Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were tight-lipped this offseason about who will be calling the plays on offense in 2022. The months came and went without the Patriots naming a new offensive coordinator.
Although it was never officially announced, ex-Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia will be the one calling the plays for the foreseeable future with the title of “senior football advisor/offensive line coach.”
Patricia isn’t exactly the most qualified option to dictate the offense. His last time even working with an offensive unit was in 2005 when he was the Patriots’ assistant offensive line coach. Since then, he’s worked on the defensive side of the ball, commanding the linebackers and safeties before becoming New England’s defensive coordinator for six years.
He and Joe Judge shared the play-calling duties in training camp before Patricia took more control in the preseason, which turned many heads and created one overarching question: Why are these two in charge of the Patriots offense this season?
Josh McDaniels’ departure leaves a huge hole in the Patriots offense
New England’s longtime offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, is no longer a part of the team after a decade of service as he was named the new Las Vegas Raiders head coach back in January.
Prior to the move, McDaniels had been the offensive guru for the Patriots since 2012 and had received high praise for consistently producing one of the best scoring offenses in the league. He helped the Patriots finish top-10 in scoring nine out of 10 years, with 2020 the only exception. New England also won three Super Bowls during his time at offensive coordinator.
Although it’s just the preseason and the regular season hasn’t yet started, his absence behind the play sheet has been noticeable. It would have been simpler for Belichick to promote someone from within the organization if it weren’t for many of them following McDaniels to the Raiders.
Now, the Patriots are left with Patricia and Judge on offense, and the results so far have been anything but good.
Matt Patricia looks in over his head after a rough preseason
If the preseason was any indication of what the Patriots offense will look like this season, then it is going to be a long year for Belichick and rising sophomore quarterback Mac Jones.
Patricia split play-calling duties with Judge in the first game but called all of the second and third.
And the offense, as a whole, looked pretty bad.
It averaged just 15.7 points per game in the preseason and only scored six points in the finale. The starters played a good chunk of the second and third games, but the offense only got progressively worse.
It also doesn’t help that Belichick changed the offensive run scheme to feature more outside zone runs instead of the typical Patriot power run game. The shift is being implemented this season, and it’s clear the offense has not adjusted well enough in the three preseason games.
Against the Carolina Panthers, Jones and the starters played three drives. The first two were three-and-outs, while the third resulted in a touchdown against the Panthers’ second-team defense.
Against the Raiders, the starters took the field four times. Two of the first three drives ended in punts, and the other ended due to an ugly interception. The fourth drive did result in a field goal, but it was yet another disappointing day for Jones and the offense.
Those back-to-back performances were concerning. All together, the starters finished with four punts, one turnover, and 10 points across seven drives. They gained 158 yards across 40 plays, which equates to just under four yards per snap.
These are the growing pains the Patriots offense will go through with Patricia leading the way. Players are obviously expected to make plays, but a lot of the struggles come back to play-calling and making sure guys are comfortable and in a position to succeed.
Matt Patricia and the Patriots offense need to get up to speed before a tough slate of games to start the year
Patricia and the rest of the offense will need to fix things quickly as they open the season on the road against the much-improved Miami Dolphins. The next three games don’t get any easier; they play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Green Bay Packers.
It’s not the Patriot way to be concerned about a pair of substandard performances in the preseason. It’s hardly even a worry for Belichick during the regular season in September.
But this is uncharted territory.
This year is different than any in the past. The Patriots don’t have an experienced play-caller or an elite quarterback to depend on. Patricia is entering his first year calling offensive plays, and Jones is in just his second year with plenty of improvement needed.
If the offense and Jones continue to suffer, the tension in New England will become overwhelming. They aren’t currently playing up to par or producing at the level it will take to win consistently in the regular season. In fact, they haven’t even shown glimpses of improvement, and the preseason results hint at this becoming a one-and-done offensive tenure for Matt Patricia.