Matt Patricia

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 NFL.com 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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Lions, Jim Bob Cooter Mutually Part Ways

Jim Bob Cooter‘s run with Matt Patricia in Detroit will be limited to one year. The Lions and their longtime offensive coordinator will mutually part ways, Albert Breer of SI.com reports (on Twitter). The team announced it will not renew Cooter’s contract.

Cooter, the youngest active NFL OC, had generated interest from other teams in recent days and will likely be a name to monitor as the OC carousel accelerates in the coming days. The 34-year-old coach has received interview requests, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The Lions promoted Cooter to offensive coordinator midway through the 2015 season, and the young coach helped elevate Matthew Stafford‘s game. This topped out when Detroit finished as the NFL’s No. 7 scoring offense in 2017, doing so without much of a running game. But this season, Stafford’s numbers regressed, down by more than 600 passing yards and going from 7.9 yards per attempt in 207 to 6.8 this season, as did the Lions’ offense in a 6-10 season.

After letting Eric Ebron walk in the offseason, the Lions traded Golden Tate and saw Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson go down midseason. They plummeted to 25th in scoring in 2018.

Patricia overhauled Detroit’s defense staff upon taking the Lions’ reins but left Cooter in place. Patricia fired Lions special teams boss Joe Marciano during the season and now looks set to reshape the franchise’s offensive staff.

Cooter interviewed for the job Patricia ended up getting, and while a head coaching gig may not be in his immediate future, another OC opportunity probably will.

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North Coaching Rumors: Fitzgerald, Harbaugh, Bengals

We heard last night that the Packers are interested in Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and now there is some fire for that smoke, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that Green Bay is expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald after Northwestern plays in tomorrow’s Holiday Bowl. It is unclear whether Fitzgerald will accept the interview request, but Packers CEO and president Mark Murphy was Northwestern’s athletic director when Fitzgerald was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2006, and the two men have a great deal of respect for each other.

Now for more coaching rumors from the league’s north divisions:

  • Schefter reports that at least one team that is considering a head coaching change is also considering calling the Ravens about a potential trade for head coach John Harbaugh if Baltimore is eliminated from postseason contention today, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) says multiple teams are thinking about making a run at the 11th-year HC. The Ravens announced earlier this month, despite weeks of rumors to the contrary, that Harbaugh would remain in Baltimore in 2019, but his future with the club still does not feel like a slam dunk. Florio suggests that Baltimore would want at least two first-round picks in exchange for Harbaugh.
  • No one is sure what will happen with Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, and his assistant coaches are actively trying to find out, per Florio. Some believe Lewis will retire from coaching and begin a broadcasting career, while others believe he could become a candidate for the Cardinals‘ head coaching job. If Lewis moves on, Florio writes — as has been reported numerous times — that Hue Jackson would be a candidate to replace him, as would current Vikings head coach (and former Cincinnati DC) Mike Zimmer. Zimmer would perhaps be interested in the Bengals’ gig, per Florio, but much would depend on whether Minnesota would let him leave and if the Vikings would demand significant compensation in exchange.
  • The Vikings will likely attempt to promote interim OC Kevin Stefanski to the full-time job in 2019, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The problem is that Stefanski is only under contract through 2018, so Minnesota may have to fight to retain him.
  • We heard several weeks ago that Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams has a chance to get the “interim” tag removed, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that Cleveland will indeed give Williams serious consideration (though the team will obviously interview other candidates and continue its full-blown search). Ownership remains high on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, but if the team does not give Williams the full-time job, it will risk losing the bulk of the staff that has led the Browns’ promising turnaround this year.
  • Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter‘s contract is up at the end of the season, per Rapoport, who suggests that it would be a surprise if Cooter remained in Detroit in 2019. The 34-year-old is expected to be a highly-coveted OC candidate assuming he and the Lions part ways. Unsurprisingly, Rapoport says head coach Matt Patricia is safe [SOURCE LINK].

Lions Notes: Patricia, Ansah, Martin

The Lions looked like one of the league’s worst teams on Monday night while suffering a humiliating loss to the Jets, and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) there are already rumblings that Detroit’s veterans aren’t happy with first-year head coach Matt Patricia. The former Patriots defensive coordinator has reportedly installed rules that Lions players find cumbersome while (in the opinion on the player) over-working them during practice sessions. Ex-New England coordinators finding conflict in their first go-round sans Bill Belichick is nothing new (see: Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini), but Patricia’s standing with his veteran players is certainly something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Here’s more from the Motor City:

  • Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah left Monday night’s contest with a shoulder injury, but an MRI revealed the issue isn’t serious, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who adds Ansah is “hopeful” he can play against the 49ers in Week 2. Losing Ansah for any amount of time would be devastating for the Lions, who don’t have much depth on the edge and ranked just 22nd in adjusted sack rate a season ago. Ansah, 29, was franchise-tagged this offseason and is now earning $17.143MM for the 2018 campaign, but he’ll need to produce again this year in order to land a multi-year deal next spring. He finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks, 44 total tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
  • The Lions aren’t pleased with punter Sam Martin after the club allowed multiple lengthy returns against the Jets, so they’re taking a look at free agent options, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Ryan Santoso, an undrafted rookie free agent who spent the summer with Detroit, was in for a workout, as was veteran Ryan Quigley. Martin, for his part, ranked second-to-last in net punting average in 2017, but the Lions’ punting unit ranked in the middle of the pack, per Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics. Detroit would take on at least $1.5MM in dead money over the next two seasons if it cuts Martin.
  • In case you missed it, the Lions auditioned free agent cornerback David Amerson earlier this week in an effort to shore up a weak secondary.

NFL Won’t Suspend Lions’ Matt Patricia

The NFL has determined that neither the Lions nor Matt Patricia will not be subject to discipline in regards to previous allegations made against the head coach. The league met last week with the Lions and Patricia and opted against launching an investigation. 

Our office reviewed the matter with the Lions and Mr. Patricia, and ensured the club engaged in appropriate and thorough hiring practices and that the coach did not mislead the team during the interview process,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “We determined that the Lions handled the interview process in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner and fully and appropriately complied with all applicable employment laws. As we learned from both Mr. Patricia and the Lions, the matter was not part of his employment interview process for job opportunities outside of or within the NFL. He was under no legal or other requirement to raise this issue.”

The NFL faced a similar issue in 2017 when it came to Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley. Conley was accused of sexual misconduct before the 2017 NFL Draft and the league did not conduct a thorough and costly investigation as it has in the past for other players. The accusation against Patricia took place in 1996 and and the case was dismissed in January 1997. Patricia, like Conley, has denied any wrongdoing.

The truth is on my side,” Patricia said in a news conference earlier this month. “I lived with the mental torture of the situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility.”

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NFC North Notes: Lions, Packers, Patricia

The Lions are expected to once again use a rotation at running back instead of committing to one starter, head coach Matt Patricia told reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I think for us it all about competition, but when we get into the gameplan mode and we actually have our team and we are working against a particular opponent, then it becomes into a matchup situation,” said Patricia, who is familiar with deploying a running back stable after working for the Patriots until this spring. Detroit signed veteran LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal last month, adding him to a crop that also includes Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, and Dwayne Washington, and Birkett reports the club is expected to select another running back in the upcoming draft.

Here’s more out of the NFC North:

  • Packers wideout Trevor Davis was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday after making a joke about carrying a bomb, according to a report from TMZ Sports. Davis was reportedly checking in when he facetiously asked his girlfriend if she remembered to “pack the explosives,” a question which unsurprisingly wasn’t met with laughter by airport staff. The 24-year-old Davis was subsequently arrested and charged with a misdemeanor of making a bomb threat, and is now facing a May 3 court date, per Tom Schad of USA Today. Davis, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft, will compete to earn a spot on the back end of Green Bay’s wide receiver depth chart.
  • Although Lions general manager Bob Quinn kept former head coach Jim Caldwell in place from 2016-17, Quinn had been eyeing Patricia for some time, as Birkett writes in a separate piece“I had heard about Matt from Bob for two years before we had the chance to meet and as I think I told him recently, I think he undersold him, and he was selling him,” team president Rod Wood said. “So I think the relationship is strong, the language they speak, the trust. The ability I think to build the team through kind of one long-term vision of what we’re going to be about…” Quinn and Patricia overlapped in New England from 2004-15, and both are now signed through 2022 in Detroit.
  • In case you missed it, the Bears declined to match a two-year, $9.6MM offer sheet for wide receiver Cameron Meredith and thus lost him to the Saints. Because Chicago only tendered Meredith at the original round level, the club won’t receive any compensation as Meredith heads to New Orleans. The Bears had the option of tendering Meredith at the second-round level at a cost of $2.914MM, only ~$1MM more than the original round price of $1.907MM.

Paul Pasqualoni To Call Lions’ Defensive Plays

Matt Patricia has called defensive plays for the past eight years, doing so in New England during two seasons before he became the Patriots’ DC. But he will cede that responsibility in his first season with the Lions.

Detroit’s new head coach will delegate play-calling duties to new Lions DC Paul Pasqualoni, Patricia said (via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com).

While Patricia will still weigh in on defensive and offensive plays at times, the primary responsibilities for defensive calls will go to Pasqualoni. An on-and-off NFL assistant over the past 13 years whose primary connection to Patricia was at Syracuse in the early 2000s, Pasqualoni initially hired Patricia as a graduate assistant when he was the program’s head coach. He’ll now receive his biggest NFL assignment since 2010.

Coach Pasqualoni will be calling the defense, and he’ll be running it from that standpoint,” Patricia said this week. “In general, I’ll call whatever I need to offensively, defensively or special teams. But yeah, he’ll be in charge.”

The 68-year-old assistant coached Boston College’s defensive line over the past two seasons and served as an NFL DC from 2008-10, with the Dolphins and Cowboys. The Lions ranked 19th in defensive DVOA in Teryl Austin‘s final season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Vikings, Patricia, Humphrey

New Vikings OC John DeFilippo is viewed as a rising star in the coaching world, and Minnesota is obviously high on the former Eagles quarterbacks coach, as it targeted DeFilippo as soon as former OC Pat Shurmur left for the Giants’ head coaching job. The Vikings were also willing to wait for Philadelphia’s season to be over before naming Shurmur’s replacement, which shows just how much they liked DeFilippo. Despite the hire, though, the Vikings denied the Giants’ request to interview Minnesota quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for the New York OC gig, and Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio suggests that there are two reasons for that (Twitter link). Obviously, the Vikings value Stefanski and want him around in 2018, but the team also thinks there is a good chance DeFilippo could get his own head coaching opportunity in 2019, so Minnesota views Stefanski as a potential replacement (after all, the Vikes did interview Stefanski for the OC position this year before hiring DeFilippo). However, Marvez reports that Stefanski only has one year left on his current contract, so he could become a coaching free agent in 2019.

Now for more from the league’s North divisions:

  • The Bears‘ offensive line will be one of their biggest priorities this offseason, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune says the team could use one of its top two picks in this year’s draft on an O-lineman. Of course, Chicago will also have to decide what it wants to do with guard Josh Sitton, who has a club option worth $8MM for 2018 (the Bears have until March 9 to exercise that option, and if they do not, Sitton will become a UFA). It is a tough call; on the one hand, Sitton is an accomplished player whose departure will make the team’s O-line situation even more dire, but on the other hand, he is an aging veteran and, if the Bears decline the option, Sitton will count only $666K against the cap in 2018. Biggs does not give an indication as to which way Chicago is leaning at this point.
  • In a piece that is well worth a read, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press chronicles Matt Patricia‘s rise from a low-level assistant in New England to Lions head coach, a rise that was accelerated in 2012 when Detroit GM Bob Quinn — then the director of pro scouting with the Patriots — heard Patricia deliver a poignant speech to New England coaches and players about the recently-deceased Junior Seau.
  • Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, whom the team selected in the first round of last year’s draft, was recently arrested for stealing a $15 phone charger, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. Humphrey has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 1 in Tuscaloosa County District Court, at which time a judge will determine whether to dismiss the case or to proceed. Humphrey turned in a strong rookie campaign, and Baltimore will rely on him heavily in 2018.

Lions Hire Matt Patricia As Head Coach

As expected, the Lions made it official on Monday in announcing Matt Patricia will be their next head coach. Now that the 2017 season is over, the two teams who waited for the Patriots’ season to end are free to announce agreements.

This hire has been expected for more than three weeks, and the longtime New England DC can begin to fully assemble his first Detroit staff.

When we launched the search for our next head coach, I wanted to find a leader that could take us to the next level and I am confident we have found that in Matt Patricia,” Lions GM Bob Quinn said. “He has been preparing for this opportunity his entire career, and he’s ready for the responsibility and its challenges.

Matt is driven to succeed, has extreme passion for the game and excels in preparation. He embodies the same hard-working, blue-collar attributes that represent our organization and the great City of Detroit.”

Patricia served as Patriots DC for six seasons but spent 14 years with the franchise, going straight from being a Syracuse graduate assistant to working on Bill Belichick‘s staff. The 43-year-old Patricia is coming off his first Super Bowl defeat as Pats DC, but he served on staff for six of the eight Super Bowls in the Belichick era.

The Lions are expected to retain OC Jim Bob Cooter and are not certain to hire a defensive coordinator, with Patricia expected to run that unit. They will have an entirely new defensive staff regardless.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Giants’ Pat Shurmur Hire

A difference between how Pat Shurmur approached his Giants interview helped land him the job. The former Vikings OC conducted his Giants meeting in a fashion that left no doubt the Giants were his first choice, which is something, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv, team management couldn’t see in Josh McDaniels or Matt Patricia.

While Vacchiano reports some in the Giants’ organization preferred the two Patriots coordinators to Shurmur “until the very end,” he notes Shurmur left “by far” the strongest first impression on the Giants of the candidates summoned. One of the reasons management was sold on Shurmur was his desire to land the Giants’ job was far more evident than the other finalists’. Vacchiano writes McDaniels appeared to be more interested in the Colts’ job because of Andrew Luck‘s presence, and Patricia’s Lions connection turned out to be very real.

Multiple sources informed Vacchiano that Shurmur was at one point viewed as the favorite in Arizona and that his personality would work better there, but the former Browns coach, per the Giants, was intent on securing the New York job.

Shurmur’s interview, one John Mara ranked as arguably the best he’s seen, resulted in him edging the New England assistants after they’d been viewed as previous favorites. Shurmur also made the strongest connection with Dave Gettleman of the six candidates interviewed, which is interesting given Steve Wilks‘ history with the new Giants GM. Vacchiano notes Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin did not see eye to eye on key components of the team in their final years together, with a specific disagreement involving the team’s offensive line approach, and adds Mara appeared to indicate Reese and Ben McAdoo weren’t meshing as well as they’d hoped to.

Mara indicated a head coach/GM partnership was critical here, and Shurmur — who made a point of saying how much stock he places in repairing the Giants’ offensive front — appears to be in stride with Gettleman at this point.

Mara previously said he wanted a head coach with previous experience leading a team, and Vacchiano reports Shurmur was “much more willing” to accept his wrongdoings from his first job (with the 2011-12 Browns) than McDaniels (fired midway through his second Broncos season in 2010) was. Shurmur made clear he will hire an offensive coordinator, identifying that as a mistake from his first Cleveland campaign. The Giants ultimately ruled out Wilks because of his lack of experience.

Shurmur also spoke with Eli Manning on the phone on Wednesday from the Senior Bowl and then sat down with the franchise passer in the Giants’ cafeteria on Friday, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports. Considering Gettleman’s praise for Manning, and what Shurmur offered about the quarterback’s future at his press conference, it’s starting to look like a strong bet he will be back in New York for his age-37 season.

Schwartz writes Shurmur’s approach with Manning differs from Coughlin’s with Kerry Collins, whom the Giants replaced with Manning in 2004. Coughlin ignored Collins when they saw each other at the facility during the months his and Collins’ tenures overlapped in ’04, Schwartz recalls.

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