Tom E. Curran

Curran: Even with O'Brien, a clean slate may not be possible for Pats


The New England Patriots' 2022 season went off the rails in a hurry. But there's no use in dwelling on the past, right?

That's what new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien insinuated Wednesday, telling reporters that players (and coaches) are "starting with a clean slate" in 2023. There's reason for optimism, too: O'Brien should bring valuable offensive experience after the failed Matt Patricia/Joe Judge experiment of 2022, while JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki and James Robinson provide more offensive firepower. New England also boasts the No. 14 overall pick in next week's NFL Draft should they want to add another offensive weapon.

But can the Patriots really let bygones be bygones after all that's transpired over the past 12 months? Our Tom E. Curran isn't so sure.

Patriots Talk: Patriots coaches trumpeting ‘fresh start’ | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"We're eight days away from the Patriots laying the foundation for the rest of this decade," Currans said Wednesday on NBC Sports Boston's Quick Slants. "Six picks in the top 135. Their highest pick since 2008. It's a roster that's actually better than people seem to understand. This is not a bad team.

"But the underachieving, undisciplined, situationally dumb, penalty-plagued team of 2022 that led the league in snark and backroom back-fighting? It's got work to do."

That snark and back-fighting has bled into the offseason, starting at the top with team owner Robert Kraft and head coach/general manager Bill Belichick. While Kraft voiced his support of third-year quarterback Mac Jones at the NFL owners' meetings last month, Belichick declined to give a similar endorsement -- in fact, a report subsequently emerged that Belichick has "shopped" Jones on the trade market this offseason.

All of this offseason drama has Curran dubious that order will magically restored in 2023.

"Can a slate really be clean? No dust, no remnants, no grudges, no what's-in-it-for-me? Everybody shelving their own self-interest? We'll see," Curran said. "For a long time, being part of Bill Belichick's Patriots was its own reward. You competed every year for championships, you worked with the greatest coach, the greatest quarterback, the best owner. You were part of the most successful franchise of this century.

"They couldn't live at that altitude forever. The moving-on period eventually had to come. Some left because Bill decided, others because they wanted to get while the getting was good. But mediocrity has followed, and so, unfortunately has the finger-pointing, and it's continued this offseason.

"If the Patriots are going to get back to good, they can't just pay lip service to this 'blank slate' stuff. This incestuous, Machiavellian organization where perceived loyalty has become more important than how well you do your job? That has to end. They have to start walking it like they talk it -- starting right now."

Check out the full episode of Quick Slants -- featuring a special guest in former Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff -- in the YouTube video below.

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