Callahan: Under Bill Belichick’s watch, the Patriots have become the NFL’s worst team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Bill Belichick spent all week dodging questions about the identity of his starting quarterback because that was the only game he could win.


Forget it.

After losing Sunday’s 10-7 stinker in New York, Belichick is now the face and architect of the NFL’s worst team. The Patriots are 2-9, a byproduct of four years of roster rot and mismanagement; a collection of ill-coached misfits, the best of whom have regressed under Belichick’s watch.

How else do you explain the Patriots losing to the team with the NFL’s worst point differential? Or falling to the only franchise with a bottom-six offense, defense and special teams by DVOA? Or succumbing to an undrafted rookie quarterback who couldn’t win a starting job at Syracuse, lives at home and doesn’t fold his own laundry or cook his own meals?

And yet that rookie quarterback, Tommy DeVito, was unquestionably the best passer on the field Sunday.

Mac Jones couldn’t even make it to the third quarter, getting benched for a fourth time in 11 games. Bailey Zappe was no swaggering, six-foot savior off the bench. Just an overconfident peashooter with a penchant for staring his receivers down like every pass play is love at first read.

Sure, superior Giants weapons and coaching buoyed DeVito. But the kid didn’t screw it up. And that was the game plan both teams worked from Sunday: suck a little less and survive.

New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito (15) runs with the ball during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Nov. 26, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

To wit: Belichick punted from the Giants’ 37-yard line in the first quarter instead of risking a turnover on downs that might give New York middling field position. He hoped DeVito and Co. would instead crumble backed against their own goal line. They didn’t.

The Giants did, however, nail their gimme fourth-quarter field goal attempt, while Pats rookie kicker Chad Ryland whiffed from 35 yards to choke the game away in the final seconds. The Patriots also fumbled three times, just like the Giants. But their quarterbacks fired three interceptions to DeVito’s zero.

Just spectacular self-destruction.

In fact, the best thing Jones did Sunday was take a delay of game penalty that preceded a botched snap on the Patriots’ opening drive. After that?

He missed his first six downfield throws outside the numbers. His last misfire found Giants rookie corner Deonte Banks, one of three defenders in an area Jones hurled a panicky pass because — you guessed it — he sniffed a hint of pressure. Jones threw another interception inside the red zone at linebacker Bobby Okereke, which Okereke returned back to the Patriots’ 26-yard line.

Wouldn’t you know, the Giants scored their only touchdown off that mistake.

Bill Belichick’s answers about Patriots’ QB situation only create more questions

At the end of the first half, the Patriots let Jones open a 2-minute drill by skying a bomb down the sideline that hung high enough a roaming safety nearly snatched it for the Giants’ third pick. Then, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien called a run to play it safe. The Giants stuffed it, and called a timeout.

Yet that extra time wasn’t enough for Jones and the Patriots to align properly on the next play, so they called timeout to avoid a penalty. Then Jones absorbed a strip sack in what may be his final snap for the franchise.

Zappe’s scoring drive to start the second half wasn’t even fool’s gold. He just held the wheel of an offense O’Brien had put into cruise control, alternating between screen passes and hand-offs all series. Even that wasn’t enough to keep him on the road.

Zappe crashed with a fourth-quarter interception that he might as well have hand-delivered. But we all knew who Zappe was. We all knew what this game was.

In the first six minutes alone, these bumbling basement-dwellers combined for a fumble, two drops, one muffed punt, a delay of game penalty and a botched snap. Pathetic.

Searching for answers, Belichick mumbled about turnovers in the opening statement of his press conference. He said the same thing two months ago.

Patriots rookie receiver Demario Douglas ruled out with head injury

“Can’t turn the ball over,” Belichick said after the Week 2 loss to Miami, explaining the Patriots’ slow starts.

“Poor ball security on offense, turned the ball over too many times,” he offered Sunday.

Belichick is not reaching his players. There is no solution except hurry up and wait until the offseason. The coaching is the coaching, and the talent is the talent.

One-quarter of the Patriots’ active roster is comprised of the following players: Alex Austin, Jake Andrews, Chris Board, Pharaoh Brown, Cody Davis, JaMychal Hasty, Vederian Lowe, Conor McDermott, Ty Montgomery, Jeremiah Pharms Jr., Sam Roberts, Jalen Reagor and Shaun Wade.

How many of those players would earn a roster spot on an average team? Four? Two? One? Maybe none?

Related Articles

New England Patriots |

Why Conor McDermott started over Trent Brown in Patriots’ loss to Giants

New England Patriots |

Bill Belichick’s answers about Patriots’ QB situation only create more questions

New England Patriots |

Mac Jones benched for Bailey Zappe for fourth time in loss to Giants

New England Patriots |

Patriots rookie receiver Demario Douglas ruled out with head injury

New England Patriots |

Patriots starter suprisingly active in Week 12 matchup with Giants

If your answer is none, that means one out of every four Patriots would otherwise be on a practice squad or the street were it not for Belichick. If you believe differently, ask how many other NFL teams would swap rosters with the Patriots right now. That answer is zero.

What is their strength? How do they win? It’s not defense, and even players know it.

“We gave up 10 points, and lost the game two weeks in a row,” Pats safety Adrian Phillips told the Herald. “So now, we’ve gotta give up zero.”

So this week, ignore any starting quarterback storylines weighing Jones versus Zappe. Belichick’s guessing game distracted us from the fact his only options lie in the NFL’s worst quarterbacks room. There wasn’t, and no longer is, any material difference between Jones or Zappe, as we saw on Sunday.

That loss also forced us to face an even harsher truth: the Patriots are now the NFL’s worst team.

And no amount of ducking, dodging or deflecting should distract us from that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Why Conor McDermott started over Trent Brown in Patriots’ loss to Giants
Next post Mostly quiet weather ahead after rains clear Monday