For the second straight year, the New England Patriots will enter the offseason with a new defensive coordinator. Last year, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores was promoted to defensive play caller after longtime coordinator Matt Patricia departed to take over as the head coach for the Detroit Lions.
Now, it appears Flores will be leaving to accept a head coaching position with the Miami Dolphins, a divisional rival. A promotion from within was expected until a familiar name was tied to reports of stepping into the vacated position: former NFL head coach Greg Schiano.
Schiano is a longtime friend of Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, and has a defensive football mind. While it was a bit of a shock, it appeared to be a good fit. Just days after the report tying Schiano to New England, a very un-Patriot-like occurrence happened— Bret Bielema, who was hired as a “consultant to the head coach” in the summer of 2018, began informing people he would become the next defensive coordinator.
With the Super Bowl days away, the Patriots’ organization obviously has bigger things on their mind. Still, if Bielema becomes the new defensive coordinator, he has a lot to learn about the Patriot Way.
Bielema, who is in the midst of his first NFL stint, was most recently the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks before he was fired in 2017. There are three Patriots on the roster who played under Bielema at Arkansas: defensive end Trey Flowers, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr, and practice squad wide receiver Cody Hollister.
It’s easy to see why Bielema was brought aboard as a defensive consultant to Belichick, as Flowers is easily the team’s best pass rusher and Wise Jr., in his sophomore year, has a lot of untapped potential.
Multiple questions remain from the brash incident involving Bielema; what will happen if he doesn’t become defensive coordinator? How will Schiano respond knowing that the Patriots are considering another suitor? The biggest question surrounding this has to be if Bielema is even qualified enough to become a defensive coordinator?
He has zero NFL experience outside of his consultant position. His tenure throughout the NCAA showed some impressive moments, but nothing nearly enough to warrant an immediate coordinator position on a historic franchise. The main string attaching him to the Patriots must be his friendship with the head honcho, Belichick.
Regardless of if he comes away with the defensive coordinator position, Bielema can make a great impression on Belichick this week if he can help Flowers and Wise Jr. reach their peak during this game.
Flowers has been on a tear this season, especially in the postseason, and will be a free agent following this year. One can imagine he will be doing everything he can to win his team a ring, and earn himself a nice payday as well.
Wise Jr, on the other hand, was a scratch from the AFC Championship game. In order to add speed to the roster, the pass rusher was benched for defensive back Obi Melifonwu. It would be a shock if Wise Jr was scratched again for the Super Bowl, as he played in every regular season game for New England this year.
While Schiano might not get the job, it is clear that he could be part of New England’s future. The previous prediction is a fact for Bielema, who already has a role with the Patriots. One thing both of these former college coaches will learn is that friendships only matter so much in New England and that if Belichick doesn’t think that they are doing their job for the team, they will be sent packing.
Honestly, it’s shocking that Bielema was so public about his future plans. Obviously, he couldn’t contain his excitement, but for a coach to do that, especially in the New England organization, certainly does not make a good impression at all on players and fellow coaches. Characters have been brought in (Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, and Josh Gordon to name a few) but when they were in New England, they did their job. If Bielema comes away with the position, the Patriot fan base will wholeheartedly support him. He just needs to be aware of the position he is entering, and realize that with great power comes great responsibility.