When Mac Jones ended his rookie year with over 20 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards passing, every New England Patriots fan was sure he would be the franchise quarterback Belichick had been searching for since Brady left.
As a rookie playing the most challenging position in football, Jones displayed impressive decision-making, pocket movement, and ball placement. Jones did lack some ball speed and zip in his mechanics, but that was nothing Jones couldn’t overcome if placed in the right offensive system.
Once Josh McDaniels left as the Offensive Coordinator in New England to fulfill a vacant Head Coaching job in Las Vegas, some concerns did arise about Mac Jones’ once-promising development. Would the new Offensive Coordinator taking McDaniels’ spot be an eccentric choice that Bill Belichick decides on, or would it be a highly-acclaimed coach with experience in these situations that is a more traditional candidate? The former could be detrimental to Mac’s sophomore season, while the latter could be transformative.
In typical Belichick fashion, refraining from being conventional, Matt Patricia – a former Defensive Coordinator for New England and a failed Head Coach in Detriot – was hired as the new offensive something for the Patriots early in the off-season.
Matt Patricia was called the “offensive something” because fans were unsure what role he would play on the Patriots coaching staff. Instead of being normal and explaining his plans to the public, Bill Belichick decided to go on his typical route, not telling the media anything useful and keeping everybody guessing what Patricia would do for the months following his hiring.
Additionally to hiring Matt Patricia, Belichick also added Joe Judge, who had been fired as the Giants’ Head Coach just a few months prior, as the second offensive something. Judge had served on the Patriots staff as the Special Teams Assistant and Special Teams Coordinator from 2012 to 2019 before heading to New York.
While Belichick was busy dodging the media and bringing on his old friends to run an NFL offense, fans were growing impatient. Entering Patricia and Judge onto the team did not only risk the success of the 2022 season. It risked the success of several seasons in the future since current players would be destined to leave the team if all failed.
Training Camp Begins, Concerns Continue
Fans were still confused when training camp rolled around in the late summer. The new coaching system Belichick had implemented was something they had never seen before.
Belichick’s new offensive system idea – which he called “streamlining” – consisted of several coaches – in this case, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia – all containing vague titles and contributing to the offense as they see fit. For example, Matt Patricia would be given the title “Offensive Executive” or “Senior Offensive Contributor” and would assist any position group or would call offensive plays every now and then. Joe Judge would be given a similarly vague title and would call plays here and there, also giving help to any offensive positional group that needed it. It was a system that didn’t restrict coaches by their titles, allowing them to apply their expertise in several ways.
In theory, the system sounds suitable. If you get an experienced and accomplished group of coaches together, then maybe they can achieve great things using the streamlined system since there are virtually no restrictions.
The problem is that if you employ two coaches with little experience in their craft, the system looks like a garbled mess with no rhyme or reason: the exact situation with Patricia and Judge.
Even if there are a few rotten apples in the system, surely other coaches can counteract the negative impact. Surely Belichick thought ahead and brought on some other names to rescue the offense when needed. You would think that Belichick, being the six-time Super Bowl champion and supposed greatest Head Coach of all time, would not place the success of the entire offense on the shoulders of two failed Head Coaches who were yet to show that they could even run an offense at the professional level.
Well, you’d be wrong. That’s exactly what he did.
From the first day of preseason training camp to the start of the regular season, the talk circulating around the league was not whether Mac Jones would take a leap or if Matthew Judon could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The talk was about whether the Patriots would have an Offensive Coordinator to start the season or whether the Patriots would be able even to house a semi-competent offense. All of the chaos and confusion that ensued during preseason left a lasting impact on the team, an impact that still has repercussions felt in Week 15.
It May Be Too Late To Save 2022, But It Is Not Too Late To Save 2023
The Patriots will close out the season against Cincinnati, Miami, and Buffalo. As much as fans would like to dream that a miracle will happen, New England will likely lose all three of these games, finishing out the season 7-10.
If Belichick wants to make his final years in New England memorable, he needs to fire Matt Patricia as soon as the Buffalo game ends and give everybody a fresh start in 2023. The Patricia experiment has been a disaster, and I hope Belichick has enough guts to admit that he made a mistake.
The Patriots would be better off using a traditional Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator system. I can understand streamlining the defensive side of the coaching staff since there is much more age and experience among the players, but the offensive side of the coaching staff needs to be as alike to a college system as possible.
The Patriots have made it their goal to invest in youth, and hiring a traditional Offensive Coordinator with subordinate position coaches is the smartest thing Belichick can do.
If other teams do not pursue him as a Head Coach, Frank Reich seems suitable for New England as Offensive Coordinator. Not only could he rescue Mac Jones’ development, but he could also be an internal promotion to Head Coach once Belichick departs.
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