EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 27, 2012

Why does Belichick trust this man?

Defense stagnates in two-plus seasons under Patricia

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

---- — FOXBORO – Bill O’Brien, for three seasons, coordinated an offense that scored 26.7, 32.1 and 32.4 points a game, yet was questioned every step of the way by Pats fans.

So can you tell me why we should trust Matt Patricia?

Patricia, named defensive coordinator this fall for the New England Patriots, has run this defense for Bill Belichick since Dean Pees was jettisoned after 2009.

For his trouble, the Pats ran the 32nd and 31st rated defenses the past two years.

And again, like Pees, there has been little risk, little innovation. Where have the complex Belichick blitz packages been? Too often this group sits back in a passive cover-two shell, allowing the most mediocre quarterbacks in the game to pick it apart.

It’s infuriating at times.

You just have to wonder, after exhausting three premium picks in the 2012 draft on defense — Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson — why Belichick has placed them under Patricia’s tutelage.

What has he done?

Certainly, Pees left this defense with some serious issues. As a coordinator here, he got clobbered for not having enough to get an 18-0 team through the Super Bowl with the Giants in February of 2008.

The scary fact is that all this defense has to be is pedestrian, middle-of-the-pack, ordinary. Like Pees before him, Patricia hasn’t found a way to get that done in two seasons.

“I think everybody out here is trying to learn their position and do the best job they can,” said Patricia, earlier in training camp. “I think we’re all just trying to come out here and do our job and really focus on getting the team ready to go for the season. We all honestly really just work excellent together and we all really just do a great job and everybody just divides the pie up and we all work together really well.”

Do those sound like the words of a confident, competent defensive coordinator in the NFL?

I have to say no, and that should send warning signs up here. He sounds like his predecessors, just too much like him.

Along the way, just like Pees, players simply haven’t progressed.

Who’s gotten better here over the last couple years?

The poster child for Patricia’s reign might be Devin McCourty, who found his way to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. After two seasons of coaching here, he was demoted to safety because of his deteriorating cover skills.

All of New England expected McCourty to at least progress to Asante Samuel levels, if not Ty Law.

Right now, he’s certainly nowhere near those area codes, and there is little hope for improvement.

Ex-second round pick Brandon Spikes remains an enigma with two seasons under his belt.

Jermaine Cunningham, Pat Chung, Ras-I Dowling?

Like Spikes, they’re all high picks, who are exactly what they were when they got here.

Look, I’m not a resume guy. But I have to state facts.

Patricia came to New England with two seasons of bigtime college football coaching under his belt, as a graduate assistant on the offense at Syracuse.

He came here in 2005 and moved over to defense in ‘06. He learned the Belichick way, and that’s it.

Look, Belichick’s defense is legit and proven. But if you only know algebra and don’t know a thing about geometry, trig or calculus, could you run the math department?

Of course not.

And now we have a pair of hungry first-rounders in the front seven and a corner with first-round skills, looking to reconstruct his reputation as a player, all of whom have been entrusted to Patricia.

I just have to ask why. And until this defense steps up when it matters, the spinning wheels have to be pinned on Patricia.



Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.