Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches the NFL has ever seen and it’s precisely why the New England Patriots are stuck in purgatory.
Since allowing Tom Brady to leave, Belichick has led his team to a 25-25 record with one playoff berth and not a single playoff win. Heading in 2023, with a loaded AFC to contend with, Draft Kings has the Patriots season win total set just at 6.5 wins.
No longer the goliath of the NFL, most think a successful season would simply be New England even making the playoffs. The worst part? There is no long-term hope. The Patriots are on a hamster wheel of mediocrity and there are three main reasons for it.
Why The New England Patriots Are Stuck in Purgatory
The Quarterback Dilemma
Mac Jones is exactly who we thought he would be. Before being drafted in 2021, many analysts didn’t question if Mac could be a starting quarterback in the NFL, they questioned what his ceiling could be. Without a strong arm, ability to create out of structure, or any elite trait that would separate him from his peers, Jones always had a tough road to becoming a quarterback who could carry his team.
Now two years in, Jones looks like several other starters in this league, one who is at the mercy of his circumstances. At different times, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and a host of other starters have looked the part of the next great thing under center. Only for the surrounding talent, whether on the field or on the sidelines to change and reveal what made that quarterback look great.
Jones being just average under center means not only does the talent around him need to be extremely strong, but he needs this to happen by next season. When you look back at the large majority of quarterbacks who have made the Super Bowl in the last decade, they were either an all-time great or on a rookie contract. Jones’s rookie deal ends in 2024 with a team option for a fifth-year extension in 2025. The clock is running out.
Broken Roster Construction
Belichick has always had a model for which he wanted to build his team. It’s one of the things that made Robert Kraft so interested in trading a first-round pick for him many years ago. Yet as the sport has evolved with rule changes, a rookie wage scale, and offensive development, Belichick’s model has remained essentially the same.
It’s no surprise Belichick wants a strong defense. It’s where he made a name for himself in this league and with two decades of decisions to look back on, it’s clear that’s where he prioritizes. Every time the defense has needed an infusion of talent in free agency, Belichick has signed a Stephon Gilmore, Darrelle Revis, or Matt Judon. The offense is where he looks for budget options.
Yet over the last 20 years, how many times have we seen a defense truly carry a team to a Superbowl? The 2013 Seahawks had their time, but it was accompanied by Russell Wilson and very viable pass catchers. The only real example is the 2015 Denver Broncos, whose defense wasn’t simply good, it was special. They finished ranking number one in yards, passing yards, sacks, defensive touchdowns, and fourth in points allowed, despite an anemic and turnover-prone offense.
This isn’t a new development either. Belichick’s Patriots haven’t had a strong collection of pass catchers since the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles in 2017. This simply is no longer a formula that creates contenders anymore.
Belichick Sets The Standard
Despite these flaws of a limited passer and an outdated team construction, Belichick is still one of the better coaches in the sport. No season showed this better than 2020. Belichick the General Manager had left Belichick the Head Coach with an incredibly limited team.
Cam Newton joined the Patriots in July to lead an offense where Jakobi Meyers and Damien Harris were his best playmakers. Defensively wasn’t much better, where the front seven lacked any ability to stop the run or rush the passer. Despite one of the worst rosters in the league, Bill still dragged New England to seven wins. The man will not allow his teams to bottom out.
So, Now What?
What fans of New England are left with is a team that lacks the ceiling, or vision for becoming a contender. Yet a Head Coach whose talent secures a high floor. The floor is so high that in the draft, they do not have access to high-level quarterback prospects who could replace Jones, or game-altering talent at other positions.
Add in Kraft’s unwillingness to let go of a Head Coaching legend who is 19 wins away from breaking Don Shula’s record and you are left with a team stuck in the middle. Unless major wholesale changes are made to how they view building a modern offense or finding a better quarterback, the Patriots will continue to be in purgatory until Belichick leaves.
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