Bill Belichick shut down the possibility of replacing Matt Patricia as offensive play-caller this season when asked Monday on “The Greg Hill Show.” But the Patriots’ head coach subtly acknowledged there could be a change in the offseason.
Robert Kraft may force his hand.
Back in March, Kraft said he’s “not happy” the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game in three years. The Patriots’ owner also said he expected Mac Jones to grow “a great deal” in his second season.
With five weeks to go, Kraft can’t be pleased with either situation. The 6-6 Patriots are on the outside of the AFC playoff picture, and Jones has regressed from his promising rookie campaign.
For all of Belichick’s autonomy, he still answers to Kraft.
Belichick let it known Monday he’s not satisfied with the Patriots’ anemic offensive performance. “I think we need to do what we’re doing better,” he said. “I don’t think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes is – it’s too hard to do that. If we can just do consistently what we were doing, we’ll be alright. We just haven’t been able to have enough consistency. It’s not one thing. One time, it’s one thing. Next time, it’s something else. We just have to play and coach more consistently.”
The key phrase is, “at this point.” Belichick isn’t saying he won’t consider bringing in another offensive play-caller. He’s just saying it’s futile to make changes right now.
On Tuesday, Belichick offered more of a firm commitment to Patricia, telling reporters he “feels good” about the Patriots’ system.
It’s hard to see how that’s possible. The Patriots were a top 10 offense last season, and this year, they’ve scored the 10th-fewest points. Jones only has seven touchdown passes in nine games. Twenty-nine quarterbacks have thrown more.
Ex-NFL players are pillorying the Patriots’ unimaginative scheme: Kurt Warner said he’d be “bored to death” playing QB here; Tony Gonzalez declared Patricia is the problem; Dan Orlovsky said Jones should demand a trade if the situation doesn’t improve.
Notably, longtime NFL reporter Peter King named Patricia his “goat of the week” for New England’s lack of offensive production. King, who enjoys a strong relationship with Kraft, theorized there could be major changes to the coaching staff next season.
“I think Robert Kraft, who is 81 and will enter his 30th year of Patriots ownership in 2023, is not in this to rebuild deliberately," King writes. "He has to be looking at the dung-show on the Patriots' offensive staff and wondering why Belichick left the offense so wanting this year. Anyway, I can't see anything weird happening this year. But I have my antennae up about the Patriots for 2023.”
King adds that he’s “started to wonder” whether Belichick will break Don Shula’s all-time wins record with the Patriots.
Belichick almost certainly doesn’t want to start over at this advanced stage in his illustrious career. He’s entrenched in this region, even setting up his kids with jobs on the Patriots’ staff.
But that might mean Belichick has to compromise. It will probably take him two more seasons to collect 21 more wins and break Shula’s record.
Belichick jettisoning Patricia would be what’s best for the football team, and also maybe his own standing.