Offseason soul-searching awaits for the failed Patriots | lifestyle

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick has been sullen throughout the preseason whenever questions have arisen about his decision to entrust the Patriots’ offense to Matt Patricia, an assistant coach with a defensive pedigree.

The regular season games on that side ended with New England’s 35-23 loss in Buffalo on Sunday. The Patriots finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Quarterback Mac Jones returns during a failed season in which the Patriots’ offense ranked in the bottom half of the league in points per game and red zone touchdowns.

One of the obvious finds of the 2021 rookie class, he missed three games with an ankle injury and saw his production suffer as he struggled to adjust to the departure of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Jones, praised by Belichick for his high ceiling after his rookie year in the Pro Bowl, received more muted support during the coach’s season-ending press conference on Monday.

“Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league,” Belichick said. “We all have to work together as a football team, which is obviously an important position at quarterback, to try to find the best way to be more productive than we have been this year. So it is the responsibility of all of us. We will all work together on this.”

The 70-year-old coach confirmed he plans to return for his 24th season in New England after finishing just his third sub-.500 with the Patriots.

But Belichick dodged questions about whether Patricia, an offensive lineman, would return to that role.

“I think you learn everything every year,” Belichick said. “You learn the players, the team, how certain teams behave and react to certain things, what is easy for some teams and what is difficult for some.”

As for Jones, he offered a quick “no” when asked if he was satisfied with his progress.

“Obviously you look at every year in your football life and you want to improve as a player,” he said. “And I did, I learned a lot. A lot of guys on our team learned a lot. But it wasn’t the kind of progress any of us wanted to make. It starts with me.”


There have been some positives this season, particularly the production of rebounding Rhamondre Stevenson and the emergence of rookie Marcus Jones as a versatile contributor.

Stevenson finished with 1,040 rushing yards and five touchdowns in his sophomore season, the first 1,000-yard season for a Patriots player since 2016.

Primarily a special teams player early in the season, Jones had a punt return for a touchdown, a receiving TD and an interception return for a score.

“There were certainly a lot of examples where players in the rookie class showed promise and got some experience,” Belichick said of Jones. “We’ll try to build on that.”


Two players who may not be in 2023 are special teams captain Matt Slater and safety Devin McCourty.

The 37-year-old Slater, a two-time All-Pro, has started 222 games and is second only to Tom Brady in games played for the Patriots. He hasn’t missed a single game in the last five seasons.

McCourty, a longtime defensive captain, started all 205 games in which he appeared, missing just five regular season games. He is tied for the team lead with four interceptions this season and ranks fifth on the Patriots list in games played.

Both played on one-year contracts this season.

McCourty lingered on the field after Sunday’s loss and said he realized time was running out for him and Slater, who he said has become one of his best friends.

“He’s 37. I’m 35. You can’t play this game forever,” McCourty said. “There’s a big unknown with all of this, even what we decide or even what other people decide, if you’re able to play somewhere and figure it out.”

Slater said he has no regrets if this is the end.

“I gave it everything I had,” he said.


It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Patriots.

They’ve had mixed results from their free agency spending spree in 2021 and face decisions on several key contributors who can hit the open market.

The list includes receiver Jakobi Meyers, cornerback Jonathan Jones, running back Damien Harris, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Slater and McCourty.

Jonathan Jones may be the only real priority to return, though Meyers finished the year on an upswing after his late-game sideline debacle in the Patriots’ loss to the Raiders.

Meyers said he still has to think about the future.

“Honestly, I haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he said. “I’ve been kind of injured all year, so I’m even more excited to be healthy. … Then I’ll probably find out what awaits me next.”

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