Bill Belichick’s reservoir of goodwill has just about run dry

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Bill Belichick’s reservoir of goodwill has just about run dry originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

In March, Bill Belichick was asked why Patriots fans should be optimistic about the 2023 season.

Belichick paused. He gave a half-shrug and rolled his head a little. He murmured, “I don’t know…” as if annoyed by the question.

After nine seconds of facial gyrations, he answered, “The last 25 years?”

Why did the Patriots lose to the Saints 34-0 on Sunday? Why did they lose to the Cowboys 38-3 last week? Why are they 1-4 and in a graveyard spiral, with their once-promising quarterback playing scared and rudderless behind an offensive line with no hope for an offensive coordinator who’s got no answers?

You can — and should — blame Mac Jones, the offensive linemen, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm for their part in it.

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But the reason the Patriots’ season is all but sunk after just five games is the blasé blasé, “What, me worry?” approach applied by Belichick for far too long.

It’s as if he believes a limitless reservoir of patience and goodwill was earned during the glory years from 2001 to 2018 that means he’s beyond questioning and reproach.

Belichick said during his postgame mumblefest that it was time for the 1-4 team to “start over.”

Which led to this exchange with Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal.

Q: You said you guys need to start over. Have you ever had to do that before five games into the season, just for reference? Is it something new?

BB: Yeah, I’ve done it before.

Q: What does that entail, starting over?

BB: Starting over.

You can do that? Seriously? Must be awesome. Who knew?

Of course, you can’t “start over.” You actually have to be ready to start playing real games in early September like everyone else in the league does.

The Patriots are 2-5, 2-4, 1-3 and 1-4 in the early stages of the past four years. Belichick came to believe when Brady was his quarterback that he could treat September like an extended preseason. What, Bill worry? The team would figure it out and finish with a flourish. They usually did.

Post-Brady, they’ve tried the same act, trying to figure it out as they go along in April, May, into June and July. Play-caller? Offensive coordinator? “What’s the rush?” we were told in 2022. “Games don’t start for a while.”

Games started. The offense stunk. And it stunk all season.

They’re not ready for seasons to begin. But take solace in the fact they’re also not ready for games to begin. This season, they’ve fallen behind in the first half to the Eagles (16-0), Dolphins (17-3), Cowboys (28-3) and Saints (21-0) for a combined 82-6. Eight-two. To six.

Which is part of a pattern that began after Thanksgiving last season. Belichick is serially unprepared and unbothered.

A partial list of things he wasn’t worried about as evidenced by words and/or actions over the past few years: Benching Malcolm Butler, alienating Tom Brady, trading Rob Gronkowski (he tried; Gronk refused), not paying Tom Brady, having a succession plan for Tom Brady, drafting tight ends and wide receivers, over-drafting middling tight ends and wide receivers, overpaying in free agency for middling tight ends and wide receivers when the drafted ones flame out, losing Josh McDaniels, finding a replacement for Josh McDaniels, installing an experienced offensive coordinator/play-caller for Mac Jones, drafting offensive tackles, spending free agent money on offensive tackles, creating an offense around a stationary quarterback.

Now, we can add “starting over in mid-October” to the list.

Why would Belichick think he’d be allowed to articulate such a plan? That limitless reservoir of goodwill.

Remember when the Patriots got boat-raced by the Tennessee Titans in the 2019 playoffs and Belichick was asked what he had to say to the fans who’d been with the team through “thick and thin”?

“I wouldn’t say it’s been all that thin around here, personally,” he snipped. “Maybe you feel differently, but I haven’t heard too many fans say that.”

Nope. At that point, having been to the previous three Super Bowls and every AFC Championship since 2011, he was right.

It’s thin now around here now. And getting thinner.

And after hearing that the team’s going to “start over” after a second consecutive brutal loss, you have to wonder if Robert Kraft — who’s spoken for three years about an urgency to becoming competitive again — is about to have his already-thin patience run out.

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