For many years, Bill Belichick has followed a fascinating pattern with his coaching staff. He largely assembles casts of mostly unknown, completely dedicated assistants, trains them in his vein and develops them for bigger and better jobs.
And they often win a Super Bowl or three along the way. Decent work experience, you might say.
Sometimes those jobs come within the Patriots organization. And other times, those opportunities lie elsewhere. Given the Patriots' success the past three-plus seasons as we enter the 2017 playoffs, where they're the top seed in the AFC after winning the Super Bowl two out of three years and making the conference title game the other season, you can see why other franchises might want to tap into what Belichick is brewing.
Hence why two of the hottest head-coaching candidates are Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
The New York Giants, under new general manager Dave Gettleman, have sought persmission to speak with both, according to an ESPN report. Multiple reports also have the Detroit Lions (and GM Bob Quinn, a former Patriots scout) looking hard at Patricia, with the Indianapolis Colts and GM Chris Ballard expecting to speak with McDaniels.
There also could be other teams with head-coaching vacancies who come calling. Belichick has always done a good job of promoting his assistants publicly, even if he limits their exposure to the media more than some other teams do.
“I think our staff has done a good job this year, as they have throughout the years,” Belichick said Monday. “I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of great coaches and coordinators on the staff, so that’s been a real positive for me and a positive for our team and our organization. I don’t really know about the rest of it. We’ll see how it goes, but those guys have done a great job for me.”
The Patriots seem to go through this every few years now where teams want a piece of their coaches, going well into their second decade of unprecedented success under Belichick. This year feels a bit different, though. They have to be prepared to lose both McDaniels and Patricia in the same offseason.
This actually happened once before following the Patriots' third Super Bowl title in a four-year span back in the 2004 season. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left for the Notre Dame job, and Romeo Crennel left to coach the Cleveland Browns. Although neither had the success they hoped for at their new respective jobs, the Patriots would not win another title without them for a decade. Of course, they made two Super Bowls in that span, so it's hard to argue that they failed to replace them.
Belichick chose the veteran route to replace Crennel and Eric Mangini, who was coordinator for one year before taking the New York Jets job. They went with Dean Pees, who coincidentally is expected to retire from the Baltimore Ravens now that they're out of the playoffs. That produced mixed results, and he stands as one of the few Belichick assistants to be fired (or had his contract run out, if you want to play the semantics game).
We believe Belichick will go the young route, or the in-house method, for finding both replacements this time if he needs to. Younger offensive assistants who are on staff now and could be candidates to take McDaniels' spot include receivers coach Chad O'Shea and assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinski. We also reported last week that they very likely could call Nick Saban and ask about Brian Daboll, a former Patriots assistant (two stints in New England) who is now calling plays for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
On defense, the most obvious candidate is Brian Flores, the team's current linebackers coach. Flores cut his teeth with the Patriots in scouting in the mid-2000s before moving over to coaching a few years later. He has worked with the special teams, as well as coaching the secondary, the past decade. The San Francisco 49ers were reportedly interested in bringing Flores in for an interview before they hired Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator.
So once again, Belichick has a succession plan in place. There are reasons why the team has sustained success, and this is an example of one element. Belichick is always grooming potential coaches and coordinators and scouts, knowing that other teams will raid their staffs. And once in a while, folks such as McDaniels or Daboll come back home. It's nice to have a fully sustainable crop rotation and seemingly eternally fertile grounds on which to farm.