WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- "Put your chips on a few numbers and if those numbers come up, you’re good, and if some other numbers come up, probably need to do something."
That was Bill Belichick on Wednesday talking about the uncertainty of Week 1 and the need to be malleable.
But that quote also fits the Patriots' approach to 2022. There’s very much a "let’s spin the wheel and see how it goes" vibe to the start of this year.
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Belichick’s been very open about the fact it’s going to be weeks -- maybe months -- before the Patriots really have a handle on who they are and what works best for them. With a new offense and who don’t have much (if any) background as offensive coordinators and play-callers, 2022 feels like on-the-job training.
Meanwhile, owner Robert Kraft -- who became accustomed to the unrivaled success Belichick and Tom Brady brought to his franchise -- is tap, tap, tapping his foot waiting for signs his team isn’t receding into mediocrity. A three-year playoff win drought? In some cities the confetti would still be on the streets. Not here. Not anymore.
Is Belichick juggling grenades with his approach this year? Or will we wind up looking back at all our hand-wringing over presumed uncertainty and realize that -- once again -- Bill knew best?
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We’ll start to find out Sunday when the Patriots take on a perfect foil in the Miami Dolphins.
While Belichick and the Patriots were authoring the greatest 20-year run in NFL history, the Dolphins have been rolling the same rock up the same hill for the same amount of time.
But Miami’s three-game winning streak over the Patriots and its array of offensive firepower signal that the Fins may already have a leg up on New England. With a new, fresh-faced and huggable head coach in the eternally pleasant Mike McDaniel, Sunday is potentially a wakeup call to the Patriots organization about who they are and where they’re headed.
Despite Belichick’s overt pleas for patience in the early part of the season, if New England looks lost on offense, the duct-tape and popsicle stick approach to their offensive coaching staff will come in for much-deserved criticism.
And if they don’t look lost? Then Belichick will be serving us pessimistic and spoiled media and fans our latest bowl of "Shut the (bleep) up, I forget more about football in one night’s sleep than you will ever know."
The tenor of September kind of hinges on how Sunday goes. Especially since the Patriots have been down here since Tuesday night trying to acclimate to the heat of South Florida. If it works? Inspired move. If it doesn’t? What the hell did they do that for?
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Which is kind of the theme to 2022. We’ll either find we couldn’t see the brilliance of Belichick’s vision for his team or get evidence that the most detail-oriented coach in recent history was kinda just winging it, believing he could big-brain the rest of the league because he’s done it so many times before.
This season opener isn’t a referendum on Bill Belichick’s coaching career. It won’t even be an indication of how the season is going to go since -- as Belichick’s pointed out so many times -- the first six weeks are a feeling-out process.
But how the Patriots perform after a week in South Florida and a summer of stagnant offense will indicate to an extent whether Belichick’s plan is concrete or if he’s just standing at the roulette table betting on long-shots and hunches.