Without a shred of doubt, the story of the year for the Patriots has been Matt Patricia as the de facto Offensive Coordinator. (With all the responsibility but not the title, so that he can keep getting paid by the Lions, which is so diabolically petty I couldn't love it more.) Also without a doubt, the story of this week is Kendrick Bourne, the TWO snaps he was limited to Sunday in Miami, and speculation as to exactly how deep he is in Patricia's dog house.
The narrative goes like this: Bourne showed up late to a meeting during the week of joint practices leading up to the preseason game against Carolina. He was also sent to the showers for being involved in a brawl with the Panthers. Even though central figure in the fight was Kristian Wilkerson, Patricia is holding the grudge against Bourne. The implication being that Patricia is a raging narcissist, drunk on power, and so insecure that he's overreacting in order to make an example of Bourne, thus establishing his absolute authority over his players. Just like he did with Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII. Or words to that effect.
Though Tom E. Curran had a slightly more measured, nuanced take:
WEEI - “I think it’s a Patricia thing,” Curran said of what he’d gathered about Bourne’s diminished role. “… I think from what Albert Breer reported about Kendrick Bourne not being fully onboard with the way the install was going, looking at his role and seeing it diminish with two tight ends on the field. There was a meeting prior to the Carolina Panthers [preseason] game that he was just a smidge late to. I was told that resulted in the benching that night.
“All those things I think combined have landed him in Matt Patricia’s doghouse.”
And added, "Robert Kraft made his opinion known, and going forward I think Kendrick Bourne will have a bigger role."
I think we can all agree that in Foxboro, no one is above the law. Whether you're a smidge late to a meeting or wicked late is irrelevant. The very first meeting Bill Belichick conducted back in 2000 is the stuff of legend because Andy Katzenmoyer - a former 1st round pick - casually strolled in five smidges late and took a seat while Belichick stared at him with the first of what would become many laser death stares before asking "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" and kicked him out. In 2009, he sent home four players for tardiness during a freak snow storm, not the least of whom was Randy Moss. If time and tide waiteth for no Hall of Famer in New England, then a lesser being has no chance. There's a reason Rich Ohrenberger crashed his car into a church van in order to create an excuse for being late. It's better to risk incurring the holy wrath of the Almighty than Belichick's.
Still, it's also reasonable to say that if Patricia held him out of Sunday just for a few minutes several weeks ago, that is being unreasonable. On every level. It doesn't work as discipline, as it would be overkill. It doesn't work strategically, as DeVante Parker (1 reception for 9 yards) was forced to take every one of the Patriots 57 snaps, despite the game being played in a bread factory's proofing oven. So I'm standing by my earlier hypothesis that Patricia is new at this and there was a lot going on, and like a coach in any youth sport, he just forgot to give one of his kids playing time.
I even had someone reach out to me to ask if maybe this all started with the video Bourne put out on Draft Night from Mac Jones' house, since he was mocking the selection of Cole Strange. But that's simply not what happened. Beginning at the 19:10 mark, you see Bourne's reaction to the team trading back, he calls Belichick "a wizard" who knows what he's doing, but then heads home because "It's past my bed time." No shade thrown at a 1st round guard out of Chattanooga whatsoever:
You can disregard my opinion. Actually, don't ever do that. I still have mortgage and tuition bills that won't pay themselves. Take my opinion to heart, but also listen to what a guy who played for Belichick and Patricia for 10 years has to say:
NBC Sports Boston - If you ask Patriots Hall of Famer Vince Wilfork, we shouldn't overreact to the wideout's mysterious absence.
"Nobody ever wants to be benched. And one thing I know about the Patriots and the organization, they're going to put the best people on the field that they think can help win," Wilfork said Wednesday on "The Gameplan". "Sometimes, some guys don't get more playing time than others and sometimes you get a lot of playing time that's not expected.
"So I think it's early in the season. You never know what's going on there, if it's health-related or if it's game planning, whatever it may be. But you might see his plays spike next week and the week after that. So beginning of the year, I wouldn't say let's run around with our hair on fire. Bill (Belichick) knows what he's doing. So hopefully we can get that situated and put the best 11 on the field that can help us win ballgames."
Avoiding running around with your hair on fire is never bad advice in any situation. But especially in this situation. Coming from a guy who understands both coaches who were involved in the decision making. The Pats remain a gameplan specific team. This one called for almost exclusively 21-personnel, with two tight ends and two receivers. No one is happy with the results and wish Patricia had changed it up, particularly with respect to Bourne. But it's a stretch to turn that into proof that somehow the coaching staff has a problem with Bourne and want to punish him.
Besides, do any of these give you the impression that Belichick has an issue with Bourne or his approach to the game?
This was a screw up, in the opinion of me and everyone else. And even if there was some element of sending a message or whatever cliche you want to use, it's not some grim warning sign of much larger trouble. Kendrick Bourne taking 50 snaps would not have won a game where the Pats lost the turnover battle 3-0 and had major breakdowns in pass protection. This too shall pass and he'll get his reps this week and every week going forward. So put out the fire in your hair and relax. Take it from the man who knows.