Why Matt Patricia needs a thicker skin - and fast

Mike Petraglia
November 22, 2016 - 1:42 pm

Will Matt Patricia be running an NFL team someday? (William Hauser/USA Today Sports)

If Matt Patricia has any aspirations of becoming a head coach, he needs to learn from his current boss and put all accountability on himself. He was given that chance Tuesday and showed equal parts frustration and diversion.

What he should've shown -- and said -- was that he needs to find better ways to get more out of every player. If a player isn't performing, then it's my job to come up with a game plan not only suited to stop the opposing offense but also put my players in the best position possible.

And most importantly, get across the message in meetings of what is needed and expected from every player. That's the message that is apparently missing right now. It didn't get across to Jamie Collins and apparently Jabaal Sheard has tuned out.

Any general manager or NFL owner looking at the most recent work of Patricia will naturally wonder from afar why those two very talented players bottomed out in contract years on the Patriots defense. Patricia was again included on the NFL's Career Development Advisory List. His stock was as high as it's ever been in 2015.

There's a certain mentality about successful head coaches in the NFL. They are confident and self-assured.

Criticizing the nature of a question is not the best way of projecting that look. When CSNNE's Tom Curran asked Patricia about possibly looking at his own job performance as it relates to the play of the defense this year, Patricia said, "That's a pretty negative question."

All of this defensiveness in spite of a glowing endorsement from his current boss. Imagine if Bill Belichick, just minutes earlier, hadn't openly praised the work of Patricia, along with Josh McDaniels, suggesting any prospective list of head coaches would be incomplete without the two names.

To his credit, after about a minute or two of "we're trying to play our best football" and "trying to come up with the best game plan", Patricia did get to the real point of the matter.

"I certainly always look at myself first and always try to make sure I'm doing everything I can to help our team prepare to win and do the best job I can, week in and week out, which is what I really try to do," Patricia said. "From that standpoint, those guys know that. We're always committed to try to do whatever it takes to help the team win."

That's an honest and entirely appropriate answer. That also should've been what he said right out of the chute. No defensiveness, only accountability. You don't have to throw any player under the bus. We all understand they have to know you have their back.

He could've also said, "If a player isn't performing up to a certain level of expectation, it's my job to address it. Ultimately, it's my job to put them in a position to succeed."

That sends the right message to his players and those paying close attention outside the organization. Obviously, everyone in Foxboro knows full well that Belichick speaks to the team's roster. But the point here is to show some independence and show that you, as a prospective head coach, have to get the best out of the players on Belichick's roster.

After getting back on track, Patricia chose to let Belichick's words speak louder than his own. The Herald's Karen Guregian asked what Sheard needs to do to earn his keep or earn his way back?

"Well, in regards to those types of questions, I think you know Coach Belichick said it over and over and I think he's said it best. For us, we're just trying to put whoever is going to go out there and help us, give us the best opportunity to win," Patricia said. "The roster and how it works, I think Coach answered that best. Sometimes you've got guys up and sometimes you don't and whatever the case may be. There are other factors that are involved in that. We're just going to go out there and do the best we can to get everybody going. I don't think there's anything else really to say about that."

Ultimately of course, Patricia will be judged more on how this Patriots defense finishes the season on the field than some Tuesday media conference call before Thanksgiving with reporters. If Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton pick up slack for Alan Branch and Jabaal Sheard gets his act together, there's still loads of talent to work with.

And the schedule-maker is doing Patricia a big favor. He has the Jets twice, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill and Trevor Siemian the rest of the way in the regular season. Those offensives should not be able to necessarily light up the scoreboard or burn the Patriots deep.

There was a moment Sunday in Santa Clara when the defense came off the wet field after a three-and-out when Patricia was congratulating his players for a big stop. They were responding in kind. These players love playing for Patricia during the game. One of the reasons he's thought of so highly around the league is his ability in process complex systems, a must in the Belichick defensive scheme, and something Belichick valued from Patricia's aeronautical engineering degree at RPI.

Belichick praised his team and his defense for big stops in the post-game address in the locker room. There's still a lot for Patricia to be excited about and a lot to look forward to.

"I would say to go back to the spring when we get those questions that come up in regards to, 'What's the team going to be?', 'What's it going to look like?' and 'Where do guys go?' The answers I give you are very truthful. No one has any idea when we come into the spring," Patricia said.

On the surface, that's probably not entirely false. But there's a disengenious tone to that answer. Of course Patricia and Belichick knew the kind of players and their general role in the spring when you have Collins, Hightower, Sheard, Butler, Harmon, Chung, Ryan, McCourty and Ninkovich. They all have a track record in the system. The whole point of adding the likes of Shea Mcclellan, Chris Long, rookie Elandon Roberts, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy is to bolster a defense and give it more flexibility, not to plug holes of underperforming players.

"We're just trying to get better by the particular day," Patricia said "So, those expectations for the team, each individual player, the coaches, whatever is put out there, are not made by us."

A bit of advice for the very bright Patricia: Get defensive with the game plan, not the media. It's a bad look, especially for a prospective, possibly future NFL head coach.