Bill Belichick creates new controversy for the Patriots

Nov 20, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as the take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as the take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Nothing has been ordinary for the Patriots’ offseason, with several reports consistently published regarding the current state of the team and the relationships between coaches and players.

The foundation for most of the news cycle has surrounded Bill Belichick and Mac Jones, honing in on their alleged strained relationship that began during the 2022 season. In recent days, more speculation has been published about the tension between the two, so much so that Pro Football Talk suggested Belichick had shopped Jones in recent weeks.

Although most of that article has been debunked, it will inevitably have a lasting impression on Jones and the rest of his Patriots’ teammates.

On top of that, the continued conflicting statements made by Belichick and Robert Kraft have created confusion not only amongst the fans but probably in the mind of Jones as well, who only hopes to get a fair chance to prove himself after dealing with an inarguably unfair situation last season.

Belichick has repeatedly declined publicly supporting Jones as the starting quarterback, while Kraft has gone in the opposite direction. The Patriots’ owner has consistently supported Jones, with the most recent example occurring at last week’s annual owner’s meeting.

And although that has predominately been good news for the quarterback, Kraft’s ending comment to the media about Lamar Jackson was certainly a hit to Jones’ confidence, which was likely already questionable from hearing what his head coach has said over the last few months.

But how did we get here? And why?

The rift between Mac Jones and Bill Belichick has been brewing for months

After completing a successful rookie year, Jones was primed to have a second-year jump by most onlookers in the New England area.

The quarterback had reportedly put in extra work throughout the offseason to improve his physical health, like cutting weight and working with a nutritionist, and working with experts to improve his mechanics and quarterbacking abilities. As a result, any doubt cast on him had been put to rest until the announcement of Josh McDaniels’ departure.

Working with changing offensive coordinators is nothing new for Jones, who worked with three different play-callers in three years during his time at Alabama. So that wasn’t the issue that arose from McDaniels leaving.

Instead, the news that followed brought on the most concern; Belichick re-hired Joe Judge to work as the quarterback’s coach after he had recently been fired from his position as head coach of the Giants. And to make matters worse, he also moved Matt Patricia, who had been working as a senior football advisor since returning to New England, to take over McDaniels’ now-former position and as the offensive line coach.

Although Patricia had once been a successful defensive coordinator, his absent experience on the offensive side of the ball was alarming, especially as he was set to work with a young and developing quarterback.

Judge also had limited experience working with the offense, spending nearly his entire previous tenure with the Patriots working as the special teams’ coach, making the decision to name him the quarterback’s coach much more puzzling.

Belichick’s personnel choices caused a flurry of headlines throughout the spring and summer as the Patriots’ offense was totally disjointed and unable to do anything successfully.

On top of introducing a new offensive coordinator into the mix, it was also revealed they would be throwing the playbook aside in place of a new scheme, adding to the mess leading up to the 2022 season.

Frustration was at an all-time high and displayed by the players throughout training camp and preseason, with even Jones showing aggravation during practices as well. However, when speaking to the media after completing practice, Jones always remained optimistic and credited the coaches for their work, including complimenting Patricia specifically.

Not much changed as the regular season began, with Jones remaining as positive as possible. But the offense’s performance stayed the same, thus making any run in the AFC nearly impossible.

Things were a roller-coaster during the regular season, to say the least

After watching their struggles in the summer, the 2022 season progressed as most thought it would; an up-and-down performance led by an inconsistent quarterback unable to overcome incompetent coaching and his own irritations.

There were games where the team looked ready to compete with the best in the league and others that made them the butt of a joke.

Deciding who was most worthy of blame became a widespread debate amongst media members and Patriots’ fans, with most fingers pointed in Patricia’s direction. But a lot of heat also came Jones’ way, fairly in some cases, and since the season ended, the blame has shifted to include just the quarterback alone.

It’s apparent that Jones did not have a good year. His rookie season was impressive, ending with a 10-7 record while completing 352/521 passes (67.6% completion) for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. The Patriots earned the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs after missing the postseason the year before, and Jones was awarded Pro Bowl honors at the end of the year.

Things were looking up for the Patriots after struggling to determine what direction to go since Tom Brady left two years prior. Jones looked like the right guy for the job and was on track to develop into precisely what Belichick hoped for in a quarterback.

However, his inability to overcome inadequate coaching from Patricia and Judge, coupled with his on-field display of frustration in some games during the year, took a toll on his relationship with said coaches and Belichick, all of which has led us to the current narrative of the team.

More details about the 2022 season since the offseason began

Since the Patriots’ season ended much sooner than what we’ve become accustomed to over the last twenty years, details alleging the inner turmoil of the organization immediately began to flood the news just days after their final game.

Most of the reports, once again, surrounded the coaches and Jones in particular, revealing there were far more problems behind the scenes than most could’ve guessed.

The Boston Herald dropped a bombshell report detailing Jones’ alleged conflict with Judge early in the offseason, beginning from an innocent comment the quarterback made to the media. Their relationship is said to have progressed into fiery interactions and often included Belichick voicing his frustrations with Judge.

Since then, Kraft has made his feelings known about how the 2022 season transpired, making it a point to call for massive changes to the offensive coaching staff. Belichick followed suit, hiring Bill O’Brien to take over the duties held by Patricia and Adrian Klemm to coach the offensive line properly.

Despite Belichick’s positive moves, the negative stories continue to be published, the latest of which adds dynamite to an already blazing fire.

Whether or not the rumors are true about the head coach contacting teams about trading for Jones are irrelevant. It’s nearly impossible for this to be extinguished, and Jones probably feels uncomfortable in his position on the team, which is entirely valid.

He was not set up for success last year; he was set up to fail and is now being hit with the consequences of his coach’s actions.

Hopefully, the relationship is not irreparable, especially since Belichick’s offseason hires appear to be for the benefit of Jones specifically, But the damage has been done already, and only time will tell how the team moves forward in handling this latest setback.