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Analysis: Patriots’ problems are bigger than quarterback, blame starts with Bill Belichick

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The Patriot Way has lost its direction.

Robert Kraft’s once-proud franchise is a disaster and Bill Belichick can’t fix it because he contributed to the mess.

The New England Patriots fell to 2-10 following a 6-0 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers that saw their offensive futility sink to historic levels.

They couldn’t score with Bailey Zappe at quarterback just like they couldn’t do much with Mac Jones.

The Patriots have now lost three straight games in which the opponent scored 10, 10 and 6 points. It’s been 85 years since a team lost three straight games in which it allowed fewer than 26 points combined. The Chicago Cardinals gave up 20 points during a three-game losing streak in 1938.

Football is the ultimate team sport but quarterbacks can make all the difference. Teams that find the right guy can become instant playoff contenders. See what C.J. Stroud is doing for the Houston Texans.

The Patriots know all about the impact one guy can make. They were a dynasty with Tom Brady. They’ve become the NFL’s laughingstock without him.

They’re not alone. Plenty of teams are struggling because of poor quarterback play. Some of the Week 13 lowlights including the New York Jets, of course.

They have been dismal on offense whether Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle or Trevor Siemian is under center. Boyle was benched for Siemian, who wasn’t any better in a 13-8 loss to Atlanta.

Desmond Ridder didn’t do anything special for the Falcons (6-6) but they had the luxury of facing the Jets. Ridder, who was already benched earlier in the season, completed just 12 of 27 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.

That was enough against New York.

The Jets (4-8) have lost four one-possession games in which they’ve allowed 16 points or fewer this season. They had the ball with a chance to take the lead with under two minutes in three of those games and failed.

New York didn’t add a capable QB after losing Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 so the front office deserves blame for that decision.

New England’s problems go deeper than the QB.

The blame starts with Belichick. He’s a six-time Super Bowl champion and a cinch for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But Belichick hasn’t put together a talented roster since Brady left. He’s had poor drafts and made several wrong moves in free agency.

Jones seemed like a promising pick when he led the Patriots to a 10-7 record as a rookie in 2021 after being selected with the 15th overall pick. He threw for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and a 92.5 passer rating. His success came under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left after that season to become head coach in Las Vegas.

Jones regressed after Belichick handed the offensive reins to Joe Judge and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. He has played even worse this year after Bill O’Brien took over as offensive coordinator.

The Patriots are last in scoring and entered the week 25th in total yards. They were 17th in scoring and 26th in yards in 2022.

Belichick’s decision to give Patricia offensive responsibilities last year was questionable. Only Jones knows how much going from McDaniels to Judge/Patricia affected his confidence and set him back.

Since Brady left, the Patriots are 27-36, including a playoff loss. All the losing has smeared Belichick’s legacy and likely will end his long tenure in New England after two-plus decades of unprecedented success that was followed by three losing seasons in four years. The 71-year-old coach will likely have to chase Don Shula’s all-time wins total on a different sideline in 2024, if another team wants him.

At least the Patriots should have a crack at drafting a franchise quarterback. They currently would own the No. 2 pick. That could assure them Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.

Perhaps one of those QBs would quickly change the trajectory of the organization.

The Texans were 4-13 with Davis Mills and Tyrod Taylor in 2021 and 3-13-1 last season with Mills. They’re 7-5 with Stroud, who was the No. 2 pick this year behind Bryce Young.

Of course, the Patriots will have to surround their QB with a competent offensive line and some playmakers. Young hasn’t made a difference in Carolina because the Panthers (1-11) lack talent throughout their roster.

The Patriots need a ton of help. A franchise QB would be a good start.




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Gary Varvel
Sat, Feb 24, 2024