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Patriots Replay Thu May 28 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Coaching tree

Please review the entire coaching staff – who's still here? What spots are open? Any ideas on replacements? No one talks about the Patriots having the smallest coaching staff in the NFL – Is that why we are so successful – every coach is multi-faceted? I can't believe the size of some of these other coaching staffs.
Mary Devlin

Here's a quick look at the coaching staff that currently is in place:

Head coach: Bill Belichick
Assistant head coach/offensive line: Dante Scarnecchia
Defensive coordinator: Dean Pees
Offensive coordinator: Open
Quarterbacks: Bill O'Brien (according to published reports – the team has not announced this move)
Running backs:Ivan Fears
Tight ends: Open
Wide receivers: Open
Defensive line: Pepper Johnson
Linebackers: Matt Patricia
Secondary: Open
Special teams: Scott O'Brien (according to published reports – the team has not announced this move)
Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Harold Nash

In terms of possible replacements, I expect Bill O'Brien to assume many of the offensive coordinator duties similar to the manner in which Josh McDaniels did back in 2005 after Charlie Weis left. McDaniels called the plays but was not officially named offensive coordinator until 2006. Otherwise, there are some young coaching assistants that have been in the system for the past year or so that have often been elevated to positional coaches in the past. McDaniels rode such a track through the ranks, as did former wide receivers coach Brian Daboll and current linebackers coach Matt Patricia. So I could see Belichick looking inside the organization for some of the replacements, but with so many spots to fill he may have to look beyond as well. Unfortunately, I have no idea who those replacements might be.

The actual size of the coaching staff for the Patriots really isn't much different than most. The Patriots have two or three coaching assistants every season that aren't issued official titles and they aren't included among the official coaching roster. Other teams have these positions listed as quality control coaches for offense and defense. Most teams have between 15-20 coaches and the Patriots usually fall in that range. Last year they had 16 if you include the coaching assistants, and that counted McDaniels, who served as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Paul Perillo

If Rodney Harrison decides not to play next year, which certainly might happen, and since Brandon Meriweather did a good job at safety this year, do you see the Patriots going out and drafting a complement to Brandon or sticking with James Sanders?Chris Hathorn

I think the Patriots need to find safeties whether they re-sign James Sander or not. I thought both Meriweather and Sanders had their moments in 2008 but the team has very little depth at the position behind them. I think Sanders needs to be retained and then Belichick needs to find some secondary help in the draft. Whether that is as a complement to Meriweather or Sanders or simply another player who can contribute, I believe the secondary needs help.
Paul Perillo

Whenever the offense jumps early they're flagged for a false start. When the defense gets flagged, this season the ref has called encroachment, offside or neutral zone infraction. All three calls on the defense have been punished with 5 yard penalties so what's the difference between them?Paul Dymond

A neutral zone infraction happens when a player crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and causes an offensive player to move forward. Encroachment happens when a player crosses the line before the snap and makes contact with the opponent. Offside happens when a player crosses the line of scrimmage, doesn't make contact with anyone and is in the neutral zone at the time of the snap.
Paul Perillo

I can sort of remember hearing about teams having a so-called "taxi squad" many years ago, but I thought that was outlawed by a rule change, so can you explain the practice squad's status, please? Are they part of the team? If not, can they be switched to it? What are the rules about that, such as for how long, how often, etc? Are they part of the player's association? How much are they paid?
Jeff Rankin-Lowe

Your memories of the taxi squad are quite similar to what the practice squad is today. Practice squads are limited to eight players who aren't on the active roster but practice every day as part of the team. They are paid and are part of the players' association and can be activated at any time during the season. Teams can sign members of another team's practice squad so long as they keep said player on the active roster for at least three weeks. Players can spend as many as three years on the practice squad depending on the individual's situation.
Paul Perillo

Where did Willie Andrews, who seemed to be a decent special teamer, go after last season? I had heard he had some problems with the law, but I wasn't sure. Also, do you think Matt Gutierrez, who I didn't think had a terrible preseason last year, might make it to the roster next season as a third stringer?
Dave Randlett

Andrews was arrested twice, once for drug possession and the other on a weapons charge, and he was subsequently released last offseason. Andrews was doing a nice job as a special teams player but obviously wasn't able to do the things off the field to remain a Patriot. Gutierrez was the third-string quarterback all of last season once Tom Brady was injured so I would assume he'd have every opportunity to return in that role again in 2009 assuming that Matt Cassel winds up with another team. Gutierrez had an OK training camp but was behind rookie Kevin O'Connell all season.
Paul Perillo

Seeing as Anquan Boldin is unhappy with the Cardinals (the feeling appears mutual), it seems likely that the Cardinals will release him. It's hard to predict but what do you think the chances are that we would improve our receiving corps even more? With Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Boldin, the offense would most certainly be unstoppable. Add a Terrell Suggs on defense and we'd be golden. Does this seem possible?
David Sarro

Obviously I'd love to have both of those players, but it's highly unlikely. First off I'm not sure the Cardinals are just going to give Boldin away. He's too good for a team to just let him go. Aside from the over-hyped argument he had on the sideline with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the NFC Championship Game, he had been a model citizen all season despite being unhappy with his contract. He kept his mouth shut and he produced, so there doesn't seem to be any pressing need for the Cards to dump him. But even if they did I'm not sure the Patriots would be the ones paying him the huge salary he's looking for. With the potential for some labor unrest on the horizon I don't think the Patriots will be big players in free agency this season, which would also make signing Terrell Suggs difficult. I don't see New England tying up boatloads of cash on long-term contracts that might look different in the future depending on what happens with the next CBA. So our dream acquisitions will likely remain just that – dreams.
Paul Perillo

Love the site. I'm in the heart of college football country, so it's great to have a direct source for Pats news. Here's a trade scenario that could be a win-win-win. The Pats ship Cassel to Detroit and one of their second rounders to Oakland. Detroit sends one of its first rounders (probably Dallas') to Oakland. Oakland sends Nnamdi Asomugha to New England. Detroit gets a starting caliber QB, Oakland gets a first- and second-round pick, and NE gets an elite DB. What do you think?
Eric Theall

I have no idea if this is doable, but unlike most of our normal trade proposals it doesn't seem completely out of the question so I decided to include it. I can't remember too many three-way trades in the NFL, but the principals involved in this one seem to make sense. It'd cost a ton of money to sign Asomugha, however, and that plus a second-round pick might not be what the Pats are looking for. But I liked the proposal so what the heck.
Paul Perillo

Is there any possibility of trading Matt Cassel to Detroit for Calvin Johnson? After paying attention to him over the past two years I am convinced he is the heir apparent to Randy Moss' title as the most dominant WR in the game.
Zackary Barron

I agree that Johnson is an absolute stud, and that's the reason I think there's no chance the Lions would trade him for Matt Cassel. Johnson has the chance to be a truly special player. Even without a stable quarterback and while playing for a winless team, Johnson put together a terrific year in just his second NFL season. No way Detroit deals him for a quarterback not named Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
Paul Perillo

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