The Patriots remain interesting as a larger-scale story even when the subject matter is more menial, like who is coaching the defense, for a team that churns out 12-win seasons and division titles as casually as a Starbucks barista churns out overpriced mocha frappuccinos. So when it comes to everyone’s attention that they’re just not going to have a defensive coordinator, or even a de-facto defensive coordinator who does the play-calling — well, that’s a bit of a red flag isn’t it?
After Brian Flores left for the Dolphins job this offseason, and “Friend of Belichick” Greg Schiano.
Sure, Schiano had some interesting history with at least one of his defensive players, but. Schiano once almost got hired by the University of Tennessee but , so this whole Patriots thing is barely a bump in the road compared to his previous stops.
Anyway, Schiano leaving means the Patriots have no defensive coordinator. And, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, they’re not going to have a defensive coordinator when the season opens, as Bill Belichick will be throwing it back old school and calling all the defensive plays himself.
This will be the first time in nearly a decade — since 2010 — that Bill Belichick calls the defensive plays for the Patriots, per MassLive.com. Last year it was Flores and, prior to 2018, current Lions coach Matt Patricia was defensive coordinator for seven years and called plays for the Pats defense going all the way back to 2010. Like in 2018, the Patriots didn’t have an official DC for 2010, with Dean Pees (current Titans DC!) holding the job from 2006 through 2009. Prior to that it was Eric Mangini for a single season and prior to that it was Romeo Crennel for the start of Belichick’s run on through 2004.
As Volin points out, simply calling the defensive plays is “not that much more responsibility for Belichick” to take on in 2019.
From the Globe:
Belichick usually coaches the defensive linemen during the game, and often told Patricia and Flores when to call blitzes.
At this point, Belichick as defensive coordinator is the most sensible option. When Schiano left in late March, pretty much anyone else that Belichick would consider for defensive coordinator already had his job for 2019 lined up. [Bret] Bielema is the only other person on the Patriots’ staff even remotely qualified. Steve Belichick, the coach’s son, is not ready for play-calling yet. [Jerod] Mayo is a first-time coach, and needs at least some experience.
So Belichick probably figures that he’ll get through this year calling plays himself, then figure out a long-term solution next year. Who knows, maybe Patricia will be available to come back?
Ouch, burn! If you look back at 2010 and 2011, it was clearly a case of Belichick testing out some of his younger assistants. He had Flores and Patricia on staff for a long time, but didn’t want to push them into a bigger role with the scrutiny that comes along with calling plays.
The same thing applies here. Imagine if he made his son the defensive coordinator and the Patriots defense was below average in yards allowed (not an unusual thing for the Pats or any defense in 2019)? People would freak out. Same with Bielema, the former Arkansas coach now on the Pats staff, or Mayo.
Belichick is smart. He knows what he’s doing. He understands that it’s best for these guys to gain experience in their positions before making the full-blown leap to defensive coordinator. And he also likely understands he’ll have the most success and the least frustration by simply calling the plays himself during the season.
It worked out fine the last time the Patriots coach was in charge. In 2010 and 2011 the Patriots went a combined 27-5, giving up an average of just over 20 points per game in that span, which would have made them easily an above-average scoring defense. They only made one Super Bowl (a loss to the Giants) if you really want to nitpick the success of those Patriots teams.
This is a blip on the radar even though it remains very interesting because it’s the Patriots and because it’s the offseason.
Note: A previous version of this article called Brian Flores the defensive coordinator in 2018. While he called defensive plays, his official title remained linebackers coach. We apologize for the error.