When Bret Bielema resurfaced with the New England Patriots last spring, most assumed it was just a way for him to bide his time in between college jobs. He'd been fired as the head coach at Arkansas the previous November and laid low -- the Bielemas had recently had a daughter -- before hopping aboard Bill Belichick's staff to assist with pre-draft scouting at the 2018 combine.
And then the draft came and went, and Bielema was still hanging around. Over the summer they gave him a title, "Consultant to the Head Coach."
Throughout the playoffs he'd been spotted walking into the stadium in his suit and tie with his trademark headphones wrapped around his head, a weekly reminder of, "Oh yeah, I forgot he was with them."
But now Bielema may remain on in New England on a permanent basis. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Bielema has been telling those around him he expects to be named the Patriots' defensive coordinator after the Super Bowl.
There had been reporting that Bielema was expected to join the Pats' outgoing defensive coordinator Brian Flores as the defensive line coach on Flores' new staff with the Miami Dolphins, but apparently Belichick has other plans.
Such a promotion would also break precedent for Belichick, as Volin notes that outside hires such as Bill O'Brien and Dean Pees had to take position jobs before working their way up to coordinator roles. If Bielema does become New England's next defensive coordinator, he would beat out the presumptive favorite in Greg Schiano, who is currently without a job after parting ways with Ohio State after the season.
Bielema had no prior NFL experience as a player or coach before joining Belichick's staff early last year. His only professional experience came in the arena league, and his coaching career had been spent at Iowa, Kansas State, Wisconsin and Arkansas.
But as he explained to CBS Sports last summer, Bielema took a quick liking to the professional game for the same reasons that many college coaches never leave once they get a taste of the NFL: the chance to coach the best players the game has to offer, and the absence of the, quote-unquote, extracurriculars native to the college game.
"The thing I love about football in the NFL is you go to work at 6 a.m. and you leave at 9 [p .m.] and it's nothing but football," Bielema said. "It's just purely football."
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.