Bret Bielema

Bill Belichick Expected To Call Patriots’ Defensive Plays?

Nearly two months after Greg Schiano backtracked on his commitment to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, the job remains unfilled. Should it stay vacant, the Pats would have a fairly reliable contingency plan.

With Bill Belichick towering over his defensive staff in terms of NFL experience, the current expectation is he will call defensive plays for the Patriots this season, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

Ceding that responsibility to Matt Patricia and Brian Flores for the past several years, Belichick obviously played a key role in the Pats’ defense. Belichick would often determine when Patricia or Flores would call blitzes, Volin adds. The eight-time Super Bowl champion, counting his two as Giants DC, is coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s defensive masterpiece — the Rams’ three-point night — and his teams have fielded a top-10 scoring defense 15 times in his 19-year New England tenure.

However, Belichick in a dual role is not the Pats’ official plan just yet. They will use the OTAs and minicamp period to determine their strategy here, Mike Garafolo of notes (video link). Flores’ exit leaves the Patriots light on experience among their defensive staff, with former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema — previously viewed as a DC option — bringing the most seasoning. And most of that came in college.

After a year of consulting with the team, Bielema is slated to coach New England’s defensive line. Jerod Mayo, whom Garafolo adds is viewed as a possible future defensive coordinator, will split linebackers coaching duties with DeMarcus Covington — with Mayo working with the inside ‘backers and Covington assigned to help the outside players. Mike Pellegrino will oversee the cornerbacks, the team announced. Mayo, Covington and Pellegrino will be first-year position coaches.

Barring an outside hire, or the Patriots handing the reins to Bielema, Belichick would seem the logical choice to play the lead role on defense.

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Bill Belichick Could Become Patriots DC

Thursday began with the news that Patriots defensive coordinator Greg Schiano would be stepping down from the post. Later in the day, news trickled out that head coach Bill Belichick could assume a larger role with the defense or even take over the role of defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Following their victory in Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots saw a mass exodus from their defensive coaching staff, which included former defensive coordinator Brian Flores take the head-coaching gig in Miami and a number of assistants leaving. Schiano, highly trusted by Belichick, was expected to help the transition, but his abrupt departure puts the Pats in a tough situation.

Reiss notes Belichick assuming defensive coordinator duties is the most likely of scenarios but is not the only one. Another possibility is a “Hail Mary” call to former defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who left to become the Chiefs run-game coordinator. Considering his family’s roots in K.C. area, however, it could be a tough sell.

Another potential candidate would be Bret Bielema, the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin tweets. Volin mentions that Bielema, the former University of Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach and current defensive consultant with the Pats, thought he was getting the job earlier this year.

Belichick, of course, is no slouch as a defensive coordinator. With the Giants, he won a pair of Super Bowls under head coach Bill Parcells while running the defense. As the head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has always played a large role on the defensive side of the ball, except in 2009 when he contributed largely to the offense following Josh McDaniels‘ departure to Denver.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Eyeing Bret Bielema For DC Role?

Following rumors that the Patriots were planning to hire Greg Schiano, many assumed that the long-time Rutgers head coach would become New England’s next defensive coordinator. However, that might not be the case. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that Bret Bielema “has been telling people that he is going to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator.”

The Patriots will have an opening at defensive coordinator following Brian Flores‘ forthcoming defection to the Dolphins. Even if Schiano didn’t take on the definitive title of defensive coordinator (similar to Flores), his experience and connection with coach Bill Belichick made it seem like he’d be a natural fit to oversee New England’s defense.

On the flip side, Belichick hasn’t traditionally followed this route. As Volin points out, the organization rarely makes an outside hire when it comes to coordinator positions. For instance, Bill O’Brien and Dean Pees both had to work their way through the organization before they had a chance at a coordinator gig (Pees had to take a job elsewhere for the opportunity).

That’s why Bielema would seemingly make more sense to take over the defensive coordinator role, although it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been with the organization all that long. The 49-year-old previously served as the head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas, and he was hired as a consultant to Belichick earlier this season. There were rumors that Flores could end up taking Bielema to Miami to serve as the Dolphins new defensive coordinator, but the team ended up opting for Packers linebackers coach/run game coordinator Patrick Graham.

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Dolphins Considering Bret Bielema For DC?

The Dolphins are expected to hire Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores as their new head coach as soon as New England exits the postseason, and Flores may already have a coach in mind to hire as his own defensive coordinator. Bret Bielema — a former collegiate head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who currently serves as a consultant to Bill Belichick — is receiving consideration for the job, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Bielema’s only NFL experience has come with the Patriots, but he noted last summer that most coaches don’t return to the college game after joining the pros, so it seems like he’s now in the NFL for good. A former collegiate linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, Bielema posted a 68-24 record at Wisconsin before managing a 29-34 at Arkansas.

Another potential candidate for the Dolphins’ DC gig is Packers linebackers coach/run game coordinator Patrick Graham, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Like Flores, Graham has a lengthy history with the Patriots, as he served in a variety of roles in New England from 2009-15. He coached the Giants’ linebackers from 2016-17 before joining Green Bay last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Giants, OBJ, Cowboys, Patriots

The Giants don’t appear to have moved any closer to a contract extension for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. A source tells Vacchiano New York has taken a patient approach to negotiations, as the club not only wanted to check in on Beckham’s health after he missed most of the 2017 season, but his commitment. Beckham reported to training camp on time, an indication that he’s both ready to play and talk about a new deal. Despite his injury issues in 2017, Beckham figures to reset the wide receiver market on his next contract, which could have an annual salary north of $17MM.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Speaking of Beckham, TMZ Sports recently reported the Giants wideout is being sued in civil court, but Beckham says he’s the victim of extortion, tweets Ian Rapoport of “Mr. Beckham denies the recently added allegations, and further denies any wrongdoing whatsoever related to the alleged incident,” Beckham’s attorney said. “As stated before, he will not be extorted and his position as to the pending suit has not changed.” The suit against Beckham contains allegations of drug use, violence, and other transgressions, but it’s hard to imagine anything serious will come of the case.
  • Despite the NFL’s recent pullback on their national anthem policy, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said today that he will not allow any of his players to remain in the locker room during the anthem, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link). The league will no longer enforce its previously announced policy, which would have led to teams being fined if players “did not respect” the anthem. It’s unclear exactly what Jones can do to prevent his players from staying in the locker room, or performing a visual protest, but it’s an issue to keep an eye as the season gets underway.
  • Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon only appeared in seven games last season as he battled an ankle injury, but he’s “good to go” ahead of training camp, tweets Jeff Howe of The Athletic. While New England will face upheaval at the left tackle position, right tackle is spoken for by Cannon, who’s become one of the league’s best players on the right side. Cannon signed a five-year, $32.5MM extension with the Patriots in 2016, meaning he’s now under contract through the 2021 campaign.
  • Former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is now officially a member of the Patriots’ staff, reports Mike Reiss of (Twitter link), who adds Bielema’s official title will be “consultant to the head coach.” While it’s unclear exactly why Bielema will be doing as he advises Bill Belichick, he sounded incredibly excited about his new role when speaking to the media earlier this year.

Extra Points: Murray, Patriots, Bielema, Buccaneers, Bridgewater

DeMarco Murray only retired yesterday, but speculation is already swirling about a potential comeback. Since Murray apparently had opportunities to continue playing, and only chose not to because he was unsatisfied with the offers, it would seem he could pretty easily reverse his decision and decide to continue playing. Murray is 30 years old, but probably has enough left in the tank to help a team as a situational runner and veteran mentor in the locker room.

Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is one reporter who’s not buying that Murray is really done. Cummings says he is “skeptical” that Murray really plans on retiring, and so he took a look at a couple of teams that could be a good match. He mentions that the Dolphins kicked the tires on Murray earlier this offseason before ultimately signing Frank Gore. Gore’s presence would probably make a Murray signing unnecessary Cummings writes, but that could change with an injury. Cummings thinks another Florida team, the Jaguars, could be a better match. The Jaguars lost their veteran backup, Chris Ivory, in free agency, and now have a very young running back group being led by Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars could use a veteran presence and Murray would get to play for a championship contender. It could be a good match if Murray ultimately does change his mind.

  • Bret Bielema recently made the jump from the college coaching ranks to the NFL, and so far he is loving the move. Bielema, who spent the past 20-plus years coaching college teams, was recently hired by the Patriots as an assistant after he was fired as Arkansas’ head coach. Per ProFootballTalk, Bielema said he loves how the NFL is “purely football” and not any of the other stuff that’s a requirement of college athletics. Bielema says coaches don’t “ever go back” once they make the leap to the NFL, and it doesn’t sound like he will either.
  • The Buccaneers trading for Teddy Bridgewater at some point makes sense, writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Stroud notes that unless Ryan Griffin develops into something worth keeping, the Bucs could potentially have no backup quarterbacks in 2019, and possibly no quarterbacks under contract at all if the team cuts ties with Jameis Winston. The Jets will likely make Bridgewater available in a trade if he shows he’s healthy this preseason, and the Bucs could be a darkhorse candidate to land him.
  • In case you missed it, check out some of the reactions from around the league to Murray’s retirement.

AFC East Rumors: Landry, Suh, Solder, Jets

Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry is expected to sign his franchise tender shortly, and once that happens, he and the team will continue to work together to facilitate a trade. However, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweets that Miami’s asking price in a Landry trade is still unclear, and he says the earlier rumor that the Bears could trade Jordan Howard to the Dolphins in exchange for Landry — a rumor that was subsequently shot down — sounded like a report that Miami planted in order to generate offers. If that was the case, the strategy did not work, as the trade market remains at a standstill. Robinson suggests (via Twitter) that Landry could return to Miami in 2018, but the team will continue to look for the right trade offer.

Here’s more from the AFC East, starting with another item out of South Beach:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that the Dolphinsrecent agreement to trade for Robert Quinn is further evidence of his belief that the team is looking to move on from Ndamukong Suh (even though the two play different positions on the defensive line). Other reports have indicated that Miami wants Suh back in 2018, but the club could approach the mercurial DT about a restructure to help reduce his massive cap number.
  • Nate Solder is easily the best left tackle set to hit the open market, and as Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports, the Patriots have yet to make an offer to him (although the later-than-usual start to free agency means that there is still time to get something done). Solder’s preference is to remain in New England, but if the Pats cannot lock him up within the next week, Howe says Solder will seek the best offer on the open market and will not accept a hometown discount. Sources suggest he could receive upwards of $12MM annually, and if he does find a new home, the Pats will be left with plenty of uncertainty at LT.
  • Former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema attended the scouting combine as a representative of the Patriots, per Doug Kyed of However, it is unclear whether Bielema will be joining the team’s coaching staff. He and New England head coach Bill Belichick are close, and Belichick may have just been doing Bielema a favor by bringing him to the combine.
  • As Mike Reiss of observes, the Patriots could be looking closely at running backs in this year’s draft, as Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis are both set to hit the open market. Former Patriots executive and current Lions GM Bob Quinn recently stated that this year’s crop of collegiate backs is generally strong in pass protection, which is an asset that New England values as much as anything when it comes to its RBs. As such, Reiss suggests need could align perfectly with opportunity when the draft rolls around. Likewise, this year’s draft contains more than usual off-the-line linebackers with first-round abilities, which could also suit New England quite nicely.
  • Just like Rich Cimini of, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News sees Teddy Bridgewater as a potential target for the Jets if they cannot land Kirk Cousins. If the Jets somehow do end up with Cousins, it would open up a world of possibilities for New York vis-a-vis its first-round draft choice, and Notre Dame guard Quinton Nelson could be a perfect fit.