New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

When you look this bad in consecutive weeks, there’s a festering problem that goes beyond just the players. There’s also something wrong on the New England Patriots’ coaching staff.

And it begins and ends with the man at the helm of the football operation.

Bill Belichick suffered the worst loss of his career last week against the Dallas Cowboys, based on the 35-point margin of victory. But this was worse. A 34-0 shutout at the hands of the decent-at-best New Orleans Saints, in which Derek Carr and the offense connected for big plays and finished touchdown drives in the red zone, and the Patriots offense bottomed out.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

This game was always going to be sneaky-challenging. Carr isn’t terrible, and the Saints have a handful of legitimate playmakers on both sides of the ball. But for the Patriots to not even be competitive in this game, on their home turf, against a team that’s less than a top contender (like the Cowboys or Eagles), was inexcusable. And it’s impossible to excuse Belichick.

“Plain and simply, we’ve got to find a way to play and coach better than that,” Belichick said after the game. “So that’s what we are going to do, start all over and get back on a better track than we’re on right now.”

The Patriots’ players are certainly not playing well, especially on offense. But at what point do we stop wringing our hands over them and look at the guy tasked with putting them in position to succeed? Because Belichick and his staff aren’t doing that right now.

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Historically, that was Belichick’s calling card. He was ahead of the competition. His guys were going to be the more prepared and disciplined group. It was a big reason for those first three Super Bowl wins. It was key to Malcolm Butler’s championship-saving interception. And it was the main reason Belichick was able to drag one of the worst rosters in the NFL with terrible quarterback play to seven wins in 2020, and to grind out eight wins with a defensive coach running the offense in 2022.

    It’s been a while since the Patriots inspired any confidence that they could beat a good team. But they at least had Belichick’s coaching ready to outclass inferior operations, and to keep it closer than expected against good ones.

    He just got his ass handed to him by Dennis Allen. At home. Allen is in just his fifth season as a head coach in the NFL. He just went into Foxboro and had the significantly better, more prepared team. And this was a group that had issues of their own going into Sunday. Not against Belichick, apparently.

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    The Patriots’ players aren’t THIS bad. They’re objectively more talented on paper now than they were in 2020, and you can make that case against the 2021 team in certain key areas. Their pass-catchers aren’t good, but are they worse than N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Ryan Izzo? Is Jakobi Meyers really that much better than Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, or JuJu Smith-Schuster? (Well, JuJu, yes.)

    There’s a reason this version of the Patriots offense, despite getting an established coordinator in the off-season and building a better collective group of talent, just keeps going backward. There’s a reason they’re plagued by slow starts. Mac Jones was asked what he thinks is behind those.

    “Really, just not being ready to go, I guess,” Jones said. “I mean, as an offense, you want to go out there, you’ve practiced all week and you feel confident so definitely want to get improvement on that. And not any of these games are not starting off very hot, so we’ve just got to improve.”

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints and Tanoh Kpassagnon #92 of the New Orleans Saints sack Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints and Tanoh Kpassagnon #92 of the New Orleans Saints sack Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Players play. It’s not their job to “be ready to go.” That’s on the coaches. That’s on Belichick.

    And with him, it’s extra-complicated because he also picks the players. Belichick can’t pull a Bill Parcells and bemoan his inability to shop for the groceries. And he can’t even make chicken salad out of chicken shit anymore.

    Belichick is responsible for the players. He’s responsible for what they ultimately do (or not do) on the field. So when it gets this bad, he’s responsible for that too.

  • Oct 8, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 8, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Considering the clear improvements the Patriots have made on their roster since 2020, it stands to reason that it’s possible Belichick’s grip on the players is slipping. It’s possible the message isn’t getting through. And if it is, it smells.

    “We’ll keep working on it,” Belichick said, when asked about that.

    Belichick has to be running out of time to work on messaging. It would still be a seismic shock if we wake up Monday morning and Belichick has been let go. It’s more likely that Robert Kraft at least lets the 2023 season plays out.

    But what’s that going to accomplish? Even if Belichick and his staff step up their game, and this Patriots roster suddenly looks prepared, disciplined, a step ahead of the competition? They’re still not overly talented. Jones isn’t good enough to make up for those deficiencies.

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks off the field after his team's 34-0 loss against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks off the field after his team’s 34-0 loss against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Even if Belichick reaches deep down in whatever he’s got left and goes on one last run, and gets the most out of his players … can the Patriots possibly get to nine wins? That seems so far away, that even grinding out 6-7 victories would be a meaningless exercise. Fans across the region are probably already looking at the top draft prospects.

    If anything, Belichick would get in the way of that. But it’s a best-case scenario. Realistically, he’s here to stay for the rest of 2023. But the way it’s going, he won’t be able to eke out many more victories, anyway.

    And if he’s wondering why, he should look in the mirror.

  • Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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