It was a loss felt throughout the Patriots organization and one that came at the wrong time for a Tom Brady-led offense that had just started finding its groove. 15 years later, it looks like history is ready to repeat itself in New England.
Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge, who has already been the subject for various head coaching vacancies, is one of the top candidates for the open coaching position at Mississippi State. The university relieved Joe Moorhead of his duties on Friday, leaving the door open for Judge to return to his old school.
Judge played for the Bulldogs from 2000-04, earning three letters for the football team in that time. He also joined the Mississippi State staff as a graduate assistant from 2005-07. He even has prior SEC coaching experience having served as the special teams coordinator on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama from 2009-11 just before being hired by New England.
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Where Does Judge Rank Among Other Candidates?
In terms of odds to become the next head coach of Mississippi State football, Judge has a fair short according to SportsLine.
The two candidates above Judge — Gene Chizik and Billy Napier — both have prior head coaching experience at the collegiate level, something Judge doesn’t possess.
Chizik is most well-known for winning the 2010 National Championship at Auburn with Cam Newton as the quarterback, helping turn around a program that had endured a losing season two years earlier. He most recently served as the defensive coordinator at North Carolina where he resigned after two years to be closer to family in Alabama.
As for Napier, his coaching experience is limited having served for just two years as the head coach of Louisiana-Lafayette. This season, he created one of the most diverse rushing offenses with a trio of backs who are NFL prospects. But early reports indicate Napier would turn down any interest from the Bulldogs.
In the past, Napier coached at Alabama and Clemson as an assistant and has coordinator experience from the latter and in 2017 at Arizona State. His broad range of coaching in several different conferences makes him a strong option as well.
What Would New England Do?
The Patriots have a pair of special teams coaches, Judge and Cameron Achord. Judge added wide receivers to his repertoire this year to show his diversity as a coach. That has increased interest in Judge as a future head coach as well.
Achord would likely be elevated to the coordinator position on special teams, leaving only a void at wide receivers coach. Given Patriots legend Troy Brown has worked closely with the team and has even been on the sidelines this season, he would be a likely choice for taking charge as the positional coach. And with a special teams background as well, Brown could even help Achord on that front.