Can Patriots handle another year of major coaching changes?


For the second straight offseason, the Patriots are dealing with another year of major changes to the coaching staff.

Following the 2018 season, de-facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores departed for Miami and brought cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer with him, and then defensive line coach Brendan Daly went to Kansas City.

But, the Patriots handled the changes just fine, mostly because of Bill Belichick.

“I think I’ll be more involved this year defensively than I was in recent years,” Belichick told NFL Network’s Willie McGinest early last summer. “Although I’ve always tried to be involved in all aspects of the game, especially the defensive side of the ball. But this year it will be a little bit more, but I’m enjoying it and eventually I’ll have less of a role.”

Belichick is obviously known for his defensive contributions, which certainly played a role in the Patriots defense being the No. 1 ranked unit in football last season even with the coaching turnover.

New England allowed an average of 276 yards and 14 points per game, which were both league-lows.

Things could be different this year, as it is now the offensive side of the ball dealing with changes.

The biggest is long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retiring, in addition to wide receivers coach Joe Judge now being in New York and then Tom Brady, who essentially was a coach on the field at times, now in Tampa Bay.

It isn’t Belichick’s unit dealing with the changes anymore — it’s Josh McDaniels’. 

While he is one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, he isn’t Belichick. And while Belichick can still have some input on what takes place, he doesn’t have control of the unit like he does with the defense.

The loss of Scarnecchia cannot be understated. For as good of coaches Flores, Daly and Boyer were, none come close to Scarnecchia, who is considered the greatest offensive line coach in the history of the game. 

For the last several years, the Patriots have got the most out of their offensive line mostly because of Scarnecchia. Now with Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo taking his spot leading the group, who knows exactly what the unit will be. This could turn into a big deal with second-year player Jarrett Stidham likely the starting quarterback.

Stidham also factors into things being different with the offense this season compared to the defense a year ago.

Last year the Patriots had a number of veteran leaders on the defense in Stephon Gilmore, Devin and Jason McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Lawrence Guy, etc. This also made it much easier to handle such a transition.

This year, the offense doesn’t exactly have that luxury.

Besides Julian Edelman, James White and David Andrews, the unit doesn’t have very many leaders to help offset the loss on the coaching staff. 

It’s also worth noting this is all happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the offseason workout programs are all being held virtually, so some of these new coaches haven’t been able to work in person with their new groups.

While it is certainly possible the Patriots will be able to overcome the coaching losses offensively in 2020, there’s no doubt it will be much harder than it was a year ago.

Just another thing to think about in life post-Tom Brady.