Patriots 1-5. With games against the Bills and Dolphins, meaning a 1-7 finish is very likely. They are about attrition in what will be the first “lost season” of Bill Belichick’s coaching career.
When I say “lost” I mean desperation before Thanksgiving. Playing the string. Entering into a period of uncertainty where no one knows if they will be here next year.
The 2000 Patriots weren’t that way. Bill was new. They were building. Even the 1995 Browns started the season 3-1 and were 4-4 midway through the season before owner Art Modell announced the team was moving to Baltimore and the season was over.
This season is different. The Patriots are likely to be within one win at midnight. They have become one of the worst teams in the league. They are not injuries. It’s not the schedule. Last year’s decline began after Thanksgiving at 13 games and counting.
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They were 2-5 at the end of last year with wins over Arizona and Miami when both were using backup quarterbacks. They have only one win over the Jets this season. That’s 3-10 if you’re scoring at home (and I hope you are).
They falter before the anthem ends. Here’s the latest update on their opening-game deficit since their high-scoring and very entertaining loss to the Vikings on Turkey Day.
- At Raiders: 13-3 (first half)
- vs. Saints: 21-0 (first half)
- at Cowboys: 28-3 (halftime)
- vs. Dolphins: 17-3 (first half)
- vs. Eagles: 16-0 (end of first quarter)
- At Bills: 7-0 (after opening kickoff)
- vs. Dolphins: 14-7 (early third quarter with Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa out)
- vs. Bengals: 22-0 (first half)
- At Raiders: 17-3 (first half)
- At Cardinals: 13-7 (2nd quarter, no Kyler Murray)
- vs. Bills: 17-7 (first half)
Their primary tools for digging the hole are penalties and turnovers. They do it to themselves. They did it again in Vegas on Sunday.
Despite Belichick’s “start over” edict after the Saints debacle, the defense was on the receiving end of a 16-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a field goal. This was actually the second field goal to lead the Raiders because on the first, Vegas was given new life by the Patriots’ “leverage” penalty. The offense took control, committing penalties on the first two snaps, knocking down a screen pass and killing a penalty.
At least this week, the Patriots kept it close enough to find an interesting way to finally sacrifice themselves, as they did last year against the Raiders and Bengals and this year against the Eagles and Dolphins. Penalties, lapses and poor game management were to blame on Sunday.
Dating back to Thanksgiving last year, the Patriots have consistently gotten off to slow starts, often falling behind by double digits. Bill Belichick addresses a slow start after Week 6 loss to the Raiders.
Combine the stuff on the field, the steady trickle of yearly roster mismanagement, wasted money and the unchecked offense spotted every week, and it’s more likely than not that the Bill Belichick era is in its death throes.
Especially since Robert Kraft’s “improve or else” edict of March still stands.
You can’t literally take a flamethrower to $50 million over two years like Belichick did with Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor in 2021 and 2022. Not after he refused in 2020 to pay the greatest quarterback in NFL history over the same time period.
You can’t make an arrogant coaching decision about who will run your offense like Belichick did in 2022 and ruin the development of a rookie quarterback capable of his rookie contract.
And if you want to discuss the word “capable,” always remember and never forget what Belichick said about Mac Jones in late July 2022:
“I think Mack did a great job,” Belichick said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s got a tremendous work ethic across the board. I think there’s been a lot of improvement. His physical work and conditioning, working on his mechanics, working on his footwork, working on his understanding of our offense, the way opponents play. Defenses, situations — all that stuff.”
“He’s made tremendous strides,” Belichick said of Jones. “He did a great job last year, but he’s starting from a much higher point this year than he started last year. So, his offseason work has been important, and I think everyone realizes how prepared he is and how far he’s come.” “He was further along than he was a year ago.”
You can’t be the worst team in the NFL when your owner is used to owning the best team in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Senior Bowl will be held four months later. Free agency opens in about five months. The draft will be here in six months
It’s time for Kraft to start determining whether Belichick will have the same role, a diminished role or no role when this season is over. And Belichick has to start thinking about whether he wants to continue or not. A major checkpoint is approaching for this team.
In two weeks — on Halloween — the trade deadline will be here. It’s clear the Patriots won’t be adding more for the extended stretch. But they have countless assets they could move in exchange for picks.
These are players whose contracts have expired Who other teams might covet: Hunter Henry, Trent Brown, Kyle Dugger, Kendrick Bourne, Josh Uche, Mike Onwenu, Mike Gesicki, Ezekiel Elliott and Anfernee Jennings.
Uche, Dugger and Onwenu are approaching their second contracts and are considered semi-senior free agents (though all will see their market decline along with the team’s fortunes). All of which could give a boost to a playoff contender in need. If the Patriots don’t sign it, should they move it and get something in return?
What about Mac Jones? As a third-year quarterback on his rookie deal, he probably deserves to be a third-rounder. Especially if another team believes Jones isn’t actually a stinker and is a victim of circumstance.
Would Belichick be willing to sell and add picks? Or does he want to achieve as many wins as possible this season?
The bigger question is whether Kraft will invalidate or demand any sale. Patriots We currently have $95 million in projected cap space For 2024. They’re headed for a top-10 pick.
Does Kraft want Belichick to rebuild? We’ll start to get an answer to that question over the next couple of weeks.
This is what happens at 1-5 with 1-7 staring at you kissing.
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