FOXBOROUGH — According to Patriots senior football advisor Matt Patricia and offensive assistant Joe Judge, Thursday’s preseason opener was not part of an open competition to earn the role of offensive play-caller.
Both Patricia and Judge called plays against the Giants, even though neither bear the official title as offensive coordinator. Coach Bill Belichick has remained tight-lipped on the team’s plans for that position, saying that the staff is “going through a process.”
That process is unclear, but Patricia and Judge stressed Monday they do not see themselves as competitors vying for the same job or responsibilities. Instead, they echoed Belichick, emphasizing the importance of “the process.”
“I think the experience of all preseason games are really about the process,” Judge said. “Developing as a team, getting to know the chemistry with your players. It’s as important for us to get to know them and them to know us in terms of how we interact on game day.”
Against the Giants, Patricia appeared to call plays during veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer’s opening two drives before Judge took over once rookie Bailey Zappe entered the game. Starter Mac Jones did not take a snap.
A week prior, during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage, Patricia ran the offense for Jones and Judge did so for Zappe — an early indication that Patricia might be the permanent play-caller as he was working with the starters. But the situation still seems fluid.
Both coaches have called plays over the past three weeks of training camp practices, while Patricia primarily works with the offensive line and Judge with the quarterbacks. Belichick would not say whether the plan is to name one play-caller or to have a rotation. He has not offered a timeline on the decision, either.
More data points are to come, with two sets of joint practices along with two preseason games ahead. If Jones suits up Friday against Carolina, then the coach calling plays for him will likely be considered the front-runner to do so in Week 1.
For now, however, Patricia and Judge are focused on doing whatever they can to ensure the operation continues to improve ahead of the season opener.
So, how did they think the communication went last Thursday?
“I felt like it was probably our first game this year,” Patricia said, with a smile. “I think when you have games every single year, you start over. It doesn’t matter if you’re a head coach, position coach, coordinator, whatever it is. I think from a players’ and coaches’ standpoint, there’s just a rhythm that you’re trying to get into. That’s why these games are so important for us.”
Added Judge, “No one’s coached a game in months. No one’s played a game in months. For all of us, it’s a full season, and we have to start fresh.”
Both coaches noted that the offense is still working to get on the same page.
One additional challenge for Patricia as a play-caller is coaching his position group as well. He once again underscored the importance of communication in balancing the responsibilities, and also credited centers David Andrews and James Ferentz for their assistance and leadership.
Collaboration seems to be one of New England’s buzzwords, as the staff navigates this offensive coordinator-less era. Regardless of who is calling the plays, however, Judge made one thing clear: Belichick always has the final say.
“I’ll just say this, and this is as transparent as I can be,” Judge said. “And this isn’t coach-speak. The assistant coach’s job is real simple: Make the head coach happy. That’s your job. He has a vision for his team. He knows what he wants his team to look like. It’s our job to listen and to go out and execute the way he sees it. That’s the important thing as an assistant coach.
“That’s our job. That’s my job. As far as defined roles, whatever it may be, I come to work every day with one simple policy: Whatever he says goes.”