Patriots Talk: Are coaches or players the Pats' biggest problem?

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The New England Patriots have plenty to sort out both on the coaching staff and on the roster heading into 2022.

A late-season collapse and a blowout wild-card loss to the Buffalo Bills exposed some significant question marks within the organization. Chief among them is the team's confusing coaching structure, especially on defense. Our Tom E. Curran eloquently broke down that situation in a recent column.

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But the coaches certainly don't deserve all of the attention after the disappointing finish to the season. The players should get a slice of blame pie as well. Curran and The Ringer's Kevin Clark discussed New England's biggest personnel problems in a new episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.

Patriots Talk Podcast: The Ringer's Kevin Clark helps perform our Patriots 2021 autopsy | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I think that leadership and energy and being ready to go is two-pronged," Clark said. "There's a lot the coaching staff can do, there's a lot these systems can do, but it's also player-driven. There's a million reasons why Tom Brady on the team was a good thing, but one of them is that in January he knew how to get these guys ready to go.

"There were so many leaders on the defense that were in the system for a long time and maybe -- listen, they took a lot of free agents, they had a lot of young players, a lot of rookies were making contributions, and they just didn't understand either January football or how the Patriots operate."

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Clark believes the Patriots' downfall in 2021 came largely as a result of inexperience.

"One of the best quotes I've ever heard about football is from Bill Walsh, who said, 'There's no such thing as clutch, it's just go out and do your job in the same way, execute normally while everyone else starts freaking out.' That, to me, was always the Patriot Way," Clark said. "If you're in New Orleans in 2002, they weren't doing anything crazy with the clutch stuff. They were just executing in the way they know how when the Rams were freaking out. ... That's always the way the Patriots have operated.

"I think with so many guys new in this system, it's just hard to get on the same page in December, in January. One of the things Bill Belichick was always so good at was being able to time playing your best football in December and January. That's a practice thing, that's a structure thing, and I just think that these guys maybe just didn't know what that looked like until they got the brakes beaten off of them."

Also discussed in this episode: What's the national perspective of the Patriots after their blowout loss to the Bills? What changes does Bill Belichick need to make to his coaching staff? Clark on his article "The NFL keeps failing hiring 101." And Divisional Round playoff picks.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network, or watch on YouTube.

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