FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – “Next man up” doesn’t just apply to New England Patriots players. It includes coaches and personnel executives, too.
That was the theme that dominated Twitter mentions on Monday as it was learned that three key members of Bill Belichick’s inner circle – offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and director of player personnel Nick Caserio – have drawn interest for head-coaching and general-manager openings around the NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars have requested permission to speak with McDaniels, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The Rams and San Diego Chargers have done the same with Patricia, according to Schefter. And the 49ers put in their request for Caserio for their GM post.
There could be more in the coming days, and while requesting permission hardly means McDaniels, Patricia and Caserio are out the door, Belichick didn’t sound like he’d block them if they wanted to aggressively pursue those opportunities.
“I have a great relationship with those guys. They’ve done a great job for this organization [and] they’ve done a great job for me. I know if I asked them to do something I think they’d do it. If they asked me to do something, I’d do it for them,” Belichick said during his weekly interview on WEEI.
So if any of them departs, the question is who is the “next man up”?
Such hires are usually made from within, as the system trumps all. This is something quarterback Tom Brady has touched upon, highlighting how fortunate he’s felt to stay in essentially the same system for 17 years even as coordinators changed from Charlie Weis to McDaniels to Bill O’Brien and back to McDaniels.
Thus, tight ends coach Brian Daboll likely would be the leading in-house candidate to elevate to the role. Having gotten his start in New England (2000-06), he has experience as a coordinator with the Cleveland Browns (2009-10), Miami Dolphins (2011) and Kansas City Chiefs (2012).
Another factor to consider: If the Houston Texans and O’Brien don’t make it to a fourth year together, as some have speculated, he’d have to be on the list as well, assuming of course that he is willing to take that step back.
On defense, the path seems clear for linebackers coach Brian Flores to step up. The Boston College alumnus (Class of 2003) is taking a similar path to Patricia: starting as a coaching assistant, briefly focusing on offense, before working on multiple levels on defense with safeties and linebackers. He is highly regarded as a coach on the rise.
Similar to when Scott Pioli departed in 2009 to become Kansas City's general manager and Caserio essentially replaced him as an in-house promotion, current director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort would likely be next in line now. This is his 12th year with the Patriots; he's worked his way up the ranks from scouting assistant to area scout, national scout, assistant director of college scouting and now director.