Given the Patriots’ success over the past 20-plus seasons operating in this manner, the concerns regarding the ambiguous nature of coaching staff titles are overblown. New England has an established way of doing things under Belichick, and that will not change, no matter who’s calling plays. The Patriots operate as a team in all respects, and their coaching staff will make a collective effort to get it right on game day.
Take this description of his own role by Joe Judge, who left the Patriots to serve as head coach of the Giants and returned to Belichick’s staff this year upon the conclusion of his two-season run in New York:
“I am working with Mac (Jones), along with all the skill group on offense,” Judge said. “I’d say all of us are working collectively as a coaching unit with the entire offense. So that’s the most direct and specific answer I can give you on that. … It’s been a main emphasis for us as a coaching staff, we want to make sure we can coach all the players and that nobody is out there with a lack of knowledge in the offense.”
Judge, listed as an offensive assistant, is expected to work closely with the quarterbacks, but he could assume the role of offensive play-caller or share responsibilities with Nick Caley (tight ends/fullbacks). Then there’s Matt Patricia, whose first Patriots tenure included multiple coaching jobs on each side of the ball, culminating in a six-season stint (2012-17) as the team’s last official defensive coordinator. Now tasked with helping on offense (specifically, the line) as a senior football advisor, the former Lions’ head coach is a prime example of how the team cross-trains coaches to help create contingency plans for coaching departures or emergency situations.
On defense, the titles and responsibilities of Mayo and Bill Belichick’s son, Steve Belichick, have been a topic of public discussion. But anyone hung up over these details fails to take Bill Belichick’s influence into consideration. As one of the greatest defensive minds in football, he is surely a big part of the game-planning and play-calling process; it does not really matter which assistant coach holds the placard or talks to the green-dot defender (designated communicator) between snaps.
Looking ahead to the 2022 season, the versatility, flexibility and adaptability of the Patriots’ coaching staff will continue to make this team a viable threat in the AFC. While losing McDaniels will certainly have an impact on quarterback Mac Jones after a promising rookie season, the Patriots’ system will not change. Whoever ends up calling plays will simply tweak the scheme to accentuate the strengths of the individuals on offense.
This franchise excels at making in-game adjustments due to its superior preparation. The approach to coaching is part of a long-range plan that will enable the team to be a dark-horse contender, regardless of the mystery surrounding the roles and responsibilities of the staff.