FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick took the podium following Thursday night's 27-0 drubbing of the Texans, he thanked the work put in by his coaching staff during a short week of preparation. He rattled off all the usual suspects: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, special teams coach Joe Judge, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski...
Schuplinski is in his first year as assistant quarterbacks coach after three years as a Patriots coaching assistant. In that time, he's aided McDaniels -- who counts quarterbacks coach among his titles -- and has been used primarily as the team's young quarterback whisperer. Schuplinski was responsible for helping Jimmy Garoppolo adjust to the Patriots system over the course of his first two years as a pro, and this year Jacoby Brissett has been his primary pupil.
During training camp practices this summer, Schuplinski would often pull Brissett aside for an entire practice period or longer, and the two would stand in the middle of the field to talk. They discussed situations and tried to get Brissett to visualize things. At times, they'd welcome in a few of Brissett's teammates to help him grasp a particular concept, but these were more teaching sessions than periods focused on physical execution.
Schuplinski played his college football at John Carroll University, where he was teammates with McDaniels, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler, and he understands what's expected of him when it comes to providing guidance for the team's inexperienced signal-callers: Help them keep up.
After crediting Schuplinski's work with Brissett on Thursday night in the immediate aftermath of the rookie's first start, Belichick went into a little more detail on Schuplinski's job during a conference call Friday.
"Well we have a number of coaches on our staff, and as you know, the staffs are a little bigger now than what they used to be," Belichick said. "I'm personnally not a tremendous fan of big staffs, but I think the way the league is now, with a lot of the limitations that we have from a coaching standpoint, that in order to develop younger players, you have to have people to work with those players and give them extra attention or extra explanations or examples or whatever it happens to be to help them improve and grow."
That group includes coaching assistants like Cole Popovich, Mike Pellegrino and Nick Caley. New England's safeties coach Steve Belichick, who was a coaching assistant last season, was also lumped into that collection as someone who has mentored developmental players on the Patriots roster in the past.
But Schuplinski's job over the last few years has been to serve as a tutor for the up-and-comers at the most important position on the team. In 2014 and 2015, when Tom Brady was working with McDaniels or conducting a side session with some of his favorite receivers, it was Schuplinski who sidled up next to Garoppolo for some extra work. This year, it's been Schuplinski and Brissett.
"There are times where guys work with certain groups of players while other coaches work with other groups of players, and the priorities and the levels that the players are at is just different," Belichick explained. "We try to use our time as efficiently as we can, and that sometimes means dividing the groups of players so that they can be most productive. You see us do that at practice as well. Two groups practicing at the same time, one group's working on one thing. Another group is working on another thing. Sometimes I feel like that's the best way to get things done."
After Thursday's win, Schuplinski earned some recognition not only from Belichick during his press conference, but from the entire team during the locker room celebration. Brissett was given the game ball -- a ball he gave to Belichick after his first-quarter touchdown run -- and he then shared a moment with the little-known coach who's helped him prepare since he arrived to the team in May.
That's Brissett celebrating with assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, who has spent a lot of time teaching the rookie since May. https://t.co/z5S1GQRwpR— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) September 23, 2016
"Jerry's spent a lot of time with Jacoby," Belichick said. "Josh obviously spends a lot of time with all the quarterbacks, but again there's times where Tom or Jimmy was going to be the starting quarterback, sometimes the second quarterback -- whether that was Jimmy a couple of years ago or last year, or Jacoby this year -- is on a little bit different scale in terms of their preparation."
Belichick may like to keep a small circle of coaches around him, but he knows having good teachers behind the scenes is critical, and he showed his appreciation for one of them after Brissett's strong showing Thursday night.