Does Belichick's handling of player criticism set dangerous precedent?


What do Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer and Jakobi Meyers have in common? All three questioned the New England Patriots' offensive plan in 2022 (either publicly or behind the scenes) and all three have dealt with the consequences.

The Patriots released Hoyer in March despite owing him $ 1.4 million in guaranteed money for 2023. They let Meyers walk in free agency after offering him a contract that reportedly "wasn't close" to the Las Vegas Raiders' offer of three years, $ 33 million. And while Jones still is on the team, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Tuesday that head coach Bill Belichick has "shopped" his starting quarterback in trade talks this offseason.

Joining NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight" on Tuesday, the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan said there's no coincidence that all three are either gone or involved in trade rumors.

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"There's a part of this where I think anyone who doesn't fall in line now is at risk of falling on the chopping block," Callahan said. "You saw it with Brian Hoyer, who was ready and healthy to return at some point last year -- Tom Curran said it -- and he's gone. They're paying him more than a million dollars guaranteed to just get out of town. That was a guy you could have kept, helped bring someone along, install the offense of Bill O'Brien.

"Jakobi Meyers had mild criticism throughout the year. They lowballed him. He's gone to Vegas too. And yes, you replaced (Matt) Patricia and (Joe) Judge, but anyone who had criticisms -- he's only drawn Judge closer to him. He's an assistant head coach now.

"Mac falls in that same category: 'You were openly defiant and critical of what we were doing here.' Even if it was (directed at) Joe Judge, (Belichick) takes that personally as an affront to himself. That was the friction last year and it is now."

Belichick installed Patricia as offensive play-caller and Judge as quarterbacks coach last year in a move that backfired spectacularly; the Patriots' offense ranked 26th in total yards in 2022 with opponents admitting they were easy to game-plan against.

Rather than admitting he put Jones and the offense in a tough spot, however, Belichick appears to be going in the other direction: Our Tom E. Curran has reported Belichick is still "pissed" that Jones went outside the organization to seek offensive help last season.

It's one thing for a coach to quell locker room dissent to make sure his players are on the same page, but if Belichick is sending the message that his decisions can't be questioned, that's a dangerous precedent to set -- especially if said decisions wind up hurting the team.

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