As many others have said throughout the last few years, there was a clear atmospheric shift within the Patriots that was difficult to ignore. It was expected to happen, as any team would, post-Tom Brady, but the chaotic nature of it all took most by surprise.
The impact of a tension-filled locker room due to an alleged clash between a head coach and owner, on top of frustration surrounding the state of the offense, mainly that of the quarterback, took its toll on the team, on and off the field. It ultimately resulted in what appeared to be a divide within the team and a lack of unity, which is an aspect the Patriots had developed a good reputation for during the last two decades.
It seemed to mainly begin in 2022, with Josh McDaniels' exit, which resulted in Joe Judge being named quarterbacks coach and Matt Patricia offensive coordinator. Neither had ever worked in either role, which led to a lot of dysfunction during the offseason.
It continued throughout the season, which became even more noticeable through outbursts from Mac Jones during games. And although neither coach was retained the following season, either in their previous position or the team, the impact continued to appear in 2023, resulting in a four-win season and Belichick's departure.
What exactly happened behind the scenes will likely never be known unless a documentary comes out ten years down the road, but pending free agent Kendrick Bourne spoke candidly about the last two years in Foxboro this week, giving us a peek behind the curtain during a tumultuous time in New England.
The wide receiver was in Las Vegas this week for Super Bowl LVIII and during an appearance on CBS Sports Radio's "The Zach Gelb Show," he was asked how Mac Jones was viewed by his teammates in the last two years, which prompted Bourne to reveal the environment was just 'toxic' in 2023.
“I think it was just two years of roughness, rebuilding and trying to find who we were. And I think it was kind of a toxic place. People pointing the finger and things like that in the locker room. Not too bad, but you could feel the energy. I’ve been a part of a winning locker room, as you know, in San Francisco. It was just different. It was harder to get through those situations.”
Not that anyone necessarily needed confirmation that it wasn't the healthiest environment in New England last year, but hearing it straight from a player's mouth, who is known for being the most optimistic and happiest guy in the locker room, says a lot.
Hopefully, the countless changes made to the organization will make for a much better upcoming season and get them back on track to being the Patriots of old because this type of undertone will only continue to wreak havoc on the team if it continues any longer.