Since the news broke that Dean Pees won't be back as defensive coordinator in 2010, one common line of thinking is that the Patriots are likely to stay in-house for a successor. With that in mind, the top candidates are defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and linebackers coach Matt Patricia.
Johnson is well known from his playing days, while Patricia flies a bit lower under the radar.
After talking with coaches who hired Patricia prior to his arrival in New England, a clearer picture began to emerge as to what the 35-year-old Patricia is all about. One thing that stood out to me was that he sacrificed a lot from a money standpoint to pursue a career in coaching. This is obviously a passion for him, as he chose coaching over engineering.
One nugget that didn't make it into the story came from Amherst College coach EJ Mills, who had Patricia on his staff as defensive line coach in 1999 and 2000. Mills has been impressed that as Patricia has climbed the coaching ladder, he hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"He's the same guy," Mills said. "We beat Williams this year to finish our undefeated season and one of the first messages I had was from him. He was on his way to Indianapolis for a big game against the Colts, but took the time to call."