It's still not sinking in how bad this Patriots season has become originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The world at large still doesn’t believe the Patriots are THAT bad.
Proof? The 3-8 Giants are 3.5-point home underdogs to 2-8 New England this Sunday at MetLife. And that’s coming off a 31-19 win over the Commanders.
The Patriots just lost at home to the ‘Manders two weeks ago. And before Sunday’s bye came the impotent 10-6 loss to the Colts in Frankfurt.
Is the thinking that the Patriots put Tommy DeVito’s brain in a blender and … what? Win 3-0? What are we looking at when we think the Patriots are better than any team right now?
According to offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, as of Monday morning, who starts at quarterback against the Giants is undetermined.
So pulling Mac Jones after the unforgivable interception against the Colts and bringing in Bailey Zappe for the final drive with the team trailing 10-6 was not, in fact, crossing the Rubicon.
That Belichick can go back to Mac after a vote of "no-confidence" like we saw in Frankfurt is head-scratching. It’s head-scratching in the same way having Malik Cunningham as Jones’ backup against the Raiders was head scratching. Or opting for JuJu Smith-Schuster instead of Jakobi Meyers. Or drafting two tight ends in the third round of the 2020 draft then spending a boatload on two more tight ends in free agency 11 months later. Or spending a first-round pick on a guard the league viewed as a third-rounder in the 2022 draft. Or installing a defensive coordinator as the offensive coordinator.
Nobody makes more “hold my beer” decisions than Bill.
The Patriots will go out to practice in earnest on Tuesday and Wednesday and take Thanksgiving off. When a final decision comes? No indication.
I don’t know what sin you need to commit to get the hook, but Jones’ pick against the Colts wasn’t it.
Meanwhile, it’s taking an extremely long time for people to realize how bad the Patriots truly are.
Understandable to a degree. As long as Bill Belichick prowls the Patriots sideline, the team will get the benefit of the doubt. If I had a dime for every time a former coach, player or talking head said, “I’d never bet against Bill Belichick…” I’d have at least enough to buy a coffee.
I cast that stone knowing I’m guilty of the same “It’s Bill Belichick … they’ll fix it …” mentality. How’d I figure this Patriots team for 10 or more wins? Simple. With better offensive coaching, they wouldn’t play with the same level of undisciplined, situational stupidity they did in 2022. The whole would be greater than the sum of its parts as it had so often been for this franchise.
With quality control, discipline and some good luck on the injury front, we’d see old school “Patriots football.” And we have. Unfortunately, they’ve gone way old school. We haven’t seen a Patriots product this bad since the 1992 season when they went 2-14.
The gods smiled on Foxboro for the next 12 months. Bill Parcells was hired in late January of 1993, Drew Bledsoe was drafted in April ’93 and Robert Kraft bought the team in January '94.
The Patriots are as bad right now as they were pre-Parcells. The team’s point differential through 10 games is minus -97. The only times in franchise history they’ve had a point differential greater than minus-100 came in 1992, 1990, 1972, 1970, 1968, and 1967.
The Patriots averaged 11.3, 13.2 and 12.8 points per game from 1990 through 1992. They are currently averaging 14.1. Adjusted for inflation, this might be worse.
There’s no way they’ll be as bad as 1990 (1-15, minus-265 differential). They have 1992 (2-14, minus-168) in their sights, though.
The Patriots have had seven players spend time in the quarterback room this season: Jones, Zappe, Will Grier, Cunningham, Ian Book, Matt Corral and Trace McSorley.
Jones is clearly the best player in the group. (Which I know is damning with faint praise.) But when the protection is non-existent -- as it was against Indy when he took five first-half sacks -- his synapses start misfiring. Even in games where things are going blissfully along -- like the second Dolphins game -- he’ll still make a paralyzingly bad throw that takes points off the board.
He glitches. In game situations, he’ll see a play going south and try to rescue it. Kind of an anti-MacGyver. Or he’ll decide, “I have the arm for that…” when he clearly doesn’t. It costs the team games and wastes sometimes outstanding defensive performances.
Jones, quite likely, will win in practice. He’ll look like the best quarterback because he is. But if nobody can beat Jones out in practice and he starts Sunday against the Giants, that’s not cause for chest-puffing.
It’s merely an admission that the team has nowhere else to go.