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Patriots captain Deatrich Wise Jr. talks Bill Belichick, current state of team and No. 3 draft pick

Deatrich Wise Jr. is a uniquely positioned player with a foot in two alternate realities for the New England Patriots.

On one end, he witnessed the final chapters of the Patriots’ dynasty as a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He contributed in helping the team knock off the Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl LIII for the franchise’s sixth Lombardi Trophy.

But then there’s the other present reality that has the Patriots sitting near the bottom of the league with a 4-13 regular season record and last place in the AFC East. This is the reality where both Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick aren’t just gone.

Both are out of the league entirely.

Wise stands at the epicenter of what the Patriots once were and what they’ve now become. So who better to ask about why things are the way they are right now? What went wrong for the Patriots in 2023?

Most would be quick to put the onus on the offense for the team’s struggles, but Wise refused to point fingers at any one individual or unit for the worst season in Belichick’s 24 years as the Patriots’ coach.

“There were so many issues. You can’t just pinpoint one,” Wise told Patriots Wire. “I think one of the issues was our inability to play football. As coach always says it, play three phases of football. So sometimes our offense would be doing good and our defense won’t be doing good.

“Or our special teams is balling, but then offense and defense isn’t doing good. We didn’t have a game where offense, defense and special teams was playing their best game ever. It was always one, this, that and the other. So as coach always says, we need to be able to play four quarters and have all three phases playing at a high level all of the time. …Our three phases weren’t playing at a high level, like we know we can.”

The stats tell a completely different story when it comes to the Patriots defense. Despite dealing with numerous injuries throughout the season, they still finished sixth in total yards allowed with opponents averaging only 301.6 yards per game against them. They also had the fifth-best red zone scoring defense in the league.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the offense, which was tied with the Carolina Panthers for dead last in scoring and ranked as the third-worst in total yards.

“To blame one person, it will not really paint the entire picture of the season,” said Wise. “Like coach always says, coaches lose games, players win games. I never really agreed with that. I just think we win together and we lose together.

“A lot of coaches and players will take the blame for a lot of things, and it shows good leadership. But at the end, when you cut on the film, it’s a team effort. We’re all playing this game. We all prepare for this game, and we all need to prepare and play the game together and at a high level.”

Not only did the Patriots lose in the 2023 season, but they also lost their head coach. After the season was over, owner Robert Kraft and legendary coach Bill Belichick agreed to part ways, bringing an end to one of the greatest eras of football.

From an outside perspective, Belichick has always been a stern, no-nonsense coach that approaches every aspect of football with a bootcamp mentality. However, according to Wise, the 71-year-old coach has a softer and more humorous side as well.

That’s the side Wise admits he’ll miss most.

“Coach always had a lot of dry humor. He always told jokes in the meeting room. I know it’s hard to believe that he’d be laughing or telling a joke, but he would have little jokes in the offseason,” Wise said, when asked to share his best Belichick memory. “And sometimes, his jokes were hilarious. I’ll definitely miss his dry humor in the meeting room. Sometimes, he’d get on guys and pull their leg a bit, and it was pretty funny to see.

“…I don’t know [if he returns to coaching]. Maybe he’ll do what I’ve seen other coaches do in the past: Take a year off, come back and have a great season somewhere else. Maybe he goes into TV. …Maybe he becomes the “Bar Rescue” of all coaches and goes around, program to program, and fixes teams. But we don’t know what he’ll do. Maybe he’ll just sit back and go on a golf course somewhere with Nick Saban, out there chilling—him and Pete Carroll, talking about the good, old days.”

An end of an era for Belichick in New England opened the door to a new era featuring newly-hired head coach Jerod Mayo. The former All-Pro linebacker came up under Belichick as both a player and coach, and now, he’ll be taking the reins as the leading man on the sidelines.

Wise is looking forward to playing under Mayo and first-time defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington in 2024.

“Honestly, I think those are two great leaders of our team in the past,” said Wise. “They know how to boost morale. They know how to lead guys. They know how to use experience because they have experience to help the team call plays and things like that. They’re all high-level thinkers. They see big pictures, and they do a good job demonstrating what they see to other players on the team.”

Along with the new coaches, Wise is also looking forward to seeing the growth from the Patriots’ rookies in their second season. Don’t let the bad record fool you into thinking the 2023 NFL draft was an absolute bust for New England.

They came away with some future game-changers with cornerback Christian Gonzalez, receiver Demario Douglas, linebacker/safety Marte Mapu, offensive lineman Sidy Sow and defensive end Keion White.

“The whole rookie class, not to pump gas or anything, they’re very impressive, from “Pop” Douglas to Tay (Mapu). Tay is hard hitting, very versatile player,” said Wise. “The two silent assassins was Keion White and Christian Gonzalez. They don’t say much at all, but they go out there and play big. Christian is smooth out there on that edge, and Keion is just strong and explosive, super athletic, going in there and making plays.

“And then the offensive line, they’re doing a good job too with Sidy Sow. He’s bringing the pain to some of these guys locking them up. So it’s been really good to see these new guys on our team and what they can do. I’m looking forward to seeing them all thrive next year.”

The entire Patriots team could be in a position to thrive in 2024 and beyond. They’ll be entering free agency with roughly over $66 million in cap space, which is currently the third-most in the NFL. The team will also own the No. 3 overall pick of the 2024 NFL draft.

A few great decisions could get the Patriots back on track to winning football games again. But the wrong decisions could set the franchise back even further than it already is currently.

Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne recently suggested the team not trade their first-round draft pick. He’d much rather see them stand pat and take one of the top players on the board. In his eyes, that player would be LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, if available.

Wise doesn’t have a favorite player at No. 3, but he agreed with Bourne about a potential trade down scenario.

“I don’t have a favorite player on the board,” said Wise. “We know, between Tom Brady and [Brock] Purdy, it doesn’t matter where you get picked at as long as you ball out. So whoever they pick, they’ve got to come in and play. But you asked me a question, I think they should keep the third pick and make something happen.”

The Patriots made something happen for nearly 20 years, when drafting Brady with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. History isn’t likely to repeat itself in that regard. Lightning rarely ever strikes twice.

But the right draft pick could get the Patriots closer to the storm.

Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire