Patriots

Patriots coaching staff turnover means less scouting-trail work for Belichick assistants

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USA TODAY Sports

Patriots coaching staff turnover means less scouting-trail work for Belichick assistants

FOXBORO -- Through the month of March it's not unusual to see Bill Belichick chatting up coaches or tapping away at his laptop during college pro days. But he's not the only Patriots coach on the scouting trail during the pre-draft process.

The organization takes an all-hands-on-deck approach this time of year as it tries to gather as much information as possible on available prospects. Director of player personnel Nick Caserio, college scouting director Monti Ossenfort and their college scouts handle the heavy lifting, and they get a hand from pro scouting director Dave Ziegler and his staff at this time of year. The coaches on the staff typically chip in as well, working out players, attending pro days themselves, interviewing potential Patriots.

But this year has been different.  

"Probably a little less than normal," Belichick acknowledged. "Doing it, but less activity for the coaching staff."

The reasons are obvious. There's been a significant amount of turnover from the 2018 coaching staff to this year's. Linebackers coach and defensive play-caller Brian Flores took the head job in Miami and took receivers coach Chad O'Shea, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and corners coach Josh Boyer with him. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly moved on to a position with the Chiefs. And one of the team's new coaches, Greg Schiano, who was with the Patriots during this year's combine, has already stepped down from his position with the team. 

With new faces taking over new position groups -- though promotions and specific job titles have not yet been announced -- the Patriots coaching staff's presence on the scouting trail has been less noticeable. 

"We're not talking about an unprecedented event here," Belichick said. "We've dealt with changes before. We'll deal with them."

To be sure, Patriots coaches have still been out and about. Both Dante Scarnecchia and coaching assistant DeMarcus Covington were front and center while working with players at Boston College's pro day. It's just not to the same extent across the coaching staff.

Whittling down the list of prospects from thousands, as Belichick explained Wednesday, to a draft board of about 100 is exhausting work. Every little bit helps. But with a number of coaching changes to sort through, the amount of help coming from the coaching staff isn't the same as it's been in years past. 

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Patriots' Stephon Gilmore reflects on Defensive Player of the Year candidacy

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore reflects on Defensive Player of the Year candidacy

Stephon Gilmore has a strong chance to accomplish something only five cornerbacks have done before in NFL history: win a Defensive Player of the Year award.

The New England Patriots' lockdown CB is considered a favorite to become the first player at his position to take home the award since Charles Woodson did so in 2009. Gilmore would become the first Patriots player ever to win the award.

In Orlando, Fla. for the Pro Bowl, Gilmore took some time to reflect on his candidacy.

“It’s pretty cool. That’s a big award,” Gilmore told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “The award speaks for itself, a lot of hard work, a lot of good teammates that put me in that position, a lot of preparation from myself. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates to even be in this position. I feel like I had a good year. Hopefully, I’ll win it.”

Gilmore tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six and also topped the league in pass breakups (20). The 29-year-old was named Defensive Player of the Year by his NFL peers and also by the Pro Football Writers of America.

“Toward the end [of the season], people started saying it,” Gilmore said. “I didn’t really think about it because it’d be a big award to win. I think it’d be the first Patriot to win Defensive Player of the Year. I mean, that’s insane. Hopefully, I’ll win it.”

NFL Honors will be announced Feb. 1 on FOX starting at 8 p.m.

Curran: Carr the first QB to mark his territory

Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

If Tom Brady leaves the New England Patriots, I think his new team's head coach, general manager and offensive coordinator would all understand they would have to make concessions.

They want him to feel comfortable. They want him to feel like he has ownership in the offensive scheme.

There would be some give-and-take. They know they'll only have so many more years with Brady, so why not try to maximize that potential? You don't do that by starting from scratch or making him learn a brand new system.

He’s had a lot of success in that system in New England, and there are a lot of positives for him being able to grow that offense the way he wants to see it.

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The closest example for Brady joining another team would be when Peyton Manning went to Denver. 

The Broncos allowed Peyton to put his touch on the offense and run a little bit more of what he was comfortable with. I believe any team bringing Brady in would also make those same concessions and say, “We want you to feel comfortable. We also want you to run an offense that you feel like you can have some success in.”

The offseason would be pivotal.

Brady would have to get in the building as soon as possible and have those conversations to understand what the offensive philosophy of that coordinator is, what kind of weapons they have and how to utilize those weapons.

For example: How do they run their checks on offense? Do they get out of certain plays or looks? Brady has been calling out protection schemes for the last 20 years; you always see him point to a linebacker and call out a certain protection. But some teams have the offensive line do that.

There’s a multitude of schematic factors that would go into Brady getting comfortable with a new team.

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But the biggest factor is terminology.

I had 12 offensive coordinators in 14 years, and everybody is a little different. When you are accustomed to the same word for a route concept for so many years, and then all of a sudden it’s a different word but the same route concept, it takes a second to process that in your brain.

When I had to learn a new offensive system, I would make flash cards, write down plays and watch film like I was cramming for a test. And that was before I even got onto the field.

Brady has never been a part of a different system. There has been nothing brand new that needs to be learned in the offseason; it's just building on what you did the year before.

That's going to be a factor for any team that brings Brady in: How much is their offensive terminology related to New England's? And how much leeway do they have to change what's already in place?

Because if you completely change what you did from the year before, it sets everybody back. The receivers, the offensive line, the running backs -- it’d be a learning curve for everybody.

If Brady leaves New England, I believe his best bet to be successful would be joining a team with similar offensive terminology.

He could be willing to go in there and start all over. He's a smart guy, so he could put it all on himself and say, “We’ll make some subtle adjustments, but I’ll learn your offensive scheme."

But that's asking a lot from a guy who’s been in the same system for 20 years.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.