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A defensive standstill from Belichick

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / February 6, 2010

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Rather than name a defensive coordinator to replace Dean Pees for the 2010 season, the Patriots will not give the title to an assistant coach. Coach Bill Belichick will be more involved in the defensive planning and play-calling, according to a release on Patriots.com.

With the reshuffling of the coaching staff apparently complete, which included keeping all but one offensive assistant, the Patriots will enter next season without offensive or defensive coordinators.

“Titles are fine, nothing wrong with them,’’ Belichick said in the release. “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.’’

The Patriots’ offensive staff personnel remains the same, aside from last week’s departure of tight ends coach Shane Waldron. Quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien, the team’s primary playing-calling assistant coach, will not add the title of offensive coordinator.

Last week, the Patriots announced the hiring of Corwin Brown as a defensive coach. He will coach defensive backs with Josh Boyer while linebackers coach Matt Patricia, defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, and Pat Graham will assist Belichick on the defense.

“As a group we are committed to putting a competitive defense on the field,’’ Belichick said. “This is the best course for us to move forward in 2010.’’

The Patriots had been operating without a defensive coordinator since Pees left last month and subsequently became the Ravens’ linebackers coach. Several factors may have contributed to the unusual move of not naming a defensive coordinator.

■Belichick, whose background is rooted in defense, has always been heavily involved in the defense. By not naming a coordinator, the Patriots do not have to pay a coach the salary that position typically commands.

■Patricia and Johnson were considered the leading candidates to become the defensive coordinator before yesterday’s announcement. Patricia is a fast-rising star whom linebacker Junior Seau labeled a future head coach. Johnson is a loyal, hard-working, versatile, and popular assistant who has been with Belichick since 2000.

■Neither Johnson nor Patricia has been a coordinator at any level. Not giving either the responsibility of calling the defense allows them to develop under the radar.

Along with potential motives, several potential questions accompany the decision, too. Belichick deals with personnel decisions and the usual duties that come with being a head coach. The increased workload might spread him thin. After this season, Belichick said he understood the potential for problems because of a lack of varying opinions. Not having a defensive coordinator seemingly represses dissenting thought.

The Patriots will likely operate with one fewer assistant than last season. The Patriots lost Waldron and Pees, and have only hired Brown. The release said the Patriots staff “has essentially been established.’’ The offensive side stands to lose a coach, but Belichick said in the release he is satisfied with the setup.

O’Brien “has demonstrated excellent leadership and organizational skills in our offense,’’ Belichick said. “He is a sharp and passionate coach. It is a good mix on that side of the ball.’’

With their staff set, the Patriots will press forward with their team evaluation and planning for April’s draft.

“That first step of the process is always very important,’’ Belichick said. “The team-building process for next year starts with evaluating ourselves on every level - plays, players, coaching, practice, how we run our meetings, basically everything we do from A to Z.’’

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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