” Patricia remarked. “Offensive line play is near and dear to my heart,” the former college interior offensive lineman added.
Still, the main question regarding the offense – who will call plays – remains up in the air. “Nothing’s been declared or decided or voiced to me,” Judge said when asked about taking over the role. He’s viewed as one of three favorites for the job – title or not – along with Patricia and tight ends coach Nick Caley – who confirmed he is still working with the tight ends but wouldn’t give an official title when asked.
“Look, right now we’re all just working on drills and skills. We’re working offensively. I do think it’s critical for every coach on the offense to understand the offense and be prepared as a play-caller. If you’re not really looking and approaching the game as a play-caller, I think it’s tough to really teach the game plan, if that makes sense to you,” Judge continued.
There’s also been some speculation Bill Belichick could be more involved on the offensive side of the ball this year. “Honestly, I don’t really know what he’s gonna do. He wears every hat in the building,” Steve Belichick said when asked about that possibility.
The Patriots assistants are scheduled to speak Tuesday afternoon as well, so we could get more information then. However, the next big step in the process and opportunity for more insight will come next week, when the team begins OTA practices. The first such practice open to the media will be on Thursday, May 26.
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