Don’t fire Bill Belichick. The No. 1 draft pick is in sight.

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Robert Kraft looked helpless, watching from a suite in his black puffer jacket. Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien were visibly frustrated on the sideline. And poor Mac Jones had to answer postgame questions about whether he still has confidence. 

The New England Patriots are at a crossroads at 2-8, far from the Super Bowl glory they experienced with Tom Brady as their franchise quarterback. And it doesn’t seem like there’s an end in sight.

“It’s really disappointing, and I had hoped that things would be a lot better, as I know our fan base did,’ Kraft told the NFL Network before the Patriots’ 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday. ‘This isn’t what we were expecting to happen this year.”

New England is on a much-needed bye in Week 11, but shouldn’t make any drastic changes like firing their legendary coach. Benching Jones should certainly be on the table, but playing him more could work out in the Patriots’ favor.

While the Patriots have been dreadful, they have been quietly working their way up the 2024 NFL draft order. They now have the No. 3 pick behind the Chicago Bears (who own Carolina’s pick slated for No. 1) and the New York Giants.

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The No. 1 pick is in sight. 

“We’ll do what’s best for the football team for now and the future,” Belichick said Monday after the team returned from Germany.

Belichick has led the Patriots to six championships, 17 AFC East titles, and 19 seasons with at least 10 wins in his 24-year tenure. Firing him unceremoniously would be a bad decision that could set the Patriots back even further.

New England also doesn’t need to try to tank the season. The Patriots are bad enough already with the second-worst offense in the NFL. It’s happening organically.

The Patriots won’t find another coach like Belichick, or another future superstar quarterback in the sixth round like Brady. But they could potentially strike gold with the top pick, or even a Top 3 pick.

USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Oregon’s Bo Nix, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Florida State’s Jordan Travis are considered the best quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL draft class. And the potential of landing a top quarterback next year could bring enough excitement to reinvigorate Belichick, Kraft and the Patriots fan base when they need it the most.

Belichick is five losses away from having the most in NFL history, which seems inevitable this season. And he is 28 wins away from tying Don Shula for most in NFL history, a figure that feels like the furthest light at the end of the tunnel at this juncture.

The Patriots have been floundering since Brady left to win his seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after his rookie year, but is far from leading a franchise accustomed to winning with the greatest quarterback of all time.

“At the end of the day, I have to play better. To make people believe, you got to be better,” Jones said after he was benched for Bailey Zappe with two minutes left against the Colts.

Belichick’s offense has also suffered, stuck in neutral with a revolving door at offensive coordinator, which O’Brien has filled, since former assistant Josh McDaniels left.

The Patriots’ recent draft history — their only All-Pro players since Brady left have come on defense and special teams — may make fans queasy they could get the pick wrong altogether.

New England needs more than just a quarterback, but having that pick to make is most important to the franchise overhaul.

As the Patriots lick their wounds during their bye, they should carefully position themselves for their Week 12 game against the New York Giants. Belichick and the Patriots have always prioritized winning, but losing to the Giants — who also have a 2-8 record before playing the Washington Commanders in Week 11 — will put New England ahead of New York in the draft order.

However, there are plenty of games remaining for any team to work their way up the draft order. The Cardinals, for instance, dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 with their win during Kyler Murray’s return Sunday. And three-win teams, such as the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, could either play into the Top 5 or out of it.

New England might be in the best position to land the top pick with Jones or Zappe leading a stagnant offense for the rest of the season, and Belichick still around to rebuild the Patriots all over again.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY