At this point, nothing hurts the New England Patriots offense more than the truth. Especially when it comes from the opponent.
Nearly three years after the departure of Tom Brady and nearly a year after losing former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots rank 20th in the NFL in points per game and 24th in yards per game. The team is 6-6, good for last place in the AFC East. After a promising rookie year, 2021 first-rounder Mac Jones has seemingly stagnated and bristled at the team's play-calling.
Calling those plays has been former Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who is currently working as the Patriots' offensive line coach and senior football advisor after rejoining the team last year. Before this season, Patricia had zero offensive play-calling experience. He barely had any offensive experience at all, and his last stint on that side of the ball was in 2005.
So it's hard to blame Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph for playfully noting Patricia's experience, or lack thereof, while discussing their "Monday Night Football" opponent:
"I see an offense that's running the football well. It's a very conservative pass game, lots of screens. It's like a defensive guy's calling offense. It's how a defensive guy would call offensive plays, right? Let's not turn the ball over, let's get four yards a play, try to burn clock and that's what they're doing. That's what he's going to do Monday night. Be patient, maybe take a shot here from time to time, but for the most part, it's running game, it's quick game and it's screens."
Not exactly an endorsement of where the Patriots offense is going. Joseph is a former head coach himself, having led the Denver Broncos in 2017 and 2018 before landing in his current position with the Cardinals
Vance Joseph is right, Matt Patricia and the Patriots are conservative on offense
An opposing defensive coordinator taking a shot at a team's offense days before a game would normally be some prime bulletin board material, but what did Joseph say that Patricia can deny?
Over the past six weeks, no player has thrown more screens than Jones' 37, per Pro Football Focus. Few teams enjoy running the ball more, be it on first down or third down, leading or trailing, than the Patriots. The team throws so many short passes that Jones profanely called them out at the end of their last game.
The one area where Joseph might be inaccurate is the Patriots not turning the ball over (though, granted, we don't know hard they're trying). The team is currently seventh in the NFL in giveaways per game.
What's sad is how predictable all this felt. It is a testament to Bill Belichick's credibility that he didn't receive more criticism when word leaked out that he was picking between Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge, another former head coach and Patriots retread, to call plays on offense. Especially given that Judge had no offensive experience whatsoever.
Belichick has obviously never been shy about running an unconventional coaching staff — the team still doesn't have an offensive or defensive coordinator in name — but this setup has so far not worked out, and we've now reached a point where an opposing coach is chuckling about it. As time goes on, the responsibility for that will be more and more on Belichick himself.