FOXBORO – The Patriots media guide was sent out on Tuesday. The first section I flipped to was “Coaching Staff.”
The comings, goings and the official titles handed out since February were never formally announced by the Patriots. And there were plenty.
Here’s the list of jobs and the coaches in them.
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
Offensive Coordinator/QBs: Josh McDaniels
Defensive Coordinator: Vacant (presumed to be Belichick)
Special Teams Coordinator: Joe Judge
Wide Receivers: Joe Judge (replaced Chad O’Shea)
Offensive Line: Dante Scarnecchia
Running Backs: Ivan Fears
Tight Ends: Nick Caley
Assistant Special Teams: Cam Achord
Assistant Running Backs: Cole Popovich (formerly coaching ass’t, new position)
Assistant Quarterbacks: Mick Lombardi (replaced Jerry Schuplinski)
Defensive Line: Bret Beilema (replaced Brendan Daly)
Outside Linebackers: DeMarcus Covington (new position, formerly coaching ass’t)
Inside Linebackers: Jerod Mayo (new position, Brian Flores previously did all LBs)
Safeties: Steve Belichick (adds “Secondary”)
Secondary: Steve Belichick (new position)
CBs: Mike Pellegrino (formerly coaching ass’t, replaces Josh Boyer)
Strength and Conditioning: Moses Cabrera
Assistant Strength and Conditioning: Deron Mayo
Director of Skill Development: Joe Kim (new position)
Coaching Assistants: Brian Belichick, Carmen Bricillo, Bob Fraser
That’s a lot of turnover — as we’ve diligently pointed out through the offseason — and a lot of institutional knowledge out of the program.
In May, McDaniels put a positive spin on the changes.
“That’s a fun thing for us,” he explained. “When you have change, you have two choices. You can sit and complain about what it’s not like or you can sit there and say, ‘Man, this is kind of cool and fresh and new.’
“It gives you another opportunity to share the foundation of our system and talk about the terminology and the genesis of where things came from that sometimes you don’t do if you’ve been together for a long time. This has been a great opportunity to get back to that. Our group is really good and there’s a different style of energy because there’s a lot of learning going on and everybody’s got a great deal of excitement heading into this spring.”
All that may be true but — practically speaking — new people in new jobs have a learning curve to conquer. Obviously, that means increased oversight from the boss to make sure the job is being done as hoped.
Bill Belichick — on whose desk the buck always stops — shrugged off the changes during his first press conference of 2019 Training Camp.
“There’s changes on every team every year,” he explained. “Every team changes players, every team in the league has had staff changes. We’ve had staff changes almost every year, I would say every year. I can’t think of one where we didn’t have one. So it’s the National Football League. That’s the way it is.”
All that is obvious to everyone. How it tangibly affects the team’s preparation, how much of the finite time allocated to preparing the team is now allocated to preparing the coaches as well and whether it’s a big deal or not — that’s what matters. How much of an oversight challenge does it become for Belichick, I asked.
“Every year you try to put your team together and put it in the best position possible and that includes everything,” he said. “It’s every single aspect of the organization encompassed in that plan and that goal so I don’t see this year as any different from any other year. I don’t think any year will be different from any other year fundamentally. It’s different in that there are different changes or modifications or adjustments. There are things you might have to do differently but even if you had the same people you might have to do it differently for different reasons. Each year is its own entity and that’s the way I try to approach it.”
There are literally dozens of occasions over two decades where the collective smarts and preparation of the Patriots coaching staff and what they passed on to the players is what made the difference between winning and losing. How many times have we heard the players themselves say it?
Will the Patriots enjoy the same advantage in 2019 that they did in 2018? It’s hard to imagine that’s possible especially with coaches like Belichick and Judge stretched more thinly this year.
Change may be annual, as Belichick said. But this much change? Unusual.
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