Former Patriots executive rips Bill Belichick for failed season

Dec 1, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick rubs his head during the fourth quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick rubs his head during the fourth quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

Although the Patriots’ 2022 season has been a highly discussed topic over the last few months, their unfathomable loss to the Raiders last Sunday has brought a whole new dynamic to the conversation; most of which has focused on Bill Belichick.

The departure of Josh McDaniels was sure to create a dilemma for the New England coaching staff, as the long-time offensive coordinator had been with the team for his second stint since 2012. The offense had a major overhaul in 2020 when Tom Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but McDaniels was able to formulate a successful unit during his last season with the Patriots.

The team had seemingly found their new quarterback after the release of Cam Newton shortly before the 2021 season began with Mac Jones, who went on to have a memorable rookie year. Several newly-signed players also went on to have the most impressive seasons of their careers, including Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and Matthew Judon. Although the offense needed some tweaking, they weren’t lacking in talent or camaraderie.

Fast forward to this past offseason, as Belichick was looking to replace his former right-hand man, the head coach shocked the football world when he re-hired the recently fired Joe Judge to the staff and brought Matt Patricia back to the sideline. The concern for the team began at that point and only grew as the offseason became the preseason and has continued through 16 weeks of the regular season.

After the unthinkable final play of the game last week, former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi shared his thoughts on the offense once again on the latest episode of his podcast about the team’s current offense, focusing on the apparent failures by Patricia and Judge.

"“There’s going to have to be a really hard self-evaluation, and it’s going to have to start with the head coach because they can’t throw the ball. Let’s just put it out there. They cannot throw the football. This whole Matt Patricia-Joe Judge, it’s not working.”"

Lombardi’s point of Belichick and others needing to self-evaluate has remained a topic of discussion throughout the criticism of the season. Before the year began, the head coach claimed responsibility if the offense under Judge and Patricia did not work and said to “blame him” if the play-calling failed.

Even knowing his stance since September, players have received most of the blame for the issues offensively, particularly Mac Jones. Although he’s had the worst season of his young NFL career, Lombardi emphasized that his rookie season shouldn’t be forgotten, and the coaching (or lack thereof) has taken its toll on the quarterback.

"“We’re in Week 16. You want to say ‘Mac Jones sucks,’ but you watched him last year with Josh McDaniels. He didn’t suck. So, you decide. They can’t throw the ball. They have no passing game. They just run plays. I’ve been saying this for how long? It’s bad, and it’s not working. It’s just not working.”"

Patricia’s responsibility in the mess has been consistently discussed, predominately due to his lack of experience coaching on the offensive side of the ball. Jones and his teammates looked dysfunctional as early as preseason practices and games; not much has improved since then.

A coach that has worked on defense and then switched to coaching offense is not unheard of, but Patricia had been re-hired just a season ago after his failed tenure as the Detroit Lions’ head coach. Lombardi touched on Patricia’s inexperience as a leading factor of the ongoing situation, mentioning that switching roles doesn’t always work out.

"“Just because he coaches defense, doesn’t mean he can call offensive plays or set up an offense. It’s not there. I think what Vance Joseph said was true. He was being honest.”"

What the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator said leading up to their matchup with the Patriots may have been honest, but it was a far cry from what has been said about their offense under Belichick over the years.

One of the biggest complaints this season has been the predictability and lack of creativity on offense. The Patriots’ playbook was always known to be unique in its difficulty for many players to understand and master. It was also so complex that defense’s found it nearly impossible to figure out. But there have been several instances this season of opposing defensive players calling out a play before Jones even got the football.

Many have blamed Jones for most of the offense’s failures, and he’s certainly not innocent when considering all of the contributing factors that brought the offense to this point. But most of the issues are the result of poor coaching. Lombardi double-downed on his assessment of Patricia’s failure this season, highlighting how difficult it is to properly coach and evaluate a quarterback.

"“For them not to be able to throw the football half effectively, it’s mind blowing. We see it in the league, there’s a reason why (Bill) Walsh said years ago, ‘there’s a reason why very few people can evaluate the quarterback and even fewer can coach them.’ This experiment is a failure – it just doesn’t work. It’s not there. It’s not getting any better. There’s no continuity from week to week to week.”"

With just three weeks left of the 2022 regular season, it’s unlikely any significant changes will be made in that time. Belichick has many decisions to make this offseason to improve this Patriots team dramatically, and many of those issues seem to point to Patricia. That’s where the changes should start.