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Tuesday Patriots Notebook 7/18: News and Notes

Ian Logue
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2 months ago at 11:05 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Tuesday Patriots Notebook 7/18: News and NotesScott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Some news and notes for this morning:

Curran: Belichick’s Been on the Hotseat Since 2019

Here in New England, the 2022 season remains a frustrating topic, and it’s added some additional pressure on New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the decision to have Matt Patricia and Joe Judge handle the offense following Josh McDaniel’s departure to Las Vegas last offseason turned out so badly.

Given Brady’s free-agent departure ahead of the 2020 season, and his subsequent Super Bowl win, last year’s step backward has certainly increased the chatter about Belichick’s future with the Patriots, which has set the stage for a season where there’s certainly a little more at stake.

NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran appeared on the Rich Eisen show on Monday and was fairly candid about the situation, telling Eisen that Belichick is absolutely under some pressure, which Curran believes started in 2019 after how things played out with Brady in preseason.

“You talk about avoiding the hotseat, Rich, he’s on the hotseat and he’s been there at different levels of warmth since 2019,” said Curran.  “Look at it this way.  In 2019, Tom Brady wanted a 2-year, $50 million guaranteed contract just like Drew Brees had.  He presumed he was going to get that.  In training camp, it still was not forthcoming.  He’s like, ‘You know what?  If I don’t get this thing, I’m walking out.’  It was explained to Belichick that was the case.  They got something done.”

“It was not a two-year guaranteed contract.  It was two years, with a team option.  So at that point, Brady, as we all know, said, ‘O.K. time to go, I’m leaving at the end of the year.'”

“So as that progressed, and the team gets to 8-0 in that season, Brady’s pissed, Kraft is looking at it as, ‘O.K., if we’re moving on from this guy, I hope we have a good plan.’  Brady leaves, Belichick somehow convinces [Patriots Owner Robert] Kraft that not spending that money on Tom Brady was a great idea, he wins a Super Bowl.  The Patriots, under Cam Newton – because they don’t have a plan – were a trainwreck offensively.”

“They have a good 2021.  They bounce back tremendously, with McDaniels doing a great job of orchestrating things with [Mac] Jones.  [Josh] McDaniels leaves, again, no plan for replacement.”

“All those guys they spent $172 million on in guaranteed money in 2022, are so bad, and the decision to have [Matt] Patricia and [Joe] Judge running the offense caused a massive regression and dysfunction.  They were one of the worst teams in the league coach-wise, in terms of penalties and situational football and that just shouldn’t happen.”

“So Kraft has pointed out, and I’m babbling here, a number of times, ‘I’m anxious, I want results,’ and he’s not getting them. And I wonder if Belichick had already passed [Don] Shula, or wasn’t even within hailing distance of Shula, if we would really have this kind of a hand-wringing  ‘What do you do about Bill?’ conversation.  Because it’s not just last year.  It goes back to the midway point of 2019.”

Kraft Walking Back Comments?

Curran also talked about the fact that Kraft has been vocal in his desire to see the team get back to being a playoff contender, which would seemingly insinuate that he’s not happy with where things are at.

However, he also pointed out that Kraft has since started walking back those comments ahead of this season, referring to the difficulty the team faces schedule-wise.

“Kraft has already started walking back the demand for a playoff win,” said Curran. “You can sense it in him saying, ‘I expect us to be a good team, but our schedule is something else.’  So last year, he indicated, ‘it’s been three years since we won a playoff game. I expect to win one now this year.’  They didn’t come close to doing that.”

“So now, you’re looking at a situation where you would expect Kraft to ratchet that up.  He’s kind of walking it back explaining how difficult the schedule is.”

It certainly won’t be easy. The Patriots open the season with two home games against Philadelphia and the Dolphins, followed by two straight road games against the Jets (with Aaron Rodgers) and Cowboys all on deck to begin the first four weeks of the season.

How that stretch unfolds will potentially be key as from there, New England then faces the Saints at home, a trip to Las Vegas, and then the Bills at Gillette Stadium, followed by a trip to Miami for what would be their final game of October.

So by November, we’ll probably know whether they’ve taken a step forward, or if they have their work cut out for them.

How They Look in 2023 Will Be Critical

Curran also went on to say that it likely won’t be their final record that potentially decides Belichick’s future.  It will likely instead be based on how the team looks out on the field, and he believes it clearly needs to be much better than what we saw last season.

“You can’t be situationally stupid.  You can’t have a quarterback who is so disgusted on a regular basis that he’s gesturing toward the sideline in disgust,” said Curran.  “You can’t seem as if you have no clue.  You can’t be one of the worst teams in the red zone or on third down.  All of those things can’t happen.”

“If you improve and you’re in the top 10, and you’re losing games where you just get outplayed instead of lateralling over your head with the game on the line, he’s got a better shot, even if the team finishes 8-9.”

“But if they look disorganized, disfunctional and the discipline is out the window?  Then they might say, ‘That was a great run, but can you go upstairs and just watch Jerod [Mayo] coach next year?”

Hunter Henry has quietly been preparing for 2023. (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

Henry Working Hard Ahead of 2023

Meanwhile, Hunter Henry has been among players who have quietly been working hard, preparing for what will likely be a challenging season.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe actually had a good piece on Henry last week where Henry mentioned he’s been getting himself ready physically and that he’s excited for what’s to come.

”It’s about maintaining your body this time of year, being ready to go,” Henry told Volin. “I’m pumped, man. You get here and it feels like the offseason flew by, but you’re excited because football is finally back. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but excited for it.”

This is Henry’s last break before things really amp up.  To go along with the upcoming season, the veteran also apparently has his second child on the way, which Volin pointed out is due in September.

Henry also talked about the fact he has a close bond with Mac Jones, who he’s mentioned previously that they’re neighbors.  The two got off to a solid start in Henry’s first season, with the former Chargers tight end hauling in a career-high 9 touchdowns, with 68% of his receptions ending up moving the chains.

However, last season, Henry caught just 41 passes for 509 yards and two touchdowns, all three of which were his lowest totals since his rookie year in 2016.

With Bill O’Brien now here in New England running the offense, the hope should be we’ll see Henry have a season more like his first one.  The veteran told Volin that he and Jones have been hard at work this offseason, and he’s looking forward to getting started.

“Me and Mac are close, we spend a good amount of time together, we’ve been throwing, getting after it, just trying to get ready to go,” Henry said. “I think everyone’s excited for a fresh start and a fresh season. Everybody will be fired up and be ready to go.”

Smith-Schuster Expected to be Ready

After missing time during OTAs, it sounds like receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will be out on the field when training camp kicks off.

According to the Boston Globe’s Nicole Yang, the veteran said he’ll be ready to practice next week, with Smith-Schuster reportedly arriving in town this past Monday.

The former Chiefs and Steelers receiver signed a 3-year, $33-million contract this past offseason and has been working his way back from a knee injury he suffered during the Conference Championship earlier this year.

The first public training camp sessions begin one week from tomorrow, with times still yet to be announced.

Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Hunter Henry Joe Judge Josh McDaniels Mac Jones Matt Patricia New England Patriots Robert Kraft

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