Are the New England Patriots tanking for a top-5 pick?

Are the Patriots struggling, or is this Bill Belichick's plan to get the quarterback he wants in the 2024 NFL Draft?
Are the Patriots tanking for a top-5 pick?
Are the Patriots tanking for a top-5 pick? / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

There are several different reasons that the New England Patriots have started the season 0-2. Maybe the offense is still getting used to the play-calling of new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Perhaps it’s just a series of bad breaks. I mean, one interception and one fumble per game that led to scores is enough to cost the team a couple of losses. There’s also the possibility that the 0-2 is not an accident, but a design by football’s most sinister mastermind, Bill Belichick.

The upcoming NFL Draft has a few interesting quarterback prospects that will fall inside the top five picks, and it’s possible that Belichick wants one of them. The grand prize would of course be USC signal caller Caleb Williams, who is expected to be the top pick in the draft. Even with the biggest tank job of all time planned, this year’s defense is too good to finish that badly. In order to land the top pick, you would need 15 losses, or at the very least, 14 losses. To finish in the bottom five of the league, however, a team could finish 5-12. And that sort of record brings Michael Penix and Shedeur Sanders into play.

Don’t the Patriots still have a chance?

While the Patriots have not started a season 0-2 since 2001, it doesn’t mean the team is tanking, right? It is true that the 2001 team won the Super Bowl (as did the 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2007 New York Giants after starting 0-2) but this year’s squad does not have Tom Brady to come to the rescue. As much as I have written about Bailey Zappe, and my belief he is better than Jones, he’s not the GOAT incarnate. There’s also the curious case of last year’s Bengals team that started 0-2 and ended up in the AFC Championship game. I think if we are being honest, Mac Jones isn’t a fraction of what Joe Burrow is, and if you think the Patriots weapons are comparable to Jamarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd then you are higher than the world's highest kite. This team is headed towards a 5-12 season.

How do we know Belichick has thrown in the towel on 2023?

The first sign that Belichick is gunning for a 2024 rookie quarterback is the fact that he went with Mac Jones as his quarterback this season. To call Mac’s 2022 campaign terrible, would be a gigantic understatement. His footwork was on par with a JV quarterback at a good high school or a varsity quarterback at a bad high school. His arm strength is laughable, as he’s displayed repeatedly, that to throw a pass more than 15 yards, he needs to throw a high-arching rainbow. He can’t make the frozen rope throws that guys like Josh Allen can. Mac also is good for turning the ball over at the worst time. He’s a horrible decision-maker. So, if you want to lose double-digit games, he’s the guy you want taking the snaps.

The second sign that the fix is in, is the play calling on both sides of the ball. The aforementioned 2022 bust is throwing the ball 48 times per game through the first two contests. You can’t have a winning season with Patrick Mahomes throwing the ball that often, let alone somebody of Mac’s caliber. The excessive amount of passing plays is an indication of Belichick’s intent. On the other side of the ball, with all the talent in the world, Bill opted to play prevent defense all game versus the Dolphins. If he was trying to win games, he would do what he has done in the past, which is blitz often, and play man-to-man coverage. Giving your opponent a red carpet to the red zone is a surefire way to ensure a loss.

Is the incoming quarterback class worth it?

This may be one of the better draft classes for quarterbacks in recent memory. Williams was anointed the top pick in 2024 before he was crowned the Heisman winner last year, as the nation's best collegiate player. Sanders and Pennix are both throwing for over 400 yards per game. All three players would be an upgrade over the current quarterback if you swapped them right now. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Belichick has his eyes on the playoffs, and I’m using my platform to take shots once again at Mac Jones. I may be jumping the gun, and writing an article that jumps the shark, or I could be onto something before anyone else. Something definitely smells rotten in Denmark.