DO YOUR JOB
An Account of the 2022 New England Patriots Season
A season of disappointment comes to an end on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. What's to make of it? PIC: Dave Silverman
“Unfortunately, our season ended sooner than we hoped (Sunday) afternoon in Buffalo. While we always want to be playing games with playoff implications in Week 18, our expectation was to perform better throughout the season and to advance through the playoffs. We can assure you that no one in our organization is satisfied with the results from this past season.
“In the weeks ahead, we will be making critical evaluations of all elements of our football operation as we strive to improve and return to the playoffs next year.
“When we welcome you back for the 2023 season, we anticipate presenting you with an improved product on the field, as well as many exciting new features and additions to Gillette Stadium. You have helped create a dominant home-field advantage over the past 20 years and we look forward to creating many more memorable moments in the years ahead."
- Bob Kraft, Mon. Jan. 9, 2023 (as read on air by 98.5 The Sports Hub's Joe Murray)
Could you have imagined this statement being read by Bob Kraft three years ago? Well, brace yourself, because you're not waking up from this nightmare.
While the Pats seemed to look at least a bit more like themselves these past few weeks than the previous 16, their 35-23 loss embodied a few of the things we've seen go wrong for them all season. They finish a measly 8-9 - two of those wins coming against the New York Jets, two losses coming at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, and plenty of frustrating moments in between. Sure, there was some good to take away; a stretch of outscoring opponents 67-15 in October, a 26-3 throttling of the Colts, the emergence of Rhamondre Stevenson as a reliable running back, the record year from Matt Judon.
But can we sit here and say it outnumbered the crashing lows? The near-20-point loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football, the tough beat on Thanksgiving Night against the Vikings, the comeback-gone-wrong against Cincinnati on Christmas Eve?
And let's not even go there with the Sin City Miracle.
Eh, actually, why not.
There's a lot to digest with this season, and we'll do it in chunks. Overall, while it isn't the end of the world to go 8-9, there are some changes required that are glaring the Pats in the mirror.
Mac Jones chugs through adversity & salvages his season
It was common practice to disparage Mac Jones this season. But all things considered, you have to applaud his fortitude for sticking it out in New England this year amidst all the noise.
Let's put Mac's season into context here with a relatable analogy - work.
Imagine you're fresh out of school with nothing but a fancy business degree and a chip on your shoulder. You land a job at a great company, but the guy before you had been doing it for 25 years and was widely regarded as the best to ever do his job. Of course, you can't even touch him...and if EVERYTHING possible goes in your favor, it still won't even be 15 years before you're mentioned in the same breath as your predecessor. A year in, you use your hard-earned PTO to take a three-week vacation with your family, and helping out the company while you're out is an even newer guy. This guy clearly isn't as good at your job as you, but for some reason everyone at your company loves him...and when you come back and take a few days to get back in the rhythm, they want your replacement back.
Oh, and on top of it all, your boss SUCKS...he doesn't know what he's doing in the slightest.
Mac Jones endured all of this and more this season. Between the Bailey Zappe saga, the injuries early in the year, and the atrocious play-calling from Matt Patricia & his cronies, it could've been easy to write off Mac Jones as being the heir to New England's quarterback room. On Sunday against the Bills, he played well enough to give the Pats multiple scoring chances at the end of the game. Sure, he still showed some growing pains, but it's generally accepted that he's not NOT the QB of the future. The Pats have to decide by the end of next season if they'll pick up the remaining two years of his rookie contract, so in many ways, it's a make-or-break year in 2023 for Mac. Keep on chugging.
The coaching needs to be fixed, yesterday
The decisions were awful, all year. Matt Patricia, who was exiled from Detroit after one of the worst head coaching stints ever, was somehow the man that Bill Belichick entrusted with the offense. Now, it's felt like 90 billion screen passes on third-and-long, and the offensive players have been visibly frustrated with Patricia's decision making. Joe Judge contributed to the offensive scheme, too, and shouldn't be off the hook himself. On the special teams front, Cam Achord's seat is getting awfully warm; not only were the Bills able to take two kickoffs to the house on Sunday, but the Vikings ran the eventual game-winner back on Thanksgiving night. Placekicking has been atrocious, even considering Jake Bailey was out and Nick Folk is showing signs of aging. A clean house might be refreshing for this squad.
Look in the mirror, Bill
Let's be clear - I'm not suggesting Bill Belichick should leave, nor do I necessarily think that's the best long-term solution for the New England Patriots. But, if you were him, wouldn't you at least be considering that right now? The eight Super Bowl rings - six as a head coach - three nods as the AP NFL Coach of the Year, and so many Hall of Famers & elite coaches bred under his leadership speak for themselves. Part of you must wonder if BB, who turns 71 in April, is questioning his decision to stick around. Does he want to have to go through the process of developing another young QB? Does he want the pain and suffering of the coaching decisions of his closest confidants? And, what about legacy - does sticking around hurt his eventual perception? Only time will tell what the final story of Bill Belichick will be; certainly written in this story will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame bid, but what happens after 2023 is anyone's guess.