How much importance do you place on the recent switches with the position coaches and the official appointment of Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator?
Jason: The promotion of O’Brien seems to be just a formality since he’s been serving as the de facto offensive coordinator for the past two years. The bigger news to me was the move of Matt Patricia from linebackers coach to safeties coach. I thought Patricia did an admirable job getting any sort of production out of a linebacking corps that included three first-year starters in Spikes, Ninkovich and Cunningham last season. By all accounts, Patricia seems to be a solid coach, so it makes me wonder if the Patriots will feature a more aggressive style of defense next year that will require a higher level of play out of Chung, Sanders and Meriweather.
Rick: I think that it is good for New England to have Bill O’Brien to be the official offensive coordinator of this team. The only way most casual fans heard of O’Brien was when he got into that halftime confrontation with Randy Moss in that Monday Night Football win over the Miami Dolphins back in October. O’Brien’s play calling led New England to have a great year on the offensive end, but that came mainly from Tom Brady’s stellar season. Still, O’Brien must have gave him great input similar to when Josh McDaniels gave Brady some great insight during that 50 touchdown season back in 2007. The additions of Mike Patricia (safeties coach) and Patrick Graham (linebackers coach) will help these young kids flourish into a top defense within the next few seasons.
Derek: After the league-leading offensive display that the Pats put on this season, it’s only fair that Bill O’Brien receive the coordinator title. I’ve been down on O’Brien in the past, finding the Pats’ offense to be a little vanilla in ’09, but he seemed to hit his stride during this past season. Assuming that there are no major injuries and the offensive line issues are adequately addressed, I don’t think there’s any reason to expect anything less than another stellar season from the Patriots offensively.
Like Jason, I find the defensive coaching changes to be of more interest. The defense was definitely the weak point of the 2010, so it’s a positive sign that Belichick is shuffling the deck here to some degree. Hopefully Patricia can foster some inspired play from Chung, Sanders, and in particular, Meriweather, as the team’s safety coverage was lackluster at times.