Pats' biggest offseason win: Keeping coaching staff intact

Pats' biggest offseason win: Keeping coaching staff intact

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.


The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: How do you judge the Patriots' coaching staff?

Scout 1: All the additions they made from a personnel side this offseason attracted all the attention, but the reality is keeping the coaching staff intact for another year was quite the coup. Buzz around the league was at least one of the [Josh] McDaniels/[Matt] Patricia coordinator duo would be gone. For me, it’s probably too early to give Patricia that kind of responsibility. I know as a league, we’re trending younger with some of the hires, but the more experience a coach can get, the better equipped he’ll be to handle the variety of situations that pop up. Look at Josh in Denver. Over his head. Now? One of the best coaches in the business, head coach or coordinator wise.

Scout 2: If any coach is going to have a chance to break out of [Bill] Belichick’s shadow, it’s Josh. The way they prepared [Jimmy] Garoppolo for [last year's season opener at] Arizona and then [the second game against] Miami were the stuff you put at the top of the resume. [Garoppolo] looked like a different player than the one we saw in the preseason. That’s because of the big brains on that OC. Any worries about what happened in Denver?  No. God no. He got a crack too soon. The [Jay] Cutler decision was polarizing. I think that’s part of why he’s waiting around now. Don’t jump at the first or second job. Find the one where some of the key pieces are in place. As for Patricia, that shirt (the Goodell clown shirt he wore on the plane home from the Super Bowl) was the kind of the decision that owners across the league might say, ‘Whoa.’ He got caught up in the emotion. He’ll have to answer for that in an interview if a team has done their homework but he can explain it away. If he’s the right guy, I’d imagine he’ll be able to get past that.

Scout 3: Patricia reminds me so much of Romeo [Crennel]. Not so much body language but those guys on the defense love him, just like they did with RAC. He gets the most out of each and every one of them. But will that translate to the next step? Maybe, maybe not, but the fact he remains on that staff, under Bill, alongside Josh, is terrific for them but not so much for everyone else. They don’t have to build back up. They’re already established. The players know that and their fellow coaches know that. Bill wins, again.

Ex-Patriot/current NFL player: They know their shit. They have the respect of their players. You know where you stand, how they’ll operate and how you have to operate and play to have success under them. As a player, not sure you can ask for much more. And let’s be honest, you see it all over the league, teams changing this coach, that coach, this coordinator or that one. You may think we as players don’t notice that -- and maybe some don’t -- but to me, that shit matters. You gotta get yours but you also better understand all organizations are not created equal. I got that in New England.

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

(3:00) Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran discuss what their priorities are for Patriots offseason moves. Is bringing back Nate Solder the first move that needs to happen?

(7:00) Does the linebacker position need to be addressed this offseason?

(10:00) Phil Perry explains why he thinks the Patriots absolutely must get a QB this offseason.

(16:00) Dane Brugler from joins the podcast to break down the QBs in this draft..and the upside and downside of each player.

(21:00) Are Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson QBs that are worthy of being drafted in the first round?

(25:30) Are there any other QBs going after the 1st round that could fit the Patriots needs?

(28:00) What linebackers could the Patriots target in the draft, and in what round?

(34:00) Should the Patriots look to draft a left tackle?

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.



Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

Nate Ebner


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.