At their break, it’s safe to say that these Patriots are broken

The Patriots are an objectively bad team desperately in need of a talent infusion.

Neither Mac Jones nor Bill Belichick has held up his part of the bargain this season. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

This might be the first time since the 1992 season that Patriots fans have needed the bye week as much as the players.

So I’ll spare you a detailed blunder-by-blunder review of these Patriots, who hit their break with a 2-8 record and a franchise crossroads on the horizon, and instead summarize their first 10 games this way:

The Patriots are an objectively bad team desperately in need of a talent infusion that has a legendary coach whose prolonged personnel failings have undermined him, a shattered once-promising quarterback, and better players on injured reserve than it has on its active roster.


With some luck and much more competence, the Patriots could have a better record than the one they lugged into the bye. They have one outlier of a win (over the Bills), one expected win that came down to a Hail Mary (over the Jets), an encouraging opening loss (to the Eagles), several If-We’d-Just-Made-Another-Play-Or-Two losses (to the Raiders, Commanders, Colts, and Dolphins twice), and two humiliations (back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Saints in which they were outscored, 72-3). They’ve haven’t been lucky, and while their defense is competent, their offense has been such a mess that Matt Patricia has an argument for vindication.

The best thing for the Patriots the rest of the way is to go 0-7 and land the highest draft pick possible. Why do I suspect that won’t go according to plan, either.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review . . .

Three players who were worth watching

Demario Douglas: No matter how well his career goes, the rookie receiver from Liberty can never be regarded as the best sixth-round pick in franchise history, but he’s already on his way to at least honorable mention status. After landing — unnecessarily — in Belichick’s doghouse after the Dolphins’ Bradley Chubb punched the ball away from him in Week 2, he’s bounced back impressively. Douglas is second only to the injured Kendrick Bourne among Patriots receivers in receptions (30) and receiving yards (361). And he’s trending the right way. His two most productive games occurred in the last two weeks, totaling 11 catches on 16 targets for 139 yards against the Dolphins and Colts.


Jabrill Peppers: Like fellow safeties Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Milloy before him, it’s not usually necessary to see Peppers’s jersey number to know that he’s the one who just made a tackle. The distinctive “thwack!” sound of a Peppers hit — a collision, really — often identifies him before the announcers do. No surprise, Peppers — who is fourth on the Patriots with 59 tackles — delivered the hit of the season, a blast into the ribcage of Raiders receiver Davante Adams that jarred the ball loose, resulting in a Jahlani Tavai interception.

Christian Barmore: The third-year defensive tackle’s breakout has come a season after many anticipated it, but it’s clear now that he is among the small number of building blocks on the roster. Barmore’s statistics (27 tackles, 6 quarterback hits, 3 sacks) don’t do justice to the impact he has on games, whether stuffing the run or tormenting QBs with pressure up the middle. He’s a keeper.

Grievance of the season

You mean besides just about everything, from Mac Jones’s collapse . . . to Christian Gonzalez, Matthew Judon, and Bourne’s injuries . . . to JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeVante Parker’s ineptitude . . . to Jack Jones’s immaturity . . . to, well, you get the gist. We have a smorgasbord of options here. A cornucopia, as well.


But my choice is easy. It’s the one, should it conclude the way we think it’s going to conclude, that will have a seismic effect on the franchise.

My grievance is that it’s ending this badly for Belichick. It’s shocking. And a bummer. In part because he’s an unforthcoming grump, there seems to be a race to discredit his co-starring role, with Tom Brady, in sustaining the longest run of excellence in NFL history, as if everyone has forgotten the bookend Super Bowl wins over the Rams and every brilliant scheme devised by Belichick in so many victories in between.

Oh, the current state of the Patriots falls on him. I’m not arguing that. I still believe he’s a superb coach, and the Krafts would be fools to not try to extract a draft pick from Jerry Jones at season’s end when the “mutual parting of the ways” inevitably comes.

The ideal — and I recognize that I’m in the minority on this — would be if he remained as the coach and stepped away from all player procurement responsibilities. There’s a better chance of him adding Eric Mangini to his staff than there is of that happening, which is too bad, because the old sports radio caller’s refrain has come true: Bill the GM is killing Bill the coach.

Here’s one basic but telling way to look at how he has undermined himself with poor roster-construction, particularly during the draft: Let’s divide Belichick’s 24 seasons with the Patriots into three equal sections, and list the 10 best players he drafted in those eight-year phases.


2000-07: Brady (der), Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, Ty Warren, Dan Koppen, Stephen Gostkowski.

2008-15: Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Matthew Slater, James White, Chandler Jones, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins.

2016-23: Joe Thuney, Gonzalez, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Kyle Dugger, Michael Onwenu, Deatrich Wise, Rhamondre Stevenson, Barmore, Josh Uche, Sony Michel.

It’s stunning when you look at it that way, isn’t it? Players we left out of that 2008-15 group — Sebastian Vollmer, Shane Vereen, Nate Solder, Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Flowers, Shaq Mason, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, among others — are better than most of his picks in the last eight years. The one player with star power that he drafted in the last eight years is Gonzalez, who has played three games. And this doesn’t take into consideration the money Belichick lit on fire in free agency, of course.

For more than a decade, Belichick the de facto GM gave Belichick the coach everything he could need. Lately, he’s given him so little that failure is almost certainly going to be followed by farewell.

Three notes scribbled in the margins

What does Mac Jones’s best NFL life look like after this season? Probably something like an eight-year run as an eventually trustworthy backup for a team such as the 49ers . . . I’ve enjoyed the Ezekiel Elliott experience more than expected. His best days are in the rearview mirror, but he’s a crafty, hard runner, and seems like a good teammate . . . It seems like every mock draft I’ve looked at has the Patriots taking an offensive lineman in the top five. A franchise left tackle is a desperate need, but it will feel like something of a letdown if the Patriots don’t come away with an elite offensive skill player.


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