To understand where the New England Patriots find themselves these days is to understand what happened in South Florida just a few short weeks ago. Tom Brady, the long-time Pats quarterback did what he knew he could do: win outside the ‘Patriot Way’.
Brady effectively showed how ugly divorce can get. Without the shackles of the Death Star, Tommy Terrific won a Lombardi Trophy for someone other than Robert Kraft. He also put to bed the idea of being a system quarterback.
For once in a very long time, the Patriots are a question mark. They are not settled at the quarterback position. They have holes on offense that Brady once compensated for. In 2021, the Buffalo Bills will be the division favorite, and just like that, Bill Belichick is in the same muck as the New York Jets.
It’s not complicated. New England is missing the one key ingredient to winning. With no Brady, the Pats are very mortal. To move beyond the also-rans, they will need to find a capable quarterback. For fans, it will boil down to whether Darth Vader wants to reboot with a rookie or look to move back into contention with a veteran.
Belichick might not be so keen to jump back into the Cam Newton arena. Newton is years beyond his prime, and these days, Cam is more about Cam. If New England wants to be a serious contender in 2021, Newton won’t figure into those plans. That said, quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo (a one-time Patriot), Andy Dalton, or the steady, if not unimpressive, Ryan Fitzpatrick, remain logical contenders.
Of note, as we are in the mock draft season, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has New England trading up to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. Other names out in the ether worth considering are Mack Jones from Alabama, Zach Wilson from BYU, and maybe even Justin Fields from Ohio State. All possibilities for where the Patriots could go at the key position, but all contingent on what Belichick wants as soon as next season.
The Post Brady Era Won’t Be Easy
Ultimately, that may be the biggest issue for Patriot Fan. Post Brady, New England no longer features that significant wrinkle for other teams. Garoppolo, Dalton, and Fitzpatrick won’t scare anyone on Sunday afternoon. Neither will any rookie that could potentially work his way into the starting lineup.
Brady has already shown he can win outside of the Patriot Way. Scoring another Super Bowl ring allows him bragging rights outside of New England. It also places a lot of pressure on Belichick and an organization that was always in the mix for a championship.
Brady and Belichick were the signature definition of excellence in the NFL. The conventional wisdom was that once apart, they wouldn’t be quite so good elsewhere. Tom Brady blew up that idea. While he looked relatively at ease winning another Super Bowl, New England is back at the drawing board. It won’t be easy this time around, making what Brady did that much more curious. Given that Belichick wasn’t the puppet master.