Hannable: Debunking myth of Greg Schiano hiring ‘his’ guys for Patriots defensive coaching staff

Ryan Hannable
February 10, 2019 - 10:43 pm

The Patriots' defensive coaching staff will look a lot different in 2019 than it did in 2018.

On top of de facto defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brian Flores departing for Miami to be its next head coach, several other coaches have left as well. Cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer followed Flores to South Florida and then defensive line coach Brendan Daly is said to be heading to Kansas City.

This leaves Steve Belichick (safeties) as the only defensive position coach returning, along with Greg Schiano, who reportedly has been hired to replace Flores to lead the defense.

Over the last few days it’s been speculated by some that Schiano will be hiring “his” guys to fill out the coaching staff. But, this could not be any further from the truth for a few reasons.

No. 1, this is still Bill Belichick’s defense. 

Schiano is not going to come in and completely change things to his liking. He will be building off what has already been put in place by Belichick and everyone else that has come through New England before him. Schiano has been known to be a very conversative playcaller and someone who doesn’t take risks very often. That wasn’t the case at all with the 2018 defense, so don’t be surprised if Belichick takes a more hands-on role with the unit this coming year. 

And he will be the one who decides who gets added to the staff. Sure, Schiano will likely be in on the conversations, but the final call will ultimately be Belichick’s.

No. 2, Schiano doesn’t exactly have any of his own “guys.” 

While at Ohio State, much of the defensive coaching staff were coaches hired by Urban Meyer and didn’t have much allegiance to Schiano. The closest name that comes to mind when it comes to someone being associated with Schiano is Robb Smith, who was fired as the University of Minnesota’s defensive coordinator this past year. He was rumored to be coming to New England last year with Schiano if that actually happened, but of course it never did. Smith was Schiano’s linebackers coach when he was the head coach of Tampa Bay in 2013. 

It remains to be seen if Smith would be in the mix to come on staff, but based on his recent history maybe that isn’t the best idea. 

Smith was fired after six Big Ten games when his defense was allowing 43.2 points per game and 507.7 yards per game. Schiano didn’t exactly have the best success in his own right at Ohio State. This past season the Buckeyes came in ranked No. 53 in the country in points allowed, allowing an average of 25.5 points a game, and allowed over 30 points five times. It was even worse when it came to yards allowed per game, as OSU came in ranked 72nd, allowing an average of 404 yards per game.

Why would Belichick default to Schiano, especially when looking at his recent history and him being the head coach after all?

Keeping in mind the coaches will be spending a lot of time with Schiano, Belichick will hire who he feels is best. He will start with who is already on staff, and names that come to mind right away are coaching assistant DeMarcus Covington and consultant Bret Bielema. 

Covington seems like a logical fit for the linebackers spot, as he worked a great deal with those players this past season with Flores serving as the de facto DC. Bielema has the most experience of the other coaches, but it remains to be seen if he wants to go from head college coach to NFL positional coach and working under Schiano, who was most recently a college coordinator. It’s also worth wondering if the Patriots even would want Bielema in such a role?

Bottom line, just because Schiano is on staff as the lead defensive coach, it doesn’t mean he will be given free reign on hiring who he wants as positional coaches. 

It is still Belichick’s defense and thus his decisions.

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