The New England Patriots stood pat at the now-passed trade deadline. Some observers, even good ones, think they made the right decision. They didn't. It was the worst possible non-decision(s) the team could have made. While not wholly unexpected, it was wrong for a number of reasons.
The Patriots are on a roll to the NFL's trash heap. They are in last place in the AFC East two full games behind the New York Jets. They have a pitiful offense riddled with injury and a similar situation on defense. The outlook for the rest of the season is hopeless and even with a respectable showing the rest of the way (unexpected here), the 2023 season is essentially over.
Let's suppose the Pats actually thought they could salvage this season. If so, moving to shore up their offensive line, defense, and especially wide receiver corps would have made sense. Their lack of any action means they must have logically decided the season is toast.
Assuming so, why didn't they tear down the roster and set the table for the future? They didn't and did nothing. What it signals is, well, no idea what it signals frankly except that they seem to have formulated neither an operational blueprint for the rest of the current season nor ostensibly one for the 2024 season and beyond.
The New England Patriots should have been a big-time deadline sellers
Owner Robert Kraft has to be shaking his head at this lack of activity. They neither tried to patch things up for now nor did they move players out and get ready for 2024. Kraft is no football genius, but he's a businessman and has to be aware that a failed strategy kept intact is well, a continuing failed strategy. It neither works in business nor in football.
If Kraft can't comprehend this, there is little short-term hope for the Patriots. They will remain hopelessly mired in NFL Nowheresville and before long the bottom line will be impacted. Fans, even the most loyal won't continue to pay the ridiculous prices for tickets, hot dogs, and beer for a team that is in the proverbial dumpster.
The play for the Patriots at the deadline was to sell, sell, and sell some more. The foundering ship is sinking. It was time to sell off the crew and get ready for next season. Observers will argue that the team couldn't receive great value from their players. That may be true, but in this situation, you take what you can get.
As the old adage says, "Beggars can't be choosers". You load up on draft picks and move forward. The team seems to do well with lower-round picks like sixth-rounders Michael Onwenu and Demario Douglas. Higher up the Pats more often than not flop by reaching for players who either can't play or could have been acquired much later.
That was the only strategy that made any sense. Instead, they took the road less traveled and did nothing, eschewing either trying to get better or selling big and looking ahead. But one factor even if they did the right thing and sold for draft picks would have held them back even so.
Why the New England Patriots' decision was the worst possible
That is the relative ineptitude of the team's personnel operation. Whoever makes the final personnel decisions, ostensibly Bill Belichick, has made far too many head-scratching picks. Draft reaches are monumental and don't work. Only when the team makes consensus picks, cases in point 2023 draft selections first-rounder Christian Gonzalez and Keion White in the second will they possibly get it right.
Yet, the team still reached way up for Marte Mapu who's done little to justify a third-round pick. Similarly, in 2022, they reached way up for their top two picks, average guard Cole Strange in the first round, and receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second, who's a flop. They also fail miserably in free agency most of the time.
All this leads to an over-arching conclusion. Mr. Kraft has to revamp the personnel department and hire a top outside personnel guy to take control. Insular hiring in personnel as well as of coaches without Tom Brady on hand has failed. If Kraft demures while his 5-7 billion dollar franchise sinks into the muck, he'll be the responsible party, as he was in allowing Brady to leave. It's lousy football policy and bad business.
The Patriots made the worst possible decision at the trade deadline. Expecting a renaissance this season was as bewildering as not getting ready for a brighter 2024. Consequently, the team's non-activity leaves them mired in sustained mediocrity or even worse, irrelevance. It's up to Kraft to right the ship. He's the captain. If he can't or won't, expect ongoing last-place finishes. It is what it is.