FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick made it clear Monday he intends to return as the Patriots head coach for a 24th season and also left no doubt that the status quo will not be tolerated.
“Nobody’s satisfied with that,” Belichick said of the club’s 8-9 record, which left the Patriots without a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons. “That’s not our goal. We need to improve on that. So, that’s all of us — accountability everywhere, starting with me, the coaching staff, players, each unit. They are all things that we will address and that process will start, probably, later [Monday].’’
Belichick, whose 329 career victories (postseason included) trail only Don Shula (347), said he will have his normal end-of-the-year meeting with team owner Robert Kraft soon.
When asked whether he sees Mac Jones as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2023 or if the position needs another look, the coach expressed confidence in Jones but added the offense didn’t meet expectations.
“I think Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league,” Belichick said. “We have to all work together to try to find the best way as a football team — which obviously, quarterback is an important position — to be more productive than we were this year.’’
Statistically, Jones’s production dipped in every category compared with his rookie season. He was 288 of 442 for 2,997 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 34 times and did miss three games and most of a fourth because of injury.
As a rookie, Jones was 352 of 521 for 3,801 yards with 22 TDs and 13 interceptions in helping lead the club to a playoff spot and earn himself a spot in the Pro Bowl. He was sacked 28 times for 241 yards.
Belichick defended his decision to have Matt Patricia and Joe Judge be central figures in leading the offense after longtime coordinator Josh McDaniels took the Raiders’ head coaching job.
“Every decision that we’ve made has always been with the intent to do the best thing for the football team,” Belichick said. “That’s the way it’s always been and that’s what it will be going forward. At different decision points, you have different opportunities. As those go along or come along, we’ll continue to evaluate them.”
The coach also hit on a number of other topics, including free agency and the salary cap, the rookie class, and the status of suspended players Jake Bailey and Jack Jones.
▪ Regarding whether the Patriots are a better team after spending approximately $170 million in free agency two seasons ago, Belichick believes that “we’re a much better football team with the guys we added,” but that the organization doesn’t look at cap spending in the space of one season at a time.
That spending spree included deals for Matthew Judon (four years, $56 million), Jonnu Smith (four years, $50 million), Hunter Henry (three years, $26 million), Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million), Jalen Mills (four years, $24 million), Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million), and Davon Godchaux (two years, $15 million).
It also included deals for some of the club’s top in-house free agents, including David Andrews, Lawrence Guy, and Ted Karras, who has since moved on.
With the machinations of the salary cap, it’s difficult to judge year by year because guarantees, signing bonuses, and incentives must be accounted for. Sometimes teams will carry over surplus money into the next season and sometimes they need to borrow from the upcoming season.
For example, if a team had $5 million in cap space, but needed to pay out $8 million in earned incentives, the extra $3 million would roll over onto the following season’s cap.
“Our spending in 2020, our spending in 2021, and our spending in 2022, the aggregate of that, was we were 27th in the league in cash spending,” Belichick said. “Couple years we’re low, one year was high, but over a three-year period, we are one of the lowest-spending teams in the league.
“Had we averaged that out in those three years, you would have the same numbers. Whether it’s two low and one high, two medium, three mediums, two sort of high and one really low, whatever it is, there’s an average that comes.”
Asked for clarification, Belichick told the Globe the Patriots “spend to the cap every year. What I said has nothing to do with ownership’s commitment to spending fully. To take it as any kind of slight, when Robert and Jonathan [Kraft] have done nothing but support my recommendations on contracts, couldn’t be further from the point.”
▪ On the first-year Patriots, which included heavy contributions from Cole Strange, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Bailey Zappe, and Brenden Schooler, as well as promising glimpses from Tyquan Thornton, Pierre Strong, and Kevin Harris, Belichick was encouraged.
“Overall, they gave us a pretty decent level of contributions for the year, and that’s good,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of years of that, so hopefully we can continue, and those players will continue to develop in more of a straight-line course like Kyle Dugger or somebody like that, that has kind of been steady in their progress versus low to high or maybe high to more moderate.”
Of Jack Jones and Bailey, who were placed on the reserve/suspended list, Belichick acknowledged their past contributions and called them “talented” players “and I think [they] have a future with the team.”
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