Whether it's what the Patriots have done at the running back position, at offensive tackle or even on their kick-coverage units, this season has in many ways been one long-running illustration of the importance of contingency plans.
Having a strong Plan B at quarterback for a half-season likely hurt the Patriots in terms of the compensation they could've received for Jimmy Garoppolo, but they held onto him anyway. And when they dealt him, they sent him to a place that had a quarterback the Patriots could use as a short-term stop-gap.
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"Nobody needs insurance until you need insurance," Bill Belichick said late last season. "I don’t know if we’re going to need it. I don’t know if we’re not going to need it."
Belichick has succeeded in providing himself realtively solid insurance at several critical spots on their roster. He lost two of his five most important players to injury and yet the Patriots are still the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
That approach, an insistence on sustainable backup plans, hasn't just been limited the construction of the active roster. As Belichick has assembled his coaching staff and personnel department, he seems to have raised a team of "next men up."
With offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and director of player personnel Nick Caserio all reportedly considered for different positions around the league, let's take a look at who from within the organization could succeed them should they go.
Chad O'Shea, wide receivers coach: O'Shea has been given the preseason play-calling responsibilities in the past, an indication that he would be called upon should anything happen that would prevent McDaniels from carrying out his game-day gig. O'Shea is instrumental in not only tutoring a position group that gets its cues from one of the most demanding quarterbacks in the history of the sport, but he makes critical contributions in game-planning and has been responsible for putting together the team's red-zone packages. O'Shea is in his 15th NFL season and his ninth in New England.
Jerry Schuplinski, assistant quarterbacks coach: Another potential option to take on coordinator duties, Schuplinski received some hard-earned recognition last season for his work with rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett after Brissett helped the Patriots to a win over the Texans during his first NFL start. Among his varying responsibilities, Schuplinski has been responsible for helping young quarterbacks -- whether it was Brissett or Garoppolo -- find their footing in the Patriots system. Schuplinski played his college football at John Carroll University, where he was teammates with McDaniels, Caserio and director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler. He's in his second season as assistant quarterbacks coach (McDaniels' official title is offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach) and his fifth season overall with the Patriots.
Brian Flores, linebackers coach: Flores has already reportedly received some interest from the Cardinals to interview for their open head-coaching job. Should he remain in New England, and should Patricia take a job elsewhere, Flores would be a logical choice to take the reins at defensive coordinator. Like O'Shea for the offense, Flores has previously taken on play-calling duties for the defense during preseason action, indicating he'd be relied upon in Patricia's absence. Flores joined the Patriots as a scouting assistant in 2004 after finishing up his playing career as a two-year starter at Boston College. He's in his 14th season with the Patriots and his 10th season as a coach. For the last two seasons he's led the linebackers after serving as safeties coach for four seasons. During Super Bowl week last year, Flores reportedly had interest from the 49ers to take over their open defensive coordinator spot.
Monti Ossenfort, director of college scouting: One of only a handful of staffers in the Patriots "war room" during draft weekend, Ossenfort could be primed for greater responsibility if Caserio -- who is reportedly expected to receive interest from the Texans for their open general manager job -- ever decided to move on. Ossenfort has also been linked to the opening in Houston. He's in his 13th season with the Patriots and his fourth as the director of college scouting.
Dave Ziegler, director of pro personnel: Another of the many behind-the-scenes brains in the Patriots front office, Ziegler is in his second season as director of pro personnel after replacing current Lions general manager Bob Quinn. In his fifth season with the Patriots, Ziegler -- another John Carroll product -- spent three years in the Broncos scouting department before getting to New England.