The final years of Bill Belichick's tenure with the New England Patriots were marred by questionable decisions, none more so than the team's baffling choice for an offensive coordinator in 2022.
After offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left to become the ill-fated head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, the Patriots opted not to name a true replacement. Instead, they made the mind-boggling decision to have Matt Patricia, whose last offensive coaching job in any capacity was as an assistant line coach in 2005, be the play caller.
To make matters worse, Joe Judge, who has been primarily a special teams coach throughout his career, was named quarterbacks coach.
Just as expected, this experiment turned out to be an absolute disaster. New England's offense regressed from being quite solid in 2021 to being well below average in 2022, and Mac Jones, who finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting just a year earlier, had a very noticeable second-year slump.
Granted, Jones and the offense as a whole looked even worse in 2023, but the Patriots' baffling coaching decisions started this downward spiral.
Almost two years later, and many still have no idea what the Patriots were thinking with these decisions. That even extends to people within the organization, as Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne recently referred to it as a "crazy choice."
“It was rough,” Bourne said on 98.5 Sports Hub's Zolak and Bertrand. “Even the media world and the [rest of the] world was looking at it too, like ‘What’s going on?’ And we had the same questions too, like, ‘Why?’
“For me personally, I kind of fell victim to the situation too, asking why instead of focusing on myself getting better. I struggled in 2022, man. So, I came back 2023 going hard because [of the] circumstances, man, and I became a better player from the situation. But it was just a questionable decision, as we all know.”
Bourne was arguably the one player hurt most by the change in offensive scheme. After posting a solid 800 yards and five touchdowns in 2021, his first season with the Patriots, Bourne had just 434 yards and one touchdown under Patricia in 2022. Even with a worse offense this season, Bourne played much better with 406 yards and four touchdowns in just eight games.
Bourne and Patricia reportedly butted heads during the 2022 season, with reports emerging early on that the receiver was in the de facto offensive coordinator's doghouse. Patricia's abrasive personality has rubbed many players the wrong way throughout his career, and Bourne is one of the most-prominent examples.
Patricia spent the 2023 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, and eventually took over defensive play calling duties late in the season. Now, though, he is out of a job once again.