After disastrous playoff loss at Buffalo, what changes will be made in New England?

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Not surprisingly, Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not use the occasion of his press conference the day after the conclusion of his team’s season to announce his retirement. Yes, he will be back in 2022.

But will other changes be made? The worst performance of the Patriots during his time with the team came against a division rival they’d mastered for years, in the first postseason game between the two franchises since 1963. It surely leaves a mark. It surely requires soul searching.

At times during Sunday’s press conference, he seemed to recognize this. At other times, he wanted to regard it as nothing other than 1/18th of a full football season that should be evaluated by considering each game equally.

“I think we have to take a good long look again, not at just one game, but at all 18,” Belichick said. “Last night’s game was the least competitive game that we played last year. So again, is that what we are, or is that a bad night? We’ll see when we start playing again next year, I guess.”

Hopefully, he was being flippant. If he waits until next September to decide whether last night was an aberration or the start of a trend, he will have waited far too long.

Looming over the situation, but unspoken by Belichick or the assembled reporters, is the fact that two of his sons are employed by the team as defensive coaches. Steve is, essentially, the de facto co-defensive coordinator, with Jerod Mayo. And one of the very real problems arising from a coach hiring his son(s) is that, at some point, the coach may have to fire his son(s). But that won’t happen. Steve and Brian Belichick, no matter what they do or fail to do, will never be held to the same standard of accountability that applies to members of the staff who aren’t the sons of Bill Belichick.

That makes it even harder for Belichick to fire anyone after last night’s debacle. Indeed, it’s only a double standard if someone else gets treated differently than the head coach’s kid. If Belichick gives everyone a pass, no one can ever claim he’s playing favorites.

Maybe that’s why Belichick gushed about his coaching staff, despite last night’s unprecedented all-touchdowns-or-kneeldowns disaster.

“The staff’s worked extremely hard,” Belichick said. “These guys are here early, they leave late. They spend a lot of time detailing things out, looking at things in a very, again, detailed and close analysis to try to find an edge, to try to find a key that’ll help their player or that we can use in a schematic way. So, we have obviously coaches that are at very different levels in their coaching career. Some on the back end, some mid-career, some on the early side of their career and I think that’s a good blend and it’s healthy. There are new ideas and there’s a lot of mentoring from some of the older coaches or more experienced coaches with the younger ones and that’s a good thing too. . . . So, some of the younger coaches that are here and even coaches like Josh [McDaniels] and people like that, myself, he’s been here longer than we have. He’s been a great resource and not just in doing his job, but also in helping other people and giving guidance and leadership and just setting a great example on how to work and help the team in any way you can. So, we have a lot of, as I said, younger coaches on the staff in different areas, offense, defense, special teams that are growing and other coaches that have quite a bit of experience that have been in a lot of coaching situations and a lot of big games. So, that’s kind of the blend that we have, and I would anticipate that we would have that going forward. We’ve pretty much had that my entire time here and I think that kind of progression and that mixes of coaches on staff is a good one.”

Kalyn Kahler of Defector.com recently took a look at the nepotism issue in the NFL. It’s also one of the many essay-length chapters in Playmakers, out March 15 but preorder now. Nepotism happens in pro football for, as I see it, three reasons.

One, the teams are owned by families. Many owners who eventually will no longer be owners through the natural process that results in all of us no longer being anything plan to bequeath the franchise to a child or some other family member. It seems hypocritical on the surface for owners to employ family members in advance of giving them the reins and then to tell their coaches that they can’t hire their own kids.

Two, most coaches are rarely around as their children are growing up, working and working and working some more. Once the kids are grown, coach and children become acquainted like never before, spending hours elbow-to-elbow, working on football.

Three, coaches need people on the staff whom they can trust. And if you can’t trust your children, you can’t trust anyone.

The other side of the nepotism coin is that kids who grow up in and around the game learn things about how pro football works. They’re not in awe of it. They understand it. Look no farther than 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who soaked up all he could when his father, Mike, coached in the NFL. Kyle would never have become the coach he now is without that unique perspective.

For now, the point is that, even if Bill Belichick were to decide after reviewing what went wrong last night that Brian and Steve Belichick failed miserably to do their jobs to the point at which it would be time for them to find new jobs, it won’t happen. It can’t happen. But it will only become an issue if Bill Belichick starts firing other members of the staff who aren’t his sons.

After disastrous playoff loss at Buffalo, what changes will be made in New England? originally appeared on Pro Football Talk