The mantra of “Do Your Job” rings hollow if you don’t have the right people for the job.
That inescapable reality smacked the Patriots in the facemask in their season-opening 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was a setback that did nothing to quell questions about the qualifications — or lack thereof — of the offensive coaching staff.
Instead of going with the best people for the job, coach Bill Belichick is going with the people he likes best and putting them on the job, fit and experience be damned. That’s making it harder for everyone to do their job well, especially second-year quarterback Mac Jones.
Perhaps, we’ve been asking the wrong question when it comes to offensive coach converts Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The question is not whether either man is capable of replacing Josh McDaniels as offensive play-caller — the prevailing storyline of the preseason.
Rather, it’s whether they’re capable of coaching their position groups — the offensive line for Patricia and the quarterbacks for Judge. It doesn’t matter how creative the play calls are if your team isn’t trained to execute them properly.
A sweat-soaked Patricia was exposed to the oppressive heat at Hard Rock Stadium, and the offensive line he oversees left Jones completely exposed on a pair of first-half sacks with Dolphins pass-rushers unblocked. The second sack was a pièce de résistance of no resistance. Miami’s Brandon Jones came untouched on a safety blitz for a strip-sack the Fins scooped up for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 7:34 left in the first half.
These are the type of basic communication and execution errors that have plagued the offensive line since the start of training camp. Patricia is a former college offensive lineman and was assistant offensive line coach for the Patriots in 2005, but the bulk of his coaching experience is as a defensive coach and coordinator.
He’s the third Belichick son on the coaching staff, and the one least suited to coach his position group.
Meanwhile, judging by some of the video and commentary provided by the CBS broadcasting crew, Jones, who committed two of New England’s three turnovers, felt more comfortable confiding in and comparing notes with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer than Judge, his position coach.
It wasn’t the cozy quarterback-coach relationship that Jones enjoyed with McDaniels post-possession last season. Judge’s given area of expertise is special teams.
The two failed head coaches, who are part of Belichick’s recycling program, failed to inspire any more confidence than they did two weeks earlier in a 23-6 preseason loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. They only generated 1 more point.
Uncharacteristically, the Patriots engaged in self-sabotage in South Florida. They registered five negative-yardage offensive plays in the first 25 minutes.
A promising opening drive short-circuited when Jones threw up a 50-50 ball for wide receiver DeVante Parker in the end zone that was tipped by handsy Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and intercepted by Jevon Holland.
“We moved the ball. We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot and made bad mistakes,” said Patriots tight end Hunter Henry. “We can’t have a free rusher backed up. We had a pick in the first drive and the momentum probably would have shifted in a little way.
“We just didn’t execute good enough. I felt like we moved the ball well, we just didn’t finish drives.”
If Jones hadn’t hurt his back in this game, requiring postgame X-rays and the scuttling of his news conference, it would’ve been sore from trying to carry the remade offense and its architects.
Jones (21 of 30 for 213 yards with a touchdown) made checks at the line of scrimmage and tried to get the Patriots into the proper plays. But the offense just didn’t click.
While Jones’s former University of Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa is enjoying the most quarterback-friendly offensive system in the NFL under rookie head coach Mike McDaniel, a Kyle Shanahan disciple, Mac is subject to Belichick’s experiment with Patricia and Judge.
When the Patriots went scoreless in the first half and trailed 17-0 it felt like 37-0.
In fairness to Patricia and Judge, the same was true last season with Mac and Co. The Patriots remain a team built to play from ahead and not from behind. They’re a 3G offense in a league playing at 5G speed. If they get behind the first-down sticks or on the scoreboard, it’s a struggle. Even their lone scoring drive reflected that. New England went 92 yards on 15 plays in 8:21. It was a labored affair.
You could say that about the entire outing, one that left Belichick grasping at straws of optimism.
“It was really a pretty even game. Two big plays, 14 points, really skewed the game,” said Belichick.
Puffing up his inept offense, Belichick was asked about Jones’s performance under the Hoodie’s handpicked offensive caretakers: “There weren’t a lot of incomplete passes.”
Neat. When Tom Brady was here, Belichick used to state it was the job of the offense and the quarterback to score points. That’s the only reason they’re on the field, he said.
Now, it’s grading on a gridiron curve while his neophyte offensive coaches enjoy a grace period.
The Patriots are a team with a narrow margin for error. What’s alarming is that Belichick is compounding that with questionable personnel choices. The error of his way goes beyond plugging Patricia and Judge into unfamiliar and unfair roles.
Last year’s second-leading receiver, Kendrick Bourne, has been buried and benched for reasons unknown. He played two snaps, one of them a 41-yard reception.
The back-breaking 42-yard touchdown reception the Patriots allowed to Jaylen Waddle on fourth and 7 with 18 seconds left in the first half saw linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley as one of three Patriots with a shot at Waddle.
Bentley is a team captain and a Belichick favorite. However, he’s athletically limited and the last linebacker that should’ve been on the field in that situation. He’s . . . stop me if you’ve heard this before . . . the wrong guy for the job there.
There’s a lot of that going around the Patriots these days, and it’s one of the reasons they head back to work with an 0-1 record.