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Thoughts on the 2-9 New England Patriots

Monday 11/27/23

I think it's worth saying that the 2023 New England Patriots would be a very bad football team even if they had a good quarterback.

The season has gone exactly as I thought it'd go, exactly as I said it'd go, exactly as I'd wrote it go, before it started. This is the kind of record I expected them to have. I saw a five-win team at best. I thought there was a real chance they'd be the worst team in the league. Are they right now?

I'd say they are. It's not just the lack of talent across the roster. They're dysfunctional. The operation is dysfunctional. This team is infected with a kind of mold. This isn't how anything should be run. The coaches and players aren't united in a purpose. There's no efficiency. Attitudes up and down--staff and players--are deplorable.

I listened to a postgame interview with the fourth-round rookie kicker yesterday. This guy has had a terrible year. He missed an easy field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. And he sounded so brazen. Cluelessly brazen. A guy who just doesn't get it. That they used a fourth-round pick on a kicker says a lot in itself. But this is the return? When you had Nick Folk? I know Folk is older, but there was no reason to take this kicker. He doesn't have it. He wasn't some awesome kicker in college. They just...did it. There's a lot of that.

As for the quarterbacks: They did exactly what I thought they'd do: Gave Mac Jones the first half, and Bailey Zappe the second. The Patriots--or Bill Belichick, to be specific--spent the time between games as if this was a college team holding an open quarterback competition during spring practices. Unless Jones was excellent--which he wasn't going to be--they were going to take him out at the break.

Jones was, as he always is--again, because he's exactly what I said he is--terrible. He talks about controlling what he can control, keeps repeating himself, but I don't think he's sincere. I don't think he works hard. I think he's entitled. Full of himself. I think he blames others.

He's in a bad situation on a bad team. But he's a bad quarterback. I don't believe he holds himself accountable. Why is his arm still so weak? You have some control over that. You won't become the Rifleman back there, but you can add some zip to your ball from one season to the next.

But he doesn't choose not to do what it is stupid to do. He has immediate control over that. He sees a receiver down the field--and just about out of range of his arm--with three defenders near him--any one of which could make a play on the ball--and he makes that pass anyway. Easy interception. That was his decision. Additionally, he threw it--as he so often does--off of his back foot. He is not serious enough about his own success to stop doing these things he can simply choose to stop doing. He's not a bad-pass, back-foot addict. He has say.

This man is in for a startling awakening, I believe. He could start for someone else. People in life are almost always stupid, and it's no different with NFL front offices and coaching staffs. It's both the team, the situation, and him. You can tell listening to him that he doesn't believe he's the problem. Or a problem. He's only a problem in his mind insofar as he's been set up to fail, been dicked around with, what have you.

Zappe is like some kid. Looks like some scrappy kid. He has spunk. It's very obvious the team plays for him more than they play for Jones. But he can't be an NFL starter. Scrappy gamer, okay. Right attitude. His attitude is so much different than Jones's, and their respective postgame interviews yesterday made that clear for the latest time.

But Zappe wasn't in the game long before a ball was batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage, and could have been picked if it'd gone in a slightly different direction. He'll always have that issue. I think this could be it for him. I don't know if anyone else would want him as a back-up. I don't think he's a poison, a locker room lawyer, like Jones is. I think he wants to achieve and works hard, whereas with Jones I feel like he believes he's owed things. My sense is that someone like Mac Jones looks at someone like Bailey Zappe as this dirty peasant, while Jones is the one with the pedigree, the royal blood in his veins.

It's depressing to me that all of this has been so obvious to me for so long, and yet no one else was able to see it. If you can't see things like this, what can you see? How could you look at this team, this coaching staff, this head coach, this roster, the past couple of seasons, the quarterback situation, and think they were going to go 10-7?

The Bills aren't even any good this year, so you were spared at least one loss. You know what? The league isn't any good. There is so much poor football being played, and who is a good quarterback right now? Okay, Patrick Mahomes. I'm not impressed with him this season, though. I'm not impressed with any quarterback. The Patriots don't give up a lot of points, but points don't happen in general like they do in seasons past. Is that the Patriots or the way of the league right now? I think it's the latter. The Patriots can hold teams to 10, 4, 17, but they can't score 20. You obviously expect a 2-9 team to have a big points differential, and so far the Patriots have been outscored by their opponents by a total of 100 points. That teams don't score that much against the Patriots, though, is what makes that number notable. They're not losing 42-28. The Patriots are keeping teams to low scores, and they've still been outscored by 100 points, because their offense is that futile.

Then we have the coach. Everyone thinks it's this fait accompli that Bill Belichick will be fired by Robert Kraft. I don't know that. If I fell asleep right now and woke up in next October and put on the TV, I wouldn't be shocked to see Belichick on the Patriots' sideline. I truly question whether Robert Kraft would have the balls to fire Bill Belichick. I watch Robert Kraft let what is happening keep happening. There are still six more games left. Six weeks of these painful postgame press conferences.

I watched Belichick's yesterday as well and found it bizarre. He's ambivalent. As if he knows something. He gives the same curt answers as he always has, but now he's more suggestive of this shrugging old man who has been found out at doing something he shouldn't have done, but not something terrible. Like he had more sweets than he should have despite what his doctor told him when he was staying at his daughter's house over Thanksgiving--snuck down at night for extra cookies, then was confronted in the morning.

It's hard for me to think that Belichick is just going along here, losing games, finishing the year, knowing that Kraft is going to fire him. What I'm sure Kraft would prefer is for Belichick to have something worked out elsewhere, and have it be Belichick's actual decision to leave. But who would hire this guy to do anything? To coach? Why? Would he just coach and not be the GM? That's a step backwards.

Would he come in as some team's president of football operations or whatever term? The way that Parcells and Coughlin did? Doesn't get him his win record. He's coaching like he doesn't care about that record. I guess he might not, but I find that pretty unlikely. Which makes me think he believes he'll get it somewhere else and could well already know where that will be. I'm not sure he'd get it even if he does have another job lined up.

What else can you say? A morbid curiosity was about the only reason to watch those two teams go at it yesterday. The Giants' quarterback was an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. That's not a whole lot better--if at all--than being an undrafted quarterback out of Boston College.

On a more general note, I find all of football so unpalatable now. Aesthetically, to put it in architectural terms, the NFL is like Brutalist architecture. It's unpleasing to look at. You're seeing a real drop off in quarterback play, which is a big deal, because the entire game is designed for the quarterback. Poor fundamentals. The charm has gone out of college football. NIL deals, the transfer portal, and targeting calls have made it this whole other thing. You feel it in the games. Tonally there is something much more insincere here. Watch a game from 1994 on YouTube. Hear how it's discussed. See what the thing looks like. Note how the announcers talk about that particular senior. How the thing looks. Feels.

Someone might counter, "That's progress!" Because of technology, people think change means progress. They associate the two because of Twitter and their new iPhone. We're devolving. Degrading. Culture. Society. Mental health. Standards. We are increasingly less organic, too. It's not progress. Progress, ironically, would be helped by looking back, realizing, bringing certain things forward, and also thinking differently--freshly, newly--because of what one realized and understood.

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