For a New England Patriots franchise that previously considered anything less than a Super Bowl title a failure, it’s safe to say that standards have slipped dramatically in Foxborough. Over the past two decades or more, every Patriots fan has heard about the importance of paying attention to detail, planning ahead, and zigzagging when others are down.
Oh how the mighty fell.
Most of the time, things went positively for Robert Kraft and his beloved team. However, ever since Bill Belichick bet that he could sustain the NFL’s most successful dynasty without Tom Brady, the Patriots have struggled to score points, fallen in the power standings, and missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons.
Of course, Belichick deserves the lion’s share of the criticism as to why New England has gone from dominating the AFC East to eyeing last place in 2023. As the ultimate decision-maker in all things football, he is responsible for the failure. Draft picks like N’Keal Harry, Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel, and Joejuan Williams. However, even though Belichick hasn’t made any notable improvements to the roster, it certainly seems like his boss is excited about the future.
However, while Patriots fans may be heartened by Robert Kraft’s rosy assessment of Belichick’s latest draft, that doesn’t change the fact that this team is nowhere near in contention for its eighth Lombardi Trophy.
Robert Kraft is a firm believer in the New England junior class
It’s safe to say that ownership of the New England Patriots has an optimistic view of what lies ahead.
However, it remains to be seen if that initial positivity about the Patriots’ 12-player recruiting class will continue by the end of the season. After all, though Kraft clearly has huge expectations, Belichick’s inconsistent performance as general manager should leave some cause for concern.
However, the deep group headed by first-place finisher Cristian Gonzalez has a lot of pressure to contribute quickly on its collective shoulders.
At the end of draft day, [Patriots president] Jonathan [Kraft] And I was talking, and I said, “That was a great draft, great. I’m really optimistic about the team.” He said: You say that every year! But I really believe in it. We were able to get the top seven picks that we selected before the draft. I think it gives us a good balance of our needs. According to ESPN, Kraft said, I think free agent pickups and getting Bill O’Brien would make a big difference.
Considering the outspoken owner who called out the team’s poor drafting last season, it’s surprising to see him speak so glowingly before OTAs or training camp. And given the relatively disappointing early returns from the class of 2022 that included arriving in the first two rounds, why is Kraft still giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt?
The New England Patriots are where they are because of their mistakes
It might be unfair to call the front office and ownership a delusion, but it certainly wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is a lack of self-awareness within the walls of One Patriot Place.
To put it bluntly: New England is no longer a threat.
After spending many years capturing divisional titles and hosting AFC Championship Games, this franchise has fallen from the top of the mountain into the pit of mediocrity. A roster that previously included Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Donta Hightower has nothing close to this level of star power. And given the way Mac Jones has been handled, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bailey Zappe (or another quarterback) start games for the Patriots in 2023.
Suffering during Cam Newton/COVID-19 season and last year’s debacle of Matt Patricia’s campaign as offensive coordinator may have caused Kraft to forget what the glory days were like at Foxboro. Belichick will use the draft to replenish the pipeline, the coaches will develop prospects, and the Patriots will continue to win.
Now, Kraft has resorted to smashing the table for a class of totally unproven gamers who join an organization that forms a complete shell of itself.
The coaching staff may include Bill O’Brien and Jerrod Mayo, but who else is considered a viable candidate to run his team one day? How many of the team’s picks seem poised to become long-term rookies? And with a large portion of the roster on expired contracts, who are the building blocks that will get this team back into contention for the Lombardy Cup on an annual basis?
Could 2023 be the final year of Bill Belichick’s reign?
Even if Cristian Gonzalez is the starter for the first day, how much of that moves the needle in the AFC? Unfortunately for Patriots fans hoping for a turnaround, the answer isn’t much.
Having a great athletic cornerback with All-Pro height is sure to make New England better in the short and long term. However, that doesn’t necessarily change the team’s odds of making the playoffs, especially with Aaron Rodgers taking over the talented New York Jets.
Could second-round pick Keon White and fellow second-round pick Marty Mabo add much-needed speed and playmaking ability to the defense? definitely.
However, when you look at the bigger picture, using valuable assets on a starting seven starter knocked out in the first round, and a safety/linebacker hybrid from a small school looks like another potential misstep by Belichick.
After all, the Patriots still have major questions in wide receiver and tight end. The left tackle position could be just fine…if Trent Brown was focused and motivated. It could be an outright disaster.
Ultimately, Belichick’s refusal to adapt to the times seems more and more counterproductive. Although he believes deeply in his ability to plan ways to slow down opposing offenses, it won’t matter if the Patriots still can’t score points with any semblance of consistency.
So unless New England’s top three picks turn a good defense into an elite defense, it’s hard to see a playoff berth in 2023.
And if Belichick produces another non-playoff season, Robert Kraft should sever ties with the second-best coach in NFL history in order to remind everyone that standards must be maintained.