Since it became clear the Patriots would rely on some combination of Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and Joe Judge to run the offense in 2022, the response has been almost universally negative. Even with Belichick running the show, neither Patricia nor Judge has held such a senior offensive role before in their careers, which is a huge departure from former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
But Sports Illustrated and Monday Morning Quarterback staff writer Conor Orr made a radical suggestion on the "1st and Foxborough" podcast Tuesday: what if the arrangement actually worked in the Patriots' favor?
"Could it be one of [Belichick's] failings as a coach? Sure," Orr began. "It could be Bill Belichick thinking he can replace anybody with anybody and have it work.
"But I like having the idea of two coaches who you have absolutely zero tendencies on calling plays. I think that's a good thing. Because people can look back at whatever you've done and pull it up in an instant like, 'Okay, what does he call on 3rd-and-10? I know exactly what he's going to call on 3rd-and-10.' These coaches have no [tendencies] -- they're defensive coaches, special teams coaches. I'm interested to see how it works out. I think it could go well."
Saying it could go "well" might be a bit of an overstatement, and the likelihood that Patricia/Judge will go through some growing pains is much higher than the chance that the Patriots' offense looks like an unstoppable force all year.
But if Belichick maintains a firm hold on the offense, there is some reason to believe New England's approach might not be as disastrous as it seems in 2022.
Orr certainly doesn't think the mystery about the offensive play-caller will hamper Mac Jones too much this season, predicting the former No. 15 overall pick would surpass 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns (versus just 10 interceptions) through the air.
Also, though Orr expects the Patriots' offense to remain somewhat conservative in terms of risk-taking on fourth downs or clutch situations, he does believe Jones will have more opportunities to prove he can win games late for New England this time around.
"I think you have to give him some of that," Orr explained. "At some point, Mac Jones is going to have to become Mac Jones and not the guy after [Tom Brady]. … I think Belichick's smart enough to know that you do have to create those moments for those guys. There's a reason Tom Brady instilled so much confidence in his teammates. It's because he had the reps [in clutch situations]. He was able to do that. I think at some point, guys watch that, they see that. You need to put the ball in Mac's hands in a big spot."
Much like last year, the Patriots will definitely find themselves in game-winning drive situations against good teams as they did against Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4. Perhaps even more than in 2021, New England must see if Jones is up to the challenge of stealing those games in his second season. It could be the difference between falling out of the playoff race well before the end of the schedule or staying in it until Week 18.
If Jones can deliver, he'll make everything about the Patriots, including their enigmatic coaching choices, look a whole lot better.
For the rest of the episode, click here.