Patriots coaching structure: Examining why Bill Belichick will go without an offensive or defensive coordinator for the first time since 2010
Say what you will about Bill Belichick, he protects his own.
After Joe Judge and Matt Patricia set off as head coaches for the Giants and Lions, respectively, and flamed out spectacularly, both are in rather high positions on Belichick’s staff this year. They will not, however, have official play-calling duties. Belichick will be without offensive or defensive coordinators for the first time since 2010.
Judge, who was the Patriots’ special teams coordinator from 2015-19 (in addition to being the wide receivers coach in 2019), will be the Pats’ quarterbacks coach and an offensive assistant in 2022. Patricia was named senior football advisor/offensive line coach after being Belichick’s defensive coordinator from 2012-17.
The defensive side is par for the course — the Patriots haven’t had a DC since 2018 when Patricia departed for Detroit and Greg Schiano spurned Belichick for Rutgers in 2019. But the offensive side is the more interesting development.
What is the Patriots’ power structure?
Belichick has consolidated a lot of power within the organization. While that power has been earned, he is now the general manager, head coach and game plan manager.
Josh McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 2012-21 before departing for the Raiders, his second time absconding New England for a head coaching gig. By not appointing a new offensive coordinator, Belichick is, in a sense, assuming control of the game plan.
That does not, however, mean Belichick will be responsible for calling plays on both sides. There have been rumors since March that Belichick could call offensive plays, even though he’s generally known as a defensive-minded coach. If that’s the case, expect to see Patricia wearing the headset for the defense, despite his technically having an offensive role.
Has Joe Judge been promoted to offensive coordinator without getting the title?
As quarterbacks coach, Judge will have a lot of say in what the Patriots do on offense. McDaniels called plays for the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 as their quarterbacks coach before being named OC in 2006.
Judge might be on a different path, however. When McDaniels left for the Broncos, Belichick leaned on eventual offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to guide the offense. O’Brien had previously worked with the offense at Duke, whereas Judge was exclusively a special teams coach and had just dipped a toe into the offensive waters as the wide receivers coach in 2019.
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 that Belichick loves. He has 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 this with a heaping helping of salt, given that Tom Brady was the quarterback at the time, but it went pretty well. The Patriots went 14-2 in the 2010 season, they led the NFL in points scored and were eighth in fewest points allowed. They would, however, lose to the Jets in the AFC divisional round.
Belichick is well-known for his adaptability, so there are any number of reasons he could be doing this now. Don’t think for a second, however, that Belichick is managing the entire Patriots roster by himself. He has help up and down his staff, and something the Patriots clearly value in their coaches is flexibility. That has served them well in the past, and it will have to do so again in what is sure to be an extremely competitive AFC East in 2022.