Patriots Notebook: Head-Hunters Fishing in Foxborough

As it is accustomed every year, multiple NFL head coaching jobs open up as soon as the regular season ends, and it’s looking more and more like at least one of those jobs will be filled by a current New England Patriots coach.

According to several reports, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are perhaps the two most valued head-coaching candidates this offseason.

Some of that prestige comes from simply working with the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick, but both coaches are impressive in their own right. McDaniels was a head coach for the Denver Broncos for two seasons and has since worked with Tom Brady and kept the Patriots among the NFL’s most elite offenses.

While Patricia’s work with the Patriots defense has been slightly less impressive, he has still climbed the team ranks quickly and impressed people who have talked to him.

With the Patriots off until their divisional playoff game on Jan. 13, McDaniels and Patricia will have a chance to make their case.

“There’s a time and a place for all of that,” McDaniels said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “My focus here when I come into this building will always be on what’s best for the Patriots and trying to do what I can to help us prepare to play our best game the next time we go out on the field.”

Coach Belichick praised his assistants and said, “We’ll see how it goes.”

McDaniels is viewed as a top assistant in one of the most successful regimes in NFL history, which makes him an annual a top target. Last year McDaniels interviewed with the Jaguars and 49ers while the Patriots were on their way to a fifth Super Bowl victory.

“I’ve gone through it before, which is helpful in terms of being able to balance that and multitask it,” McDaniels said.

Patricia brushed aside questions about his next job, saying he was concentrating on his current one.

“None of that is even really applicable for me right now because I don’t have any information on that,” Patricia said only a day after Sunday’s 26-6 victory over the New York Jets that left New England at 13-3 with the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

“I’m in normal mode — came in and graded the Jets,” Patricia said. “Working to make sure that we have a good, productive week this week and try to improve those things.”

Snow day or not business as usual

A significant snowstorm hit New England on Thursday, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick has told players that it will be business as usual as the team is scheduled to hold its second and final practice of the playoff bye week.

During a press conference Wednesday, Devin McCourty was asked about the potential departures of some Patriots defensive coaches this offseason. However, the Patriots safety had more immediate issues on the mind.

“I’m honestly just trying to prepare for this snow day tomorrow,” McCourty said.

Not to be mistaken with an off-day, a snow day for Patriots players is just simply a day when it snows. Belichick still expects them to come to work, and they are well aware of the consequences if they don’t.

According to McCourty, Belichick doesn’t care about excuses.

“Don’t call and say your car got stuck,” McCourty said. “I think everyone knows there are two hotels up here at Patriot Place so stay there for the night. Find a way. But I tell guys, like wake up earlier, especially if you don’t have a garage or something. Wake up. Go clean your car out.”

Backup on its way

On Wednesday, defensive tackle Alan Branch and running back Rex Burkhead returned to Patriots practice, per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

Both players are recovering from knee injuries suffered late in the season. Branch has been out since Week 14, while Burkhead suffered his ailment in New England’s Week 15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Running back Burkhead’s imminent return to action would be a boost for the Patriots’ offense, which struggled at times in December. His dual threat as a rusher and pass-catcher also provides offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with flexibility, sometimes opening the door for there to be two running backs on the field at the same time.

Patriots bring back Reilly

Trevor Reilly was back at New England Patriots practice and in the Gillette Stadium locker room Wednesday, as the linebacker has returned to the practice squad.

The Patriots re-signed Reilly to the practice squad Wednesday. Subsequently, they released wide receiver, Bernard Reedy.

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