A week from Thursday, Las Vegas will be host to the East-West Shrine Bowl, that annual first baby step in the NFL draft evaluation process. It's a chance for all the seniors who weren't good enough to enter the previous year's draft to showcase themselves before pro scouts for the first time.
To that end, the NFL selects a team from each conference that both missed the playoffs and hasn't had a major turnover on their staff to coach each side. This year, that opportunity/punishment duty has fallen to the staffs of the Falcons and the Patriots.
First of all, it's curious that the Patriots got selected since they did just hire a new offensive coordinator. We can only conclude that the league didn't consider replacing their old OC a big deal since he was never actually the OC. Just the guy with all the duties and responsibilities of an OC. So they got Bill Belichick on a technicality of his own making.
But what's more curious is the makeup of the staff Belichick is bringing with him. And what's far more curious is who he is not.
No Matt Patricia. No Joe Judge. No Steve Belichick.
The initial reaction to the omission of that last name was a collective "Hmm," and a raised-eyebrow-with-a-monocle" emoji and people braced for news that the head coach is firing the prince he raised to be heir to his dominion and Protector of the Faith someday. But according to one report I can't confirm or deny, there's a much simpler explanation:
Unless Patricia and Judge are also expecting babies any day now, their absences aren't so easily dismissed.
I mean, you can see the logic of bringing up the coaching staff's B-squad and letting them try their hand at this. Troy Brown, Joe Douglas, Ross Pelligrino, and Brian Belichick all get a feel for what it's like to take on more responsibility. But in a consequence-free environment. Like when you take your kid to the parking lot of some empty industrial park and let him get behind the wheel of mom's SUV. The extra experience can only help them be better at their current jobs.
By the same token, Jerod Mayo and Bill O'Brien get to go in some vague, undefined role that allows them to get familiar with some of the prospects, without taking up too much of their time so they can still see Criss Angel's Mindfreak or the Tournament of Kings dinner show at the Excalibur.
But given all that's transpired over the last 12 months, it's hard not to assume this is the first indication Patricia and Judge aren't just no longer going to be "Senior Football Advisor/Offensive Line" and "Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks" respectively, but out altogether. I mean, on the other hand, it feels harsh. After Patricia's stint in Detroit and Judge's with the Giants followed by the across-the-board dropoff in every conceivable aspect of the offense this year, it's not like they're at their most employable right now. And you can make a case that, their failures aside, both were being thrown into a briar patch where they were out of their depth from the beginning. Yet that writing is starting to appear on the wall, as Belichick seems to be going hard after Adrian Klemm (his first draft pick as GM of the Patriots in 2000), who's currently at Oregon, to replace Patricia as O-line coach:
I've said before and I'll say again: If I were betting, I'd put money on Patricia going to an unspecified Ernie Adams role. And if I had my way, given the way the unit has regressed the last two years, I'd love to see Judge return to the job he did best, coaching special teams. That said, once you stop getting invitations to parties everyone else around you is going to, that's a pretty good indication you're not in good standing. Patricia and Judge ought to spend the time everyone else is in Vegas updating their resumes.
Call it a hunch, I think this guy still has job security though: