The New England Patriots have done a true dumpster-dive in the 2023 season thus far and it isn't likely to get much if any better going forward. So with that in mind what should this lackluster outfit be looking to accomplish during the next seven meaningless games?
The team's coaching staff as well as the team's personnel operation are now in the eye of the storm. They have flopped to a fare-thee-well in 2023. The current season is toast and has been since the bread went into the toaster about a month ago.
So what's to play for the rest of the way, since it's quite clear that this team is going nowhere except a bit further down in the NFL "lowerarchy" of worst teams? Thoughts of "tanking" are silly. This team is already in the tank and has been since early on. They don't have to take any additional steps to shall we say "not win" games. That's happening no matter what they do.
Yet, "what they do" can have a future impact. That's where all the attention should be focused. Let's make three key suggestions on what they SHOULD do and why. It can't hurt even though this management group seems devoid of any inclination but to stay the course no matter what.
The New England Patriots need to change their starting players
The Patriots have failed and a key reason is their quarterback play. The Mac Jones experiment has flopped. Whoever heads up the organization's personnel department next season has to be totally aware that Mac isn't the answer. A parting of the ways is best for all concerned.
First, against the Giants, they need to install a new quarterback. Pundits expecting Bailey Zappe or Will Grier to deliver anything different from Jones are living in fantasyland. They are just other guys. The play for the New England Patriots is to get bold and see what dual-threat quarterback (not wide receiver) Malik Cunningham can do.
Cunningham has what none of the others has, pocket escapability. With the Patriots' sieve-like offensive line, it's an essential attribute. The team paid big for Cunningham relatively speaking as an undrafted free agent. If it was as a wide receiver, it was a dubious move. The young man has been and will be a quarterback. Give him the rock for the next seven games and see if he's the future. If not, it clarifies your 2024 draft strategy.
The next move is to see which backups, rookies, and other new guys can play. It's a luxury in a season that was lost before Thanksgiving. Continue to play guard Sidy Sow. Play guard Atonio Mafi, and play center Jake Andrews. These are fourth or fifth-round draft picks. Give them an opportunity to show what they can do. It's audition time, you show or you go.
This also goes for 2022 seventh-round pick, offensive tackle Andrew Steuber. The Vederian Lowe, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Calvin Anderson (though he has been ill) experiments haven't worked out. Bill Belichick traded for Lowe and Wheatley. Make of that what you will, but don't waste any more time on them.
The New England Patriots have to center on offense in the remaining games
All of the above changes have been on offense as most of them should be. Their offense is an embarrassment to poor offenses. Their point production stinks and their ability to win a game by, and here's a novel concept, outscoring their opponents is virtually nil.
The team should roll out wide receivers Demario Douglas, Kayshon Boutte, and Jalen Reagor and see who has a chance in 2024. Forget using Devante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They'll likely be gone next season anyway. Prepare now for the future.
The emphasis has been on offense. Yet, one key change the rest of the way should be on defense. It's not earth-shattering, but it needs an airing out. The Patriots' best defender, with Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez sidelined, is Christian Barmore.
Lawrence Guy Sr. and Davon Godchaux are not starting quality NFL D-tackles. Roll out second-round pick Keion White and slot him in where he belongs, inside, alongside Barmore. In tandem, they present a monster inside pocket-collapsing duo. It's time for the Patriots to optimize their defensive line talent. Barmore and White - inside - will do just that.
That's a limited suggested plan for the next meaningless (except for 2024 draft purposes) games. The theme is simple, try out young players to see who'll be ready to step up in 2024. If not, move on and find new talent in the draft and elsewhere. Will it happen under the current coaches and personnel management? You decide, but the vantage point from here is it's unlikely. It makes too much sense.