Josh McDaniels' decision helped keep Patriots' staff stable

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots assistant coaches are scheduled to answer questions from reporters Friday at 12 p.m. ET, and it will have a feeling of getting the old band back together again. Other than the departure of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to become head coach of the Detroit Lions and assistant special-teams coach Ray Ventrone getting the top special-teams post with the Indianapolis Colts, the staff returns intact from 2017.

The person primarily responsible for that?

In many ways, the credit goes to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels.

Had McDaniels followed through and taken the Colts head-coaching job -- which he was set to do before Patriots owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick stepped in the Tuesday after the Super Bowl with an aggressive pitch -- there could have been a major trickle-down effect on New England's 2018 staff.

The 2018 return of widely respected offensive-line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who celebrated his 70th birthday in February, was viewed as being strongly tied to McDaniels. Scarnecchia previously retired in the 2014 and 2015 seasons before returning, so he's not far off from a more permanent retirement. Scarnecchia has spoken in the past about the strong working relationship he has with McDaniels.

Special-teams coach Joe Judge was reportedly connected to McDaniels and, with an expiring contract, would have been his choice to join him in Indianapolis. Instead, with McDaniels staying, Judge also elected to hang around.

Ditto for assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, whose behind-the-scenes work with Jacoby Brissett in 2016 was once praised by Belichick.

Meanwhile, longtime running-backs coach Ivan Fears, 63, is also closer to the end of his coaching career, and a coordinator change could have potentially hastened his transition away from the NFL after 27 seasons (21 with New England). The personable Fears also has strong ties to McDaniels.

Looking back, such a high volume of possible turnover -- coupled with no slam-dunk, in-house replacement to take over as offensive coordinator -- might have been part of the thinking of the Patriots' brass in their late push to entice McDaniels to stay.

McDaniels' return buys more time to continue to groom coaches to fill larger roles in the future, and also integrate others -- such as former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema (role yet to be announced) and assistant special-teams coach Cameron Achord -- into the mix. Bielema had helped the Patriots from a scouting perspective leading into the draft, and is still with the club, according to ESPN's Field Yates.

The Patriots, who will have linebackers coach Brian Flores handle the defensive-coordinator duties without the official title, have also recently been holding interviews with others for spots on the staff.

As has usually been the case under Belichick, the Patriots' staff will once again be one of the smallest in the NFL. That's a Belichick preference.

Last year at this time, he said: "My philosophy, really, is that less is more, so I'd rather have fewer people doing more work than more people doing a little more work. As long as everybody is busy, as long as everybody feels productive, they feel good about what they’re doing and they feel like they’re contributing; I think when people have lag time and kind of not enough to do, that leads to getting distracted and complaining or being less productive. So even though you have more people, sometimes less work gets done.

"From a ‘getting everybody on the same page’ standpoint, which is critical, the fewer people you have to manage, the easier it is to get everybody on the same page," Belichick added last year. “So if you’re talking to 10 people, it’s hard to get all 10 people doing the same thing or doing the right thing. Now you make that number 20, instead of 10, it’s even more difficult. If you have five people supervising another 15 people, now you have another layer there where you’re not dealing directly with everybody, and now you’re somewhat dependent on other people to relay the message the way you want it done and to monitor it that way. Certainly, there’s a degree of that, but as much of that I can eliminate, I think works better for me."

So it's more of the same for the Patriots in 2018.

At one point in February, it didn't look like that's the way it would unfold. But thanks to McDaniels' decision to stay, several key pieces fell back into place.