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Bill Belichick turned 70 this spring, and this week he begins his 48th season in the NFL and 23rd as the head coach of the New England Patriots.
So maybe he’s just bored. Or just trolling the media again. Or just enjoying some harmless fun while exploiting a loophole or two even if there is minimal gain.
What is known is that Belichick has refused to name either an offensive or defensive coordinator for the Patriots this year and apparently won’t do so. On Tuesday, at the start of training camp, he would confirm only his job.
“I’m the head coach,” Belichick said. “Ultimately I’m responsible for everything. So just leave it at that.”
Ah, this is the NFL. No one leaves anything “at that.” Everything must be analyzed and reanalyzed ad nauseam. That’s why Belichick’s particular brand of humor always plays well, a welcome, midsummer sign that the season is fast approaching.
No OC or DC? Of course.
Belichick isn’t just the head coach in New England, either. He’s also the team’s general manager, although not officially because the franchise doesn’t list such a job. During the 2020 NFL Quarantine Draft, Belichick’s dog, Nike, sat in front of a computer inside his Nantucket home during a televised look-in, so maybe that’s a clue.
Whatever it is, Belichick is already in full Belichick mode, leaving fans and media wondering what was the purpose of all of this?
Someone is going to be calling plays come Week 1, correct?
“We won't be calling any for a while,” Belichick said last week. “Don't have any games for a while.”
Right, of course.
Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator last year, but he left to become the head coach in Las Vegas.
One prime candidate to replace him was Joe Judge, who is listed as an “offensive assistant/quarterbacks” after returning from a two-year stint as the head coach of the New York Giants. Prior to that, he was a special teams coordinator in New England.
The other was Matt Patricia, who is listed as a “senior football advisor/offensive line.” Patricia came back to Foxborough last season after spending three years as the head coach in Detroit. Before that, he was the Patriots defensive coordinator — when they had such a thing.
So is Patricia or Judge the offensive coordinator/play-caller? It’s probably going to be Patricia, but then again, Belichick won’t say.
“I've said many times, I think Matt and Joe are two outstanding coaches in every sense of the word whatever those duties entail,” Belichick said Tuesday. “They're very good, exceptional at the entire gamut. I'm glad we have both of them. They do a good job.”
But what job will that be?
“We're not really big on titles and all that, so I think it's important that we all work together and create a good final product, so that's what we're going to try to do,” Belichick said. “That's what we've always done.”
If you have to ask why Belichick would not name an offensive and defensive coordinator when nearly every other team at every other level of football — including the Patriots in the past — have an offensive and defensive coordinator, then you don’t know much about Belichick.
Why? Because he can, and because it doesn’t really matter anyway.
There are actually a couple tangible explanations, and maybe they are the motivation. One is that by not having any coordinators, neither Patricia nor Judge (nor anyone else) has to participate in the weekly media sessions the NFL mandates of coordinators.
And it’s possible that Patricia, who was under contract in Detroit through the 2022 season before being fired in 2020, continues to be paid mostly by the Lions because he isn’t officially a coordinator. So the Pats save a few bucks?
This is all semantics, of course. Eventually New England will play a game and everyone will try to figure out who is actually talking in the ear of quarterback Mac Jones. Or not.
In the past, there have been questions about whether Belichick has spread himself too thin, essentially serving as both the head coach and the defensive coordinator — plus general manager. He’s always bristled at that suggestion or downplayed his role in calling plays and formations.
As always, no one really knows how, let alone why, things go on as they do in New England. That’s how Belichick wants it.
All that matters is the results. The Patriots, by Patriots standards at least, are in a bit of a drought, going 17-16 since Tom Brady left following the 2020 season. As franchise owner Robert Kraft noted in the spring, the team last won a playoff game three years ago … of course, that was the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title.
If anything is going to turn that around, it’s the continued development of Jones, now in his second year out of Alabama.
On that, Belichick was effusive.
“Mac's done a great job,” Belichick said. “He's worked extremely hard. He's got a tremendous work ethic in all areas. I think there's a dramatic improvement … He did a great job last year but he's starting from a much, much higher point this year than where he started last year. His offseason work has been significant.”
Maybe it was all the time he spent with the non-existent offensive coordinator.