Now, before you blow a gasket, I'm not saying the guy has completely lost it. But he's making some questionable choices and not adapting to the talent he has in front of him.
Belichick and Bailey Push Packers to the Limit
After losing Mac Jones to an awful ankle injury against the Baltimore Ravens, and Brian Hoyer leaving with a head injury against the Green Bay Packers, Bill had to turn to third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe for more than a half against Green Bay. There was a time when the Pats didn't even carry a third QB on their active roster; it would "technically" be a kicker or punter. So the fact that they rostered the fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky means there's got to be something special in the kid's arm, right?
What's insane to me, is that seemed to be the case at Lambeau. Yet, the Patriots decided to lean into the run. Sure, the dual-back system with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson was working out pretty well -- combining for over 150 yards and a touchdown -- but they could have leaned on the kid a bit more, particularly in overtime when it mattered.
Zappe finished the game 10-of-15 with 99 yards -- and a touchdown. That's a fantastic line for a kid who wasn't supposed to see a single snap this year. Although that line could have been a lot better.
At Western Kentucky, Zappe's senior year was unreal. I mean, there's a reason Bill drafted him in the first place. But really, the stats are fantastic. He completed 475 passes for 5,967 yards, 62 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. And he did that in 14 games. The point here is the kid can sling it.
So Why Did Bill Hold Back in Green Bay?
But somehow Bill, and offensive play-caller Matt Patricia, wouldn't unleash the beast. This is one example of playing conservative, and hoping that the bend-don't-break mentality that has been a staple for over two decades continues to bear fruit. However, there is one major piece of the puzzle that is no longer with the team -- Tom Brady. While Mac did lead the team to a 10-7 season, he doesn't possess the same instinct as arguably the best quarterback of all time.
Thus, Bill needs to start being more aggressive. Frankly, the Patriots were lucky their defense played as well as it did. Otherwise, that game doesn't go into overtime and the Packers roll over them. When you look at their skilled offense, it's mind-boggling that the ball isn't spread around more. Before his injury, Jones could throw for over 300 yards. There's no reason that shouldn't be a regular occurrence for this offense.
Instead, they will hand the ball off when the defense expects them to, get two yards instead of the five they need, and punt it away. But they have Devante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Hunter Henry. That should be more than enough -- even with the injuries to Jonnu Smith and Jakobi Meyers.
With the Detroit Lions rolling into town, the Pats have an opportunity to take a shot. Realistically, they're not going to compete for a Super Bowl this year, so let's see what the kid can do while Mac is out. Detroit has proven that they don't want to play defense, as shown against Seattle this past weekend. So let it fly. Let the kid throw. The main thing they need to do is protect him. That offensive line needs to step it up.
If Bill can loosen the reins a bit, and play some more interesting football, maybe this season won't be a total wash. But putting trust in a second rookie quarterback may be too tall an order for Coach Curmudgeon. If he didn't have trust issues, Matt Patricia wouldn't be calling plays on offense. Joe Judge wouldn't be back in New England. There would be an offensive coordinator who had a clue as to what he was doing.
The Patriot Way: Pivoting Towards Change
Think about it. If Bill can make changes to how he approaches the game now, and make this team competitive, his legacy will only grow. That's not something that would be new for Bill. His whole career has been spent bobbing and weaving to figure out what to do to win. It didn't need to be pretty -- it just had to be enough. Make the right plays at the right time. Now, he's not doing it. He's seemingly desperate to prove he's still a winner -- without the GOAT -- but he hasn't changed his style since Brady flew south.
In between the Super Bowls they've won, Bill helped navigate growth, adapted, and made the team better. That's not something we've seen in the past few years.
Cam Newton was never going to be a riveting success for the Patriots, but he wasn't allowed to even try to do what he does best. He was handed Tom's playbook and expected to be Brady. There probably aren't two quarterbacks who could be more different. Then, last offseason Bill put up smoke and mirrors when he spent big money bringing in Smith and Henry, and he got lucky that Mac Jones performed beyond his expectations. But a third straight season held together by duct tape and bubble gum? It has to change.
The system can only work for so long. It's time to let loose.
Go big or go home, Bill. Trust your guys as much as you expect them to trust you.
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