All eyes on Bill Belichick’s job status as Patriots head to Germany to face Colts
|Published: 11-10-2023 3:01 PM
FOXBOROUGH — In the past, playing a regular-season game abroad would bring a sense of festivity for a New England Patriots team that is unbeaten in three previous international appearances.
This time, it has the feeling of a team and its long-celebrated coach reluctantly stepping into a bigger spotlight as they trudge through one of their most difficult seasons in decades.
After a 24-year run in New England that has included six Super Bowl rings and two decades of dominance in the AFC, the Patriots are 2-7 — Bill Belichick’s worst start since his first season in 2000.
It led to a pointed question from a reporter this week: Does Belichick think he’ll be coaching for his job this week when New England travels to Frankfurt, German for its matchup with Indianapolis on Sunday?
“I’m going to control what I can control and get ready for the Colts,” Belichick responded.
Inquiries about Belichick’s job status reached all the way to Colts coach Shane Steichen who was asked later in the week if he could envision having Belichick’s championship credentials and being posed a similar question.
“No, I couldn’t imagine that. I think Bill Belichick is the best to ever do it,” Steichen said.
He may be, but his job security continues to be the central topic trailing a team that entered the week at the bottom of the AFC standings.
But Belichick said his approach in unchanged as he focuses on trying to turn things around.
“I do the same thing I always do. I try to do the best I can to help our team every week,” he said.
The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games played internationally.
They defeated Tampa Bay in 2009 in London, the St. Louis Rams in 2012 in London and the Oakland Raiders in 2017 in Mexico City. New England has allowed only one touchdown in each of those games, while scoring 30-plus points in all three.
The Colts are playing their second regular-season game overseas. They lost to Jacksonville 30-27 in London in 2016.
All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor sat out last season’s 26-3 loss to the Patriots. The next day, team owner Jim Irsay fired coach Frank Reich and hired Jeff Saturday as interim coach.
But Taylor played a key role in 2021. He rushed 29 times for 170 yards and one score in a 27-17 victory that ended Indy’s eight-game losing streak in the series. It was his third-best total during a season in which he won the league’s rushing title.
Steichen said he expects injured rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 overall draft pick, to return to Indianapolis later this week.
Richardson had season-ending surgery to repair a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in Los Angeles on Oct. 24. He’s expected to continue his rehab in Indianapolis when he returns to the city where he now lives.
Could he join the Colts in Germany?
“We’ll have those conversations (Wednesday) and (Thursday) and we’ll make that decision,” Steichen said. “But yeah, he’ll be back this week.”
Steichen went to London when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers and decided not to have the team fly into Germany until Friday.
The reason: He wanted to keep this week’s schedule as normal as possible.
But he has been doing some homework on the field conditions in Frankfurt.
“Just talking to other teams, obviously Miami and Kansas City went over there, seeing the surface, we’ll go over there and look at it,” he said. “We’ll just make sure we have the right cleats on when we’re over there and we’ll go from there.”
Cornerback J.C. Jackson hasn’t had the most productive reunion with the Patriots.
Now he isn’t expected to travel with the team to Germany after reportedly being late to the team hotel before last week’s game against Washington. Jackson didn’t start against the Commanders, but did play 53 snaps and recorded one tackle.
“I think we all try to do the right things. J.C. has done a lot of good stuff,” quarterback Mac Jones said of Jackson’s reported infraction. “Obviously, I’ll let him speak about that, but I have a lot of respect for J.C. and what he does.”
Jackson did not participate in practices Wednesday or Thursday for what the team listed as personal reasons.
Jackson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots in 2018, intercepting 25 passes over four seasons and earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2021. But he has struggled after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Chargers last year and was traded back to New England in October.
In five games since his return, he has just three pass breakups and 14 total tackles.