MOBILE, Ala. — Matt Patricia gained a reputation as having a fertile mind for defense during his time with the Patriots, and that expertise convinced the Lions two years ago he was worthy of being their head coach.
Patricia, though, started out his NFL coaching career working with the offensive line, so he does have some experience on both sides of the ball. Patricia for six years worked with Joe Judge on Bill Belichick’s staff, considers Judge “a good friend and a great coach,” and sees Judge’s background on special teams as being especially beneficial for Judge’s transition to running the entire on-field football operation with the Giants.
“Joe was someone in the special teams role who presents to the entire team,” Patricia said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, where he and his Lions assistants will coach the North squad.
“Offensively and defensively, a lot of times we’re just working on our side of the ball and coaching our side of the ball, unless you cross-trained at all. But he, from Day 1, it was the entire team. He’s very much used to being up in front of everybody, commanding a room that way, drawing their interest and respect and trying to get players to play better. From that aspect, when you see that and you see his natural ability to do that in front of the team, you say ‘OK, this guy can handle coaching the entire team.’ ”
Judge and Patricia were on the New England staff together from 2012 through the 2017 season. Patricia was hired in Detroit and has gone 6-10 and 3-12-1, learning the difficulties of repairing a franchise from the bottom up. The Giants have nowhere to go but up with Judge, considering their last three miserable seasons produced a record of 12-36 for two different head coaches.
“There will be challenges that will come up that are unique for him and his position,” Patricia said.
The Patriots Way, or, more specifically, The Belichick Way, will not travel from Foxborough to East Rutherford. Judge, 38, will surely take some of the concepts and philosophies he learned from Belichick and incorporate them into the Giants’ new way of doing things.
Patricia was a serious candidate in 2018 for the Giants job that went to Pat Shurmur. The Giants hope Judge can turn the Giants around. Patricia has yet to do that with the Lions.
“I think the hardest thing … if you’ve been in one organization for a long time where there’s probably a preestablished culture or preestablished way of doing things,” Patricia said. “When you go into a new building or a new organization and you’re trying to implement some of the things that you think are important from that aspect of it there are just a lot of things that come up that are a challenge. A lot of ’em, you really don’t know what they are, because you just haven’t experienced, you haven’t seen it, you don’t know what it is.
“There obviously is a reason you’re there and a reason they brought you in. If it was an organization that didn’t need a lot of change or didn’t need some improvement you probably wouldn’t be there.”
Patricia, 45, believes Judge is up to it.
“A hard-working guy,” Patricia said. “He’s really smart. He’s one of those guys who just invested in learning all three phases and how they work together. Joe has that background of special teams but then branched out. He would ask a lot of questions offensively, defensively, grew his knowledge this past year working on the offensive side of the ball. He understands how that all fits together. He spent a lot of time learning about the roster, how to build that, how to put the team together, so I’m excited for him. I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s obviously a great organization.”
For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast: