Going into this season, no one really knew what to expect with the Patriots. They had just lost Tom Brady, had some important players opt out of the season, and had few notable additions. In fact, the season in the early going was a roller coaster. They controlled the game against a Miami team that would end up as a 10 or 11 win team. They took a potential top seeded NFC team, in Seattle, down to the wire in their house. Heck, they even shut down Kansas City for a large chunk of the game too.
Unfortunately, the Patriots really did nothing more than tread water or even sink to the bottom this season. They never fully got a hold of who they were as a team, something that seemed unimaginable from a Bill Belichick coached team just over a year ago. After all, Belichick was the ultimate coach at figuring out a team’s identity and adapting. Unfortunately, this season was filled with inconsistencies from the team building phase on down.
Although this season will end after this upcoming week 17 game against the Jets, there are a lot of reasons to feel positive about the future of the team with their cap situation, draft picks available, and young nucleus drafted over the last two seasons.
Regardless, here is what’s happening as the Pats’ season comes to a close:
First Down: One big issue with this season, has been the play of the quarterback for the team. Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, and Brian Hoyer have combined to produce one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL.
Conversely, there are a couple of notes here though. None of the players here had a full offseason with the team. Most importantly, Cam was coming off a major surgery, going to a new team, and learning a new offense. Sure that is not a great excuse because a lot of players had the same situation. Despite that though, it is the truth.
Even though this season has not produced the desired results, one thing people cannot be made with is Cam’s attitude, leadership, or work ethic. He has left it all out there. He put all his heart into this year and has quickly earned the admiration and respect of everyone in the locker room. Not an easy task after replacing the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Again, have the results been as desired? No. Of course not. Is it Cam’s fault? A chunk of it, as the starting quarterback, is indeed his fault. However, given what he has to work with, it is hard to lay all of the blame at his feet.
Second Down: One thing to note from this game is the potential for a bunch of coaching changes. As ESPN reported, Adam Gase is most certainly going to be relieved of his duties after this game. And on the New England side of things, Josh McDaniels seems likely to leave if given a solid opportunity.
So where does that leave the Patriots? Well they are in a tough spot. Their coaching staff has been raided in recent years making it tough to have a coordinator ready in waiting like they had in the past with Brian Flores, Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Bill O’Brien, and Joe Judge. This time last year the prevailing thought was Jedd Fisch would have a solid shot at the play calling duties, but he just took the job at Arizona leaving the Patriots without a surefire successor to McDaniels.
Now Belichick most certainly does have a plan. There is likely to be a coach out there he could target to be his offensive coordinator. A couple names that have been thrown out there are Bill O’Brien and Adam Gase, after Belichick sung Gase’s praise this whole week. But one name I think that makes a lot of sense, if UCLA were to move on from him, is Chip Kelly. Kelly knows offense, is friends with Belichick, and would give the other offensive coaches more time to gain seasoning. This would also give Kelly an opportunity to raise his profile after a few less than ideal stops over the last several years.
Kelly would be a solid fit if the need to fill the offensive coordinator spot arises.
Third Down: Easily the most glaring need next year for New England is the quarterback spot. Bad news is that is the hardest spot to fill. The good news is they have options, more than in most offseasons.
Free Agency Options: Dak Prescott, Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston
Trade Options: Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold,
Draft Options: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask
Most likely outcome: Sign a veteran and draft a QB in rounds 1-3 to develop.
My choice: My choice here would be to trade for a guy like Matt Stafford if it wasn’t a crazy cost. He makes you a contender immediately. However another option I like, and one that is more likely, is to sign a veteran like Jacoby Brissett to play until your draft pick is ready. In the draft, Trevor Lawrence is not attainable. However, a trade up to get Zach Wilson would be my choice. Wilson has all the tools to be an elite starter in the league and if you could get into the top three or four to get him, I think you have to do it.
Fourth Down: Going into 2021-2022 season the Patriots have a long list of free agents to look into keeping. The list is as follows:
QB: Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer
RB: Rex Burkhead, James White
FB: Jakob Johnson (ERFA)
WR: Damiere Byrd
OL: Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor, Marcus Martin, David Andrews, James Ferentz
DL: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Carl Davis, John Simon, Deatrich Wise
LB: Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland
DB: Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson (RFA),
ST: Nick Folk, Dee Virgin (RFA), Cody Davis, Justin Bethel
- Patriots will be hard pressed to improve their defensive line if they lose Guy and Butler. Those two have been the Pats best DL talent for the last two years and Butler in particular has been a terror as an interior rushe and taking on double teams.
- Jason and Devin McCourty (not a FA) could both retire.
- J.C. Jackson is likely to be tendered at a 1st-round level and thus is likely to be back at least for one year. New England should be trying to extend him long-term knowing that Stephon Gilmore is a trade candidate.
- The offensive line will be in tough shape if they don’t hit on draft picks, or re-sign Andrews and Thuney. Isaiah Wynn has struggled to stay healthy and Marcus Cannon seems likely to retire.
- Running back has big names, but seems like a spot they may go young and with some less expensive options. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tom Brady push for signing James White in Tampa Bay.
Prediction: Jets 23, Patriots 16
Who would have thought the Patriots would be in this situation going into the year? On the other side the Jets have won a couple games and now will miss out on a potential generational talent under center. This game will be about pride for everyone and it will be interesting to see how it goes. Unfortunately the Patriots depth is extremely thin with their injuries along the line and at linebacker, which will likely impact their level of play. I see the Pats struggling to score as usual and the Jets being able to control the ball against a banged up and limited New England defense as Adam Gase finishes his Jets coaching career with a win in Foxborough.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani