“Collaboration” might be the word of the season in Foxborough.
All summer long, Bill Belichick spoke about the collaborative effort among coaches when it comes to devising game plans and calling plays, and that seems to be their approach so far. Tight ends coach Nick Caley told reporters Tuesday the Patriots “game plan collectively,” adding that offensive play-caller Matt Patricia also helped devise the defensive plan for Sunday’s game against the Steelers.
Tom Curran on the Patriots' evolving offense
That’s a far cry from how the Patriots operated when Tom Brady was around. Brady and Josh McDaniels largely operated the offense as their own fiefdom. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran told “Gresh & Keefe” Tuesday the Patriots may not want to grant Mac Jones the same autonomy.
“I don’t know if they want to get to where they were with Brady, where it was very much, ‘We rely on this guy’s brain, and that guy’s brain, and nobody else knows what’s going on,’” said Curran. “Or they all have to catch up to those two, meaning [Josh] McDaniels and Brady. I think they want to make it more user-friendly for everybody.”
The Patriots worked on changing their offense during training camp, with streamlining the playbook reportedly being a top priority.
For what it’s worth, the Patriots didn’t run much of their new read-option, Shanahan-style offense in their 17-14 win over the Steelers. Instead, Jones largely threw out of the shotgun with three receivers, and they utilized their power run game to close out the win.
It was a serviceable performance for Jones, who went 21-of-35 for 252 yards with one touchdown and one interception on an underthrown 50-50 ball to DeVante Parker.
On the positive side, Jones was active making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, earning praise from Steelers linebacker Malik Reed. Curran says the Patriots want Jones to take control, but only to a certain extent.
“I don’t think Sunday’s game from Mac Jones would’ve been among his 10 or 11 best games last year. It just wasn’t that great of a performance,” said Curran. "Accurate, some good throws, some really good third-down throws, with some really meager throws and attempts as well in terms of accuracy, decision-making and guys he missed. But overall, I think that’s what they’re striving to do, to allow [Jones] to be able to be self-sufficient to an extent as well, but not to the point where nobody else can do what he’s doing.”
After 20 years of Brady’s masterclass, it’s apparent the Patriots are going back to basics. Whether that’s enough to win in today’s high-scoring NFL is yet to be determined.