Ian Rapoport: Patriots will have Joe Judge, other assistants call plays

The NFL insider suggested the Patriots pursued Bill O'Brien for an offensive coordinator job but may instead lean on Judge, Nick Caley, and Mick Lombardi to run the offense.

Joe Judge, Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick Patriots
New England Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge, center, speaks to head coach Bill Belichick, left, and safeties coach Steve Belichick, right, during a game in 2019. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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In a somewhat surprising move, the Patriots re-hired ex-Giants head coach and former New England assistant Joe Judge to return to its staff as an “offensive assistant” rather than a familiar role with the special teams.

Though it’s unclear yet what his role will be with the team, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport suggested Thursday the Patriots might opt to have Judge, as well as few other offensive assistants, call plays and share game-planning responsibilities instead of hiring a traditional offensive coordinator.

In his Thursday interview with WEEI’s “Gresh and Keefe,” Rapoport also seemed to indicate the door is closed on a return for current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to Foxborough.


“I do believe Bill O’Brien was considered. I think it’s something he would have considered as well. But in the end, it ends up being Joe Judge on the offensive side of the ball, not special teams,” he said.

Rapoport hinted the Patriots would likely maintain an arrangement similar to the one that exists on defense between linebackers coaches Steven Belichick and Jerod Mayo. The younger Belichick calls the defensive plays, but Mayo takes a larger role in leading defensive meetings and controlling personnel groups. Matt Patricia, who currently works as an advisor to Bill Belichick, was the team’s last proper defensive coordinator, serving in that role from 2012-17.

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have typically had an offensive coordinator, whether it be Josh McDaniels or O’Brien, for most of Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach, making this a departure from the norm. Obscuring the roles of the current offensive staff, Rapoport said, could be New England’s way of shielding them from specific criticisms this season.

The insider also hinted the elder Belichick could take on a more active role with the offense, which he did with the defense last season as Steve Belichick and Mayo grew in their roles.


“I think it’s possible that this may be it on the offensive side of the ball. I feel like it would be Judge with some added responsibility, Nick Caley with some added responsibility, Mick Lombardi with some added responsibility and kind of do it all as a group and make a decision on an OC potentially next year.”

Judge does have experience on the offensive side of the ball, having served as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2019 in addition to his special teams duties. Caley is currently the team’s tight ends coach while Lombardi coaches the wide receivers along with Troy Brown.

None of them have called offensive plays consistently in their careers, though, which could make for an interesting offensive transition in Mac Jones’s second season.


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