There’s no question that the Patriots offense struggled last season under the direction of former defensive coordinator turned offensive play-caller Matt Patricia.
Bill Belichick’s experiment of turning his former defensive coordinator into an offensive guru to replace offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels fell flat on its face, and the Patriots players knew it. The failed staffing by Belichick led to him hiring his former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien away from Alabama to revive the offense.
Recently retired safety Devin McCourty said the offense was so bad last season that it led some in the locker room to doubt quarterback Mac Jones, who had a fantastic first season but regressed in year two.
“I don’t think [Mac] should be subjected to as much displeasure and scrutiny as he gets,” McCourty said on WEEI in Boston last week. “We sat here his rookie year and said, ‘Hey, I’m with this! I like this new era.’ We go to the playoffs and it’s like ‘Here we go!’ Then what happened this year from an offensive situation coaching-staff wise. …He needs to have some consistency [around him].
“I think player-wise there was enough trust that we’re going to put the best guy out there. But the struggles on offense, I think there were some guys in the locker room that were like ‘Let’s go with Zappe.’ Or ’No, Mac looked good today.’ It was a back and forth, which to me, spoke more about what we had on offense than the quarterback. We never were solidified as an offensive group that guys had full confidence in anything we were doing. There was never true hope.”
New England was forced to turn to backup quarterback Brian Hoyer after Mac Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain in September. But once Hoyer was later injured as well, the team started rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe.
Zappe played in four games, including two starts, and completed 70.7% of his passes for 781 yards and five touchdowns to three interceptions.
Questions briefly arose regarding the future of the position in New England when Jones returned from his injury to start against the Bears on Monday Night Football in October. After beginning the game under center, Jones was benched for Zappe, leading many to wonder if Belichick was ready to move forward with the rookie quarterback after how he performed with Jones out of the lineup.
However, Jones started the following weekend against the Jets, and every game the rest of the season. Heading into 2023, Jones is once again the projected starter under O’Brien, as he hopes to rebound from a down ’22 season.