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The New England Patriots coaching staff is something of a curiosity this offseason because it has undergone significant change, specifically in losing longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when he became the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders and adding former head coaches Joe Judge and Matt Patricia as position coaches.
So what’s the curiousity?
Well, it begins with something as fundamental as what job different people are going to do — a question that includes no definitive answer if you’re wondering who is going to be calling plays for the Patriots on offense and perhaps even on defense.
You read right.
It’s May and head coach Bill Belichick has dropped the iron curtain on the identities of his play-callers. And it was only Monday that we learned what Judge and Patricia are actually going to be working on in 2022.
Judge, who coached the New York Giants to a 10-23 record the past two seasons and was New England’s special teams coordinator for years prior to that, is going to coach … the quarterbacks.
So the coach who’s never specialized as a quarterback coach in his 17 years as a coach is going to be responsible for helping Mac Jones make whatever improvement he needs to make at the Patriots’ second-year starter.
“So I’ll give you a direct answer right there, not to be evasive or anything, I am working with Mac, along with some other people in the offense,” Judge told reporters on the club’s virtual interviews. “I work with all the skill group on offense. I’d say all of us are working collectively as a coaching unit to work with the entire offense. That’s the most direct and specific answer I could give you.
“In terms of who is coaching each position, you’ll see me on the field with the quarterbacks.”
Judge is also apparently in the running to call New England’s offensive plays. And he’s in the running along with former Lions coach Matt Patricia, and just about anyone else on the offensive staff.
Even Belichick himself, who has said he’ll be more involved in the offense, might be a candidate to call plays.
Probably not, but we don’t know for sure yet.
And New England coaches would have you believe they don’t know, either.
“Look, I’ll tell you directly and honestly right now, nothing’s been declared or decided or voiced to me,” Judge said. “I do think it’s critical for every coach on the offense to understand the game plan and be prepared as a play-caller. If you’re not looking and approaching the game as a play-caller, I think it’s tough to teach the game plan, if that makes sense to you.
“In terms of play-calling, look, when coach declares who he wants to do it, we’ll go forward with that. That’s not really going to be an issue. We have no egos on this staff.”
No egos but some questions.
Patricia, for example, returned to the organization in January of 2021 as a Senior Football Advisor but no one in the public knew exactly what he did over the past year. And he didn’t speak to reporters about it so it was this mystery job that he did.
“With the Senior Football Advisor role last year being in a position where I could do whatever I could do to help coach Belichick,” Patricia said. “And that’s really what we talked about when I came in the building was, ‘Hey, how can I help you? I know the organization, I’ve been around it a long time, I know the different avenues of it, what can I do to help you?’ “
Patricia admitted his role evolved into helping to handle a lot of the team’s Covid-19 preparation.
“It was non-descript to start until we got into it and he said, ‘Hey I could really use some help here, maybe take a look at this.’ For me it was a great year, it was a really great to be back home, move my family back here,” Patricia said.
Patricia, who was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017, is apparently the new offensive line coach.
“I’ve been able to be out there with the offensive guys, work with the offensive line, and help those guys and work some techniques and talk about some basic, fundamental stuff …” Patricia said. “You know I came here a long time ago and I came in as an offensive line coach. I came in I was coaching offensive line in college.”
Patricia worked with and under former college and NFL tight ends and offensive line coach George DeLeone and longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia so, unlike Judge, he has a history of coaching his new position group.
“It’s been fun to kind of get back to that and back to my roots,” Patricia said.
This mystery approach is not limited to the offense.
The Patriots defense the last couple of years was called by inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. He did not carry the title of defensive coordinator. He succeeded defensive play-caller Brian Flores, who also did not carry the title of defensive coordinator.
And months before starting the upcoming season, Mayo still is designated as the team’s inside linebacker coach but not the defensive play-caller nor defensive coordinator.
“We don’t do titles, we don’t have titles around here,” Mayo said. “Honestly, I just like to say I’m a football coach. I’m not trying to be ambiguous here. I just like to say I’m a football coach. I coach football players.”
Even Steve Belichick, one of the head coach’s sons on staff, said he isn’t sure if his role as outside linebackers coach might include some defensive play-calling duties.
“Honestly, I don’t really know,” Belichick said. “And honestly, I don’t really care. I just like coaching football. I’m happy to be on defense. But whatever I have to do, I’m happy to do. Whatever they need me to do, I’m happy to do it.”
And what about his dad possibly working more with the offense?
“Honestly, I don’t really know what he’s going to do,” Steve Belichick said. “He wears every hat in the building. He’s always been involved in everything.”
So why the mystery? Why does it have to sound so complicated?
“Well, we want to make sure all the coaches understand the offense completely,” Judge offered. “So when they have to give feedback and make corrections on the field, they have the right information to give.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero