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Tony Romo has the only good take on Patriots play-caller Matt Patricia

Related: Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe has a fan in Lions head coach Dan Campbell

Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After months of hearing how this year’s training camp made the offense seem somewhere between discombobulated and an affront to God, the New England Patriots putting up a meager seven points when Ty Montgomery did a barrel roll into the end zone didn’t do anything to ally our fears. Matter of fact, at that point it was fair to wonder whether Matt Patricia, whose resume has been pretty exhaustively documented at this point, had FUBAR’ed the whole rest of the season.

We don’t need to run down every game since then, or how much weight should be placed on “moral victories”, but unless you’re the most negative of Nancies, you’d have to admit the offense is at least showing some signs of progress the last couple weeks, and may even be able to hang in there with a decent chunk of the league (MVP-caliber opponents notwithstanding).

So after the offense seemed to hit a new gear against the Baltimore Ravens (ok, it was more like a new stick-shift driver finding 2nd gear, but still), it was interesting that in the very first minutes of the Packers game this past weekend, Tony Romo had some unsolicited compliments and a healthy dose of reality for the Matty-P-led Patriots on offense.

(Apologies for the janky video, but apparently Xfinity doesn’t let you screen-record anymore, so I had to improvise and record it on the ol’ iPhone like our ancestors did)

Here’s the transcription, if you forgot your headphones:

“Going into this year, you sit there, you lose Josh McDaniels, one of the great coordinators in the National Football League,” Romo said. “You gotta see who you are. They started off running a lot of these zones — you see Matt Patricia there — this zone type of run stuff, wide, cutback. They completely switched in Week 2, Jim, and started running right at you. More gap and power schemes, just like this.”

(at this point in the game, Damien Harris smashes through a wall of dudes for another first down)

Tony continues:

“And that was one of the biggest adjustments. It’s like, can the guy that’s been a defensive guy for most of his career, Matt Patricia, go over and do this on offense? It’s like, oh, that’s a tall task. But I’ve seen him already adjust through the first 3 weeks, and I’m seeing a lot of good stuff on tape. And like Coach Belichick said, if you’re a good coach, you can coach anywhere. But sometimes it takes time for the nuance. But I am impressed with their adjustment abilities so far.”

First off, the overarching theme is one constant that’s held true for the entirety of Bill Belichick’s tenure with the Patriots: if it ain’t working, he’s not going to keep smashing his head against the wall.

In Week 1, NESN alumni and fan favorite Doug Kyed noted that against Miami, the Patriots ran a whopping... three outside zone runs, and racked up a total of 1 yard.

That’s already a pretty swift turnaround from the preseason, where we were almost forced to ask the question “ this Shanahan stuff really going to be a thing now?”

Fast forward to Week 2 against the Steelers, and the adjustments were already being made: stick with the classics in the run game, like “This guy’s in front of you. Beat him”.

Second, getting back to Romo’s other point, any coach trying something that’s not their wheelhouse is going to be a tough endeavor. Switching to the other side of the ball was always going to be an uphill climb, and one that probably wasn’t going to happen overnight. If it did, Matty P would probably still be the head coach of the Detroit Lions.

We knew Patricia probably wasn’t going to come in and immediately do a full Lego Masters and throw down a top-10 offense. That’s just not a reasonable expectation for anyone.

What we can expect, however, is that a staff that answers to Bill Belichick at the end of the day to have some self-awareness and figure out what’s working and what’s not. And that’s where we get to the final point Tony Romo brings up, which will stun you:

“Sometimes it takes time for the nuance.”

Spicy take, I know. The finer points of being a football coordinator, and play-calling specifically, may take time to learn and master. It may take time to get used to the ebbs and flows of the game and how to make your play calls accordingly, and then to master the kind of tricks that previous Patriots OCs excelled at that caught defenses off-balance and made them pay. Who woulda thunk.

Put those two together, though, and Romo just might be preaching hope; so far, he’s been impressed with the adjustments the offensive staff has already made and how they’ve identified what works and leaned into it, and not to lay the sarcasm on too thick, but, like almost anything else in life, the more Matty P gets to practice doing it in real time, odds are, the more he’ll learn and the better he’s going to get at it.

Like we all learned during The Cam Newton Era, though, progress isn’t guaranteed to be linear. This isn’t a video game where you just keep leveling up once you rack up enough XP. So like pretty much every Patriots fan has noticed eyeballing the schedule, these next 6 weeks are a great chance to take care of some business and prove that the lessons of a 1-3 start are sticking:

This week’s contest against the Lions is a great chance to prove that the adapt-or-die mindset is sticking; the Lions are objectively the worst team in football on defense no matter how you slice it. They rank dead last in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game, and per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, perhaps not surprisingly, they’re also dead last even when you factor in the quality of the opponents they’ve played so far. Even with Bailey Zappe at the wheel, that’s winnable.

And perhaps more importantly, these next few weeks will at least be a chance to see if the positive progress — or at least proof of a good process — can finally translate into Ws.