An Open Competition? Belichick’s Comments Extend Beyond QB
Bill Belichick made a variety of comments during his annual press conference at the NFL Coaches Breakfast, which took place on Monday in Arizona. However, one comment in particular set off a variety of reactions among fans who remain unhappy with the New England Patriots’ situation at quarterback.
Belichick was asked on Monday if “it’s fair to say” that both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe will be competing for the starting job over the summer or if it’s Jones’s job to lose.
“Well, everybody will get a chance to play,” said Belichick. “We’ll play our best player.”
He was then asked if it was a competition.
“Everybody will get a chance to play,” said Belichick.
However, the next question asked was whether or not his comment was specific to the quarterback, and Belichick shook his head and said that message extends from top to bottom.
“Every position,” said Belichick. “Everybody will get a chance to play. Everybody that’s on our roster, if they earn an opportunity to play based on what they do in practice and all that, then they’ll get an opportunity to play. Certainly, veteran players that have been on the team, if they’re still on the team, they’ll all get an opportunity to play.”
The message? Last season wasn’t good enough, and he clearly wants everyone putting in the work this offseason before they all come back to work in the coming months.
Given how things went last season, 2023 is obviously a big season for everybody. After finishing below .500 for the second time in two seasons, expectations are high, especially having gone 10-7 with a trip to the postseason barely two years ago during Jones’s rookie season.
Following the departure of Josh McDaniels to Las Vegas last offseason, New England lost both their offensive coordinator and several offensive assistants, leaving the cupboard bare and without a real replacement to coach Jones and the offense heading into the season.
Belichick obviously put things in the hands of Matt Patricia, who clearly did the best he could but trouble seemed to be brewing during training camp and it spilled over into the season.
Things were a mess. The playcalling was inconsistent. The game plans lacked creativity and appeared predictable. Routes didn’t appear sharp, spacing was terrible, and that wasn’t even the worst of what went on last season. According to some things that were reported after the season, the bigger problem was the fact they weren’t given the answers on how to do deal with what defenses started throwing at them later in games.
For a team big on preparation, not having the answers to certain situations was certainly unusual, but that was the reality they faced last season.
This offseason, they wasted little time addressing that issue with the addition of Bill O’Brien, who will be their offensive coordinator in 2023. That in and of itself was a strong start since, having had a history with Jones along with being a terrific offensive-minded coach, it should be exactly what they need to get things headed back in a better direction.
Owner Robert Kraft said on Monday that he felt that Patricia was “put in a difficult position,” and while “he worked very hard at it,” it obviously didn’t work out.
That type of experiment typically can be endured by a young team on the rise with lower expectations. Here in New England, with a coach who has eclipsed 70 and an owner who is now in his 80s, they don’t have the luxury of time. Both want to get back to the pinnacle of where they were, and the goal is to try and win with the nucleus of talent they’re trying to build.
This offseason has already seen some changes. Heading into this season, two of Jones’s closest friends are gone, both of whom the Patriots will face at various points this season. Jakobi Meyers rejoined McDaniels in Las Vegas, while Damien Harris is now in Buffalo playing for the team that remains New England’s nemesis within the Division.
In their place, the Patriots added JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Robinson. They’ve also replaced Jonnu Smith with Mike Gesicki, providing the offense with a more athletic tight end and receiver. Overall, they have a decent group of wideouts in Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, and last year’s rookie, Tyquan Thornton, but whether or not anyone else is brought in remains to be seen.
Will they add another piece before the season? While the next step will be the draft followed by undrafted free agents, Belichick didn’t rule out the team continuing to explore their options.
“You know, there’s a lot of ways that you can acquire players,” said Belichick. “I wouldn’t rule out any of them or rule in any of them. If we can do something we think can help the team, then we’ll do it – given the context of whatever it is. But we’re not afraid to do whatever we need to do that will help the team, whatever that is.”
Either way, the message he sent on Monday is that the expectations are high, and no one was good enough last year. And that definitely needs to change heading into what’s a critical year for everyone, himself included.
“I think we all can improve,” said Belichick. “All of us. Starting with me and every other player and coach that’s here. That’s for all of us.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2023 Patriots Offseason Bill Belichick Mac Jones