The New England Patriots are in full rebuild mode, so they aren't trying to hang a seventh banner anytime soon. On top of that, they are scrambling to fill job openings and are having a hard time doing it.
The departure of Bill Belichick left gaping holes at head coach and general manager, and the coaches who don't follow Bill to his newest destination might be looking to go somewhere else entirely.
The team's 2023 offensive coordinator, Bill O'Brien, decided he would rather coach in college than coach for the Patriots, so he took his talents to Ohio State. Despite unrealistic dreams of Josh McDaniels returning, it's assumed he will be Belichick's offensive coordinator next season (almost certainly in Atlanta).
It's gotten so bad that there have even been discussions of Wes Walker being in the mix.
So, why is the New England Patriots job so undesirable?
Why wouldn't someone want to be an offensive coordinator in a place with so much history and a tradition of winning?
It boils down to four things. The first is coaching under a rookie head coach, followed by the mess at quarterback, the lack of talent on offense, and finally, the inability to restock talent on offense.
Rookie Head Coach
Jerod Mayo may be the next Bill Belichick. Time will tell, but if he is, in fact, going to follow in Bill's footsteps, then the comparison is not a good thing. Belichick was 36-44 with the Cleveland Browns as a rookie head coach and had to go somewhere else to find success. So, if Mayo is the next Bill, he will hang his banners somewhere other than Gillette.
You also have to consider the recent history of NFL rookie head coaches. In 2022 and 2023, rookie coaches have gone 61-72-1 during the regular season in their first year. Nathaniel Hackett was fired before he could even finish his rookie season, while Matt Eberflus put the blame on his offensive coordinator and fired him after the 2023 campaign.
If you want to be an offensive coordinator, doing it under a rookie head coach will almost surely lead to you looking for a new job within two years. Offensive coordinators under veteran head coaches have better short-term and long-term success.
When asking why someone would want to be the offensive coordinator for the Patriots, the first thing mentioned will be because of how good the defense still is in New England and that they will be even better when they get Christian Gonzalez, Matthew Judon, and Marcus Jones back. While this may be true, no incoming offensive coordinator cares about any of those players or how good the defense will be. They only care about the offense, especially the quarterback.
The quarterback is the key to an offensive coordinator's success, and the Patriots quarterback room is not looking good. Mac Jones has been a complete mess since Josh McDaniels left, and his path to redemption is too long and tough for him to ever come back. He's in the last year of his rookie deal, will not get an extension, and an offensive coordinator is not tying his future to that car wreck.
Bailey Zappe finished the season for the Patriots with a completion percentage of 59.9 and six touchdowns to nine interceptions. He is clearly not the long-term answer either, so any offensive coordinator coming in does not have his starting quarterback in the building. The Patriots do have the third pick in the draft, but that does not give a potential coordinator hope.
As of right now, the consensus third quarterback taken will be Jayden Daniels, and while he is an electric player to watch, he has the biggest bust potential of any of the quarterbacks in the 2024 class. He also has the biggest upside, but an offensive coordinator has to hope he can go 2-15 and not lose confidence because Daniels is not built to have a winning rookie season. He has a lot of developing to do.
No Talent On Offense
Aside from the quarterback position, the rest of the offense is also pretty much a mess. The only bright spot is Rhamondre Stevenson, but he is going into the fourth year of his rookie deal, which means either he isn't going to be here past 2024, or the Patriots have to make a huge mistake and sign him to an extension. It's a lose-lose situation with him.
Ezekiel Elliot showed he can still play, but he won't do it again on the deal he signed this past season, and in all honesty, he probably won't want to go 4-13 when he can easily help a contender still. So the Patriots have no quarterback, a bad situation at running back, and one of the worst offensive lines in football, which is losing two of its starters this offseason. Nobody to throw, nobody to run, nobody to block.
The receiver (and I'll include tight ends) situation is equally bleak. Zeke caught the most balls for the team this past season, and as I mentioned, he is leaving. Even if he stayed, his 51 catches would have been good for 78th in the league last year. That is their best pass catcher. Their leading receiver in yards was Demario Douglas, with 561, again, good for 78th place in the NFL.
Joining Elliott in free agency will be both starting tight ends: Hunter Henry (team leader in receiving touchdowns), Mike Gesicki, and Kendrick Bourne. Even late bloomer Pharaoh Brown is hitting the market. Right now, the Patriots receiving room consists of Demario Douglas, Kayshon Boutte, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Devante Parker—no passers, runners, blockers, or catchers on offense.
Can't restock the shelves
New England is not a sexy destination for free agents. The weather stinks, and the nightlife can't hold a candle to cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The big draw for any free agent in the NFL to come to the Patriots was the opportunity to play for the greatest coach of all time. He's gone now, so New England has lost its biggest selling point.
The team does have $70 million in cap space, but without something to sell players who may look to play in more glamorous locations, what the team is left with is overpaying to get players. That wide receiver the Rams will try to sign for $18 million a year will cost the Patriots $25 million. The offensive lineman looking to win a Super Bowl for $15 million a year will come to the Patriots to be part of a rebuild for $22 million.
That cap space doesn't last long when you have to make it rain for every player who visits Gillette. Top-tier players are also likely to shun the Patriots, no matter how much money is thrown at them. The Patriots become a bargaining chip for them. The team they visit to get a bigger deal than where they really want to play.
All-in-all, an offensive coordinator would likely be committing career suicide to call plays for this team. The type of coaches they can attract are washed, has-been, or never-was coaches. Maybe they can get a young up-and-coming coach who is still three years away from being ready for the big time, kind of like Jerod Mayo.
Best of luck, New England, you're going to need it.