EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Bill Belichick was done. He had been asked 22 questions in four minutes and he had mumbled them with short answers about how everyone on his struggling team had been told to be ready to play. He didn’t want any more. He then gently lowered his right hand like a gavel, abruptly ending his postgame press conference.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 26, 2023
The 71-year-old coach emerged from a tunnel and turned right past the football field at MetLife Stadium, where his New England Patriots had just lost 10-7 to a backup, undrafted rookie quarterback and a team from New York Giants who had been among the worst in the NFL.
Patriots bench Jones for Zappe, loses to the Giants
Three months into a dysfunctional season, there’s no point in ignoring the obvious. After nine losses in 11 games and with a quarterback situation that is turning this once-proud franchise into a laughing stock, Belichick is running out of answers. The tricks and stunts he did didn’t work. His team did not respond. His roster sucks. And his explanations for how it got so bad are even worse.
“I told everyone to be ready to go,” Belichick said four different times.
All of which, of course, leads to the uncomfortable question that hangs over the final six games of this season. Will Belichick return? Are these the final games of a brilliant career, ending in an implosion that once seemed unfathomable?
What question could be more important than this after seeing the product Belichick’s team unveiled Sunday? I tried something different this week, an attempt to jumpstart a weak offense that is dragging this team down. Belichick decided Not to name a starting quarterback. He let Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe practice the starting attack, hoping that one of them would be good enough to make a decision for him.
Instead, it was yet another decision (or indecision?) from Belichick that failed for this team. Belichick is the same coach who in 2001 explained that Tom Brady was giving training reps on Drew Bledsoe by saying that a team cannot divide those sessions with multiple quarterbacks because they are too valuable: that one is missing Anyone the snaps hinder the preparation of the starting QB.
But 12 weeks into this season, Belichick split practice reps between Jones and Zappe. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that both struggled.
The argument here is not for one of Jones or Zappe. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that both are bad.
But instead of having them compete for the starting job at the end of the season, it is the coach’s job to make a decision and do everything to get that quarterback ready.
If you want to play Jones, try to gain confidence. Support him publicly. Do what you can to make sure he doesn’t have any difficult decisions to make. See if throwing the ball works.
Otherwise, switch to Zappe. It would be easy to say that Jones is beyond repair at this point. Go to Hoes. Spend a week preparing him to play. He plans a simple, unsophisticated attack that he can master.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 26, 2023
Instead, Belichick chose an inexplicable midseason competition that brought out the worst in both quarterbacks. They threw nearly identical interceptions in double (or triple?) coverage.
The Patriots’ midweek quarterback competition is not what this team needs
The move likely caused irreversible damage to Jones, who was benched for the fourth time in 11 games this season. He seems completely broken and needs a fresh start somewhere else. So the Patriots will likely have to turn to Zappe, even though his summer was so bad that the Patriots cut him before Week 1. The second-year man has performed so poorly this season that he couldn’t even bat Jones for the starting job. Sunday.
It all contributed to making this a lost season. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the team does because the offense is terrible. The Patriots scored three touchdowns and just 30 points in all of November.
“Just bad quarterback play,” Jones said Sunday, adequately summing things up. “If the quarterback doesn’t play well, you have no chance.”
This has been – and will continue to be – the case for the Patriots in 2023.
While owner Robert Kraft hasn’t said anything publicly about the job security of the only coach he’s hired in the last 24 years, anyone who follows the team knows Belichick’s job is hot. Kraft expected this season to finish with a playoff berth.
Instead, its franchise has become a joke. JuJu Smith-Schuster was yelling at coach Troy Brown on the sideline Sunday. As punishment for missing the curve, players are left home for away games (JC Jackson) or cut permanently (Jack Jones). The Patriots have won two games this season and none since Oct. 22. Their offense is tough to watch – and was vastly outmatched by a Giants unit led by Tommy DeVito. No one knows who holds the biggest decision in the sport. And they’re approaching a stretch of three consecutive primetime games in which the nation will be forced to sit back and watch what became of Belichick’s team.
The Patriots shouldn’t fire Bill Belichick now, but after the season, all bets are off
This season it’s no longer about making the playoffs. That dream died a long time ago. These final games are an opportunity for Belichick to demonstrate why he should remain in charge of making all football decisions for the Patriots. It can’t just be about resting on his six Super Bowl rings, not when the Patriots have become a laughing stock.
But the results so far have been decidedly embarrassing. The Patriots failed to score a touchdown in Germany and lost to Gardner Minshew and the Indianapolis Colts. They had two weeks to sort things out. Instead, they concocted a meaningless quarterback competition that produced poor play from both. Any pass thrown by either quarterback downfield looks like an attempt to hold your breath, praying it’s not an interception attempt.
Now, after a loss to the pitiful Giants that dropped them to 2-9, the Patriots are in a place they haven’t been in decades. They might be the worst team in the NFL. And the evidence is accumulating that Belichick no longer has the answers to the problem.
Buckley: The Patriots put Mac Jones in a position to take the blame but not succeed
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