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Coaching changes could help Patriots

The 2000 season was one of frustration for Patriot fans as the team experienced the growing pains of a coaching change. However, if other teams struggle under new coaches the way New England did this year, fans may enjoy the 2001 campaign.

Half of the 12 teams the Patriots will play next year have already made changes at either the head coaching spot or one of the coordinator positions. Depending on how early in the season New England faces these teams or how quickly the teams pick up new systems, the Patriots could actually gain some advantages.

Two AFC East teams are currently without leaders, as Buffalo dismissed Wade Phillips and New York Jets Head Coach Al Groh resigned to take a similar post with the University of Virginia. The changes in New York will be even deeper, as Director of Football Operations Bill Parcells announced Friday that he will step away from the job when his contract runs out at the end of the month.

Four other Patriot opponents will have new coordinators next season. Denver's Greg Robinson was dismissed as the team's defensive coordinator following the Broncos 21-3 loss to Baltimore in the wild card round of the playoffs. Also with a new defensive coordinator will be St. Louis, whose unit will be led by former Tampa Bay assistant Lovie Smith. The Rams, who also bowed out in the first round of the postseason, struggled to stop teams throughout the 2000 season.

The San Diego Chargers announced Friday that Norv Turner will be their new offensive coordinator. Turner was fired as head coach in Washington midseason this year. Another team that struggled through a tough season was the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still looking for an offensive coordinator. Their current target is Pittsburgh wide receivers coach Bob Bratkowski.

Several other Patriot opponents have made changes on their coaching staffs. Atlanta lost offensive line coach and former Raiders Head Coach Art Shell, who resigned to pursue other opportunities. Miami fired two assistants, including offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, a former New England assistant.

To be sure, the Patriots have their own changes and adjustments to make, but major coaching moves take time to adjust to. The changes occurring with other teams could certainly help when the 2001 season roles around.

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