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.