Indianapolis — All around the NFL, there is a Patriots influence. The nearly two decades of championship success in New England has led to the branches of coach Bill Belichick's tree spreading far and wide.
Teams with a former Patriot staffer as head coach or general manager are Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. Among those teams, Detroit, Houston, Miami and Tennessee all have defenses run by Belichick disciples.
So as free agency and the draft approach, it's a reasonable to ask, will there be added competition between these teams for the same players?
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, both plucked from New England after more than a decade working under Belichick, don't believe that will be the case.
"It’s something I remember probably in the mid-2000s, kind of the same situation sort of came up and some of the schemes were the same," Patricia said Wednesday at the NFL's scouting combine. "I would say there’s probably more of a variance now then there was back then. Some of the schemes were exactly the same. I would say everyone’s kind of learned and shifted a little bit."
Quinn elaborated further.
"Tennessee for example, I’ve watched a lot of them over the course of the last year or so, and even when (coach) Mike (Vrabel) was in Houston, their defense is actually a lot different than ours," Quinn said. "People might kind of put the dots together that it might be similar, but there’s a lot of differences that Coach (Dean) Pees in Tennessee is doing differently than what Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni is doing in Detroit. The style of players, maybe, but specifically, I think there’s a lot of differences."
That said, good players are good players in almost any scheme, and it will be interesting to see how those New England connections come into play when Patriots edge defender Trey Flowers hits the open market in March.
Flowers, despite never topping 7.5 sacks in a season, is well-regarded because of his strong fundamentals, ability to consistently pressure the passer and defend the run. The 25-year-old defender could command a deal rivaling the five-year, $85 million pact Olivier Vernon received from the Giants three years ago.
The Lions, Dolphins and Titans all should be in the market for a pass-rusher, and Patricia and Miami first-year head coach Brian Flores both coached Flowers in New England in recent years.