Former Patriots RB Damien Harris dishes on ‘debacle’ of Matt Patricia, Joe Judge-led offense

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Even before the 2022 season began, Patriots players felt the “debacle” of an offense led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was doomed to fail, said former running back Damien Harris, who played for the Patriots from 2019 to 2022.

In a 70-minute discussion with Robert Mays on “The Athletic Football Show,” Harris explained why he wasn’t surprised Bill Belichick didn’t land a coaching job after his split from the Pats, and became the first offensive player from that 2022 team to detail publicly just how bad things got.

After Belichick tapped Patricia and Judge — two coaches with little experience on the offensive side of the ball — to run the 2022 offense for the Patriots, Harris said it seemed like the new offensive coaches were grabbing plays from Madden with no structure for how to construct a playbook. They changed the entire terminology from the few plays they did keep from the 2021 playbook, Harris said.

“We knew before our first game — we knew during training camp,” Harris said of when the team felt like the offense was going to fail even after ranking sixth in points scored the previous year with Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator.

Of course, little of this or the struggles that followed is a massive surprise. It’s been well documented how Belichick’s decisions with his offensive coaching staff in 2022 created frustration among players, and how the decisions of Patricia and Judge doomed the offense.

But it’s still interesting to hear it painted so vividly from a player who was there.

Harris said offensive leaders held meetings to figure out how they’d bring their concerns to Belichick. But those didn’t seem to be met with a listening ear.

“If anybody had anything to say about it,” Harris said, “it was (met with) a very, very quick, swift, ‘Shut the f— up. I know what I’m doing.’ And that’s it.’”

Harris did multiple times rave about Belichick, who he said he loved playing for. His issues mostly centered around the 2022 offense and the massive amount of power Belichick amassed through all of his success. Harris noted that when he went to Buffalo a year ago to play for the Bills, he felt like he was “on a different planet” because of the way he could address matters with people besides the head coach/general manager.

That attitude also highlighted why Harris said he wasn’t surprised Belichick didn’t land a head-coaching job.

“I’m not saying that to say anything bad about Bill Belichick, but I just wasn’t surprised because he’s been in one place for so long,” Harris said. “And I think that just at the stage of his career that he’s in, I think that what he was expecting to be handed to him versus what people were willing to give him — in retrospect, I think that maybe they just didn’t align.

“That’s something that I could have seen coming because, you know, Bill was the head coach, Bill was the GM, Bill was damn near the offensive coordinator, damn near the defensive coordinator, damn near the special teams coordinator, damn near this, damn near that. And you know, if he was going to go coach for another team, it would have probably just been head coach.”

Required reading

(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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