Patriots coaching structure: Examining why Bill Belichick will be without an offensive or defensive coordinator for the first time since 2010

Say what you want about Bill Belichick, he protects his people.

After Joe Judge and Matt Patricia became head coaches of the Giants and Lions, respectively, and passed away in spectacular fashion, the two hold fairly senior positions on Belichick’s staff this year. They won’t have official call-to-play duties, however. Belichick will be without an offensive or defensive coordinator for the first time since 2010.

Judge, who served as the Patriots’ special teams coordinator from 2015-2019 (in addition to being the wide receivers coach in 2019), will serve as the Pats’ quarterbacks coach and an offensive assistant in 2022. Patricia has was named senior football advisor/offensive line coach after serving as Belichick’s defensive coordinator from 2012-2017.

The defensive side is par for the course — the Patriots haven’t had a DC since 2018 when Patricia left for Detroit and Greg Schiano dismissed Belichick for Rutgers in 2019. But the offensive side is the most interesting development.

What is the power structure of the Patriots?

Belichick consolidated a lot of power within the organization. While that power has been earned, he is now general manager, head coach and game plan manager.

Josh McDaniels served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 2012-21 before leaving for the Raiders, his second flight to New England for a head coaching gig. By not appointing a new offensive coordinator, Belichick is somehow taking control of the game plan.

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That doesn’t mean, however, that Belichick will be responsible for calling plays on both sides. There have been rumors since March that Belichick could call attacking plays, despite being generally known as a defensive-minded coach. If so, expect to see Patricia wearing the helmet on defense, despite her technically attacking role.

Was Joe Judge promoted to offensive coordinator without winning the title?

As a quarterbacks coach, Judge will have a lot to say about what the Patriots are doing on offense. McDaniels called plays for the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 as quarterbacks coach before being named OC in 2006.

The judge might be on a different path, though. When McDaniels left for the Broncos, Belichick relied on eventual offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to guide the offense. O’Brien had previously worked with offense at Duke, while Judge was exclusively a special teams coach and had just dipped a toe in offensive waters as a wide receivers coach in 2019.

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With that in mind, there’s another coach buried deep in the Patriots staff to watch: Evan Rothstein. He spent nine years with the Lions before joining the Patriots this offseason, and he’s the kind of Renaissance man Belichick loves. He’s been in special teams quality control and offensive and defensive analysis, and he’s listed as an offensive assistant this season. But much of Rothstein’s expertise is on offense – certainly more than Judge’s.

How did this structure work in 2010?

Take that with a fair amount of salt, considering Tom Brady was the quarterback at the time, but it turned out pretty well. The Patriots went 14-2 in the 2010 season, they led the NFL in runs scored and finished eighth in fewer runs allowed. They would, however, lose to the Jets in the AFC Divisional Round.

Belichick is well known for his adaptability, so there are a number of reasons why he might do that now. Don’t think for a second, though, that Belichick runs the Patriots roster on his own. He has help from top to bottom on his team, and what the Patriots clearly appreciate in their coaches is flexibility. It has served them well in the past, and he will have to do it again in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive AFC East in 2022.

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