Mike Lombardi says Patriots still have to figure out their offensive identity

·4 min read

Perry: Do Lombardi's comments hint at offensive changes for Patriots? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A little more than a week before the Week 1 matchup between the Patriots and Dolphins, Bill Belichick's longtime friend and former assistant Mike Lombardi recorded a podcast saying that Belichick had a real challenge on his hands.

He would have to "fix" the Patriots offense.

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Lombardi worked with Belichick both in Cleveland (as director of player personnel) and in Foxboro (as assistant to the coaching staff) and now hosts The GM Shuffle podcast with Femi Abebefe. In an episode last week, Lombardi was asked what kind of challenge it would be for the Patriots to cope now that Josh McDaniels is the head coach of the Raiders and no longer coordinating the offense in New England.

"I think it's huge," Lombardi said. "I think that's the challenge that New England has. How do they change? How do they adapt? How do they stay focused? Steve Jobs talks about focus, right? When you make a change like this, I think ultimately it affects you because people say, 'You lose your focus. You're going to have someone new come in.' I say, to me, it's a little bit different.

"I think when you make changes like this, your focus, you have so many people that want to have an impact, want to do different things, that you lose your focus a little bit. I think this is what you see in the summer with the Patriots."

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Lombardi -- whose son Mick worked for the Patriots as receivers coach in 2020 and 2021, and who was hired by McDaniels as Raiders offensive coordinator this offseason -- indicated that focus for the Patriots might be lacking because of the input coming from a variety of sources who've filled in on the offensive coaching staff with McDaniels gone.

"I think," Lombardi said, "you see a little lack of focus [offensively] because they're kind of all over the place, right? I think what Bill, to me, what Bill -- and Bill is very much like Steve Jobs in the sense of how he thinks about things...

"Steve Jobs says, 'People think focus means saying yes to things you focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the other 100 good ideas that are there. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually (as) proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.'

"I think this is the challenge that awaits Bill as he watches his offense this summer. How does he say no to all these ideas that these new coaches have come into, and remain focused on the task at hand? I think that's the real challenge, right? I think that's what they have to do."

A great deal of attention has been paid to which assistant will be calling offensive plays for the Patriots in McDaniels' absence. Who will be signalling play-calls into Mac Jones?

But Lombardi says Belichick's focus now has to be wider than that in scope.

"People say, 'Well, who's the coordinator?' No. I think they have to figure out what their offense is and what it isn't," Lombardi said. "Everybody is caught up in who is calling the plays. They've run the outside zone most of the summer, they haven't been very effective [with] it.

"Bill's strength is being able to focus and understand what is urgent and important. I think that's where he'll have to fix the offense. That's where time will tell. Losing Josh is going to be a problem. However, that being said, if [Belichick] can get this turned around in that area, I think that can be corrected."

Lombardi has for decades been a trusted voice for Belichick. With Lombardi in Vegas last month, the pair spoke at length while the Raiders and Patriots prepared for one of their joint practices. To hear what he says in this podcast episode -- that Belichick may have to either fix this new scheme or potentially shift his focus elsewhere -- hints at the Patriots making significant offensive changes with only a few days before kickoff in Miami.

It sounds like a relatively drastic re-route, potentially. Especially since it seems as though Belichick has been preaching patience in the buildup to Week 1.

But few people would know better than Lombardi about Belichick's willingness to make that kind of change in course. And it appears as though a new focus -- perhaps even saying no to the idea of leaning on outside zone runs -- is in play.