It is hard to believe that it has been 22 seasons since the New England Patriots traded for Bill Belichick, but here we are. Time sure flies when you are chasing Super Bowl rings! Nevertheless, the team is now two seasons removed from being contenders, and the buzz is wearing off. The oddsmakers have set their win total at 8.5 games for this coming season, and most people say that is optimistic. Now, Belichick will face his most challenging season since in New England.
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the team this season. One question that comes up often is about Belichick’s age of 70, but that should not be a concern. It has nothing to do with why he faces the most challenging season of his Patriots career. In fact, he is as sharp as always. He seems to be feeling great and is very confident in his ability, but therein lies the rub. He is, perhaps, too confident.
Belichick Faces Most Challenging Season in New England
A big concern surrounding New England is that Belichick has stretched himself too thin. The Patriots have the least number of coaches in the league, which means a more extensive workload for Belichick. In the past, he was able to focus most of his attention on defense and special teams because he knew Josh McDaniels could handle the offense. Now, the defensive genius will have his attention divided more towards the offense, which will take away from the defense.
There Is No Sense of Urgency From Belichick
Having to start over with a new, still unnamed offensive coordinator and simplifying the offense is not how it was supposed to be for second-year quarterback Mac Jones. It did not have to be this way. There is no excuse for not having a plan to replace McDaniels with someone that has experience calling plays on offense, let alone the offense that Jones learned. Joe Judge or Matt Patricia is not the answer right now, maybe down the road. The players, fans, and owners do not want to wait for coaches to learn an offense so that they can coach it. Belichick seems to have no sense of urgency. In today’s NFL, this is not a winning recipe.
It is unfair to players to have to install a simplified offense so the coaches can train on the job. These are not the best offensive coordinators available or even offensive coordinators. It appears they are there because it is best for Belichick. It must help that their former teams still pay them until they become officially named to a coordinator position, which they have not.
Keeping Spirits High Will Be Challenging
There was a mixed reaction when the Patriots said they were installing a new, more simplified offense. To some, it made sense so the newer players could all play faster and think less. To others, it sounds like a step backward for Jones. Only time will tell if this is what is best for the team, but so far, it is not going well. Training camp has been downright miserable for the offense.
It has been so bad that they did not attempt to use the new plays in the first preseason game. Jones did not even play a series, which is a wasted opportunity. It is also an emotional letdown for him not to be able to play in a prime-time, nationally televised game because the offense is not ready. So now, Belichick will also have a challenge keeping spirits high in the locker room and getting these players to buy in.
A Mountain of Concerns
While the mountain of concerns continues to pile up, Belichick is not worried and appears to be winging it. When asked about the team’s direction, he said, “don’t worry about it; we’ll figure it out.” To his credit, if anyone can figure it out, it is him. However, it is hard to see how he can overcome the following:
- New coaches that are not versed in the system or offense, in general, will be his most challenging obstacle.
- Installing new elements of an offense.
- New players on the offensive line and the durability of Trent Brown.
- The ability of Malcolm butler at corner is unknown. Can he still play man coverage, or will they be forced to play zone?
- The division and the conference are loaded for the foreseeable future.
- Not having any elite skill players.
- Questions at linebacker.
- The absence of Ernie Adams, who was invaluable to in-game management.
- A struggling and seemingly demoralized offense.
On the bright side, we may see some offensive play calls from Belichick. That will be must-see TV. It is still unclear who will be the de facto offensive coordinator, though. That information is as hard to come by as a classified document. However, Belichick should be hovering around the offensive play caller and have input. He has always had input on offensive play calls. He knows what the defense is doing and how to beat it. From a defensive point of view, his information was always helpful to Tom Brady and McDaniels when installing offensive game plans.
Belichick has now backed himself into a corner, and Robert Kraft himself has applied more pressure. The future Hall of Fame owner has expressed his displeasure with not winning a playoff game in 3 seasons. It is now looking like it is going to be four seasons. So, this will undoubtedly be Belichick’s most challenging season in New England.