The Patriots’ offense has had a difficult time of it in the 2022 season. While the unit ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of points per game, it has posted the seventh-fewest yards per game. More importantly, second-year quarterback Mac Jones has regressed after a promising rookie season, and Jones’ struggles, combined with the offense’s problems as a whole, have led to increased scrutiny of head coach Bill Belichick‘s offseason staffing decisions.
Of course, after longtime OC Josh McDaniels accepted the Raiders’ head coaching job, Belichick installed Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as the Pats’ top offensive coaches. Patricia has served as the offensive play-caller despite not having worked as an offensive coach since 2005, and Judge has operated as the club’s offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach, despite having no coaching experience whatsoever on that side of the ball.
The general ineffectiveness of Belichick’s former staffers, both of whom had flamed out as head coaches elsewhere, means that the end-of-year meeting between Belichick and owner Robert Kraft will be of particular importance, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required). If Kraft — like many league evaluators that spoke to Howe — believes that a shakeup is in order, one wonders how Belichick will respond. Perhaps he will agree and will bring an experienced OC aboard in an effort to maximize Jones’ talents and inject more organization and variety into the offense (the team is already rumored to be interested in a reunion with Bill O’Brien).
But if Belichick does not agree and elects to give Patricia and/or Judge another opportunity in their current roles, then Kraft could have a difficult decision to make about Belichick himself in the near future. While it seems unfathomable that Belichick would not be given the opportunity to walk away on his terms, keeping his 2022 offensive staff intact in 2023 may put the spotlight more squarely on him, particularly if some of this year’s unforced errors — blown assignments, substitution mishaps, late play calls, etc. — should persist.
Now for more Patriots notes:
- Albert Breer of SI.com agrees that identifying the team’s 2023 offensive play-caller will be at the top of Kraft’s offseason agenda, and he pegs Patricia’s chances of remaining in his current role at less than 50% (though he does believe that Patricia will remain on the Pats’ coaching staff in some capacity). Breer confirms that O’Brien will be in the mix, though the current Alabama OC could have other NFL opportunities outside of Foxborough.
- Add Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald to the list of pundits who believe Belichick must make a change at offensive coordinator, lest he put his own job security in jeopardy. “Kraft has to make it clear that Belichick needs to come up with real solutions, as opposed to getting his friends on the cheap with their former teams still paying them,” Guregian writes (via Peter King of NBC Sports). “If Belichick isn’t willing to budge, then Kraft has to decide whether it’s worth it to keep the status quo, or move on from his sure-fire Hall of Fame head coach and clean house.”
- While neither Patricia nor Judge will be interviewing for head coaching positions anytime soon, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is a different story. Mayo, 36, interviewed for the Broncos’ and Raiders’ HC positions last year, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com expects the two-time Pro Bowler to be busy again in the upcoming coaching cycle. Mayo, for his part, is prepared for the challenge, saying, “I think I’m ready to be a head coach in the league.”
- New England suspended P Jake Bailey and CB Jack Jones on Friday. According to Reiss, the team believed that Bailey — who had been on IR since November 19 — was ready to return to game action, but Bailey apparently believed otherwise. Jones’ suspension, meanwhile, stems in part from his missed rehabilitation appointments, which also led to his being fined by the team. Jones played in only eight snaps in the Pats’ Week 14 victory over the Cardinals due to a knee injury, and he missed the next two contests before being placed on IR on December 31. The agents for both players have noted their objections to the suspensions, with Bailey’s agent indicating that he has filed a grievance. Reiss says that it is difficult to see Bailey playing for the team again, and since his suspension technically voids the guarantees in his contract, he and the Pats could find themselves embroiled in a financial battle in the coming weeks.
- The Patriots signed cornerback Tae Hayes to their active roster at the end of December, and Reiss tweets that Hayes’ contract is actually a two-year pact. Hayes, who appeared in 24 defensive snaps in his New England debut on January 1, is now one of six CBs under contract for 2023.