So far, the annual NFL coaching shuffle has hit the Patriots in the form of assistants at wide receiver, special teams, and defensive line.
New England has lost Joe Judge and Bret Bielema, who are going to the Giants as head coach and defensive line coach, respectively. Judge’s departure leaves them with coaching vacancies at wide receivers and special teams. Bielema was defensive line coach in 2019.
The Patriots have made one addition in former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri, who joined them in a “support staff role,” according to alabama.com.
Despite the losses, there’s some continuity available for the defensive linemen and special teams players. Cam Achord, last year’s special teams assistant, could elevate into the special teams coach or provide support for any outside hire.
Likewise, the Patriots employed Joe Kim as their director of skill development last season, a position that had Kim, who has a martial arts background, spending much of his time with the defensive linemen working on handfighting and other techniques. Like Achord with special teams, he could either assume the main position coach role or smooth the transition for a newcomer.
There isn’t as obvious an answer for the wide receivers. Former Patriots receivers coach Chad O’Shea was considered a strong candidate after he was fired by the Dolphins, but O’Shea was hired as the receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Cleveland.
The Patriots don’t have anyone with extensive experience with receivers ready to take over for Judge, though that issue seems far less serious with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels returning. It seems logical that they’d look outside the organization to fill this position.
They still have Nick Caley (tight ends), Ivan Fears (running backs), Dante Scarnecchia (offensive line), Mick Lombardi (assistant quarterbacks coach under McDaniels), Cole Popovich (assistant running backs coach), Steve Belichick (safeties), DeMarcus Covington (outside linebackers), Mike Pellegrino (cornerbacks), Jerod Mayo (inside linebackers), and Brian Belichick and Carmen Bricillo (coaching assistants) — though those are all last year’s titles and could change.
Fears is 65 and Scarnecchia is 71, so they will both eventually retire, though there’s been no indication that’s happening this offseason. Both are energetic people who seemed thoroughly engaged this past season.
The Patriots did, however, add Jedd Fisch to their coaching staff in a yet-to-be-determined offensive capacity, league sources told the Globe on Friday. Fisch spent the last two seasons in the Rams organization, first as a senior offensive assistant before being promoted to assistant offensive coordinator last season. He has also coached on the offensive staffs of the Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks, and was the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator from 2013-14.
For the wide receivers, one possibility is Mike Groh, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator last two seasons but was recently fired. Groh has been a receivers coach for the Eagles, Rams, Bears, and Alabama. He has connections to Bill Belichick through his father Al Groh, a longtime coach, and his brother Matt, who already works for the Patriots in scouting.
Belichick historically has been fond of making sure promising young coaches get experience on both sides of the ball, so it’s possible someone who has mostly coached on defense could switch over.