For years, probably decades, the ethos of Bill Belichick leading the New England Patriots has been impenetrable: We do what’s best for the team.
With Do your job, has embraced this principle in nearly every decision that has come to define the franchise. She marries him at coaching staff meetings. He reiterates this in corporate speaking engagements. He repeats it so often in press conferences that clips of him can be found saying some version of the ideology in nearly every year of his Patriots reign.
Should anyone question his dedication to it, they should only look within Belichick’s roster of rosters throughout history: a march of attrition that shows his priority of cold calculation over sentimentality or blind loyalty.
Starting Tom Brady on Drew Bledsoe? Do what’s best for the team.
Release Pro Bowl safety attorney Milloy just days before the start of the 2003 season? Do what’s best for the team.
Spending decades trading, cutting, or walking away from core players who were aging or threatening a reduction in the salary cap? Do what’s best for the team.
The future of the team mattered. When it came to a tough business decision, so many dynasty-building names didn’t: Milloy, Ty Law, Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Logan Mankins, Jamie Collins, Stephon Gilmore…and many , many others . In the end, long-term success or failure would never be bet on one man. And for decades, Belichick was right.
Then came Matt Patricia and the 2022 season. The moment when Belichick’s incorruptible doctrine of “what’s best for the team” was blinded by his own arrogance.
Somewhere at the intersection of not having a plan for the departure of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator and overestimating his own ability to continually drive a square peg into a round hole, Belichick violated his credo. He failed to do what was best for the team, choosing boldness over logic and a coaching friend over a much-needed young quarterback. Prioritize trust and familiarity over the need to build a list.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft should take note. His team is approaching an offseason where it’s time for him to start treating Belichick the way Belichick has treated his players for decades. This is where the coach’s playbook should be on the owner’s lips.
Do your job. Do what’s best for the team.
Right now, Kraft must be Belichick. Not sentimental. Calculation. Driven. Without lines of credit for past achievements. Rather than reapplying grace in the face of a Belichick mistake, choose strength instead. Achieve an inexorable mandate rather than some form of diplomacy.
In short: tell Belichick that Patricia needs to be stripped of offensive calling duties and the coach needs to find a proven offensive coordinator to take over the play and lead Mac Jones. Because what’s going on this season is going from unacceptable to negligent.
New England’s offensive trajectory looks similar to what the New York Giants did to Daniel Jones: starting promisingly and systematically destroying his ability to develop adequately as a quarterback. It’s a mistake that irreparably damaged Daniel Jones’ chance of being the team’s answer at quarterback and helped put the franchise into a multi-year spiral that is only now slowing down under head coach Brian Daboll. Now Patriots fans are staring at Mac Jones the same way Giants fans watched Daniel Jones in his second and third seasons, wondering if the early success was nothing more than a mirage.
They may not even be alone. Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown made headlines this week when his Instagram account “liked” a post suggesting the franchise should pursue a Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo return. While there’s no way of knowing whether it was Brown or anyone managing his account who clicked that button, the fact remains that this is very unpatriotic drama simmering between an offensive tackle and the quarterback that was paid to protect . It’s not great no matter how you process it.
That’s the kind of drama this Patricia experiment is inviting, from romance with Bailey Zappe to the rambling play call to Jones having emotional outbursts on a game plan that shows minimal faith in him. Neither of which have been a problem in 2021 when McDaniels ran the offense. The same McDaniels who walked off the field in Las Vegas on Sunday in an incredibly unlikely win that would have gone to overtime if Patricia had simply taken a knee at the end of regulation. Instead, Patricia dialed in a running play that opened up the possibility of a series of absurd decisions by two players who should never have been in that position in the first place.
No, this isn’t blaming Patricia entirely for the Raiders’ loss. But when you review the game, you definitely made a lot of questionable decisions that were eventually forgotten by the ending. And the fact remains: if you didn’t have the confidence to have Jones throw a Hail Mary to end regulation and assumed a run play would end with a simple tackle, why not take the knee and eliminate any chance of some mental error ? That’s the job of an experienced play-caller, to increase the likelihood of success while simultaneously eliminating as many chances of error as possible.
Patricia didn’t. And in the wake of that, the Patriots lost a game that threatens to bounce them out of the postseason for the second time in three years.
That kind of backline, where the Patriots are sitting at home again during the postseason, must be on Kraft’s mind. No one should forget that last March at the NFL’s largest annual owners’ meeting, Kraft made an unsolicited point to lobby Belichick to move forward. He was annoyed that New England fell off the league map so quickly as a contender following Brady’s departure. Ed was pissed that the Patriots hadn’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl LIII after the 2018 season.
“I think about it a lot,” Kraft said.
And that’s why she has to do something that has endured for decades: get into Belichick’s kitchen when it comes to coaching decisions and make it clear that Patricia has no future on the team as a play-caller. It might seem like the owner crosses the line, but the fact remains that it happens all the time in the NFL in other franchises. Especially when the coach is making ego-driven decisions that hurt the team.
In this case with Patricia, it clearly happened. Now Kraft must take it upon himself to take a page from Belichick and think about the team first. There’s no room for nostalgia for past glory or what was going on when Tom Brady was still in the fold. For this franchise to go on, it has to go on.
Treating Belichick the way he has always treated his players would be a good start for the ownership.