Tom Brady’s Patriots era is now bookended and because of their lack of draft picks the future for New England looks bleak.
The “patriots seasons” is a bookend that has happened in the NFL. The Patriots have gone from being the best team to now being one of the worst teams. They are now in a scary place again.
The Buffalo Bills’ 30-point defeat to the New England Patriots on Saturday night wasn’t the worst in Bill Belichick’s two-decade tenure with the organization. It wasn’t even the Bills’ worst defeat under Bill.
By one point, the season opener in 2003, when Patriots cast-offs Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy got a little payback with a 31-0 thrashing, takes the top spot.
But that was a different era in Patriots history at the time. The Pats would win their second Super Bowl victory in three seasons by the conclusion of that season. Under the leadership of Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, they made it 3 of 4 with a title a year later.
The duo’s last title came in the 2018 season. Brady stayed in New England for one more year, losing their sole playoff game, before moving to Tampa, where he won another Super Bowl.
So the Patriots are now two seasons distant from Brady and three years gone from the Boston Duck Boat Parade. And the gap between where the Patriots were back then and where they are today after Saturday’s 47-17 defeat could not be much wider.
Was it Brady or Belichick who led the Patriots to victory? We could be on the verge of getting an answer.
Getty Images/Mac Jones | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe
The three seasons leading up to Brady’s first Super Bowl victory in 2001, when he wrested the starting position from Bledsoe and never looked back, would be worth revisiting now that the bookends of Brady’s career have been defined.
The Patriots fell 25-10 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Round in 1998, under Bledsoe and coach Pete Carroll, and then failed to enter the playoffs for the following two seasons, including Belichick’s first in New England.
Then, in Week 2 of the 2001 season, Mo Lewis collided with Bledsoe, and the rest is Super Bowl history.
On the other hand, the Patriots are facing a nearly palindromic situation, with a missed postseason appearance in Brady’s first year without him and a one-and-done playoff thrashing at the hands of the Bills in Year 2.
The Patriots’ dominance in the 19 seasons before Brady took over has now regressed to the point where simply making the playoffs felt like a Herculean challenge and winning in January appeared nearly unthinkable. It’s the greatest pressure Belichick has ever under in his Patriots tenure to keep the club on track.
Even Belichick appeared surprised by how hard his team was beaten by his division foe on Saturday night, and how drastic a shift in the AFC East may be taking place.
“We all need to take a step back, gather our breath, and look at things from a different perspective.” “We’ll speak about specific scenarios at some time,” Belichick added. “Players who aren’t under contract, players whose future with the club or individual circumstances are unknown, they will be dealt with at a later date, definitely not today, tomorrow, or the following day.”
Mac Jones, like a young Brady two decades ago, must mature quickly.
The Education of Rookie Mac Jones was compared to the young unknown sixth-round selection forced into the starting position in 2001, game-managing the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
However, Jones is not Brady – no one is – and the defense that Jones and the Patriots relied on to get to 9-4 after 13 games this season vanished down the stretch, unlike the 2001 one that dominated all the way to and through Super Bowl 36.
As a result, the pressure on Jones to step up his game in 2022 has just grown dramatically.
After the game, Jones observed, “Losing is dreadful, and none of us wanted to do that today.” “We can’t do anything about it.” There’s a lot to be excited about, be optimistic about, and learn from. There’s nothing on which to hang our hats. I’m really pleased of the individuals who have helped me develop as a person, including coaches, players, and support staff. There’s a lot to learn from looking back, and there’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s merely a learning experience that will help me improve next year.”
If there is one last parallel between Brady and Jones today, it is his teammates’ trust in the rookie from Alabama.
“I believe that young kid has a great future for this organization,” said Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater, whose own career may be at a fork in the road. “I think the guy that he is, the character that he has, not just his skill on the field.” He’s the kind of guy you want to build a business around.
“I know my kids, and I’ll be keeping an eye on him for a long time.” I’m looking forward to seeing where this company goes with him. It’s been a privilege to play with him and see him develop over the course of the year. Patriots Nation, you should be ecstatic to have No. 10 at your disposal.”
Despite the odds stacked against them, the Patriots remain focused on the future.
Patriots supporters, Tom Brady will not be stepping through that door. Pete Carroll, on the other hand, isn’t.
The 2021 season may have drawn a clear line between what Slater called a “period of unreality,” in which anything less than a Super Bowl win was considered a failure. The season may have ended in humiliation with one of the franchise’s worst postseason losses ever.
However, there were many positives for the squad to work on. In a draft class loaded of big stars, Jones was the best rookie quarterback in the NFL. Damien Harris and youngster Rhamondre Stevenson, the running back duo, were formidable, though not wholly durable. For 13 weeks, the defense was dominant until running out of steam in the final weeks.
After a 2-4 start, the Patriots went on a seven-game winning run, giving supporters and critics alike hope that the golden days were still ahead of them.
“I believe that beginning the season 2-4 and rising back and developing… “I believe we improved from last year; we did certain things well throughout the season, but we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish,” veteran defensive back Devon McCourty said. “Who’s how the NFL works: teams that are playing well towards the end of the season find ways to win, and that typically keeps the game going.” We just did not do so.”
Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.
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