2022 NE Patriots Season Recap
BY ERIC ZHAO '25
Last year, hope characterized a promising 2021 campaign, but this season all but turned it upside down. Horrific offensive coaching, rifts between the players and the fanbase, strange personnel decisions, and the dumbest play in NFL history all contributed to a chaotic 2022 that many wished would end sooner rather than later.
Throughout the 2021 season, we witnessed the Patriots advancing toward becoming championship contenders in the post-Brady era; young players were developing into the franchise’s keystone players. However, then-offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, whose offense design was foundational, departed for a head coaching job in Las Vegas. His departure would not have hurt so much had an experienced offensive coordinator been hired. However, Belichick decided to ditch the position altogether and hire former Patriot coaches Joe Judge and Matt Patricia to help with the offense: two freshly-fired head coaches who were well-hated by the players of their respective teams. Under their coaching, the Patriots completely re-designed the offense: it’s like if a teacher taught you one curriculum for half a year, and then suddenly, halfway through the year, the teacher left and a new teacher started teaching a completely new curriculum. In both cases, everyone has to start from square one.
Apart from offensive issues, the Patriots made several head-scratching personnel decisions during the offseason. For instance, they traded one of their best offensive linemen, guard Shaq Mason, for little to no compensation. They also used their top draft selection on a replacement offensive lineman that was projected to be less talented than many other available prospects at the time. The Patriots would acquire a few players during free agency, but they did nothing significant to boost the roster, while rivals Dolphins and Jets made splashy moves to bring their teams to a whole new level.
Understandably, during training camp, people questioned how this team would perform. Many were concerned with the lack of an offensive coordinator, but hey, it's Belichick, the G.O.A.T of all coaches; what could possibly go wrong? In the season opener against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots’ offense looked anemic. Struggling to score points and turn the ball over, this trend persisted throughout the season. Further, starting quarterback and team captain Mac Jones’s injury during Week 3 sparked a fanbase controversy. While Jones was sidelined for three games, rookie QB Bailey Zappe impressed much of the entire league with his play. Many fans questioned whether Zappe was better than Jones, and the debate intensified when Jones struggled in his first game back, prompting him to be benched in favor of Zappe. It was certainly disappointing for the team itself when its previous season’s top prospect was being compared as worse than an unknown rookie, but ultimately, the team did stick with Jones as their starter.
In the end, Belichick’s hiring choices failed abysmally. After a loss to Buffalo in which the offense was stonewalled, the fanbase and players were infuriated with Patricia's conservative play-calling. The next week, the tension between the coaching staff and players culminated in a humiliating loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With a tie and three seconds remaining on the clock, the Patriots ran a simple run play to overtime. Inexplicably, Rhamondre Stevenson lateralled the ball to teammate Jakobi Meyers. Instead of going down, Meyers attempted to throw the ball back to Mac Jones, but threw it straight into the hands of Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones, who took it back for the game-winning score, all but sealing the season’s fate. Many, including myself, called the play “the dumbest play in NFL history.” This season, the offensive line suffered immensely and has given Jones nearly no time to throw and move the ball downfield. On pace for just 9 touchdown passes this season compared to last year's 22, Jones’ performance declined. It’s like going from an A to a C the next term, while you’d generally like to see a rookie develop in his second year, not enter a sophomore slump.
Despite these failures, bright spots peeked out throughout the season. Matt Judon has developed into a great defensive player, having one of the league's best 14.5 sacks, and several rookies seem to possess the talent needed to provide a much needed spark to the team, such as Marcus Jones and Jack Jones. Apart from those positives, though, this season was a disappointment. Regressions and inadequate coaching results in the Patriots likely missing the playoffs for the third time in 21 seasons after a solid 2021 season.
To fans, the future’s unclear on where the franchise is headed. Is Mac Jones the quarterback the franchise wants as their leader? Can Belichick’s system keep up with the league? Teams are improving with every season, adapting to changes, drafting superstars, and building an identity that includes an offense. The Patriots? Still stuck in the 1960's, relying on special teams and defense to win, with offense as an afterthought. It's time for Belichick to realize that his two decades of unparalleled success is over. His team has no clue what they are offensively, and in this day and age, no clue means no chance.