Three reasons why the Patriots need to move on from Matt Patricia
By Fran Brown
Through 12 games, it’s quite evident that the experiment of having Matt Patricia calling plays for the Patriots offense isn’t working out. A team that went to the playoffs a year ago brought back their second-year Pro Bowl quarterback, they brought back their running backs, they brought back their receivers and even added DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton. They brought back the tight ends. They even brought back four out of the five starters along the offensive line. Really the only thing that changed was Patricia replacing Josh McDaniels. Now the quarterback is screaming on the sidelines, opposing players know the plays, players are questioning the play calls, our pets’ heads are falling off. Enough is enough with this experiment that apparently everyone except Bill Belichick thought would be a failure. Here are three reasons why Matt Patricia has got to go at the end of the season.
The play of Mac Jones
You could not have asked for more out of Mac Jones than what you got from him last year as he guided the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a playoff berth while finishing second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year balloting and making a Pro Bowl. The 15th selection of the 2021 NFL Draft looked like the franchise quarterback the Patriots needed after the departure of Tom Brady and suffering through a year of Cam Newton firing the ball into the ground. 2022 was supposed to be a breakout year for him as the Patriots only added weapons on what was the sixth-highest scoring offense in the league. The problem: they assigned Patricia to call the plays and gave Joe Judge the title of quarterbacks coach. Have you seen what Daniel Jones has been able to do with the Giants now that Judge isn’t there? What could possibly have gone wrong bringing him into New England?
Through nine starts, Jones’ numbers across the board are either down or the same as last year. He has not shown any improvement at all (you can argue that the only offensive player to improve has been Rhamondre Stevenson). Touchdown percentage, down. Yards per game, down. Quarterback rating, down. Interception percentage, the same. Yards per attempt, the same. Yards per completion, the same. The one area he’s improved: his completion percentage has gone from 67.6% last year to 68.1% this year but that’s mainly because he’s completed 56/67 (83.6%) of check downs to Stevenson. When your running back leads you in receptions, it’s usually not great. The Patriots need to prioritize finding someone who can improve the play of their first-round investment.
The play of the offensive line
Why are we blaming the offensive coordinator for the poor performance of the offensive line? Well, that would be because Matt Patricia is also the offensive line coach. Seriously, the man has not been good at either of his jobs. The Patriots returned four of their five offensive linemen from a season ago and replaced Shaq Mason with their first-round pick Cole Strange. This was a group of strength for the Patriots a season ago as Mac Jones was sacked just 28 times and the Patriots were one of the better rushing teams, finishing eighth in rushing yards (2,151) and second in rushing touchdowns (24). This year, Jones has been sacked 25 times in only nine games as his sack percentage has gone from 5.1% in 2021 to 8.5% in 2022. Meanwhile the Patriots are 23rd in rushing yards (1,259) and 22nd in rushing touchdowns (9).
A lot can be made of the injuries along the offensive line as David Andrews, Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown have all been banged up at times, but a good coach can overcome injuries. We’ve seen it plenty of times over the past few years. Even when guys are healthy, it’s been a disaster. Isaiah Wynn has only played in nine out of the 12 games but is tied for third in the league with nine penalties. Wondering who he is tied with? That would be Trent Brown who is also tied for third in the league with seven sacks allowed. Cole Strange has been a severe disappointment as well, as he’s tied for eighth with five penalties and tied for sixth with four sacks allowed. Matt Patricia has taken two positions of strength and turned them into weaknesses.
The red zone
You can take that quote from Mike Lombardi and apply it directly to Patricia’s red zone offense which ranks 31st in the NFL, scoring touchdowns on only 37.5% of their possessions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. I wrote about their red zone woes a few weeks ago and since then, it has only gotten worse. In their last 11 red zone possessions, the Patriots have scored two touchdowns, kicked eight field goals and missed another one. During that time, they have run 43 plays which have resulted in 17 total yards of offense, an absolutely atrocious 0.39 yards per play. When Lombardi was talking about how they just run plays, I bet he was thinking about this one:
That’s a play you run around mid-field, not in the red zone where space is already at a minimum. The Patriots have two tight ends that they signed for a combined $87.5 million as well as DeVante Parker who they traded for to help the passing game in the red zone. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for 10 red zone touchdowns a year ago while 16 of Parker’s 24 touchdowns with the Dolphins came inside the 20. Combined, they have zero red zone touchdowns in 2022. A good offensive coordinator figures out how to get the ball into the hands of the right players. Matt Patricia can engineer a rocket ship but can’t engineer a red zone touchdown. It’s time to move on.