The critics were quick to pounce on Bill Belichick after the Patriots lost their opening week game in Miami to the Dolphins, 20-7. The most creative observations came from those who admitted that it is foolhardy to make conclusions from one game, but “let’s do it anyways!” It takes a certain level of bravery to acknowledge that is it Overreaction Monday after the first Sunday of the regular season to only still march forward. The Prior Beliefs must always be validated.
It was a disappointing effort — and the critics of Bill Belichick were quick to use this first game as evidence that he is past his prime. But it is not as if Belichick’s teams have not had a history of flat efforts this century despite having Tom Brady as his quarterback for most of those games. Brady, the G.O.A.T and much better than Mac Jones, lost ten of his eighteen starts on the road against the Dolphins when playing for the Patriots. In those ten losses, New England scored just 17.5 Points-Per-Game and averaged 293.5 total Yards-Per-Game.
In Brady’s trip to Miami in 2006, the Dolphins shut him out while holding him to 189 total yards. For the record, the Patriots finished 12-4 that season before losing to Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. So, the G.O.A.T. was able to lead his team to rebound.
Look, I’m not a fan of Matt Patricia — but his impact as the team’s offensive coordinator is overblown. Belichick started as a wide receiver’s coach in the 70s. Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris coached the offensive side of the ball when on the Atlanta Falcons’ staff during the Dan Quinn era. Coaches like Belichick simply think that “coaching is coaching” — and that a defensive coach moving to the other side of the ball is akin to a prosecutor moving into private practice as a defense attorney.
This narrative is exposing some interesting assumptions about the role and responsibility of an offensive coordinator. Some idealize it at is a Platonic ideal of drawing up the perfect play in the sand. While Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan, and Sean McVay may draw up great plays, that is not the only job description. And, dare I say it, stealing great plays from other coaches is a perfectly acceptable tactic. That is something I suspect Patricia can be just fine at. Not every offensive coordinator has to reinvent the wheel to get “oohs” and “ahhs” on the Twitter validation machine. Preparing your offensive players to execute the game plan designed to expose flaws in your opponent’s defense seems closer to the mission statement of an offensive coordinator.
It was simply too early to pass judgment on the Patriots after Week One — especially when Belichick has declared on many occasions that he does not finish the installation of the offense each season until the end of September. When in doubt, don’t overreact.
If a McVay acolyte made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback last year, let’s just say they would be appreciated differently. And Jones got injured in that opening game in Miami. Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson seem to get the benefit of the doubt if it is discovered later that they were injured during the game. Perhaps they earned that right to have that be baked in the rules. But it is interesting to observe that often the only consistency when applying these rules is Confirming the Priors.
Anyways, we won our AFC Game of the Month on New England (although some may have pushed if they got the play in late at -3). On to Monday …
Best of luck — Frank.