The New England Patriots hired 10-year NFL veteran turned coach Alex Van Pelt as their offensive coordinator Thursday afternoon, filling out their core staff alongside head coach Jerod Mayo and defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington.
While the hiring of Van Pelt came as a surprise -- he wasn't reported as one of the 11 candidates who interviewed for the opening -- his 18 years of coaching experience and proven track record of developing quarterbacks should leave Patriots fans at ease.
In the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted that Patriots' executive and director of scouting Eliot Wolf worked with Van Pelt during their years together with the Green Bay Packers. That likely influenced New England to go with last year's Cleveland Browns OC over other available candidates.
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"I think Eliot Wolf has influence now in the organization," Breer said. "The day Jerod Mayo was hired, there were two guys from the front office that Robert Kraft and Jonathan Kraft brought into the front office for a meeting -- one was Matt Groh, which you'd expect because he was the director of player personnel last year, and the other was Eliot Wolf. I think Eliot is going to have influence here."
Before spending this past season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Browns, where he helped Joe Flacco take Cleveland to the playoffs after losing starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and star running back Nick Chubb to season-ending injuries, Van Pelt also recently held the title of quarterbacks coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Packers.
"I think the other good thing -- and one thing I can say now -- Alex Van Pelt is going to have some power in hiring on the offensive side of the ball," Breer added of New England's new play-caller. "Maybe you didn't give as much power to Bill O'Brien over that last year, so Alex Van Pelt may have the chance to bring in his own quarterbacks coach, to bring in his own offensive line coach. I think that can make a big difference when you're trying to put together an offense if you're trying to bring in guys that you don't need to reteach them what they need to do."
With a blank slate ahead of them credited to multiple expiring contracts, money to spend in free agency, and the third overall pick in the upcoming draft, New England's staff will need to come together to decide what direction they want to take the Patriots in. With Van Pelt expected to have a say in who will join him on the offensive coaching staff, he will likely want to see what the Patriots are going to do with the team's biggest question mark -- the quarterback position.
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Aside from his years of experience, Van Pelt has a good history of working with quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield, and even former Patriots signal-caller Jacoby Brissett. With an opportunity to draft a quarterback in either Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels, the Patriots were likely enticed by Van Pelt's track record of developing capable starting quarterbacks.
While the ultimate decision will likely come after the draft and free agency period end and the team can evaluate the players in front of them, Van Pelt has historically run a West Coast offense, which would be a change from the modified Erhardt-Perkins system New England's offense has used since the arrival of Tom Brady. Instead of an aggressive run game featuring play-action passes, Van Pelt's West Coast scheme comprises of short passes with the occasional deep ball to keep a defense on its toes.
After the season, the Browns' entire offensive coaching staff turned over, which featured running backs coach Stump Mitchell, tight ends coach T.C. McCartney, and assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters -- all of whom could ultimately be candidates to round out New England's offensive coaching staff.