Belichick: ‘Too hard’ now to make major changes

NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Monday that it would be too difficult to make major scheme-based changes to the team’s struggling offense at this point of the season.

“I think we need to do what we’re doing better. I don’t think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes; it’s too hard to do that,” Belichick said in his weekly interview on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.

“If we can just do, consistently, what we’re doing, I think we’ll be all right. We just haven’t been able to have enough consistency. And that’s hurt us. It’s not one thing. One time it’s one thing. Next time it’s something else. We just have to play and coach more consistently.”

Belichick’s remarks come in the wake of quarterback Mac Jones‘ sideline outburst calling for deeper pass plays in Thursday’s 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that dropped the team to 6-6. Jones later said he let his emotions get the best of him, but that it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular and intended to provide a spark to the team.

The Patriots rank tied for last in the NFL in red zone efficiency, having scored touchdowns just 12 times in 32 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

It is one of several key categories in which the offense is rated near the bottom of the NFL, including first downs (28th), third-down efficiency (25th), sacks per pass play (25th) and interception percentage (25th).

The Patriots rank 20th in points per game (20.75 average).

“It’s been a combination of things on every front really — coaching, playing, penalties,” Belichick said Monday on WEEI. “We’ve had some high penalty games and we’ve had some low penalty games. We’ve had some turnover games and then we’ve had some no turnover games, and so forth.

“It hasn’t always been the same problem, or it hasn’t been the same problem on certain plays. Sometimes that’s shifted. And there’s certainly been some plays that haven’t matched up well against the defense when they were called. So, whether that’s the design of the play, or the way it hit against a certain defense, those have come up as well.”

The Patriots’ offensive struggles have come after coordinator Josh McDaniels departed to become the Las Vegas Raiders‘ head coach following the 2021 season, and Belichick tapped former NFL head coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as leading replacements. It was an unconventional approach because Patricia’s and Judge’s primary background as assistants had been on defense and special teams, respectively.

Patricia calls the plays in to Jones, and Judge is the quarterbacks coach, with Belichick stressing all year that it’s been a collaborative effort among all coaches.

In the offseason, Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of the offense, which had grown in volume since his first year as head coach in 2000. One goal in doing so was to allow players to play faster.

The transition hasn’t produced the desired results, with Jones, in particular, dipping after a promising rookie season. In just over seven games, he is 184-of-270 for 1,963 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

As a rookie, playing in all 17 regular-season games, Jones finished 352-of-521 for 3,801 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Asked Monday if he’s concerned about Jones’ progression, and how he’s been under duress for extended stretches this season, Belichick said on WEEI: “I think we’d all certainly like to be doing better than what we’ve been doing — from a record standpoint and from an individual execution [standpoint]. But we’re going to look ahead and not backward.”

The Patriots next visit the Arizona Cardinals (4-8) on Dec. 12 in a “Monday Night Football” matchup.

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