As rumors swirl of Bill Belichick’s departure from the Patriots, now seems like a good time for everyone in New England to be honest about the organization’s real issue
By Danny Picard
BOSTON — Part of being a sports-talk radio host involves taking phone calls from listeners. When I hosted my show on WEEI 93.7 FM, I admit, I would sometimes tune out during those calls. Rarely were they not ridiculous.
The most outrageous calls I can remember though, came from Bill Belichick critics.
I was on WEEI from 2013 through 2017. That’s five full calendar years in which the New England Patriots went to two AFC Championship games and three Super Bowls — winning two of those Super Bowls. And yet, there were many callers who wanted Belichick’s head on a platter for offseason moves he either made or didn’t make, specifically when it came to the offensive pieces around Tom Brady.
One caller, I remember specifically, said he would never go to another game at Gillette Stadium as long as Belichick remained in the organization, because Belichick traded star offensive lineman Logan Mankins for a fourth-round draft pick and a backup tight end prior to the 2014 season.
I often think about that call and its absurdity, considering the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl five months later. And it’s important to note they only won that Super Bowl because of Malcolm Butler, who Belichick signed that year as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Nevertheless, the hot-take machine keeps turning. Which brings us to the Patriots’ current conundrum.
At 2-8, the Pats would have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft if the season ended after Week 10. Beauty, however, is in the eye of the beholder. This season either makes you want to burn your sleeveless hoodie after a second straight year with no playoffs, or, it gives you a Patriots erection to think of the draft potential coming your way.
If that erection lasts more than four hours, please consult your nearest sports-media personality. They will immediately take away your excitement for a top-three pick by breaking down all the ways Belichick has “ruined” Mac Jones as an NFL quarterback, and how he should no longer be the Patriots’ head coach and GM.
It’s a manifesto the media seems fully committed to: Defend Mac at all costs.
So much so, that the conversation here in New England has quickly gone from, “Who’s the next quarterback” to “Who’s the next head coach and GM”?
I’ll give them some credit though. At least the “experts” are now admitting Mac isn’t the guy. I’ve been trying to tell you this for two years, so it’s good to see everyone else finally coming around, following his horrendous performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Germany in Week 10.
Problem is, the media’s criticism of Jones comes with an asterisk.
“It’s not Mac’s fault! Blame Belichick,” they slam into their iPhones on X, and shout into any microphone they can find.
We even have Dan Orlovsky, President of Mac Jones Inc., going on The Pat McAfee Show, claiming that not only is there talk of Belichick getting fired, but there’s also rumblings of the exact destination where Belichick will end up next season.
“I have heard that that’s gonna be the case,” said Orlovsky when McAfee mentioned rumors of Belichick and the Patriots possibly parting ways in the offseason. “Who knows the likelihood of it, but, I’ve heard that that’s gonna happen. And I’ve heard the location is already kind of determined as well.”
Who knows the likelihood of it? Questioning the likelihood of his own report, as he’s reporting it on ESPN, is almost like saying, “This is what I want to happen!”
What you won’t hear from guys like Orlovsky — and there are many — is the actual truth about Mac Jones. So I'll say it for them.
He’s soft. And everybody in the organization knows it. The media just doesn’t want to go there.
Mac seems like a nice kid. He talks to reporters with respect, and his youthful southern charm captivates the minds of an industry that worships innocence and condemns arrogance. So it’s no surprise to see the media treat Mac differently than they treat Belichick.
But I never thought in a million years that, if it ever came time to choose one over the other, they’d side with the player who’s done absolutely nothing in the NFL, over the greatest coach of all-time.
It’s simply irrational.
Your quarterback — especially one who was drafted in the first round — is supposed to make the team better. Just ask rookie C.J. Stroud, who currently has the fourth-best odds to win NFL MVP after Week 10.
Stroud, who was drafted No. 2 overall in this year’s draft by the Houston Texans, has started all of his team's first nine games, and leads the league with 292 pass yards per game. He’s thrown the fourth-most touchdown passes in the NFL with 15. And he has a league-low two interceptions among starting quarterbacks.
The Texans are 5-4, just one game behind the first-place Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South. And if the playoffs began after Week 10, Houston would be in the tournament as the AFC’s final Wild Card spot.
Now, I’m not sure how much you follow Houston Texans football, but all it takes is a little google search to see that the pieces around Stroud aren’t exactly a murderer’s row of offensive talent. Still, Stroud is doing what dependable NFL quarterbacks do in the face of adversity. He’s using his own talent and football IQ to make plays and win games with an average roster at best.
Texans receivers aren’t making Stroud better. Stroud is making Texans receivers better. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be, especially if you’re a first-round draft pick.
Such logic has seemingly been thrown out the window when it comes to the modern day New England Patriots and the Mac Jones era. Belichick is constantly criticized for the lack of weapons he’s given his young quarterback. But God forbid his young quarterback turns an average receiver into a viable weapon in his third season, regardless of who his coach or offensive coordinator is.
It’s comical how much Belichick is taken for granted. People act like Tom Brady’s top receivers were first-round gems, projected to be star weapons in an NFL offense. The reality is, some of them were never supposed to have the careers they ended up having.
Where do you want me to start? How about the most notable name on that list: Julian Edelman.
Edelman became one of the best — if not the best — Patriots receivers of all-time. He ranks second in franchise history with 620 catches, and fourth with 6,822 receiving yards. Edelman is third all-time in both playoff catches (118) and playoff receiving yards (1,442), trailing only Jerry Rice and Travis Kelce in both categories.
He's a three-time Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP. He did it all as a seventh-round draft pick who was a quarterback in college, at Kent State. Belichick saw something in Edelman that nobody else in the league did. But because Edelman ended up putting together a Hall-of-Fame career as Brady’s binky, everyone forgets who was smart enough to give him that opportunity in the first place.
I could go on and on with this list. We could talk about Belichick’s trade for Wes Welker, turning him into one of the best undrafted players of all time.
Or how about someone like James White? White was a successful running back at Wisconsin, but turned into one of Brady’s most reliable receivers, ranking eighth in Patriots history with 381 catches in 95 games. White’s 25 touchdown receptions ranks 13th in Patriots history, and sixth in the Brady era.
I already mentioned Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl heroics as a player who was wanted by nobody in the NFL other than Belichick. And I mean, not for nothing, but even Brady was a sixth-round pick. Tip of the cap to Belichick there as well.
I could keep going, but I’m pretty sure I made my point.
When it comes to Mac Jones, the only thing I blame Belichick for is drafting him in the first place. I think even Belichick himself started to regret that pick last season, as a hysterical Jones was being physically carried off the field and into the locker room for what turned out to be a sprained ankle.
It was in that very moment the “Patriot Way” — as we all knew it to be — started to crumble. Once that injury occurred, Mac and his camp began looking out for Mac. And Mac’s media cronies began defending him at all costs, showing an eerily-unconditional love for a quarterback who still had a whole lot to prove at the NFL level.
Now, here we are, a year later. And those same supporters of Mac Jones Inc. are in a rush to replace Belichick, who’s just 16 wins shy of Don Shula’s career win total of 347. They’d rather see Robert Kraft dip into the erratic NFL coaching carousel to try and keep up in a conference dominated by elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Lamar Jackson, to name a few.
They’re crazy. Or brainwashed. Or paid for by Mac Jones’ camp. Or all of the above.
The New England Patriots need a change alright. They need a new quarterback. And that’s it.
I’ll hang up and listen.
Follow Danny on instagram @DannyPicard.