Patriots Defensive Coordinator Just Does What He Does
Within the roster of individuals credited for the resurgence of New England’s defense, you’ll frequently encounter names such as Revis, Wilfork, Collins, Ninkovich, Browner, McCourty, Jones, and Hightower.
However, one name you’re less likely to come across unless spoken by the most devoted Patriots enthusiast is none other than Matt Patricia – yes, the defensive coordinator, the architect behind the team’s defensive strategies.
The prevailing trend in today’s NFL often fixates on individual players rather than the intricate strategies at play.
It’s akin to a high-stakes chess match, with an intense focus on choosing the right knights, optimizing rooks, and determining the appropriate compensation for the queen, all while giving scant attention to the strategic element. It doesn’t quite add up.
The calls for more pass rush or increased blitzing, inquiries about why certain players receive fewer carries or targets, and debates over defensive coverages like Cover 2 dominate the discourse. And that seems to be about it.
In such an environment, it’s understandable that those orchestrating the tactical moves can easily fade into the background, especially if they lack the grandiose personas of figures like Gregg Williams, Jim Schwartz, Rob Ryan, and Jack Del Rio.
Matt Patricia’s role in the Patriots’ defensive achievements is every bit as significant as anyone within the Foxboro organization.
It all hinges on the plays teams run with their personnel, how well they are primed to execute these plays, and the precise moments to implement them.
The success of your puppet, in this case, the players, hinges on the proficiency of the puppeteer. Poor calls or untimely decisions at the coordinator level can swiftly lead a team down a bleak path, much like subpar players.
However, when you have astute, disciplined, and innovative minds in these pivotal roles, it alters the entire equation.
And thus, we introduce Matty P…
For fans of the New England Patriots, there are a few familiar anecdotes about Matt Patricia:
- There’s a story circulating about his past life as an astronaut or a rocket enthusiast.
- His distinctive beard has drawn comparisons to Peter Griffin’s bird.
- The intriguing question is whether he or Bill Belichick is responsible for calling the defensive plays.
Boom. Matt Patricia. However, it’s safe to say that there’s much more to him than meets the eye. While you might not be entirely sure about the specifics of his role, rest assured he’s actively contributing.
“I have a different constitution. I have a different brain; I have a different heart; I got tiger blood, man.”
These words may not belong to Matt Patricia, but they could easily apply to him. Not because he’s eccentric but because he possesses a unique mindset – one ideally suited to his role with the Patriots.
To lead a unit amid the relentless pressure, sky-high expectations, and unrelenting scrutiny that is an intrinsic part of the Patriots organization, you need a spine of steel and skin as tough as a rhino’s, particularly when outsiders perceive you as a mere extension of Bill Belichick, someone who merely executes his directives.
Those who have played within the system and worked closely with Matt understand that this perception is far from the truth. Yet, it’s understandable how it lingers.
The system belongs to Coach Belichick, and there’s no doubt that BB is the mastermind behind it all. Yes, Matt has spent his entire professional career within the Patriots’ system, steadily climbing the ranks.
However, insiders know that Matt contributes significantly to the weekly game plans and, most crucially, to their real-time execution on Sundays. His imprint is notably distinct from that of Dean Pees, his predecessor.
It’s not a matter of being better or worse, just different. Under Pees, the Patriots leaned more towards Cover 4 as a fallback strategy, and as Pees has demonstrated in Baltimore, he has a greater inclination toward deploying pressure packages.
Both operated within the “Belichick” framework, but their weekly game plans diverged significantly.
I first became acquainted with Matt during his tenure as an offensive coaching assistant on our 2005 team.
As is customary for many New England assistant coaches, Matt spent a couple of years in that role before making a transition to the defensive side of the ball.
He spent five years honing his expertise with the linebackers, followed by a year working with the safeties, which also involved play-calling duties. Eventually, he assumed the title of defensive coordinator in 2012.
Matt’s diverse background is a notable asset – a former offensive lineman who has coached from various vantage points on both sides of the ball. Understanding all aspects of the game is a pivotal element in crafting a successful game plan.
In the Patriots’ system, coordinators often operate under the radar, which is likely why there’s a significant lack of public recognition for the exceptional abilities of these individuals.
They tend to keep their public statements succinct, aligning with the organization’s philosophy of judiciously guarding information.
The Patriots, guided by Coach Bill Belichick, are renowned as a team that emphasizes game planning. This principle has been a constant throughout their history.
They adopt a unique strategy virtually every week, refraining from divulging too much specific information about the strengths and weaknesses of upcoming opponents.
This approach is rooted in the belief that providing detailed insights could enable astute observers to analyze previous game tapes and anticipate potential adjustments, potentially compromising the element of surprise.
Matt Patricia is content with this approach. He is a dedicated worker who possesses a strong educational background – attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), playing center for the football team, and majoring in aeronautical engineering.
He is undoubtedly a sharp individual, but more importantly, he thrives in the demanding world of coaching, seemingly invigorated by the stress and pressure it entails.
Matt simply goes about his business. He invests tremendous effort in developing innovative defensive strategies each week and orchestrates game days with a delicate balance of discipline and creativity.
Perhaps most impressively, he doesn’t adhere rigidly to a single approach. Despite public demands for specific tactics like relying solely on Revis or pursuing more aggressive pass-rushing, Matt understands that the path to success is far more nuanced.
Opponents vary greatly, necessitating diverse defensive strategies. The team’s roster boasts versatile players, granting the coordinator the flexibility to adapt his approach.
The most remarkable aspect of it all? There isn’t a single coverage scheme that the Patriots are tethered to.
Week after week, they present something new – whether it’s variations in man-to-man or zone coverage, mid-season shifts from a 3-4 to predominantly 4-man defensive fronts, or the challenges posed by changing play-callers due to injuries throughout the year.
Game-planning against the Patriots’ ever-evolving defense, which has effectively countered some of the NFL’s top offenses in recent months, is undeniably one of the most formidable coaching challenges in football today.
A significant part of this complexity is attributed to how Matt Patricia has harnessed the available resources.
It’s one thing to have an array of defensive strategies at one’s disposal; it’s an entirely different art to deploy them strategically throughout a 60-minute game, adapting to the shifting dynamics as needed.
The Patriots’ defensive ethos isn’t centered on winning some abstract statistics or rankings championship; it’s about securing victories. Matty P’s play-calling epitomizes this approach.
While the defensive looks may vary, the consistent theme is an aversion to big plays.
When you have a quarterback like Tom Brady on your sideline, it makes sense to prioritize risk mitigation, nullifying the opposition’s top options through a dynamic approach that keeps the opposing offense guessing with tactical adjustments from series to series.
This essence of Patriots defensive football is embodied in how Matty P orchestrates games.
Over the past several years, few perspectives in Patriots Land have been more misguided than the calls for a “real” defensive coordinator, someone who could “challenge” Belichick, or an individual who would pursue an entirely distinct path.
The notion that someone could better prepare themselves for the Patriots’ unique demands by coaching elsewhere, in a lesser capacity, rather than learning under the guidance of Coach Belichick, has always struck me as a misguided train of thought.
Matt Patricia has unequivocally demonstrated that the Patriots were the ideal place for him to learn, and he has proven this beyond doubt.
Matt is simply an ordinary guy, one who commands the respect of a diverse group of NFL defensive stars, ranging from Wilfork to Revis.
He’s a guy who has masterfully called a string of remarkably impressive games over the past two months, stifling some of the most formidable offenses in football.
In essence, he is undeniably one of the NFL’s premier defensive coordinators.