Bill Belichick! Huh? Well, not really. Actually, the Patriots will go into the 2010 season with no defensive coordinator, so to speak. A pretty anti-climactic ending to a month full of speculation as to who would be the new defensive coordinator. According to the Hooded One, he will assume a more active role with the defense, with much of the defensive coaching staff remaining intact. What is not clear is who will actually be the one calling plays. If it’s Belichick, then the man-who-will-someday-be-defensive-coordinator will still remain unknown. However, if we see Pepper Johnson or Matt Patricia handling the play calling, then that individual most likely will grow into the coordinator’s role. Josh McDaniels was not given the title of offensive coordinator when he first started calling plays until he became more comfortable in the role. Bill O’Brien, the Pats’ QB coach, assumed the play calling for the offense last season though he was never given (and still hasn’t) the title of offensive coordinator.
According to Belichick, titles are not what’s important.
“Titles are fine, nothing wrong with them,but the most important thing is each person’s role, that we do everything we can to help the players succeed — everyone collectively getting the job done.”
That’s fine and dandy, but I hope the role of play caller is clearly defined for the players’ sake. They need to know exactly who’s going to be leading their meetings and sending in the calls. My initial thoughts are, “Is this too much for Belichick to take on?” he has always had a more active role with the defense. You can frequently find him talking to the linebackers or another defensive group on the sidelines trying to coach them up. The last time the Sleeveless One was “defensive coordinator” was his first season in New England when the team went 5-11. I’m not saying they went 5-11 because Bill had too much on his plate, that was more of a personnel thing. However, he did admit after the season that he maybe had taken on too much responsibility and thus hired Romeo Crennel to coach the defense. Only time will tell if Belichick is making the right decision.
Adam Kilgore from the Boston Globe has a few ideas as to why this decision was made. Here are the two that seem to make the most sense to me:
“The leading in-house candidates were Patricia and Johnson. Patricia is a rising star whom linebacker Junior Seau called a future head coach. Johnson is a hard-working, loyal, versatile assistant who has been with Belichick since the Patriots hired him in 2000. By not naming a coordinator, Belichick ensures he will not alienate either coach.”
“Neither Johnson nor Patricia has been a coordinator at any level. Not giving either the public responsibility of calling the defense ensures they can develop with decreased scrutiny.”
My hope that it’s the latter, and the two are possible coordinators in waiting. It is also possible that Belichick wants to go “Sean Payton” on the team and just become the play caller for his specialty- the defense. Payton has been pretty successful calling the offensive plays, so it’s not like a head coach calling all of the plays can’t be done. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.