Matt Patricia is coming back to New England and will assist Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff in a variety of roles, a league source confirmed Friday.
Patricia spent 14 seasons (2004-17) in multiple roles on the New England staff, including his final six seasons as the defensive coordinator. He left after the 2017 season to become the Lions head coach. Patricia was fired along with general manager Bob Quinn in November after compiling a 13-29-1 record in Detroit.
In addition, Evan Rothstein, who worked in several roles during a nine-year stint with the Lions, also will be joining the Patriots, the source said.
Rothstein served as Patricia’s assistant for research and analysis the last three seasons. He also stepped in as the Detroit’s interim defensive coordinator when the coaching staff was thinned by a COVID-19 outbreak in December.
Patricia was a very popular coach among Patriots players and was known for his pregame routine of bearhugging everyone during warmups.
Dont’a Hightower credited Patricia with his development in the New England defense.
“Matty P. was one of the guys who helped me move along at an accelerated pace, we’ll say that, as far as him working with me and getting me to understand the defense and what he really wanted me to do as far as me coming in,” the linebacker said in January 2017, a month before Patricia left. “I love him, he’s a great coach and an even better man.”
It’s not unprecedented for Belichick’s assistants to return. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels came back in 2012 after serving as Broncos head coach and Rams offensive coordinator. Brian Daboll had a second tour of duty in New England, returning as tight ends coach in 2013. He had been an assistant on both sides of the ball before leaving for the Jets with Eric Mangini in 2007.
Patricia has a defensive pedigree, coaching New England’s linebackers (2006-10) and safeties (2011) before taking over as defensive coordinator. He has worked on the offensive side, however, assisting offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia in 2005.
The Patriots haven’t had anyone hold the official title of defensive coordinator since Patricia left. Brian Flores took over the defensive play calling for a season before taking the Dolphins head coaching job. Steve Belichick (outside linebackers) and Jerod Mayo (inside linebackers) called the plays the last two seasons. Belichick and Patricia have remained close and former Jets coach Adam Gase commented last year that spending time with the two of them at the Scouting Combine the last few years has been informative — and entertaining.
“You get [Belichick] and Patricia together, they’ve got some really good stories,” said Gase, adding that he’s never “laughed harder” than when he’s been with them.
It’s likely Patricia will advise Belichick and the staff in all phases of football operations, from player evaluations to game planning. It’s possible he could get to work as early as next week when six practice sessions for the Senior Bowl will be held in Mobile, Ala.