The 2022 Patriots season didn’t go how anyone, - fans, players or staff - wanted.
A summer that began with head coach Bill Belichick stating that quarterback Mac Jones had made “drastic improvements " since his initial rookie season ended with New England outside the playoff picture, touting the NFL’s 26th-ranked offense in total yards and the league’s worst red zone offense. The decision to name Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s inheritors looked peculiar in the summer and deluded by December.
The on-field product was ugly and a scathing new report from the Boston Herald details that the behind-the-scenes woes were even uglier.
According to Herald reporters Andrew Callahan and Karen Kuregian, those inside the organization “sensed Belichick’s offensive staff suffered from the same lack of cohesion players would display on Sundays.”
According to the report, Patricia struggled to integrate elements of a Mike Shanahan-style system into the offense. According to the Herald, players with experience in similar systems would often raise concerns about the game plan that would go unanswered.
“A lot of guys would ask, ‘Well, what’s going to happen if (the defense) does this?’ And you would see they hadn’t really accounted for that yet,” one source told the Herald. “A lot of guys would ask, ‘Well, what’s going to happen if (the defense) does this?’ And you would see they hadn’t really accounted for that yet,” one source said. “And they’d say, ‘We’ll get to that when we get to that.’ That type of attitude got us in trouble.”
Quarterbacks coach Joe Judge was a similar source of frustration, according to the report. Although Jones was a central part of New England’s brain trust in the summer, sources told the Herald he was a source of friction between both his head coach and quarterback by midseason. By the time Jones was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, players felt as if Judge had been pushed to the side.
“Mac didn’t like him,” one source allegedly said. “At all.”
“(Judge) would speak extra loudly in meetings, trying to project like he was the guy,” another source said. “And I think that kind of rubbed people the wrong way.”
The Patriots’ offense would display flashes of competence. During a Thursday night primetime matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, the team put their conservative playcalling to the side for a night, letting Jones uncork more downfield passes than he had since the season’s opening weeks. Although the Patriots lost, they uncovered a quarterback that more closely resembles their 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Jones finished the game with 282 passing yards, two touchdowns, and a season-high 119.8 passer rating.
The momentum wouldn’t carry into the next week. The Patriots’ offense reverted to the sputtering and anemic worst version of itself against Buffalo. Locker room frustration over the December 1st loss to Buffalo spilled into media mics as players like wide receiver Kendrick Bourne said the Patriots needed to “scheme up” better.
The full report paints a painful picture. A picture vivid enough that it’s understandable why some players felt slighted by their head coach.
“I love coach (Belichick), but he f---ed us,” one source opined to Herald.
On Thursday, the Patriots officially turned over a new leaf, naming Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator. O’Brien, an Andover native, previously spent five years as an offensive assistant coach in New England- a stretch that included four divisional titles and two Super Bowl appearances. The Patriots finished within the NFL’s top 10 in scoring offenses in all five of O’Brien’s seasons on the sideline.
During O’Brien’s initial tenure in New England, he caught the team at the height of its power. A fine-tuned machine, the Patriots were already cemented as the NFL’s modern-day dynasty with Super Bowls in both their rearview and on the road ahead.
Now he faces the challenge of fixing a machine that, if it wasn’t outright broken, is seemingly damaged and defective.
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