I have to admit I find myself in a weird place lately, where practically anyone I talk to about the 2023 Patriots is in a mental state that is somewhere between Pessimistic Gloom and Wretched Disgust. I mean, there are exceptions. But the default setting among Massholes is to look at the immediate future like we're all chained together and being led into a Soviet gulag. As opposed to, I don't know, coming off a year in which pretty much everything that could go wrong did, uniquely unqualified men were put in charge of the offense, a promising young quarterback got injured, a red zone fumble cost us a win against Cincinnati, and the dumbest play in NFL history (with 0:00 on the clock and the game going to overtime) cost us another:
And for all that, the Pats went 8-9. This wasn't Matt Millen's Lions or the 2015-16 Browns going 1-31. But you wouldn't know it to talk to anyone around here. If anyone is feeling even the least bit optimistic after adding Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki, or drafting Christian Gonzalez, and above all else bringing in Bill O'Brien and a professional O-line coach in Adrian Klemm, they haven't told their faces.
There are a million quotes about hope I could go to right now. From Dickens to MLK to Andy Dufresne. But I'm going to go a little more obscure and go with Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. When his sister (played by John Cusack's real life sister Joan is basically being a drag about everything in her life including him, he says to her, "Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?" To me, that's the kind of mindset that not only makes the tough times easier, it'll get you a smoking valedictorian like Diane Court. A brain in the body of a game show hostess.
You just described every great success story.
But when it comes to the Patriots, don't go by me. I've developed a bit of a reputation of being slightly too optimistic when it comes to them. Based, I suppose, on the fact that my belief in Bill Belichick's ability to construct a roster, utilize his talent, maximize their productivity and figure out how to win has been right on the money about 95% of the time over the course of the 21st century. (But when I start being consistently wrong on that, I'll find it in my heart to change, I promise.) No, let's go by that unbiased bastion of fair and balanced journalism and bikini modeling, Sports Illustrated:
Like I wrote about the Titans, one could either view the Patriots’ pursuit of DeAndre Hopkins as one of desperation or as a move that suggests they are more confident in the roster than others may believe. The Patriots missed their opportunity to tear down the roster and are in a perpetual win-now mode, and I wonder whether the reunion with Bill O’Brien has sparked some vintage confidence in Foxborough. Again, maybe not. But what if this team grinds out 10 ugly wins this season and stumbles into the playoffs with Mac Jones playing as well as any quarterback rounding out his third season in the NFL (and with, unquestionably, his best quarterbacks coach)?
And from the same analyst:
Source - Inspired by a TikTok trend where strangers hand out notes of encouragement, affirmations, love or appreciation, Patriots players have been spending the past few practices sharing their own notes with the groundskeeping staff and the security staff, among others. One security official planned to get the note framed. It has become a way to learn about the life stories of those who would have only a fleeting interaction or two with members of the team. And though the idea came from TikTok, the team has been intentional about not using these interactions to make shareable content.
While this isn’t your typical training camp observation, it does provide a small window into where the Patriots are. The initiative seems to be gaining some momentum among players, and people are leaving work with smiles on their faces.
• Mac Jones seemed to be in a stalemate with the Patriots’ defense Tuesday, which is promising given that New England may have arguably the best secondary in the NFL this year.
I'll be the first to concede that a national writer's optimism and a team using a TikTok trend to spread goodwill among the staff isn't going to get Josh Allen off the field on 3rd downs or pass protect against the Jets Front-7. But it's not nothing, either.
With the exception of the rookies and free agents, this team went through more dysfunction last year than in any season I can remember since that sort of leaderless 2009 team where Belichick was on mic telling Tom Brady, "I just can't get them to do what I want them to do." This year, the adults are back in charge. Mac Jones is working with the one guy perfectly suited to his skill set and experience, both college and pro. Joe Judge is back running the Special Teams after they were among the worst in the league last year. And yes, the secondary is well suited to handle The Injustice League of supervillain quarterbacks they're scheduled to face:
…despite the loss of Devin McCourty.
Of course a lot of things have to go right between now and Week 1, never mind Week 18. And the Super Bowl is a high bar to have to clear. I'd settle for their first playoff win since Super Bowl LIII. But for now, in the beginning of August, I'll take the W of somebody else who covers the NFL feeling even better about their prospects than I do. So I'm just going to decide to be in a good mood. And hope I'm as right as I've been in the past.