Patriots Season Ends With Disappointment and Uncertainty

The New England Patriots have been a football dynasty since the early 2000s, winning six Super Bowl titles under head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Since Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay in 2020 however, New England football has not been the same. Between the struggle to find a franchise quarterback and losing key members of the team such as Rob Gronkowski, fans question whether the Patriots will find any sort of postseason success in the near future. 

The Patriots finished the 2022-2023 NFL season with a record of 8-9. With this record, the Patriots finished in 3rd in the AFC East, missing the playoffs. The AFC East division has seen massive improvement in recent years with the Miami Dolphins adding talent and the Buffalo Bills becoming a Super Bowl contender behind star quarterback Josh Allen. By missing the playoffs, the Patriots secured the 14th overall pick in the 2023 draft. In last year’s draft the Patriots did a decent job finding talent, notably picking players Marcus Jones and Tyquan Thorton. Many fans expect the Patriots to draft offensive talent with their early pick, hopefully giving their quarterback a stronger core of receivers. In order to compete with the contentious AFC East division, the Patriots offense must improve in the offseason. 

With high expectations after his Pro-Bowl rookie season, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones struggled more in his second year. Jones performed poorly early on in the season and eventually went down with an ankle sprain, causing rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe to take his spot as starter. Zappe played two great games against teams with poor defenses, forming the narrative of a QB controversy in New England, although Patriots coaching staff ultimately viewed Jones as the clear starter. 

Despite offensive struggles, the Patriots defense remained one of the best in the NFL. A lead contributor to the defense is linebacker Matthew Judon, who has continued to play at an elite level. Judon ended the year with 15.5 sacks, representative of his dominant pass-rushing ability. Other solid defensive players such as Kyle Dugger, Devin McCourty and Marcus Jones contributed to the success of the secondary. 

A point of controversy this season derives from the new Patriots offensive coordinator, Matt Patricia. Patricia’s questionable play calls and the struggling Patriots offense made him a clear target for fans who were aggravated over the team’s struggles. Patricia’s vision for the offense does not align with the talent on the roster, as good offensive coordinators should adapt their offense to what their team is capable of. Currently, the Patriots plan on keeping Patricia for next season but fans have been calling for his firing since the middle of the season. 

As the teams in their division rapidly improve, the Patriots’ regression has fans worried about the years to come. The team has a great opportunity to add a talented offensive weapon in the upcoming draft, a way to improve the passing game and give Jones more targets. In order to succeed next year, the Patriots offense must be revamped. Whether under the coordination of Patricia or another coach, the offense can not continue to struggle like it did in 2022. Through free agent signings and next year’s draft, the Patriots have a chance to return to the playoffs next year if ownership makes good decisions.