News about the Patriots coordinators over the past 24 hours is far from a shock.
And it’s not really news if you’ve been sticking with us over the past couple weeks.
(Yes, as a matter of fact, I did hurt my arm patting myself on the back…)
The Colts have been the preferred destination for Josh McDaniels since this started. Aside from geography, there was very little recommend the 3-13 Giants over the 9-7 Detroit Lions for Matt Patricia. Unless a chastened, meddling owner, an infant-laden locker room and a quarterback headed for the glue factory would be selling points for you, you’d go to Detroit 10 times out of 10 to stay out of that the Jints morass.
How will these acorns from the Belichick Tree fare?
New England Patriots
It’s hard to even project. Depending on Andrew Luck’s shoulder, Indy’s either in semi-rebuild or headed for a full reboot. The Lions have the pieces in place but Patricia is in his first time around as a head coach. For a dozen years, he’s peeked over his shoulder to see if Bill Belichick approved of every on-the-record comment he’s made.
Fly free now, little bearded bird!
For both guys, it’s time. What else is left to prove in New England?
If you take a long, realistic look at the Patriots roster as they prepare for the AFC Championship – what’s the sense in sticking around until things get rocky?
The best core players are near or past 30 (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Matt Slater, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Tom Brady). Two that aren’t - Donta Hightower and Rob Gronkowski – have fairly long injury histories and even if Gronk’s turned the corner, his contract is up in 2019.
Bill Belichick might be done in 12 months. He might be done in five years.
More than what’s “wrong” or insufficient in New England, though, is the simple fact of professional advancement and fulfillment. Challenge yourself. Make a bunch more money. Who knows, if you’re McDaniels, maybe you follow the same trajectory as Belichick and win five Super Bowls.
The “brain drain” can be stanched at the coordinator level by simple elevations of current assistants. Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea are the likeliest candidates. But there are other places it can flow.
Every coach that departs a program needs lieutenants to bring with him who can pass on his vision to the team he’ll lead.
Fortunately, the GMs in Detroit and Indy – Bob Quinn and Chris Ballard – already have their economic and personnel philosophies in place. But, generally, coaches like to bring with the players who are can interpret and serve as go-betweens.
Over his first two seasons in New England, Belichick brought aboard Anthony Pleasant, Bryan Cox, Bobby Hamilton, Roman Phifer, Antonio Langham and Otis Smith. He also brought coaches like Eric Mangini and front-office execs like Scott Pioli.
And the outflow was what got sticky when Mangini left to coach the Jets and was perceived by Belichick to be pilfering players and coaches before he was even out of Gillette Stadium.
Here’s a list of the Patriots who’ll be up at the end of this season. Here are the ones who’ll be up at the end of the 2018 season. Highlighting the list of guys expiring after 2019 is Brady.
You can rest assured McDaniels and Patricia are both familiar with all those names.
Before anyone goes anywhere, the 2017 Patriots have a chance to add another line to everyone’s resume. In years past, the interview process didn’t seem to hinder either man because they were both coming back. Now, with both coordinators committed to leaving, we’ll see how well the balance is struck.