Is the next Patriots offensive line coach hiding in plain sight?
Perry: Is the next Pats offensive line coach hiding in plain sight? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Patriots are certainly doing their due diligence. And they should. But is there a chance that the offensive line coach they're looking for is hiding in plain sight?
According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, Ryan Wendell -- former Patriots lineman and current Bills assistant -- was scheduled to meet with the team in Las Vegas this week for its offensive line opening. ESPN's Mike Reiss mentioned Mike Devlin and Tony Sparano Jr. as possibilities to take the job. Adrian Klemm interviewed with the team for its offensive coordinator opening and could be brought on to coach the line.
But what about Billy Yates?
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The entirety of the team's offensive coaching staff had what amounted to a difficult year in 2022, Yates included. But it'd be safe to characterize the position the Patriots assistant offensive line coach was put in as a difficult one. He entered the year as an assistant, but he ended up leading the room mid-season while Matt Patricia -- who had the title of offensive line coach -- focused on his duties as play-caller and de facto coordinator.
Not an easy task, particularly in an offensive system that had been altered going into the 2022 season. The system Yates coached as the assistant to Carmen Bricillo in 2021 -- the system he knew playing under Dante Scarnecchia and Josh McDaniels -- was out. He was handcuffed, in a way, trying to teach schemes and protection plans that had been installed and overseen by Patricia going into the season.
But if under new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien the Patriots go back to offensive line schemes deployed for the bulk of Belichick's tenure, Yates would be in a different position. He's well-liked by players and viewed as capable.
If it's not Yates, then the merry-go-round of offensive line coaches will continue in Foxboro. Scarnecchia last coached in 2019. He was followed by Cole Popovich and Bricillo. Patricia initially led the way last season before giving way to Yates. That's five coaches in four years. For consistency's sake, keeping Yates would have merit.
Perhaps Yates will end up retaining his title as assistant. Since playing from 2003-2010, he's racked up six years of coaching experience in the NFL under his belt. Devlin (who coached the offensive line under O'Brien with the Texans) has a longer coaching resume, with 16 years in the league. Sparano Jr. (whose father was one of the most well-respected line coaches in the NFL before his passing in 2017) has been an offensive assistant for over a decade. Klemm seems like a worthy choice to coach the position, too.
But veteran starters David Andrews, Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu have all had a steady stream of changing voices roll through their meetings in recent years. If it's of interest to pump the brakes on turnover there, and if it's the intention to get back to the last Patriots offensive system, it'd make sense for Bill Belichick to find a place for Yates.