When I started these, I was going to dramatically count down from the least most compelling stories of Pats camp down to the biggest. But I just ended up going in random order, because it's midsummer. Which for some people means travel and/or joining ritual human sacrifice cults. But for me just means I lower my already low standards of thought and preparation. And I'm glad I did. Because the obvious No. 1 story on this list has to be the coaching staff.
And that story didn't wait for me to get to it. It came to us. If you've noticed today that "Belichick" is trending on Twitter, here's why:
As confirmed by the team's official website's coaches page, the word "coordinator" appears once. And the title belongs to Special Teams coordinator Cameron Achord. And this Tweet doesn't leave anything out. Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo are both listed as "Linebackers," with no differentiation as to which is going to be coaching which players. Whether they'll divide them up by Inside vs. Outside, odd and even numbers, or (to use the line your middle school gym teacher used to kill with) alphabetically by height, remains unclear.
Elsewhere on the staff, we've got Nick Caley - who's been talked about as being in the offensive coordinator pipeline - handling the tight ends. Vinnie Sunseri has taken over the running backs position that Ivan Fears has called his own since about the time the Pangaea landmass separated. And now, if you'll indulge me by picturing me do this in the voice of a band's lead singer, we've got Billy Yates on the offensive line, Belichick the Younger Brian is over there handling the safeties, Mike Pelligrino with the cornerbacks, and Demarcus Covington is on the defensive line! Put your hands together for them! And last but by no means least … coming to us all the way from three Super Bowl winners … please give a warm welcome to Mr. Patriot himself, Troy Brown on the receivers and kick returners! LET 'EM KNOW!!!
Thanks for playing along.
Anyway, this has been and will continue to be the biggest issue swirling around the 2022 Pats until - and unless - it's resolved. We can assume Steve Belichick is the defacto defensive coordinator, holding the Waffle House placemat over his mouth on game days like he has before. He just has no use for the official title. But Belichick has created a Scooby Doo mystery and shown no indication he'll pull the mask off the offensive playcaller's head and reveal it's been Patricia or Judge all along. And people are afraid.
Any time you've talked about this team since the day Josh McDaniels left for Vegas, this issue has come up in the first breath. The other night I did comedy and a nice couple I met before at a show about four years ago showed up. They are both rock solid Pats fans (the last time they brought a poster of Brady painted like Jesus), and while we talked about how excited we are for camp, they could not get past the dread and fear Belichick has created with this arrangement. This non-arrangement. It's understandable. Especially given the way Patricia's and Judge's head coaching careers went and how they're regarded by the masses in Detroit and New York, respectively.
But that's just a part of it. I think to a larger extent, it's the not knowing that's killing people. Since the Dynasty began 22 years ago, just three men have worn the OC headset: Charlie Weis, Bill O'Brien, and McDaniels' two tours of duty. Now for the first time, we're dealing with an unknown quantity. And it's unnerving. As HP Lovecraft put it, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is that of the unknown." It's better to know that noise outside your cave in the middle of the night is coming from a hungry saber-toothed tiger than not be sure, because instinctively your brain thinks it could be something worse. By the same token, you want to know if your voice in Mac Jones' helmet is the guy who destroyed the Lions or the Giants.
My point to these lovely young Pats/comedy fans was the same one I'm making to you now. Whatever uncertainty is at play right now, it is not an accident. It's by design. It's part of Belichick's grand plan. This is a guy who has been at this in one form or another since he was fetching coffee for Ted Marchibroda in the 1970s. He's the man who plans for every contingency, on and off the field. The coach who was prepared for what to do when he went to overtime on a windy night against Peyton Manning or when the Seahawks had 1st & goal at the 2. During the draft, he's prepared trade scenarios for every one of his picks and has more partners lined up than Mia Khalifa. He makes more trading deadline deals than any other GM. And demanded to know to the second how long the roof would be open at Super Bowl LIII:
It's the height of absurdity to think for one second he was caught by surprise when McDaniels finally left after years of trying. That he was all "WhatwhatWHAT???" when he got the news, running around the office doing jazz hands, "What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do???" As the Admiral tells Jack Ryan in Hunt for Red October, "A Russian don't take a dump without a plan, son." I can't confirm whether Belichick does or not (though I have my thoughts), but I cannot imagine a scenario where he'd be blindsided by his OC leaving. And that he's been preparing for this exact moment for years. To think anything else is patently ridiculous.
So who then might I think he's got in mind to call the plays? I believe ultimately he plans on having the greatest football coaching mind of all time: William Stephen Belichick. I'll let Mike Tannebaum explain (cued up to the 0:32 mark):
The year Tannebaum is referring to, when Belichick was the DC and Bill Parcells was calling all the plays, was 1998. Not only did the Jets get to the conference championship game, going 12-4 on the season, they were 5th in the league in points, 4th in yards, and sent three offensive starters to the Pro Bowl, including a 35 year old Vinny Testaverde.
Belichick can certainly run this offense. He's been under the hood of this precision-engineered driving machine since he built it 23 seasons ago. And he's got Patricia, Judge, Brown and the others in an advice and consent role. The thought that somehow he can't handle it because he's "a defensive coach" after all these years is as ridiculous as believing he hasn't been preparing for this very contingency for a long time. So relax, everyone. This is all part of the plan.