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Sunday 7: What a difference a few months make when it comes to Patriots coaching staff

Ryan Hannable
May 13, 2018 - 6:00 am

1. For the first time since Super Bowl week, the Patriots assistant coaches addressed the media Friday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The last time they spoke, it seemed like it would be for the last time as members of the Patriots organization for many of them. With Josh McDaniels destined for Indy, it was likely a few would follow like quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinkski and special teams Joe Judge. Then there was Dante Scarnecchia, who was 69 years old at the time, and he wouldn’t commit to coaching beyond the Super Bowl. Some thought this meant he was retiring. Add in Matt Patricia going to the Lions, there was a real possibility the Patriots could have lost five coaches this offseason. But, fast forward four months, it turned out Patricia and assistant special teams coach Ray Ventrone were the only ones to leave. With McDaniels staying with the organization, that meant Judge and Schuplinski didn’t go anywhere, and Scarnecchia is back for another season. This may be one of the biggest wins of the offseason for the Patriots. It gets overlooked how important the continuity on the coaching staff really is and goes a long way into the overall success of the team. Sure, the players are the ones who win games on the field, but it’s the coaching staff that puts them in a position to do so, and the Patriots are the best in the league at doing it. Replacing five coaches in one offseason would have been a very, very tall task, especially with all the drama surrounding Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady. It’s been known these coaches would be returning for months, but Friday’s visual of most of them speaking at Gillette Stadium still in Patriots gear was a reminder of just how important the sustained continuity has been and is something that deserves more attention that it’s received.

2. With the Patriots releasing 2017 third-round Tony Garcia on Friday, it gives some more context as to why they used their first selection (No. 23 overall) on Isaiah Wynn. Based on what Scarnecchia said to reporters Friday, they will give Wynn a chance to win the starting left tackle job. "He's played left tackle in the best conference in America," he told reporters. "Played it pretty good. We're going to take a look at it, and see how it goes." The Patriots’ offensive line coach also said they don’t plan on moving Marcus Cannon to left tackle. Going into the draft, the team likely had a good idea about Garcia and therefore without drafting a tackle high in the draft it would have been LaAdrian Waddle, Max Tobin and Trent Brown vying to replace Nate Solder. Now, it feels like it will be Brown or Wynn, with Waddle likely being a backup swing tackle. Drafting a tackle high in the draft was much more imperative knowing Garcia wasn’t close to part of the 2018 plans.

3. An ESPN feature during Super Bowl week on Flores showed the impact his mother Maria had on his life, as she raised him and his four brothers in Brooklyn while keeping them out of trouble. When speaking Friday, Flores revealed she’s battling cancer. “My mother’s the toughest person I know. She’s actually battling cancer now, and she’s just — she’s just — it’s like it doesn’t faze her at all," Flores said to reporters. "She just gets up every day and tries to – she’s beating it. She says, ‘I’m beating this. This is a non-issue.’" He added: "She’s as tough as they come. That’s one thing I feel I’ve taken from her that’s helped me in all walks of life: personally, professionally. I’m soft on my kids, [but] she wasn’t soft on me.”

4. Brady and Rob Gronkowski have yet to show up at any of the voluntary offseason workouts, which in reality isn’t a huge deal because it isn’t like the two aren’t staying in pristine shape on their own. But, for Brady in particular, he’s missing out on a chance to connect with new receivers added to the Patriots roster this offseason. For now, Brian Hoyer has been the only quarterback throwing to receivers. Working with Brady and the Patriots offense is a lot more demanding than any other team and the 40-year-old is missing valuable time with them now when a lot of the communication is put into place. It’s worth keeping stashed away that if Brady gets a bit frustrated with his new receivers during training camp, it’s partly his fault, as he wasn’t around as much as he should have been.

5. Bovada has released its NFL over/under win totals for 2018. New England’s 11 are highest in the NFL, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. There were a few surprises, though. The 49ers are slated at eight, so from this view point hammer the over. Yes, the NFC West is a tough division, but with how Jimmy Garoppolo played last year, the 49ers have to be at least one win over .500, right? Another team to hit the over of is the Titans, as they too have an over/under of eight. They were a playoff team last year, and with first-year coach Mike Vrabel and other offseason additions, they seem like an even better team than in 2017. 

6. Speaking of the 49ers, Steve Young appears to be a big believer in Garoppolo and he noted a lot of it has to do with learning from Brady for almost four years. “Now the expectations are huge, and that’s good,” Young said to the San Francisco Chronicle last week. “He knows how good you have to be. He’s watched it - so that’s nice. It’s not going to be ‘Oh, Jimmy, the expectations are too high.’ He’s like ‘No, I know how good you have to be. You can expect me to do whatever you want, but I know how good I have to be. I’ve witnessed it.’ It just makes a huge difference. A lot of players don’t have any idea how hard the job is; what really good looks like. And Jimmy’s watched it for four years.”

7. It’s worth a reminder that voting for the 2018 Patriots Hall of Fame ends Monday at 5 p.m. The nominees are Matt Light, Richard Seymour and Vrabel. From this perspective, you can’t go wrong with any of the three, but if we had to pick one we’d go with Vrabel. He had some monster seasons, including 9.5 sacks in 2003 and 12.5 sacks in 2007, and he also had a knack for making a big play at a big time, even catching a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIX. Voting takes place at Patriots.com/2018hof.

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