Patriots shaking up staff, Pepper Johnson won’t be back


Even the best teams aren’t immune to changes this offseason.

According to Mike Reiss of, longtime Bill Belichick aide Pepper Johnson won’t be back with the team next season.

Johnson, who played linebacker for Belichick with the Giants and Browns, has been coaching under his old boss since 2000.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise, to say the least, given the long history between the two.

UPDATE 11:04 A.M. ET: Johnson has issued a statement, again via Reiss, though it fails to explain the reason for the split.

“I could never have asked for a better coach/boss/friend in those 26 years,” he said of Belichick. “Thanks for always supporting me and I know Bill will continue to support me no matter what.

“Thank you New England Patriot fans; I will miss you the most.”

50 responses to “Patriots shaking up staff, Pepper Johnson won’t be back

  1. Not terribly surprising if you follow the team … Pepper has been unhappy for a while that he has repeatedly been passed over for the Defensive Coordinator job on the team. He feels he is ready and it should be his.

    I’m guessing it’s gone long enough that the relationship there has soured.

  2. Johnson was an outstanding D-line and LB’s coach even when he didn’t have the most talent to work with. He got production out of guys like Tully Banta-Cain and Mark Anderson. I was always surprised he didn’t get the defensive coordinator job. Good luck, Pep.

    Also I wish it was Josh Boyer (DB’s coach) instead.

  3. It was clearly Pepper Johnson’s fault, Not that Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, and Vince Wilfork were injured and the offense lost all five of the leading receivers from the previous year…

  4. ok, this is the 2nd mistake BB has made with Pepper. The first was not making him the DC. Matt Patricia is not qualified and the patriots defense has been at the bottom half of the league especially in third down defense since he has been calling the plays. Big mistake Bill, Pepper will get a DC job and prove you wrong. Good luck Pepper

  5. When DPees left a couple of yrs ago, it was between Patricia and Johnson for DC. The younger Patricia got the job and Johnson may have felt passed over and began looking for a new opportunity. Wouldn’t be surprised if he lands on Crennel’s staff in HoustonHe worked for both Crennel and O’Brien before). Crennel is getting old, and maybe Johnson sees an opportunity for advancement. Just a guess.

  6. It’s difficult to watch the Denver game and think the LBs, or the pass rush in general, is remotely good.

  7. This is apparently Belichick’s new Patriot Way thanks to Sunday’s brutal trashing of the Pats by John Fox and the Broncos… fire a friend and fellow coach of more than 20 years and badmouth a receiver who won a lot of games for you. Real classy. On some levels, I hate to say it, but I think the downward spiral has begun for the Pats.

  8. .
    Pepper is a good coach who got caught in the numbers game. He’ll end up on someone’s (Houston?) staff and do an excellent job.

    His opportunities for upward mobility were limited with the Patriots. Hopefully, another organization will provide it.


  9. Amazing how with all these poor drafts and free agent signings, the “decider” has his team contending for a championship year after year. In fact, the Pats have made it to the divisional round of the playoffs in 10 of the last 13 years, the conference championship game in 8 of the last 13 years, and 5 super bowls in the last 13 years. There isn’t a coach, gm, owner, or fan who wouldn’t take that record for their team.

  10. nfloracle says: Jan 21, 2014 11:27 AM

    This is apparently Belichick’s new Patriot Way thanks to Sunday’s brutal trashing of the Pats by John Fox and the Broncos… fire a friend and fellow coach of more than 20 years and badmouth a receiver who won a lot of games for you. Real classy. On some levels, I hate to say it, but I think the downward spiral has begun for the Pats.

    Except you don’t know he was fired.

    ” I think the downward spiral has begun for the Pats”.
    Yeah, we don’t here this EVERY year. You just won 13 games and the #2 seed but now it’s all downhill.

  11. not sure how the haters can blast this until we know:

    was he fired
    did he quit
    did he get another offer

    I’ve always like Pepper and feel he has something else in the works or else he would not have immediately had such a positive statement to release

  12. The DC job is already taken in Chicago but I wonder if he’d come to Chicago as LB coach and Assistant DC?

    The Bears retained Mel Tucker despite the disastrous performance by his defense this year, but he is on notice. Bringing in a guy like Pepper would fill our LB coach opening immediately and give the front office an option to replace Tucker next year if he can’t turn it around in ’14.

    Just a thought.

  13. As was said above, this was not a shock to anyone who follows the Patriots. When Patricia was made HC over Pepper, I knew he would leave for another opportunity. I thought Pepper should have been made DC but for those of us who agree ,we do not sit in on meetings, film breakdown etc. Obviously BB felt that Patricia was a better choice for the job.

    I think you will see Pepper join Romeo Crennel’s staff in Houston joining Vrabel.

  14. Any chance he is moving on to a defensive coordinator’s job, or other defensive coaching position with another NFL or college team? It would seem logical if he has not gone up NFL ladder, he might take a shot at DC on college level. Wondering if Whipple(former NFL coach) has filled staff at UMass? He might be a logical DC candidate there.

  15. Old # 52 Pepper wore playing on our team will always be rememberd, not because he was the best, but he the man, was a solid good person.
    Coughlin, might help if Fewell contract gets renewed, and with Beason and a bunch of young LB’s, who knows?
    Good luck Pepper!


  16. Well, with his departure so soon after the season – that says he had something else (better) lined up. I think he’s done his work well here in NE and I thank him for his dedication to both the Pats and BB.

    I think he’d have brought more of an edge to our defensive schemes and calls than that M.Patricia (who was an offensive lineman on a crappy Syracuse team).

    I too was hoping the shake ups were going to include Patricia and that N.Dakota School of Mines and Technology DB coach Boyer. Our defense has been trash for far too long. If a single player such as Talib is the tipping point between somehwat serviceable and last in the league…we’ve got some other problems there.

  17. with all he did with mediocre to good LB like tully banta cain.. come to buffalo and work with kiko Alonso and the LB’s here.. WE WILL TAKE HIM IN FOR SURE.. wld be great and if pettine does go to browns make him our new dc…

  18. Lol at all the haters who’s team didn’t even make it to the playoffs, let alone the divisional round. Everyone likes to comment on the Pats way of doing things but at least their season lasts longer than your team’s.

  19. If Pettine leaves Buffalo…I wonder how this guy would fit as a DC…if he’s ready, which it sounds like he is for sure.

  20. Twenty-six years…I wouldn’t want to spend twenty-six minutes with that misanthropic dictator. Pepper must be one TOUGH guy. I remember his days as a player well. He was skilled and always gave his best effort. Good luck PJ.

  21. I would just like to wish Mr. Peppers and his family the very best in what ever he decides to do or where ever he may decide to go and may he and his family have a very prosperous new year, and good luck.

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