The relevant part to you guys …
The decision by New England to not name a defensive or offensive
coordinator is interesting, but speaks to a significant political issue
within the coaching staff, particularly on defense. Coach Bill
Belichick has been grooming Matt Patricia for the defensive coordinator
job. However, naming Patricia would lead to problems for Belichick with
defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who is an important member of the
staff because of his credibility as a former player. Belichick would be
wise to make Johnson an assistant head coach at some point if he really
wants to keep him.
Yes … The Patriots want to keep both coaches (Kilgore mentioned it when the no-coordinator news broke), and by naming no coordinator, the club has avoided creating a pecking order that could cause a problem.
Ideally, naming Pepper assistant head coach would work. That strategy allowed Mike Nolan, when he was named 49ers coach, to hire both Mike Singletary (as assistant head coach) and Greg Manusky (as DC) back in 2005. Ditto with Tony Sparano bringing Todd Bowles (as assistant head coach) and Paul Pasqualoni (as DC) with him to Miami from Dallas.
Here’s the issue: Dante Scarnecchia already holds that title.
In college, you see multiple coaches carrying such titles. Last year, Florida State had an assistant head coach, executive head coach, and associate head coach, none of whom were Bobby Bowden or the head coach-in-waiting, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. At Alabama, there were two associate head coaches and two assistant head coaches.
But it’s rare in the pros.
Here’s the other possibility: Johnson and Patricia serve as co-defensive coordinators, another thing that’s common in college, not so much in the pros. It’s actually happened here before. The Patriots hired Romeo Crennel in 2001, after having Rob Ryan and Eric Mangini split the duties in 2000, with neither holding a coordinator title.
Or it could be that Bill Belichick serves as his own de facto defensive coordinator, something Wade Phillips, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy and Rex Ryan do in their locales. The main thing in that scenario is that Belichick feels comfortable that the other side of the ball is in good hands. Remember, Payton has Gregg Williams, Ryan has Brian Schottenheimer, McCarthy has Dom Capers and Phillips has Jason Garrett. Having a strong coordinator on one side makes it easier for a head coach to focus on the other.
No matter what, as Cole said, this situation promises to be “interesting” as we get closer to the season.