Michael Lombardi is close with Bill Belichick. The two have known each other for years, dating back to the time they spent together with the Cleveland Browns in the 1990s. Later, Lombardi worked on two of Belichick’s New England Patriots coaching staffs, serving as an assistant to the head coach in 2014 and 2015.
It’s always notable, then, when Lombardi, now an NFL analyst, speaks negatively about Belichick or the Patriots on his “GM Shuffle” podcast. And he positively skewered them this week.
After the Patriots’ devastating last-second loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Lombardi took Belichick to task for how ineffective New England’s offense has been this season under the direction of play-caller Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge.
“There’s going to have to be a really hard self-evaluation, and it’s going to have to start with the head coach because they can’t throw the ball,” Lombardi said, as transcribed by MassLive.com. “Let’s just put it out there — they can’t throw the football. This whole Matt Patricia-Joe Judge, it’s not working. We’re in Week 16. You want to say ‘Mac Jones sucks,’ but you watched him last year with Josh McDaniels. He didn’t suck. So, you decide.
“They can’t throw the ball. They have no passing game. They just run plays. I’ve been saying this for how long? It’s bad and it?s not working. It’s just not working.”
Jones had arguably the worst game of his NFL career on Sunday, completing 13 of 31 passes for 112 yards against a terrible Raiders pass defense. He’s regressed sharply since Patricia and Judge took over, with only Baker Mayfield posting a worse QBR through 15 weeks and only four QB’s posting lower passer ratings.
This applies to the Patriots’ offense as a whole, as well. They fielded a borderline top-10 unit in McDaniels’ final year as coordinator but rank among the league’s worst in most categories this season, including third-down offense (29th) and red-zone offense (32nd). New England enters Saturday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals ranked 25th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA (down from ninth in 2021) and 24th in expected points added per play (down from 10th).
Former Patriots players like Julian Edelman and Deion Branch have questioned or criticized New England’s much-maligned offensive coaching setup.
Lombardi compared Belichick’s decision to have Patricia, a defensive coach for most of his career, call offensive plays to Andy Reid’s choice to move respected O-line Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator in 2011. That experiment flopped, with the “dream team” Eagles finishing a disappointing 8-8. Castillo was let go a month into the 2012 season, and the Eagles canned Reid a few months later.
Time will tell whether Belichick will fire or reassign Patricia, or whether the head coach’s own job security could be in jeopardy if the Patriots fail to win a playoff game for the fourth consecutive season.
“I believe this — it’s either coaching, scheme or players. I think you have to really be self-critical if you’re New England and say, ‘We?re just not very well coached on offense, and our schemes are not very good,’ ” Lombardi said. “It’s just fair. The talent level is a lot better. … For them not to be able to throw the football half effectively, it’s mind-blowing.
“We see it in the league, there’s a reason why (Bill) Walsh said years ago, ‘There’s a reason why very few people can evaluate the quarterback and even fewer can coach them.’ This experiment failed. It just doesn?t work. It’s not there. It’s not getting any better. There’s no continuity from week to week to week.”
The 7-7 Patriots have not been eliminated from postseason contention but likely must win at least two of their final three games. They’ll host the Cincinnati Bengals this Saturday and the Miami Dolphins next Sunday before visiting the Buffalo Bills in Week 18.