Patriots

Why Patriots have 'all' of Bengals' special teams calls, and vice versa

Why Patriots have 'all' of Bengals' special teams calls, and vice versa

FOXBORO -- The Cincinnati Bengals won't need to do much advance scouting to prepare for the New England Patriots' special teams units Sunday.

That's because the Bengals' special teams coordinator is Darrin Simmons, who spent a total of five seasons as a special teams assistant to Scott O'Brien on the Baltimore Ravens (1998) and Carolina Panthers (1999-2002).

O'Brien later spent six seasons as Bill Belichick's special teams coach in New England from 2009 to 2014, winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his final year.

That's a lot of dot-connecting, though: The Bengals having a former assistant of a former Patriots assistant on staff won't impact Sunday's special teams play that much ... right?

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thinks otherwise.

"It's like an intrasquad scrimmage," Belichick said Friday at his press conference. "They have all our calls, we have all their calls."

Belichick admitting the Patriots will have "all their calls" will draw the inevitable "Spygate 2.0" jokes in light of the NFL investigating New England for filming Cincinnati's sideline last weekend.

The roots of special teams coaching trees run deep, though. Belichick noted Simmons runs Cincinnati's special teams in a very similar manner to New England, where Joe Judge has been special teams coordinator since O'Brien retired following the 2014 season.

"The way they handle situations is fundamentally the way we would handle them," Belichick added. 

"Not that we would always do it the same way. You might have two or three options, but you would see similar strategic positioning or strategy that either we would use or have used."

"Sometimes it feels like you're looking at yourself on film," Patriots special teamer and co-captain Matthew Slater said Friday. "... It's not Scotty to a tee, but there are some similarities."

O'Brien apparently taught Simmons well: Despite their 1-12 record, the Bengals boast the No. 1 special teams unit in the NFL based on Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), per FootballOutsiders.com.

The Patriots, who have gone through four different kickers in 2019, are distant 19th in special teams DVOA.

As strange as it sounds, 10-3 New England might be satisfied to battle the Bengals' special teams unit to a stalemate Sunday in Cincinnati.

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Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Tom Brady doesn't officially become a free agent until the new league year begins on March 18, but the rumors are already flying about the New England Patriot quarterback's future.

A report surfaced earlier in the week that Brady and his family purchased a home in Greenwich, Connecticut. As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran pointed out, that is false.

But that doesn't mean Brady isn't planning on making a move.

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Thursday night on "Arbella Early Edition," Gary Tanguay revealed that a source told him Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen are looking to leave New England.

"I was told today by a source the family is planning to leave the area," Tanguay said. "The priority this time is to let the kids finish school this year, then they're gone."

Tanguay's report doesn't mean Brady is definitely leaving New England, but talks of him and his family looking to live somewhere else continue to gain steam.

If Brady indeed is moving on from New England and looking to start a new chapter, some of that could do with his desire to finally make the money he's worth in free agency.

According to Tanguay, Brady is "embarrassed" by the number of quarterbacks in the league that make more than him and has been fed up about it dating back to the summer, before he signed his contract extension.

Thirteen quarterbacks, including Brady's former backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, make more on average annually than the six-time Super Bowl champion according to overthecap.com.

The truth is, we won't know for certain what's going through Brady's mind until the ink is on paper for the 42-year-old's new contract. Until then, it's going to be a stressful offseason for Patriots fans.

Curran: Is this newfound time a silver lining for Patriots?

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

Needless to say, it's unusual for the New England Patriots to have so much down time in January. Typically, they're playing in the AFC Divisional Round. And the AFC Championship Game. And often, the Super Bowl.

But this year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009. And now, they have a lot of time on their hands.

And while their early playoff exit was surely discouraging, the Patriots could stand to benefit from this extra time.

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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed how the Patriots could utilize the extra time and the positive impact it could have on the organization.

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Curran pointed out that because the team has so often been playing into February, their already thin staff has been stretched thin come draft season, which explains why the team has had some draft misses in recent seasons.

Really, it comes down to 312 days of prepreparation were sacrifice. And so for a bare bones organization in terms of both front office and coaching staff -- these guys have had shorter offseasons by a month on average than any other team in the NFL.

So on one hand, it's remarkable and it's a high-class problem. On the other hand, isn't it somewhat inevitable that you might have some draft swings and misses?

Perry agreed with Curran and brought up that the fact that the extra time off will give Belichick a real chance to thoroughly evaluate his roster.

I think for a team that is looking at a reboot, one of the sort of ironic things about that is that now you have time to really think that through in more detail and not to say that Bill Belichick isn't planning or looking at his roster, how it's constructed, how the contracts set up and trying to plan ahead. I'm sure he is doing that to a certain extent.

But you can only spend so much time on those things when you're getting ready for the divisional round, the AFC Championship Game every year, the Super Bowl every other year.

This surely makes sense and is definitely a positive for the Patriots. Perhaps with that extra time, Belichick can find a way to retain Tom Brady while significantly upgrading his supporting cast.

For more on the Patriots offseason plans, potential changes in their front office, and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.