New England

Cost of Patriots' Success? Revolving Door of Assistant Coaches

Bill Belichick's staff is in constant flux, and that's not necessarily a bad thing

Winning Super Bowls as frequently as the Patriots comes with what could only be classified as a first-world problem in the NFL: A revolving door of assistant coaches.

What separates New England from the majority of the 31 other teams in the league is its continuity at head coach and quarterback. Since opponents can’t have Bill Belichick or Tom Brady, they resort to siphoning off the Pats’ assistant coaches in a bid to replicate the secret sauce in their own city.

It happened back in 2005, when the Patriots lost defensive coordinator Romeo Crenel to the Cleveland Browns and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to Notre Dame, each assuming head coaching duties. Eric Mangini, Crenel's replacement, left a year later for the New York Jets.

A year after setting pretty much every offensive record there was to set with the Patriots, the Denver Broncos hired Josh McDaniels to be their head coach in 2009. Bill O'Brien, who replaced McDaniels, was hired by Penn State before he took over as head coach for the Houston Texans in 2014.

The latest cycle of Super Bowls for New England has resulted in defensive coordinator Matt Patricia being hired away to coach the Detroit Lions in 2018; his de facto replacement, Brian Flores, was named to helm the Miami Dolphins after Super Bowl LIII in February.

The Indianapolis Colts infamously tried to hire McDaniels – who has been back with New England since 2011 – after the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII last year, only for McDaniels to do an about face and remain in Foxboro.

"That’s the thing about what the offseason is," said Devin McCourty, a Patriot since 2010. "It’s a time to kind of adjust and re-align yourself with whatever we’re doing for the upcoming season and just get to work."

The majority of Patriots’ coaches who have left have had little success in their new haunts – only Bill O’Brien has won so much as a single playoff game – but that’s another story for another time.

Much like the first chapter of the Patriots’ dynasty, there's been a significant talent drain on the coaching staff over the past two offseasons, complicated by the hiring away of other Patriot assistants to join the new head coaches elsewhere.

Losing Flores to the Dolphins also meant losing Chad O'Shea, New England’s wide receivers coach, to Miami as its new offensive coordinator. Assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer took the same positions with the Dolphins with Flores, and defensive line coach Brendan Daly jumped ship for the same position with the Kansas City Chiefs.

As long as Belichick remains entrenched at the top, the view from 10,000 feet doesn't change much. By bringing in competent replacements, including several former Patriot players, the view in the locker room doesn’t have to suffer either.

Jerod Mayo, who played his entire career in New England (2008-15), is back in the fold as inside linebackers coach, as well as de facto defensive coordinator. Mayo played recently enough that he was teammates with several key defenders for New England, including Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, Duron Harmon and Jamie Collins.

In addition to having such intricate knowledge of knowing what it takes to play for a Belichick-coached team, Mayo’s presence has brought about plenty of positive energy for the defenders.

Devin McCourty even used a word seldom associated with the Patriots in describing Mayo’s return.

"It’s fun, man," he said. "I get on him a lot as a rookie coach. I think it's cool for me, just a guy that I came in and learned so much from as a rookie and him as an older veteran. Now, learning from him in a coaching role, he was very, very much like a coach even when he was here as a player, so easy transition for him."

The fact that the 33-year-old Mayo is still so close in age to many players in the locker room hasn't been an issue at all, according to Jason McCourty.

"We come in for meetings, it can be six-thirty, seven in the morning, and Mayo is in there yelling, fired up, just excited about the day," he said. "That rubs off on guys, that positive energy. That type of reinforcement gets guys going in the morning."

On the offensive side of the ball, special teams coach Joe Judge is pulling double duty as the team’s wide receivers coach, at least for now. Another former Patriot, Troy Brown, has been working with the receiving corps throughout the offseason and looks like he may be carving out a role for himself on Belichick’s staff.

Phillip Dorsett, entering his third year in the Patriots system, said that the differences between O’Shea and Judge are merely stylistic.

Having Brown in the mix has been a joy for Dorsett as well, citing the manner in which Brown flourished in Foxboro from 1993-2007.

"Anytime you’ve got a guy that’s been there and done that at a high level – and done it here – it’s great," Dorsett said. "We know what we get from him, he’s been straight with us, and that’s what we like."

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