10 Questions: Who’s coaching who?


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Part 5 in a 10-part series examining storylines leading into Patriots training camp …

The question: How will the structure of the coaching staff evolve?

Three factors: Trust in quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien; Growth of linebackers coach Matt Patricia; Players’ approach to the set-up

Finding the answer:
When it became apparent, during Super Bowl week, that the Patriots would enter 2010 without coordinators, the Curly Lambeau (as in, the last guy to do this …) jokes started. And maybe they haven’t stopped.

But it was pretty clear in the spring camps who was doing what. O’Brien, who was the primary offensive play-caller in 2009 following Josh McDaniels’ departure, was in more command of the offense than ever before. And Patricia was quite clearly the defensive coach with the most responsibility.

Start with O’Brien. The offense’s problems in key situations and down the stretch of games brought criticism last year, and O’Brien bore the brunt of plenty of blame. Maybe those production problems are why he wasn’t given the title this year. Maybe they aren’t.

Either way, his autonomy at OTAs and minicamp was apparent and that’s a good thing. If Bill Belichick does plan on shouldering more responsibility on the defensive side of the ball, it’ll mean having to trust O’Brien to run the show on offense. Getting the players all the way on board will be a challenge, particularly with a mix older and younger guys at the skill positions.


On defense, toward the end of spring, Patricia appeared to be taking on
added responsibility and, in the final weeks of those camps, he was the
one working on signaling in plays to the linebackers and safeties from
the sideline. Still, it’s likely he’ll have to continue earning
responsibility as the year goes on.

And how the defensive personnel is handled is key, because of the
abundance of youth at cornerback, safety, and inside linebacker. The
development of those guys is important not just this year, but for the
future of the franchise, so the guy giving them their cues will be
vital.

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All in all, this situation may be fluid as the year goes on. That does
raise an important question, though: If and when things go wrong, do
these coaches have the juice to step on players’ throats and try to get
things turned around? That dynamic may explain one reason why the team
brought another former player, in Corwin Brown, as an addition to the
staff.