Patriots: Bill Belichick’s role in 2023—Reading the tea leaves

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Although Bill Belichick affects an air of mystery, he’s really not mysterious. He tries to be circumspect but he can’t help reveal himself. The key to reading Belichick, in my view, is not to disregard what he says and does but to realize that everything he says and does matters.

Can we interpret Belichick’s actions at the Patriots' OTAs and his statements to the press afterwards to gauge what his role, and that of his coaches, will be with the club in 2023? What role will Joe Judge play? How will Bill Belichick interact with Bill O'Brien? How hands-on will Bill Belichick be? Where will he focus his attention? He’s given us enough clues to figure it out.

Joe Judge

When asked about Joe Judge, Belichick said (transcript from

"Yeah, he'll do whatever I ask him to do. It might change from time to time. He'll be involved in a lot of things....Joe's great, Joe's great. Smart guy, got a lot of experience. He'll do whatever we need him to do, and he can do a lot, so he will."

Bill Belichick

According to Pats’ Pulpit, Joe Judge was “extremely involved and hands on” with the special teams unit at the first OTA. As has been well documented, Judge led the meeting of the special teams that resulted in the Patriots being docked two OTAs.

So, we can conclude that Judge will have a two-fold role with the team:

(1) Judge will take an active role in coaching the special teams for the entire season. Previously, Belichick has said that the problem with special teams wasn’t the coaching and added several new players through the draft and free agency to the special teams unit. But the presence of Judge in leading special teams meetings and on the field is, if not a vote of no-confidence in Cam Achord, at least a sign that Belichick believes the special teams unit needs additional coaching help.

(2) Judge will function as kind of a “senior adviser” to Bill Belichick and help out wherever Belichick deems it necessary. This might involve, for example, advising on personnel matters within the team, helping the team to prepare for next week’s opponent, or working with the team's scouting department.

Bill O’Brien

When asked about Bill O’Brien, Belichick said (transcript provided by

"Bill does a great job. I had a great relationship with Bill all the way back before we hired him the first time. It's continued, so it's been, I don't know, we're getting up there around 20 years, somewhere in there. I love working with Bill."

Bill Belichick

Pats also reported that O’Brien ran the show on offense and was “operated mainly by himself on the sidelines and handled sole possession of walkie talkie duties calling in plays.” Recall that Belichick, besides his head coaching experience with the Browns and Patriots, was a special teams coach and a defensive coordinator. Bill Belichick is not going to coach the offense. He has a great deal of confidence in Bill O’Brien and deservedly so. He will leave “OB” alone as long as the offense functions effectively.

Then just what will Bill Belichick do? Belichick will oversee everything, as he always does. If Belichick does play a hands-on role, it will be on defense. But remember that Belichick is trying to increase the stature of both Jerrod Mayo, who wants to be a head coach, and his sons Steve and Brian Belichick, who will both be looking for a job, either with the Patriots or another organization, after Bill retires.

Belichick is very smart and knows that the more it looks like he is running the defense, the less credit will go to Mayo and to Steve Belichick. Even if the defense plays well, other organizations will give Bill Belichick the credit if he looks too involved. Belichick will step up and take over on the defensive side only if things go astray and the defense starts to play poorly.

 In sharp contrast to last year, Bill Belichick has assembled a staff that not only he, but the entire organization and the fans, believes in. Although Belichick will find plenty to do, as much as possible, he’s going to let his staff do their jobs.