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Still the One: Patriots Play-Calling Buck Stops With Coach Bill Belichick

When it comes to the final say on the field, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick continues to keep his own counsel.

FOXBORO — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s prowess as an NFL head coach requires no embellishment. 

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, offensive assistant Joe Judge
Patriots’ Coaches Matt Patricia (left), Bill Belichick
Patriots - Belichick Saban

His enshrinement in Canton became a mere formality long ago. 

However, the sustained success with which he has guided the Patriots over the past two-plus decades remains his greatest mystique. Whether he is praised as a ‘defensive genius’ or playfully mocked as a ‘diabolical manipulator,’ Belichick has reached the top of the coaching plateau for one, simple reason: 

Bill Belichick always keeps his own counsel.

With OTAs well underway at Gillette Stadium, the 2022 Patriots coaching staff has been under the media microscope — primarily on offense. Since the departure of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, [who has accepted the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders] the scrutiny has intensified with the news that former Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia and former New York Giants head Joe Judge [both former Pats assistants as well] are the frontrunners to be the primary offensive play caller in 2022.

The suggestion of both Judge and Patricia having a hand in formulating New England’s offense, as well as the development of second-year quarterback Mac Jones, may raise an eyebrow (and perhaps the blood pressure) of several Patriots fans, as well as the media. After all, neither Patricia nor Judge is known as a formidable offensive coach. With Patricia being best known for his contributions on defense, and Judge having his best days as a special teams coordinator, the Pats brain trust looks to be placing its faith in two inexperienced commodities. 

Still, Belichick’s presence at the wheel of the Patriots ship is the ultimate equalizer. Regardless of who is provided with the duty, the execution on the field will decide the verdict. 

“We're all different,” Belichick said of his pool of potential play callers prior to Monday’s OTA session. “The execution of the plays, I think, are a lot more important than the plays themselves. I've called them, I've not called them. I've called them, I've not called them. And so has everybody else.”

With the Patriots two-decade run of success, it is no surprise that several Belichick-disciples have been highly-coveted candidates for head coaching vacancies. In addition to McDaniels being the most recent, Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Nick Saban, Bill O’Brien, Matt Patricia and Brian Flores have been some of the most high-profile ‘branches of the Belichick ‘coaching tree’ to land in the head seat. 

In each of these instances, the ‘branches’ of Belichick’s ‘tree’ were hired with great expectations. Each team brimmed with optimism as they anticipated a siphoning of the Belichickian tank of knowledge. However, the success enjoyed by Bill Belichick and the Patriots has not translated to that of his protégés with the same frequency and abundance at the NFL level. Aside from Nick Saban (at the collegiate level), no ‘branch” of Bill’s coaching tree has yet enjoyed championship-level prosperity at the pro-level.

Sure, there have been moments of fleeting celebration. O’Brien enjoyed modest success as the keeper of the helm of the Houston Texans. Eric Mangini coached his team to a 10-6 record in his first year as head coach of the New York Jets, which earned him a cameo on HBO’s The Sopranos. McDaniels, Patricia and Flores each notched regular-season wins over their former boss. 

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However, as jobs have come and gone, Belichick remains the only ‘constant.’

And, in 2022, he will once again take center stage. 

Though some may deride his indifference to positional titles within his coaching staff, Belichick realizes that the success of his staff rests on his shoulders, via the decisions he makes regarding their respective roles. Still, the ‘HC of the NEP’ will not be swayed by public opinion.  is confident in deciding to take his time

“Do we have titles? Yeah, look, there's a lot of jobs that we have to do, we're all working on those things now but -- it's May,” Belichick said of assigning duties to his coaching staff. “They'll change in June, they'll change in August, they'll change in September. So, we'll evolve it to the things timely that we need to do. If you're asking about game plans, we're months away from that -- months.”

As expected, Judge and Jones worked together with the offensive for most of Monday’s practice. In fact, Judge ran most of the offensive drills. Jones also consulted Patricia before each play during the 11-on-11 series, which placed an emphasis on the run game. 

At the end of the day, however, Belichick was the one directing a version of the two-minute drill during the final moments of 11-on-11s. 

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick
Patriots HC Bill Belichick and QB Mac Jones
Patriots HC Bill Belichick

For those concerned about Jones’ development, in the absence of a quarterback-centric coordinator such as McDaniels, rest assured that Belichick’s guiding hand will be beneficial in this area, as well. After all, he has done so for arguably the best to ever put on shoulder pads.

Recently, Tom Brady expressed [via his documentary miniseries Man In The Arena] his appreciation for Belichick’s coaching — from the value it provided when breaking down opposing defenses to the pair’s weekly game-planing meetings. In fact, there were times when Belichick spent more time with Brady, his quarterbacks and his offense than his trademark defense. 

In 2022, Jones may find that Belichick is quite the ‘consigliere’ when it comes to making progress at the quarterback position. 

In the meantime, Belichick and the Patriots will do what they feel to be in the best interest of the team. 

In true ‘Belichickian’ fashion, they will do so, taking one moment at a time.