Curran: Is Belichick stepping to the fore with Pats offense? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Generally speaking, OTA access isn’t a major newsgathering moment. The fellas are in shorts and t-shirts. There’s no live contact. Defenders are in a “look but don’t touch” relationship with receivers. It’s a time for observation more than evaluation.
But since the shape of the Patriots' 2022 offensive coaching staff is an amoeba, we had to do some sleuthing. What did we find out? That here, in late May, Bill Belichick is verrrry hands-on with the offense.
During the first 45 minutes of the workout, Belichick stood surveying quarterback and receiver drills run by Joe Judge and Troy Brown. Judge mostly took the lead between those coaches when directing 1-on-1 receiver drills.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
When portions of the defense came over to work in 7-on-7 passing drills, Judge was the main voice giving the playcalls to Mac Jones. Again, Belichick mostly stayed back and observed.
When the full team came together for some 11-on-11 work, Matt Patricia took over Judge’s role. Until then, Patricia was running the offensive line drills. When Patricia joined and started giving plays to Jones, it was almost all run game work. Again, Belichick supervised.
And at the end of practice, when it was 11-on-11 and full squad work, Belichick became the voice in Jones’ ear and directed the session.
So titles? Here’s what it looks like. Judge is quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator. Patricia is OL coach/running game coordinator. Belichick is – for now – de facto offensive coordinator/playcaller.
Why’s it matter? Because, despite the persistent public pooh-poohing of Belichick, even morons like us know that one of the most treasured assets in pro sports right now is a talented quarterback on a rookie contract.
The Patriots have one of those. And they don’t want to waste a year of Mac Jones’ development by just slapping it out there Year One After Josh. And handing the reins completely to Judge or Patricia – neither of whom have any official NFL offensive coordinating or playcalling experience – definitely carried the whiff of winging it.
Josh McDaniels is one of the best offensive coaches of this generation. The numbers back that up. The variety of offensive schemes within the Patriots system that he concocted backs that up. Belichick’s previous words of praise back that up. He’s not being replaced by a special teams coach and a defensive coordinator. He’s being replaced by them and the greatest coach in NFL history. Apparently. And for now.
Because, once again, Belichick bobbed-and-weaved through a morning press conference where he was peppered with playcalling questions.
Asked by Phil Perry about how the coaching collaboration is going so far, Belichick said, “I work with all the coaches. Just try to be involved in everything, I think that's a head coach's job: to support all parts of the program.”
Titles, Bill? Any titles?
“Do we have titles? Yeah, look, there's a lot of jobs that we have to do, we're all working on those things now but -- it's May. They'll change in June, they'll change in August, they'll change in September. So, we'll evolve it to the things timely that we need to do. If you're asking about game plans, we're months away from that -- months.”
Who’s calling the plays out at practice?
“Months away. Months. What plays are we calling? Mini-camp plays? We're gonna coach the team, coach the players, we're gonna get them ready to go. We're gonna gameplan when we have to gameplan, we'll play-call, do all the things we need to do to compete in games. Right now, we're months away from that.”
OK. Sigh. Everybody’s a dunce. Silly us thinking that April, May and June are pivotal months in the development of a team, its coaching staff and the roles guys will play. Don’t know where we got the idea that mattered in the first place.
(Whoa, whoa, whoa! It’s May, Tom. Give your indignation a little room to grow as the season unfolds. Don’t start out at 10.)
Belichick did allow that the playcaller does ultimately have a special relationship with the quarterback and that developing a rhythm and understanding preferences is important.
“That'll all happen,” he promised.
Belichick also acknowledged – as only he can – that he’s done the playcalling as well.
“I've called them and I haven't called them,” he said. “And other people have called them and they haven't called them. So, we'll see.”
Bottom line? It was a relief to see Belichick patrolling the offense for almost the entire practice. It means that developing Jones and replacing McDaniels has his undivided attention. At least it did on this Monday in May.