There are two indisputable facts about the 2023 New England Patriots season:

1. The 4-13 record and last-place finish in the AFC East were nowhere near good enough for a franchise that expects to be contending for championships.

2. The Patriots cannot run it back with the same setup in 2024 and expect different results.

Head coach Bill Belichick mentioned both of those “obvious” points during the opening statement of his end-of-season video conference.

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“It was obviously a very disappointing season all the way around,” Belichick said Monday morning, one day after New England closed out its campaign with a home loss to the hated New York Jets. “Players, coaches, staff, organization, everybody. It is not anywhere close to what our standard and expectations are. So, obviously, things need to be fixed.

“I’m proud of the way the players and the team competed, but not the results, obviously, from any of us — starting with me and all the way down to everybody else that was involved in it. I know we all feel the same way.”

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So, what’s the path forward? How can the Patriots end their drought of five straight seasons without a playoff win and get back to competing for Super Bowls? And will Belichick even be around to oversee that process, which he called a “reconstruction?” The answers to those questions are far less clear.

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Belichick was surprisingly forthright in his presser, saying he remains under contract with the Patriots and will “come in and work as hard as I can to help the team in whatever way I can” until told otherwise. He also indicated he’d be willing to relinquish control of New England’s personnel if he and ownership “collectively … decide as an organization” that doing so would be “the best thing to help our football team.”

The coach’s comments shifted the pressure to team owner Robert Kraft and made a “mutual parting of ways” far less likely. Belichick said he wants to keep coaching the Patriots and is open to reducing the scope of his responsibilities. It’ll now be on Kraft, who is scheduled to meet with Belichick in the coming days, to decide if their visions align — and whether he could stomach outright firing the greatest coach in NFL history.

Whether Belichick stays or goes, the Patriots must do a better job of stocking their roster with the necessary talent, especially on offense. Nearly every external free agent they signed last offseason failed to meet expectations, from pass-catchers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki (combined stats: 58 catches, 504 yards, three touchdowns) to offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson (two total starts).

“The moves that we made, given the options that we had, felt like we did what was best for the football team each time,” Belichick said. “Obviously, the results aren’t good. Some of those things were, I think, positive. Some of them didn’t work out as well as we hoped they would, and there were other circumstances in some of the other decisions as well.

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“So, we’ll go back and look at all of them and, again, look forward to working towards solutions and things that will improve our team.”

The 2024 Patriots have clear needs at tackle, wide receiver and, most notably, quarterback but ample resources to address them. New England ranks third in the NFL in available salary cap space this offseason and owns the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images