Matt Cassel: Why Patriots players need to handle their concerns in-house

·4 min read

Cassel: Patriots aren't helping themselves by airing concerns publicly originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

I have followed the Patriots for a long time and spent my first four NFL seasons in New England. I can't remember another year in which so many players have spoken publicly about change, about the team's philosophy and even about their own frustrations.

It's a different mode of operation than when I was there, because there's usually a closed-door policy with players: You talk about yourself, you don't talk about other people's injuries, and you definitely don't talk about scheme or anything else the team is doing.

It seems like it has gotten away from that, to the point where players are more open to criticizing the system or venting their frustrations. I'm not a big fan of that development, because if you have too much of that discussion, then it becomes a problem.

Patriots Talk: Did the Patriots blow it when passing on Lamar Jackson? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Open conversations are important to have. However, there's a time and a place for them. It's been strange for me to watch Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and to some extent Mac Jones making comments about the offense throwing certain things out and shifting its philosophy.

Bill Belichick knows everything. He knows these comments are being made. And the Bill that I know would address it immediately. I don't know if there would be consequences, but it would be addressed. It wouldn't be one of those things that would be left open for people to wonder about what the comments meant.

If I'm Matt Patricia and I see these comments, I'm calling these players in to have open, 1-on-1, adult conversations: "Hey, let's get this figured out, OK? I know you might have frustrations and there might be some frustrations on my end, too, but I'm not sitting here and telling the media that. Instead, we've got to get this figured out now, because sooner or later it will come back to bite us, and it won't help us progress to where we want to be as an offense."

With Mac Jones, you can tell based on some of the comments he's made that there might be some level of frustration -- that or he's just being blatantly honest with his feelings about the new philosophy and what the team has to do. I think it's also the right of the quarterback, if you do feel strongly one way or the other, to go behind closed doors and have that adult conversation -- "Hey, I really like this idea," or "I'm uncomfortable with this. Can we watch more film? Can I get a better understanding for what we're trying to do?" -- to get on the same page.

That comes with growth with a new coordinator, and it also comes with the process early in the season of figuring out your identity as a team.

But at the end of the day, he's the leader of the team. And I think how he buys in plays a big role in the locker room.

If players are questioning things and there's a lack of buy-in or commitment, it's really hard to win football games. When I was with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 -- the year that Tony Romo got hurt -- some of the players were open about their frustrations, and it hurt us as a team.

Bill Belichick knows everything. He knows these comments are being made. And the Bill that I know would address it immediately.

Matt Cassel

I understand that players want to do their best every week, and there are times where you'll have disagreements with your coaches. There are times when you might not have the same belief in the general philosophy.

But I've always found that the people who handle those disagreements in-house are better off for it.

You know everybody else in the locker room reads players' comments, especially in the age of social media. I think this has to be addressed and somehow reined in a little bit, otherwise I think it will have a negative impact moving forward.

Winning solves a lot of complicated situations and makes everybody feel a lot better throughout the course of the week. So part of it is just being able to string wins together. It's tough to lose in this league, because you have to find answers quickly in a seven-day period.

As long as they put a good product on the field, string together wins and start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, then everybody is going to feel better.

Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.