Last spring, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said it “bothers” him that his team had not won a playoff game in three years. If that streak hits four, would Kraft consider parting ways with his legendary head coach?
Peter King of NBC Sports seems to believe that’s a realistic possibility.
In his latest “Football Morning in America” column, after lambasting the Patriots’ offense and offensive coaching staff, the longtime NFL insider speculated that Kraft could make major changes to his franchise this coming offseason.
“I think Robert Kraft, who is 81 and will enter his 30th year of Patriots ownership in 2023, is not in this to rebuild deliberately,” King wrote. “He has to be looking at the dung-show on the Patriots’ offensive staff and wondering why Belichick left the offense so wanting this year. Anyway, I can’t see anything weird happening this year. But I have my antennae up about the Patriots for 2023.”
After losing longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders, Belichick controversially opted to replace him with a combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who both had lengthy NFL résumés but zero experience in their new roles. Patricia would call offensive plays, and Judge would coach Mac Jones and the other Patriots quarterbacks, with Belichick overseeing the entire operation.
Thirteen weeks in, that experiment has been a resounding failure. The Patriots, who boasted a borderline top-10 offense in 2021, now rank near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category, and nearly every player not named Rhamondre Stevenson or Jakobi Meyers has regressed. That includes Jones, a Pro Bowl alternate last season who enters Week 14 ranked 24th or worse in passer rating, QBR, interception rate, touchdown rate, expected points added per play and Pro Football Focus grade.
The Patriots have scored one or zero touchdowns in four of their last five games, including a 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills last Thursday that King described as “non-competitive,” “painful” and “hopeless.” Jones and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne voiced their displeasure with Patricia’s play-calling during and after that game, respectively, underscoring a rising level of frustration within the Patriots’ locker room.
Back in March, Kraft said he believed the once-dominant Patriots could return to contender status “as soon as this year.” That has not happened. The Patriots remain in the mix for an AFC playoff spot, but at 6-6, they’ll likely need to win at least three of their final five games to qualify, if not more. They’re 2-4 against teams currently inside the playoff picture — with both wins coming against the Zach Wilson-led New York Jets — and were just thoroughly outclassed by a Bills team that’s now beaten them three times in a row by an average of 18.6 points.
Removing Belichick would be a seismic shakeup, and one Kraft might not be ready to trigger. But the Patriots owner has made his expectations clear, and to this point, his team has not met them. New England has not won a postseason game since defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII and does not look poised for a deep playoff run this season.
The fact that a head-coaching change is even a topic of discussion illustrates how the Patriots have fallen in the post-Tom Brady era.