The 2023 New England Patriots season has tumbled and is teetering on the brink of total collapse. The Pats have visited a place they had seldom seen during the glory years of the Tom Brady era. They are in last place in the AFC East with a record of 1-4.
Not much has gone right for the Patriots this season, as their only win was over the New York Jets. The last two games, however, against Dallas and New Orleans, have taken incompetence to a whole new level. Outscored 72-3, the New England Patriots have bottomed out in the AFC East and beyond.
Absent wholesale changes and an entirely new direction altogether, the Patriots are headed for the NFL bottom. Even with wholesale changes, e.g.inserting dual-threat Malik Cunningham into the starting quarterback position over the wholly ineffective Mac Jones, the Patriots look incapable of even being competitive, never mind a playoff contender.
So what went wrong to turn a perennial AFC Championship and Super Bowl contender into an also-ran in the AFC East? Well, lots of things have. But three main points contend for the most harmful to the team's fortunes, which has left their coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick's status being questioned.
The New England Patriots personnel department blew the offseaon
Championship and contending teams are built in the offseason. The thought here is that absent catastrophic injuries, you are what you make each and every offseason. One component of that phase of team-building is free agency. In the 2023 offseason, the New England Patriots blew free agency. Grade: D.
The Patriots needed to add at least one top starting-level offensive tackle (OT) in free agency. If you were serious about the business, the obvious choices were left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Brown was the top OT available OT in free agency. The Patriots' situation was desperate in that second most important position on the team after the quarterback with Trent Brown,
the presumptive starter's status in flux. They punted on both Brown and McGlinchey. Huge mistake.
They then signed two waiver-wire tackles, 34-year-old Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson. Neither has done much of anything. Coupled with the next gross omission, the result was eminently predictable: their offensive tackle play, even from the sometimes outstanding Trent Brown, has been deplorable.
In addition, the major free agency signing they did make, Juju Smith-Schuster, has also flopped for whatever reason. Smith-Schuster was a favorite here, but questions about the health of his knee, previously injured, have lingered. It's hard to believe that his ineffectiveness hasn't been impacted by that situation. If so, you certainly have to question the team's due diligence on Smith-Schuster before doling out a major contract.
In addition, the Patriots neglected to add any top-level draftees on offense, utilizing their top three picks on defensive players Christian Gonzalez, Keion White, and Marte Mapu. Gonzalez and White were consensus top picks, drafted right, an anomaly for the New England Patriots.
Mapu was another major reach. Gonzalez was great before going out for the season with an injury. White has enormous potential, but the Patriots are not utilizing him correctly. As anticipated, Mapu has not contributed much of anything except pre-season hype. With no top offensive tackles to be seen, the draft grade has to be a C- or so.
The New England Patriots historically greatest blunder leading to this dismal season
The greatest error of the New England Patriots leading up to the current lamentable state of the team harkens back to the franchise's worst personnel decision ever. Indeed, that was essentially jettisoning the inimitable Tom Brady after the 2018 season. But Brady didn't leave until after the 2019 season? Correct. Let's explain.
After winning the Super Bowl once again in 2018, Brady was signed to a phony two-year extension that did not allow the team to franchise him after 2019. He was gone then and there. And it was allowed by football majordomo Bill Belichick, the worst decision of his NFL career.
Brady departed and went on to win another Super Bowl with Tampa Bay after a lackluster final season in New England in 2019. The Patriots began their slide to the bottom. The Brady fiasco continues to haunt the franchise. It was a terrible decision by Belichick, who fancied he could replace Brady and continue to win. It was Brady all the time.
Superseding Belichick's responsibility for this fiasco, the uber-responsibility goes to owner Robert Kraft. Kraft allowed this travesty to happen. If it was a choice between Brady and Belichick, "he chose poorly," taking Belichick. Except for a 9-7 Wild Card one-and-done playoff season in 2021, the results have been expectedly dismal. Those are three major reasons for the Patriot's demise.