“How do we feel…” is how special teamer Matthew Slater breaks down the team after games. Slater asks how the Patriots feel about their record, clinching the division, or anything else team related. After the Patriots’ recent roster moves, I keep asking myself, “How do we feel”? Like a middle school relationship on Snapface, It’s complicated.
The 2019 season was a strange one for the Patriots and their fans. What should have been another victory tour and deep playoff run ended all too early. After coming off a victory in Super Bowl LIII, they added several talented players on offense and defense. The wide receivers group received a few new weapons. They added Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown, with Josh Gordon returning from another suspension. In addition, rookies Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, and Gunner Olszewski appeared ready to make an impact.
On the other side of the ball was a unit that held the Los Angeles Rams to only 3 points in the Super Bowl. Almost all of the impact players stayed for the 2019 season, and Jamie Collins returned from his exile to Cleveland. The secondary consistently made big plays and killed opposing drives. Special teams constantly pinned the other team deep in their own territory. And possibly most important of all, Tom Brady was still the quarterback.
Before the season kicked off, everyone had all but conceded the Super Bowl to the Patriots. But that’s why they play the games. While the defense had Sam Darnold seeing ghosts and led the league in turnovers, the offense could not get going. After only one game, Antonio Brown became a liability off the field. Edelman continued to take big hits that led to injuries, they traded Thomas, and they released Josh Gordon. They went from all of the wide receivers to none of the wide receivers.
The offensive line struggled to give Brady time to find receivers, the receivers struggled to get open, and the run game was almost non-existent. Great passes from Brady were dropped at a high rate. In the end, the Patriots failed to secure a first-round playoff by. Then they lost in the divisional round to Mike Vrable and the Tennessee Titans. I got to watch that game from a bed in the ER while suffering from pancreatitis. Let me tell you, that game hurt way more than any physical pain I felt.
That loss stung and probably always will, but there’s always next season, right? That’s what I told myself in that hospital bed. Just like in other years that didn’t end in a Super Bowl victory. But here we are in March, with no Tom Brady. No Kyle Van Noy. No Jamie Collins, or Duron Harmon, or Nate Ebner. Brian Hoyer appears to be the starting quarterback. There haven’t been any moves to bolster the offensive line, or receivers, or tight ends. And while I was never his biggest fan, they don’t even have Stephen Gostkowski any more. He wasn’t very consistent, but he was the safe choice. Like a girlfriend in your sophomore year of college, you know she’s not the best option, but all the other choices are taken. You knew what to expect from Gostkowski. But that’s gone too.
In a situation like this, most teams and fanbases wouldn’t have much hope. Patriot haters are celebrating the end of The Dynasty. But what they forget is that the Patriots have something they don’t. The Patriots have Bill Belichick. It feels like every year, we as fans are in a similar situation. Belichick lets great players leave in free agency, or trades them, or just releases them. The sports world loves to claim that Belichick the general manager hampers Belichick the coach. And every year, he makes moves that prove to be genius.
While Patriots Nation mourned the loss of Tom Brady and other beloved players, Belichick went to work. No Days Off. It’s not just a chant that never caught on, it’s what makes him the best coach of all time. He went out and signed younger, cheaper players to replace the ones that left. That’s what he always does. They’ll never be able to replace Tom Brady or have the same kind of success as they had before. The dynasty as we know it is over, but that doesn’t mean the Patriots are dead. They’re just on to 2020. So, how do we feel? We feel sad that Brady left. We feel hope for the future. But most importantly, we feel grateful for the past 20 years of great football. In Bill We Trust.
–Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes