ST. PAUL, Minn. — The pencil behind Matt Patricia’s ear Monday night was No. 2. The job it was there for remains — at least for the time being — No. 1.
The Patriots’ defensive coordinator, in his final days with the only NFL organization for which he has ever worked, sat in the stands at Xcel Energy Center for Super Bowl Opening Night surrounded by reporters. He wore a baseball cap (brim forward), clutched a towel and had that stick of lead protruding near his right temple.
“It’s in my ear all the time,” he said of the pencil. “In case I have to jot something down. In case something comes up out here. Maybe I’ll think of a good scheme or you guys might have a good suggestion and I’ll be able to write it down.”
Few offered any advice. Most wanted to know about the future beyond Sunday’s Super Bowl, when he’s expected to be named coach of the Lions. Or about his interview with the Giants, for whom he was a finalist before the team hired Pat Shurmur last week.
“I really just have one job,” Patricia insisted. “I’m the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. I’m just trying to get ready for the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Still more questions about the other teams. About his frolicking in the confetti at Gillette Stadium after the AFC title game, his last time there as a Patriot. About how much of the Patriots’ culture he’ll import in Detroit.
“Have you guys watched the Eagles?” he asked. “Have you watched the offense? It’s really good. So if you have any suggestions, let me know. That’s my major nightmare now. Anything along those lines would be great.”
A few rows away in the hockey arena, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was dodging a similar thread. He’s expected to be hired by the Colts next week. He also was interviewed by the Giants and was a finalist for the job Shurmur got. McDaniels mostly refused to acknowledge any of that.
Not everyone was so blind to the changes in the air. “If this is our last game together, we’re going to try to make the best of it,” Tom Brady said. “So we need to create another special memory, but that’s going to take a win. That’s going to be tough to come by.”
Patricia said he has learned so much from Bill Belichick, which includes how he is handling this awkward process of trying to win a title for one team while thinking about — or trying not to think about — how he’ll attack next season with another.
“I’m paranoid,” he said when asked how he can juggle those two competing mindsets. “I have a huge offense I have to try to stop. It’s head down, try to grind it out, try to make sure we cover everything we need to cover.
“For me, my focus is this week. It’s the Eagles and everything they do and this game. For me, it’s a good opportunity for me to say, ‘Look, let’s just make sure we do our best this weekend and focus on the task at hand.’ ”