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Bill Belichick defends unconventional offensive play-calling plan, citing past examples

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“I think they’re both good coaches,” Belichick said of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.


Bill Belichick tabbed Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to have major roles coaching the offense this season. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Arguably the biggest storyline of the Patriots’ offseason and preseason was their succession plan in replacing Josh McDaniels.

New England’s longtime offensive coordinator left to become the head man in Las Vegas, but the Patriots never officially named his replacement.

Instead, Bill Belichick inserted Matt Patricia to become the team’s offensive line coach and appeared to give him offensive play-calling duties in the preseason. He also brought back Joe Judge to be the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Following a rough start for the Patriots’ offense in the preseason, Belichick defended Patricia and Judge in an interview with The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.

“I think they’re both good coaches,” Belichick told Shaughnessy. “Ultimately, it’s my responsibility, like it always is. So if it doesn’t go well, blame me.”

The Patriots’ sluggish performance in the preseason added to the initial concern about Patricia and Judge having major roles with the offense. Neither Patrica nor Judge have much experience coaching on that side of the ball, with Patricia working on the defensive side for much of his career and Judge working on special teams for his.

Even though Patricia and Judge lack experience coaching an offense, Belichick believes his decision to give them major roles on the offensive side of the ball isn’t much different than how he’s replaced departed coordinators in the past.

“I don’t see it any differently than it was in the last 22 years,” Belichick told Shaughnessy. “Look at our other offensive coordinators. We had Charlie [Weis]. Then Josh. He’d never called offensive plays. Billy O’Brien [who succeeded McDaniels] never called plays in the NFL. Josh came back. We’ve changed coaches in every area, multiple times.

“Defensively, Matt Patricia had never called plays. Then he won a couple of Super Bowls. Brian Flores [who succeeded Patricia] had never called plays. That worked out all right. Steve [Belichick] has been calling defenses.

“We were pretty high up there statistically last year. We didn’t play well obviously in the Buffalo game and a couple of other games, but I wouldn’t say we had a bad year defensively. At least not statistically.

“We have plenty of coaches that didn’t have previous experience and it’s worked out pretty well with most of them, but not all of them.”

While the aforementioned coaches didn’t have much experience prior to their promotions, none of them had as little experience on coaching one side of the ball as Patricia and Judge do on offense entering this season. McDaniels was the quarterbacks coach for two seasons before he became the offensive coordinator in 2006. O’Brien worked in multiple offensive coaching roles for the Patriots for four seasons before getting promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011. He also had over a decade of working as an offensive assistant coach at multiple colleges before joining the Patriots in 2007.

Patricia worked in multiple defensive coaching roles for six seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator in 2012. Flores had seven seasons in similar roles before unofficially replacing Patricia for a season in 2018. Stephen Belichick also worked in other defensive coaching roles for seven seasons ahead of assuming his duties as the defensive play-caller.

Even though Patricia and Judge are working in new roles, former Patriots receiver Julian Edelman recently shared that all Patriots coaches get trained to work on both sides of the ball.

“Bill has a thing where when coaches are coming in, he’ll cross-train them,” Edelman said in an interview on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on Friday. “He’ll throw a defensive coach on the offensive side, make him learn the offensive side of the ball for three or four years, and then he brings them back to defense. So it’s not like Matty P has no information or no knowledge of the offense. This guy knows football.”

Belichick’s gamble will get its first official result on Sunday, when the Patriots open up the regular season against the Dolphins.

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Daniel Joseph

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