While the Patriots dodged a few bullets concerning their coaching staff earlier in the offseason, Bill Belichick lost the second member of his Super Bowl winning staff on Tuesday when outside linebackers coach Rob Ryan left to become defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders.
The major fear among Patriots fans was the possibility of losing either of the team's coordinators – Charlie Weis or Romeo Crennel. But by the time the Patriots run to the Super Bowl was finished, the seven job openings had all been filled, leaving Belichick's top lieutenants in place for 2004.
But the New York Giants came looking for an offensive coordinator and swiped away quarterbacks coach John Hufnagel for the position. Before coming to New England in 2003, Hufnagel had previously worked under new Giants coach Tom Coughlin when both were in Jacksonville.
Then the Raiders started making inquiries about defensive backs coach Eric Mangini. Oakland spoke with the young assistant about their coordinator position but the 33-year-old turned it down, opting instead to stick with Belichick and the Patriots.
Just a day later, it was Ryan's turn to be courted, and this time the Patriots weren't as lucky.
"It's a dream come true, as I've always wanted to be a part of the silver and black," Ryan said through a Raiders press release. "There is a lot of talent on this football team, both with seasoned veterans and up-and-coming players, and that excites me. The personnel matches up real favorably with the team I just left in New England and I'm looking forward to doing some great things here. It's about time a Ryan joins this organization."
Ryan, 41, is the son of Buddy Ryan, the architect of the Chicago Bears famed 46 defense back in the mid-1980s. He coached the Patriots outside linebackers since 2000 when Belichick arrived. Before that, Ryan was defensive coordinator at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in 1996 and Oklahoma State from 1997-99.
It is unknown if or how the Patriots will fill Ryan's spot. Pepper Johnson has handled the inside linebackers since 2001 and he could simply assume the added responsibility. Since the Patriots 3-4 defense requires the inside and outside linebackers to perform in much different ways, Belichick could opt to search for another replacement.
The head coach indicated last week that the team had yet to decide if it will replace Hufnagel, saying he and Weis would meet soon to discuss their options.