Curran: Patricia makes his pitch as head engineer of Patriots' offense

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FOXBORO -- Despite Bill Belichick’s effort to keep folks in the dark on who’s doing what for his coaching staff, it’s become fairly clear Matt Patricia is head engineer for the Patriots offense.

Monday morning, Patricia -- whose official title is "Offensive line coach/Senior Football Advisor" -- answered questions in a way that confirmed his role without really confirming it.

He explained the benefits he believes he can bring. He discussed the nuance of offensive play-calling and how he’ll help Mac Jones through the dance with the defense every quarterback experiences.

And he did so earnestly with none of the prickliness or evasiveness he sometimes displayed in his tenure as Patriots defensive coordinator. Patricia smiles through questions posed by reporters he knows have wondered publicly why in God’s name HE would be in charge of Mac Jones’ second year. He tells media members he’s happy to see them again knowing he’s been their piñata.

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Patricia’s press conference manner isn’t going to help the Patriots convert third-and-6s when the season starts. But if his public demeanor carries back behind closed doors, his accommodating and upbeat attitude can’t hurt as the Patriots’ unconventional post-McDaniels offensive setup plays out. It’s scientifically proven that, in collaborative work, more gets done when people aren’t dinks.

And collaboration seems to be the essence of what the Patriots are trying to achieve.

"All the coaches across the board work together," Patricia explained when asked how the practice setup is fashioned. "It’s a big divide-and-conquer (situation) at some points. We have a lot of work to get done through the course of the night and everybody really understands what we’re trying to do."

Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen?  

"It’s not unusual (to collaborate)," he said. "There is a share of responsibility that goes on in those situations. Which is great. I think the good thing is that our offensive staff really tries to split a lot of the meetings and everyone gives input in different areas so that it’s not just the same person all the time giving all the information. I think everyone has little areas of expertise.

"As a coach and (in the spirit of) developing coaches, you want them to grow too. You want them to be able to get in the front of the room and present an area, whether it be run game, pass protection or routes. We really look at it as shared responsibility right now."

It’s not an offensive look people are accustomed to with the Patriots. For 20 years it was Tom Brady with either Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels or Bill O'Brien shoulder-to-shoulder running the offense. And over the past 10 years, as he assumed more and more responsibility for the offense, McDaniels became one of the most decorated assistant coaches in the history of the game.

In his stead, it’s a slew of replacements all getting their turn at the mic. With Belichick as overlord.

"We have an established culture here where we understand there’s input that comes across the board," said Patricia. "Certainly, when a hard decision needs to be made, we’re lucky our head coach is involved in all aspects of the game and has an expertise above anyone else. So when we need a push in either direction we can rely on him to get us through the sticky points."

Belichick has devoted a lot of his practice attention to observing or helping with the offense. Almost all of it, actually. But he's giving his coaches latitude to run things, stepping to the periphery during practices and ceding control to Patricia in particular.

Patricia spends a lot of time in Mac Jones’ hip pocket.

"He really sees the game well for a young guy," said Patricia. "I’ve been around a lot of players and sometimes in that first year you’re just trying to hang in there and absorb as much as you can. But I feel like he just blew right past all that and dove into the mentality of what he is. Competitive, sees the game really well and is intuitive."

So what can Patricia bring Jones? A defensive coordinator’s perspective of what’s being done to toy with Jones’ brain.

"I’ve always spent a lot of time on the other side trying to give the quarterback a hard time and give them confusing looks," Patricia explained. "I think I have a lot of insight I can provide from some of those things that happened. Its funny because when I originally switched from offense to defense (back in 2006 after two years an offensive assistant with the Patriots), I had the linebacker room with (Tedy) Bruschi and (Mike) Vrabel and I was (teaching those LBs from an offensive perspective).

"Trying to put that knowledge in the conversation so that when you see things on tape you realize, ‘That makes more sense now.’ Now you understand your read or adjustment or alert may be different because you’re seeing something a little bit differently."

The Patriots' offensive setup isn’t a little bit different. It’s a lot different. And it’s going to be a fixation all season with Patricia as a focal point, title or not. He’s bound to take his licks despite Belichick’s effort to shield him.

Unless, of course, an almost unforeseen outcome plays out. Imagine if the Patriots offense becomes a machine and Patricia winds up being a gifted Mac Whisperer/play-caller. Imagine if there is no post-McDaniels swoon. Well then the piñata would have the stick. And the last laugh.

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