Examining New England Patriots’ Coaching Question Marks

After losing in the Wild Card round for the first time in over a decade to the Tennessee Titans, the New England Patriots will be having some rearranging to do with their coaching staff. Joe Judge, who served as the special teams coordinator since 2015 and recently added the role of the wide receivers coach for the Patriots, has now accepted the role of head coach of the New York Giants. 

With Judge leaving for the Giants, this leaves two holes to fill in the coaching roster. Each could be easily filled and what would likely be done will be filled by coaches already on the roster. As many would assume, Steve Belichick should take over the special teams coordinator role. Steve is Bill Belichick’s son who was the secondary and safeties coach for the past few years and recently had more control over the defense this past year which led the Patriots to become the NFL’s most prolific turnover defense. Steve grew up watching his dad coach and has learned a lot from being under his father’s wing after his dad himself started his NFL coaching career as a special teams coach. Steve would be a perfect fit as Judge’s replacement, and could even keep his title of the secondary and safeties coach as well. 

Steve Belichick could also promoted to the defensive coordinator position as the Patriots have not had one in over a year. The defensive coordinator position has been split up into three jobs with head coach Bill Belichick, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, and Steve Belichick. If Steve is promoted to special teams coordinator, there could be a chance Mayo steps in as the full-time defensive coordinator, but if Steve is promoted to defensive coordinator, the Patriots would have to promote their assistant in Cameron Achord. It would be hard to see the Patriots making big changes around their coaching roster in Belichick’s last few years, so I would predict that their strongest assets in special teams and defense would stay within the organization through promotions. 

There are looming rumors that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has been with the Patriots for 13 years, may be trying to find another head coaching job this offseason. McDaniels, when the Patriots were still in the playoffs, was linked to teams such as the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and Carolina Panthers. But both the Panthers and Giants jobs have been filled as of recently, which points to a Cleveland as a landing spot. McDaniels had an interview with the Browns on Friday but no decision has been made. 

If McDaniels were to leave the New England Patriots for a head coaching job, the Patriots would need a new offensive coordinator. There are not many talented offensive coordinators in this year’s coaching pool that have the same track record as McDaniels, but there are potential candidates who could fill McDaniels’s shoes with the help and guidance of Bill Belichick. Candidates such as Eric Bieniemy, Kevin Stefanski or even one of the assistant coaches on the roster could replace McDaniels and his duties. 

It would be hard to see Bienemy leave Kansas City unless it was for a head coaching job somewhere else, but the chances of Bienemy deciding to leave Kansas City for New England for a bigger role in the offensive play-calling could be enticing enough. Currently, Bienemy does not call the plays for the Kansas City Chiefs as head coach Andy Reid has full control over play design and calling. Bienemy, who has been very productive and creative with development to make his offensive weapons shine, has the potential to become another offensive-minded play-caller if given the right opportunity. Belichick has been known to give freedom to his offensive coordinators and has lucked out in doing so. 

Stefanski was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings this past season and was the leader of one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses. Trying to lure Stefanski away from Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook would be downright unthinkable. However, nothing is quite impossible. Stefanski would hopefully be able to fix the depleted run game that the Patriots have been struggling with this past season. The Patriots have two young backs in Sony Michel and Damien Harris, who have potential and could use help to progress with their careers. Stefanski was able to rejuvenate an injury-riddled Dalvin Cook and would best suit a run game offense if New England were to lose their star quarterback Tom Brady in free agency. 

The New England Patriots could stay in the house and promote one of their other guys to the offensive coordinator position. Assistant quarterback coach Mick Lombardi or running back coach Ivan Fears could replace the role of McDaniels. This would most likely not be a long-term fix, as neither of these guys would get full control of the offense with their lack of experience running an offense. But, as a means of keeping it within the organization, these two would best suit the role for a year or two under Belichick. If the Kraft family knows that Belichick is retiring within the next few years, it would be in their best interest to develop their coaches under the mastermind so that when Belichick decides to retire, they have plenty of guys who have been influenced by the legendary coach to take over the roles that he filled for the organization. 

At the same time, McDaniels could stay with the Patriots to fight for Brady and Belichick’s last title push. Brady has been a McDaniels advocate for many years and always had the coach’s back. It would be tough seeing McDaniels leaving for a second time, and if McDaniels decided to stay for another year, it would make the re-signing of Brady much easier. McDaniels could also be lured to staying with the Patriots if the organization would promise him a chance of taking over the head coaching job when Bill Belichick retires. 

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