The New England Patriots 2023 season is sliding into the ocean faster than a melting iceberg in the Arctic. They are in unfamiliar waters, sitting on the bottom of the AFC East with a 1-4 record that is worse than the record indicates.
Bill Belichick is, by all accounts, a man "set in his ways." It's been Bill's way or the highway for 23 years. That mindset may work when you have the Great Safety Valve, Tom Brady, to rescue you from your team's inadequacies. But that ship sailed four years ago, and it's not coming back home.
So what's best for the New England Patriots now, for game six, to try to reverse the slide and perhaps at least regain some respectability? What should Bill Belichick do to try to right his once-proud ship that's now listing 45 degrees to port?
New England Patriots need drastic changes on offense
The first option has to be to replace Mac Jones at quarterback. In the past three games, Jones is throwing for a truly weak 54.5 completion percentage (62.5 percent for the season) with one touchdown, four interceptions, and two fumbles. As poor as that appears, it's actually been even worse. The Patriots offense has scored only 3 points in the past two games.
A significant change should be made this Sunday against Las Vegas. For whatever reason, Mac Jones isn't getting the job done, and those statistics prove it. He's regressed from very good in 2021 to poor in 2022 to abysmal in 2023, especially in the past three games. A change is required and not one for a quarter or half. It should be for at least three or four games or maybe even the rest of the season.
So what are Belichick's best options for right now, in week six, with at least a slim chance of making his team respectable again and moving away from perhaps the most deleterious moniker of all, being irrelevant?
The first option for the New England Patriots and the best for Belichick personally is to activate Malik Cunningham from the practice squad, place him on Sunday's game roster, and start him at quarterback for several games. Why is this the best option for the team and Belichick personally?
As Belichick is wont to say, play the guy that gives the team the best chance to win. That's Malik Cunningham. Cunningham is the only quarterback with the extreme pocket escapability required when your offensive line's description is "turnstiles." There is no other reasonable option. Cunningham should be the starter. There's nothing at all to lose.
New England Patriots' Bill Belichick's other best options are these
Belichick should also roll out Demario Douglas (if healthy) and Kayshon Boutte at wide receiver. Maybe they can get open. No one else can. He should also elevate J.J. Taylor from the practice squad. He's more elusive than either solid veteran Rhamondre Stevenson or Ezekiel Elliott, who aren't lighting things up this season.
In addition, expecting Trent Brown to play left tackle despite his having a terrible game against New Orleans last week, Belichick should play Conor McDermott at right tackle. He's better than anyone else they've been rolling out lately. It's definitely worth a try. The Vederian Lowe experiment hasn't worked.
All of these offensive changes should be implemented on Sunday. They say if you keep doing the same thing repeatedly and it doesn't work if you continue to do so, it's a questionable strategy. Don't. What's best for the New England Patriots now and for Bill Belichick personally is to show flexibility, innovation, and willingness to move on from failed and counter-productive strategies.
Will these changes succeed to the point of altering this season's fortunes? That's highly unlikely, but at a minimum, they will demonstrate a willingness to accept reality, improvise, try a new perspective with fresh personnel, and try the new approach when the current is in tatters.
For the team, it can't hurt. For Belichick, it would be a good trait to display. Unfortunately, this entire scenario is unlikely to happen, and if not, expect the curtain to be lowered on the 2023 New England Patriots season this Sunday. The current setup hasn't worked, and only massive offensive changes might alter the expected outcome, last place in the AFC East.