Is it already "on to 2024" for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots?
Belichick's group enters Sunday's Week 6 matchup vs. the Las Vegas Raiders with a 1-4 record and two consecutive miserable defeats. With a struggling quarterback in Mac Jones, a lack of playmakers around him, and a porous offensive line in front of him, a sudden turnaround seems unlikely. So, how should New England proceed?
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Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes it's time to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate the entire operation. Not for this season, but for 2024 and beyond.
"I think the focus of this season has changed," Breer said on Thursday's Early Edition. "The focus of the season right now should be to figure out your roster, figure out your future. Because they're clearly not good enough. The team's going nowhere. They could wind up finishing last in the division. The Jets look like a better team than they are right now.
"And I think right now, it's about assessing where you are as a franchise. That means getting as clear an answer on who your quarterback is so you can make a final decision on whether you're going forward with him after the year, and picking up that fifth-year option is going to be a very big deal when we get to April and May. And so, you have to do everything you can to try to get Mac Jones going.
But what if the Patriots get back on track with a victory in Las Vegas?
"All that does for you is it gives you a better chance to get a clear view of who your players are coming out of this year," Breer said. "You are not good enough, you are not going to be good enough. Forget about that. Forget about the idea that you're any sort of contender because you aren't. This is about 2024 now. This is about assessing your roster. This is about getting a clear-eyed view of who your players are.
"If you win on Sunday, maybe that gives you a better opportunity to do that because you'll have your players locked in and you'll be able to get a cleaner evaluation on those guys. But the formula coming in, the best-case scenario coming in, is that you are gonna win with run game and defense. This complete devolving of the offensive line has prevented you from doing what you were going to do on offense, and then you lost your best two players on defense in Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez."
As Breer notes, the players aren't the only ones who will be evaluated over the next few months. Belichick and the rest of the organization will be under the microscope.
"The formula to contend has blown up completely five weeks into the season," Breer added. "It's about 2024 now. I think that's the approach now. You can't tell the players that, but if I'm the front office, if I'm the coaching staff, that's what I'm looking at right now if I'm taking a realistic view.
"If I'm (Patriots owner) Robert Kraft, I'm looking at this, I'm saying, 'I am doing a full assessment of my roster, of my coaching staff, of my front office over the next three months.' I don't think what happens in 2023 matters anymore. I just don't. They aren't good enough."
You can watch the full segment from Early Edition below: