Could the Patriots repeat the Texans' recent recipe for success in 2024?

Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) shakes
Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) shakes / Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

A new head coach who used to play linebacker for the team he is now leading is the 2024 Patriots with Jerod Mayo. It’s eerily similar to DeMeco Ryans becoming head coach of the Texans in the 2023 off-season, isn’t it?

Well, it is, and it isn’t. 

You have to go back to the early 20th Century Spanish-American philosopher and Harvard professor George Santayana to find the origin of the phrase “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which is as relevant now for New England as it has ever been.

But surely the Patriots remember the Texans’ recent history. It only happened three years ago, after all. So, they must be choosing to ignore it, and that could be a mistake. 

Now, Bill O’Brien is by no means Bill Belichick, but he was simultaneously the Texans head coach and GM between 2019 and 2020. O’Brien is the second longest-serving head coach in the Texans' short history, too, so there are some similarities.

His departure began one of the most turbulent periods in an NFL team’s history. What followed was four different head coaches in three years. Coaches' changes weren’t the only contributor to the disruption; one player generated multiple lawsuits, too.  

Could the Patriots repeat the Texans' recent recipe for success in 2024?

The Patriots may have already learned from some of the Texans’ mistakes. Unlike the Texans in 2020, they did at least allow their head coach to finish the season. Houston fired O’Brien after just four games in 2020 and replaced him with former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel as the interim head coach, who ended the season with a record of 4-8!  

The Patriots also haven’t made the mistake of firing a coach who slowly improved throughout the season and actually constructed a promising roster. Well, not yet anyway.

The Texans did that twice. David Culley and Lovie Smith are both coaches with defensive backgrounds who provided reasonably good pass defenses in Houston (they were in the top 10 under Smith). But their offense never fired, and ownership lost faith in both coaches much too quickly. 

With Culley as head coach in 2021 the Texans drafted a quarterback (Davis Mills) with their first pick of the draft, their first pick didn’t come until the third round though. They had traded their first two picks to the Dolphins as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade.

The Patriots will at least have picks in the first two rounds this year. The Texans also took Nico Collins and Brevin Jordan in that draft, and they were instrumental in their 2023 revival. A year later, under Lovie Smith, they drafted Derek Stingley Jr. (who looked great when he was healthy, like Christian Gonzalez), Jalen Pitre (who has made 240 tackles in 34 starts), Christian Harris (175 tackles in 28 games), Dameon Pierce and John Metchie III.

They could both have important roles this season if they can stay healthy. 

It seems unlikely that Patriots ownership will lose patience with the new coaching team this year. Four months after the previous GM was fired, they still haven’t named his successor. It would be pretty incongruous for them to rush to judge a head coach.

But it still looks like the Patriots are at the foot of a mountainous rebuild, rather than the instantaneous fix DeMeco Ryans delivered in Houston. The ownership, GM, and head coach must be all in lockstep.

Otherwise, they could face the same obstacles next off-season. And maybe even in two years time. 

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