First it was linebackers coach Pepper Johnson. Then offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia. Then tight ends coach George Godsey.
The departures from the staff of Patriots coach Bill Belichick are piling up, with the window for more departures not even closed yet.
Late Wednesday, reports emerged that the Cleveland Browns had been in contact again with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels about their vacant head coaching position. McDaniels has been linked to the Browns despite saying multiple times that he intends to return to the Patriots next season.
Still, the exits from Belichick’s staff create some uncertainty for the Patriots.
Johnson, who had been with New England since Belichick arrived in 2000, left but said remaining in football still remains a goal of his. Godsey is reported to be joining former Belichick deputy Bill O’Brien’s staff in Houston.
Scarnecchia, the longest-tenured assistant in the NFL, announced his retirement at age 65. He is being replaced by former Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
But Scarnecchia’s departure creates questions about whether the Patriots can maintain their high level of play on the offensive line. The longtime assistant was noted for his demanding style that was able to churn out consistency in front of Tom Brady, whether from high-round draft picks (such as Logan Mankins and Matt Light) or players who went undrafted (such as Stephen Neal).
There are other lingering questions: Such as what’s prompting the spate of coaching departures? And who is in line to join Belichick’s staff?
Belichick has said little, other than to say Monday that he expected change would occur.
“There are a lot of other organizations that there are going to be coaching changes on,” Belichick said. “We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
Belichick has often promoted from within his own staff, which was the path that McDaniels, O’Brien (who was the Patriots offensive coordinator before leaving for Penn State two years ago) and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia first took to become coordinators.
But at other times, as with the hiring of DeGuglielmo, the Patriots coach has gone out and hired a veteran coach from outside the organization.