If Patriots coordinators depart, who might step in?


Every Saturday, exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in the form of a mailbag.

Linebackers coach Brian Flores is primed for a promotion to defensive coordinator, as he was reportedly drawing interest around the NFL last year for that position but stayed with the Patriots. Flores is highly regarded and interviewing for the Cardinals’ head-coaching vacancy Saturday, which reflects how at least one organization views him as a worthy consideration for even a top job. So I feel pretty confident he would be the pick as defensive coordinator in the event Matt Patricia departs. The offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach is much less clear if Josh McDaniels moves on to a head-coaching job. I could see Bill Belichick becoming more involved with that, or maybe even Nick Caserio taking on more of a coaching role, like he did in 2007 when he was receivers coach.

“Inner turmoil” would be too strong of a description from my perspective. The Patriots have always had a demanding, challenging work environment. My feeling is that however one describes the dynamic in 2017 — and I do believe this year has come with its own unique challenges specific to Tom Brady, Belichick, Jimmy Garoppolo, Alex Guerrero, Robert Kraft, etc. — it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome for everyone involved to accomplish their goals. Winning can always smooth over some of the turbulence. I also believe it is accurate that some in the building wonder about Belichick’s future, and that’s partially because he doesn’t reveal his intentions to anyone, coupled with some of the unique dynamics from the season.

Dan, that’s a tough spot because replacing Belichick might be one of the toughest jobs in the NFL whenever that situation presents itself. As for anything from a contract perspective, such as how Belichick was to succeed Bill Parcells with the Jets before coming to New England, there is nothing of the sort for either McDaniels or Patricia that I am aware of.

Bobby, after trading Garoppolo to the 49ers, the idea for Belichick would be to try to find the “next Garoppolo” so the team could have the quarterback position accounted for in both the short- and long-term. That’s obviously easier said than done. So that will be one of several storylines to follow in the 2018 draft in the spring.

Joe, it could be an outside hire, and if the team stays in-house there are a group of four coaching assistants who could be part of the consideration. The four coaching assistants are Brian Belichick, DeMarcus Covington, Mike Pellegrino and Cole Popovich. Of the group, Popovich has been more with the offensive linemen.

Things are trending in the right direction for running back Rex Burkhead (knee) to return, as he was back at practice this week. So I’d say that situation has some promise. As for receiver Chris Hogan, it’s going to be how he feels from a pain tolerance standpoint. The target has been for him to be back for the playoffs and that still seems to be in range for him.

Ilya, the Cardinals have been thrilled with Jones, while the Patriots came away with starting left guard Joe Thuney and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, as well as the salary-cap space to make other moves. Jones has seemed to take his game to a higher level in Arizona, which might be a case of thriving in a scheme that lets him be more aggressive as a pass-rusher. It would be interesting to compare how that would look had he still been in New England’s scheme.

This is a good topic, Joaquin, and something I’ve talked about at times with some Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. One theory is that because those championship clubs were defined by “team,” and individual stars weren’t celebrated, maybe it hurts the candidacy of some of the players from that era. Perhaps if Ty Law is inducted into the Hall this year, it will further open the door for others.

Phillip Dorsett played 33 percent of the offensive snaps in the regular season, dressing for all 16 games while finishing with 12 catches for 194 yards. He is signed through 2018, so he should be back next year to compete for an expanded role.

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