On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the New England Patriots announced they would not be hiring a defensive coordinator to replace Dean Pees. Instead, NFL.com reported, coach Bill Belichick will be playing a larger role in the team’s defense.
This strikes me as a step in exactly the wrong direction. Already, the Patriots are operating without an offensive coordinator, with Belichick and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien handling those duties after Josh McDaniel left for the Denver Broncos. The play-calling was predictable and anemic, resulting in second-half collapses as teams adjusted to the Patriots at halftime. To be sure, there were other problems — the lack of a reliable third threat at wide receiver, quarterback Tom Brady was still recovering from injury, and a defense that could not get off the field when it needed to. But the mediocre 2009 season suggested that some new ideas might be needed.
It’s not clear that New England has the personnel for the Belichick-designed defensive scheme they have in place. There is no pass rush even against middling quarterbacks. The new defensive coach, who is coming in without the defensive coordinator title, did not exactly light the world on fire at Notre Dame. Generally, I’ve been a proponent of “In Bill we trust.” But at this point, I think Belichick needs a coaching staff that will challenge his preconceived notions and help shake things up.
Brady and Peyton Manning were the two best quarterbacks of the past decade. Manning will be playing in the Super Bowl tomorrow, facing off the most dynamic QB of the past season, Drew Brees. Belichick and Brady will be watching the game from home. If that doesn’t give them incentive to contemplate some changes, I don’t know what will.