It’s easy to laugh when your team is up by two touchdowns. Jokes and giggles are plentiful when the Colt McCoy-led Arizona Cardinals — Kyler Murray left the game after suffering a non-contact injury — turn the ball over on consecutive possessions, the first of which was converted for a touchdown.
Once the game gets to that point, no one cares that the New England Patriots struggling starting quarterback is waiving off the offensive coordinator on national television. Instead, Matt Patricia and Mac Jones get to have a light-hearted moment on the sidelines with the game well in hand. All while knowing that unless the Las Vegas Raiders fire Josh McDaniels in the next 24 hours, and the Patriots re-hire him as offensive coordinator before their Sunday trip to Sin City, another blowout wild-card loss to the Buffalo Bills is probably the best the Pats can do this season.
Jones has clearly regressed. In 2021, he was the best quarterback in his rookie class, and even got one of those backup prom date appearances in the Pro Bowl. Even if the league decided against doing away with its tackle-football all-star game, the only way he would’ve made the team for a second-consecutive season is if he crossed a picket line.
While it has been a rough second year for him, maybe some of his struggles could have been avoided if the Patriots had not wasted cap space on several non-No. 1 wide receiver options. Jakobi Meyers is a solid NFL player, but no quarterback would think, “throw it up, Jakobi’s down there somewhere.”
Offensive playmaking talent is always helpful for a young quarterback, but a real offensive coaching staff would have been even better. Instead, New England decided that there was no need to name an offensive coordinator to start the season. And their quarterbacks coach? That would be former Giants head coach Joe Judge (for all of two seasons). Prior to that, Judge rose through the coaching ranks primarily as a special teams coordinator. Much can be learned in that role, but probably not the skills necessary to nurture a young quarterback.
So who calls the plays for the Patriots? Currently, that would be the pencil in hat, defensive specialist, Patricia. As great as Bill Belichick is as a head coach, his decision to throw darts at a wall for an offensive coaching staff is why his players have been upset with the play-calling and Jones could be heard cursing on primetime television.
Belichick could get away with an unconventional offensive staff if Tom Brady was still his quarterback, but they are currently starting the No. 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the goal is to develop a long-term starter, he has to be cared for. Instead, all Jones has been presented with is inexperience and a lack of clarity.
Fortunately, for New England, Belichick might be the greatest defensive mind in the history of the NFL. This defense — that lost talent in free agency during the offseason — is a dominant unit. It’s the main reason why the Patriots are clinging to that final AFC playoff spot. Rhamondre Stevenson has been a productive running back, but before last night the Patriots hadn’t scored a rushing touchdown in five weeks. He also went down with an injury and didn’t finish the game.
Kyler Murray’s injury definitely put the Cardinals in a tough spot last night, but that organization has its own problems. With many Pats fans in the stands in Glendale, Ariz., that injury made it all the more likely that Belichick’s team would pull out a win and raise their record over .500.
Even though that was the final result, don’t pat the Patriots too hard on the back. They have failed their young quarterback in his second season. Hanging onto the final — expanded — playoff spot by defeating a team that turned the ball over on consecutive possessions doesn’t change that.