Bill Belichick has a chance to knock off another branch from his coaching tree.
The five-time Super Bowl-winning coach has had his staff trimmed by NFL teams many times.
They all hired coaches who know how Belichick and the New England Patriots operate behind closed doors, banking on them being able to duplicate the formula for success.
It hasn’t worked out that well.
Eight former Belichick assistants have been hired by NFL teams and Al Groh is the only one in the group with a winning record. Groh was 9-7 in his one and only season with the New York Jets in 2000.
Belichick either does not know, or will not say, why he thinks his former assistants have struggled leading teams in the league.
“I’m not in the analytics business,” he bristled.
The track record of Belichick assistants did not deter Detroit because general manager Bob Quinn, a former member of Belichick’s front office, hired Matt Patricia soon after New England lost the Super Bowl.
If the Belichick-Patricia reunion goes as expected, it will follow a trend and teacher will school the student Sunday night in Detroit.
Belichick beat the Bill O’Brien-led Houston Texans in Week 1, making him 14-8 against assistants who worked for him in New England or Cleveland.
Even though the Patriots (1-1) are scuffling a bit on both sides of the ball by their standards, the Lions (0-2) have looked simply lost at times under Patricia and they’re expected to lose by about a touchdown.
Before and after the game, there’s a chance Patricia will be embraced more by his former players than his current ones.
“Matty P, he’s a coach who always had high expectations,” New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.
“But at the same time, he was definitely a player’s coach. He was definitely somebody who, once you get outside those doors, he was a guy who you could text or call and had a question — not even necessarily about football — but just life in general.”
And in general, Patricia deflects questions just as his mentor does in public. Patricia has no interest in sharing what parts of his scheme with the Lions mirrors what was done in New England.
“We’re trying to build Detroit here,” he said.
And, Belichick refused to say how much he has kept in touch with Patricia over the past several months.
“I’ll keep that on a personal level,” he said.
Here are some other things to know about the Patriots-Lions primetime matchup:
Josh Gordon was limited because of a hamstring injury in his first two practices in New England on Wednesday after being acquired in a trade with the Browns.
Since Gordon was an All-Pro wide receiver in 2013, he has played in just 11 games, including one this season. Gordon was suspended for the 2015 season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy and he missed all of 2016.
“If he makes plays on us, everybody is going to say Josh Gordon looks real fresh out there,” Detroit safety Glover Quin said. “If we make a lot of plays everyone is going to say Josh Gordon looks real rusty.”
New England needs help at receiver because Julian Edelman was suspended for the first four games, Danny Amendola left to sign in Miami and Brandin Cooks was traded to the Los Angeles Rams.
Matthew Stafford has made a career of connecting on deep passes. In last week’s 30-27 loss at San Francisco, though, he missed a handful of opportunities to make big plays by overthrowing receivers.
The Patriots are preparing for Stafford to be sharp.
“He’s a good quarterback. He can get it going,” New England linebacker Elandon Roberts said. “He can throw. He’s very athletic. He can get out of the pocket and he’s still gonna be looking downfield to make a play.”
The Patriots, who lost 31-20 at Jacksonville last week, are 45-6 in the regular season after a setback since the 2003 season. They have not lost consecutive games since 2015 when it happened twice.
Detroit drafted Michael Roberts in the fourth round last year in part because the former Toledo star led the nation in touchdowns by a tight end with 16. He finally scored for his first NFL touchdown against the 49ers in the 17th game of his career.
Roberts said it had been exactly, “638 days,” since he was in the end zone with the ball.
“It’s nice to be able to show the world the talents I have,” he said.
Three key players may miss the game because of concussions: Detroit cornerback Darius Slay, New England defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung. All three players did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
© 2018 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.