New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick saw a massive coaching exodus this offseason. When offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left for the Las Vegas Raiders, he brought key voices on the offensive side with him.
McDaniels took wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and offensive assistant Bo Hardegree with him. Suddenly, Belichick was left without his offensive coordinator and three position coaches.
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It couldn’t come at a worse time. Quarterback Mac Jones would be entering a pivotal second NFL season and the Patriots’ lack of offensive weapons put them at a further disadvantage. If Belichick didn’t make the right hires, the Patriots’ offense would take a significant step backward in 2022.
New England couldn’t land Bill O’Brien, a reported target to replace McDaniels. Instead, Belichick brought back Joe Judge and moved Matt Patricia to the offensive side for the first time since 2005.
An offensive coordinator with little experience coaching on that side of the ball and an inexperienced quarterbacks coach working one-on-one with Jones seemed destined to backfire.
Players were concerned about the direction of the coaching staff by May and troubling reports about the offense emerged throughout training camp. Sure enough, the offense has regressed and New England’s Pro Bowl quarterback has seemingly declined.
|Total YPG||Gross Pass YPG||Pass DVOA||Off. TD per game|
|New England Patriots offense (2021)||350.7 (15th)||240.6 (14th)||24.7% (10th)||2.8 (12th)|
|New England Patriots offense (2022)||318.9 (25th)||231.8 (20th)||2.9% (22nd)||1.8 (25th)|
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With Jones now lighting up Patricia on the sideline in nationally-televised games and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne calling out the play-calling, the problems have reached a point of no return.
“Yeah, man, we need to scheme up better. We need to know what they’re doing. We need to know what they wanna do on third down. They call this, and we call that, and it falls right into what they want.”Kendrick Bourne on New England Patriots’ play-calling
New England boasts a playoff-caliber defense, but change is mandatory in order to salvage this offense in 2023. Let’s dive into how Belichick can rebuild the Patriots’ offense next season.
Projecting a New England Patriots offensive coaching staff
We won’t be able to fill out every position on Belichick’s coaching staff, such as assistant offensive line coach, offensive assistants or special advisors. However, we could put together a potential group of coaches that could seemingly deliver far better results than the current group.
It’s important to be realistic with these targets to fill out the staff. New England won’t convince anyone to take a downgrade in their title or salary to work on an offense that is led by quarterback Mac Jones. However, there are enough appealing options to put together a quality group.
Offensive Coordinator: Bill O’Brien
After staying with the Alabama Crimson Tide for another reason, Bill O’Brien needs to explore alternatives in 2023. Bryce Young is headed for the 2023 NFL Draft and with Alabama’s offense not exactly in a position to skyrocket next season, this could be the right time to leave.
Even after losing Jameson Williams and John Metchie III, O’Brien’s offense is enjoying another productive season. Young has also stated that O’Brien has played an instrumental role in his success, both in preparing him for the NFL and helping create a quarterback-friendly environment.
- Alabama Crimson Tide offense stats (2022): 475.5 total ypg, 40.8 ppg, 152.7 QB rating, 46.1% third-down conversion rate, 0.581 points per play
O’Brien might not be the most popular choice among fans, largely based on what happened with the Houston Texans. However, his relationship with players combined with his familiarity with Belichick and a long history with quarterbacks make him a safe hire.
Quarterbacks coach: Nathaniel Hackett
Speaking of former or soon-to-be ex-NFL head coaches who don’t have the best reputation among fans. Nathaniel Hackett is proving this season that the position comes with far more responsibilities than he can handle. Considering he also hasn’t fared well as a play-caller, this might be the perfect role for him after he is fired.
Aaron Rodgers has raved about Hackett in the past, praising his mind for the game and how well he communicates with players. Those are two elements that it’s become apparent the Patriots are lacking right now and Jones needs.
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New England offers Hackett a soft landing spot, allowing him to settle into a more traditional role with far less pressure. He could work one-on-one with both Jones and Bailey Zappe, all while assisting O’Brien or another offensive coordinator with creating a more well-rounded game plan.
Running Backs coach & Run Game Coordinator: Dell McGee
There’s a strong possibility that Belichick wants to keep Vinnie Sunseri as the Patriots’ running backs coach next season. For now, we’ll keep an open mind and consider alternatives. Dell McGee has coached the Georgia Bulldogs’ running backs since 2016, later adding run game coordinator to his list of responsibilities.
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During his time at Georgia, McGee has helped James Cook, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift blossom into elite college players with skills and work ethics that helped take them to the NFL. It’s a proven track record that deserves recognition and coaching in the NFL could be the next step forward for McGee.
Wide Receivers coach: Wes Welker
A lack of talent in the Patriots’ receiver room is certainly part of the issue in New England. However, the team could also stand to benefit from adding one of the rising names on the coaching side. Wes Welker, a beloved Patriots icon, is quickly making a name for himself on the coaching side.
The 41-year-old first joined the Texans’ coaching staff as an offensive assistant (2017-’18) before Kyle Shanahan lured him away to coach the San Francisco 49ers receivers beginning in 2019. After Mike McDaniel became the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, one of the first moves he made was to bring Welker with him.
Welker brings the same ethic as a coach that Belichick loved receiving from him as a player in New England. The Dolphins’ receivers coach is also following in McDaniel’s footsteps regarding film study and he brings an energy that seems to be lacking right now in New England.
Tight Ends coach & Pass Game Coordinator: Nick Caley
Rounding out our New England Patriots coaching staff in 2023, Nick Caley receives a title bump. Viewed by some as a future head coach, there is a distinct possibility that he’ll become an offensive coordinator by 2024. For now, the 39-year-old adds continuity for this staff and he would gain additional responsibilities by having an influential role in creating the game plan for each week. It could be the final step before he becomes a play-caller, either with the Patriots or elsewhere.