A New England Patriots football player is preparing to throw a ball.

New England Patriots – thoughts and views to mull over during the holidays – John Cardullo

by John Cardullo, sportswriter

Ok! Let’s all agree that the 2023 issue of the Patriots has been something that we haven’t seen in over 23 years. Pre-TB12, where when he emerged as the Patriots quarterback, the New England nation experienced our own version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”!

Winning seasons, playoffs, and Super Bowls came in abundance. Nine Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots walking away with six wins. Every time Brady threw a touchdown pass, an angel got their wings! It seemed like the fun would never end.

The Patriots were once known throughout the NFL as The Patsies. A bungling side show of teams, no marketable stars, no real stadium, a joke of a field built on Route 1 in Foxboro, MA. With no traffic control plan, you were assured that before and after the game, you would sit in a traffic jam for hours. The venue was so bad that many local college and high school fields had better facilities.

Enter Robert Kraft and his family. They bought the raggedy franchise, and were determined to overhaul the organization from the ground up. Kraft brought in Bill Parcells to coach the team. The “Tuna” as he was known, brought the Patriots to a Super Bowl, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers in 1996, but Parcells couldn’t keep his ego in check, and soon he left the team only to be replaced by Pete Carroll. Carroll was a first-time head coach and wasn’t very effective, and he too left the Patriots. As a side note, ol’ Pete went onto the Seattle Seahawks where he would lead them to two Super Bowl appearances and one victory.

After a strange set of events, the Patriots named Bill Belichick as their new coach. Belichick was a great defensive coordinator when he was with the New York Giants under Parcells. They won a Super Bowl. He came over to New England with Parcells and appeared in a Super Bowl. Belichick got his first shot as a head coach when he landed the Cleveland Browns. The honeymoon didn’t last long, and after some bad seasons, and a feud with his star quarterback, Belichick was terminated. His tale of strange doings followed him to New York, where he was preparing to be named the head coach of the New York Jets, but was intercepted by Bob Kraft and the Patriots, at the very last second. The Patriots had to give the Jets draft selections to keep Belichick, and as they say, the rest is history! It does make Jets fans wonder, “if only…”.

The Jets would play a pivotal role in creating the Patriots dynasty when in a game against the Jets, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe would be knocked out of a game by Jets linebacker Moe Lewis sending in a 2nd year, 3rd string quarterback from the University of Michigan named Tom Brady.

Well, every New England fan knows what happened from there. So, lets fast forward, Brady gets old, Belichick decides to move on and rebuild the team without his “good luck charm”. Brady goes to win another Super Bowl, while the Patriots build for the future. The Patriots bring in Cam Newton to bridge the years, and to season draftee Mac Jones in the ways of being a seasoned quarterback. The team struggles, but Jones shows the coaches enough to take over the team the next season. Then over the next two seasons Jones digresses and loses his starting position and becomes a broken player. In Jones’ defense, he had three different coaches in four years. Josh McDaniels (who when to head coach the Las Vegas Raiders), Matt Patricia, who was let go after a poor season, and Billy O’Brien who came in from coaching the Houston Texans. It’s a wonder that Jones had struggles.

With Matt Jones floundering, Belichick decided to turn to backup quarterback Bailey Zappe. Under Jones, the offense was nonfunctional. Often the players were not on the same page. Turnovers were the norm, opportunities to score were tougher to come by. The coach began hearing boos and chants that he should step down or be fired! The Patriot faithful had developed a short memory and forgot that the coach that they want fired is the second winningest coach in NFL history, and that he is only a few wins away from being the all-time winningest coach. The fan base say that he has lost his ability to coach. The media report that he is on the verge of being fired, that the Kraft family has had enough of the losing ways. Never one to get involved publicly with the day by day running of the team, Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan always let Bill take care of football operations as it pertained to the team itself.

Rumors began to fly when loses began to pile up. It began to sound like a Dr. Seuss book, “Will Bill stay, or will he go? Will Robert keep him, even he doesn’t know!” So, rather than going through the soap opera that was, and apparently is again, of the New England Patriots, here are some suggestions they should consider before making and rash moves.

Let’s start at the top, the Kraft’s have suddenly stopped investing in the team! Not by not paying them, but by not getting the talent that team needs to be successful. This team needs playmakers at some important positions such as offensive linemen to keep the quarterback from running for their lives. Get some quality receivers, not the scrapheap has-beens. Get players who play to win, not to just get a paycheck and mail it in.  

Belichick needs to stay! End of story, period! He still is one of the best, if not the best head coach ever in the game. If the Patriots let him go, they will regret it forever! He’s a Hall of Fame Coach, he will be the all-time winningest coach in NFL history. You think for a second that teams like the Los Angeles Chargers wouldn’t want him? Have him bring the East Coast smash mouth football style to the run and gun West Coast? You bet they would. The bottom line is that he is still the best coach out there, just ask Andy Reid of the Chiefs, who is no spring chicken himself. What does he have that Belichick hasn’t? TALENT!!! Amazing how much better you are as a coach when you have talent, we as Patriots remember talent don’t, we?

Belichick needs to step down as General Manager, he needs other voices to listen to and help him evaluate talent and be a buffer between him and the Kraft’s. A restructure of the coaching staff needs to happen. Perhaps even bringing back Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator. The Patriots were at their best with him calling the plays, and let’s face it, his NFL options are small. He may never get another opportunity to head coach again, at least at the professional level, plus he is available.

Belichick needs to lighten up! The grumpy old Bill doesn’t play as well as it did when the team was winning, it’s time to answer some questions instead of saying “we’re on to Denver! In many ways he is a public relations nightmare, but when you’re winning it doesn’t matter, but when you’re losing you can’t afford to lose the fanbase.

Let Bailey Zappe play! Go into 2024 with him as the team’s starter. The unknown player has shown some ability to lead an offense. Invest in him fully and let him work with the likes of O’Brien or even McDaniels, and see his development.

Unfortunately for Mac Jones, he needs a change of scenery. He is broken in New England, perhaps we can get something for him via a trade, one thing for certain is that he should have a chance to play, but not here. A commitment to Zappe would open up a different direction with the high draft pick that we have, perhaps getting a top-notch receiver like Marvin Harrison Jr. a weapon for Zappe and the offense.

Let’s face it, the offense is where we need the most help. The defense has been this season’s shining light! No surprise when many considered Belichick a defensive genius. The injured players will return and make us better on all 3 phases of the game. By investing in Zappe, we won’t have to draft a quarterback with the first pick, we won’t have to wait three seasons for him to get better and make the same mistakes that are being made right now. As history has seen with the Patriots, quarterbacks are as only as good as the talent around them. Remember Jim Plunkett? A first round pick by The Patriots in 1970, who got so beat up each week he was traded and ended up with the Oakland Raiders where he won two Super Bowls. All he lacked here was the talent around him. He had the tools and ability to succeed but no talent, and when he left and got those ingredients, he cooked!

To wrap up the wish list for the 2024 Patriots, keep Belichick, he’s still the best! There is truly nobody better out there to coach this team than him. Get talent around Bailey Zappe and see what he can truly do. Bring back McDaniels to run the offense and develop Zappe. Draft Harrison to get a weapon to haunt defenses.

And finally, please bring back Pat the Patriot! The design is classic and unique. The flying Elvis was OK, but really? On a silver helmet? And a star on his hat? It’s no big secret that when Robert Kraft purchased the Patriots, he became friends with the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, then suddenly, the red, white and blue of Pat the Patriot was replaced by the silver, blue, white and red of the flying Elvis with that star on his hat! It’s time that we go back to the future and bring back PAT! He is The New England Patriots!


John Cardullo, sportswriter
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  1. Bill McCluskey on December 20, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    Great article, John! Thanks.