By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots have spent the better part of the last two decades making pundits who prognosticate their impending doom look like fools. Anyone who has doubted the Pats has been proven wrong, often in spectacular fashion.
I’ll preface this by saying I hope I join the long list of Trent Dilfer’s, Max Kellerman’s, and Tom Jackson’s. I hope I’m as wrong as I’ve ever been.
But I fear that I’m not. It looks like the Patriots as we know them are coming to an end.
I’ve chosen to accept it, and you should too. Denying it won’t change the inevitable.
What a run it’s been. I’ve enjoyed nearly every second of it.
The Patriots have defied the odds for 17 years, but the bills are now due for the greatest team we will ever see in this town. They are finally on the verge of failing to meet their lofty standards, and it’s hard to see them ever reaching those heights ever again.
The 2018 Patriots are different. They’re not the Patriots, they’re imposters. The Foxborough Frauds.
No real Patriots team would lose five games on the road. No real Patriots team would give up the Miami Miracle. No real Patriots team would lose to the always-fraudulent Steelers in a big game.
And the real Tom Brady wouldn’t look like this.
It looks like Tom Terrific, the greatest player in the history of football, has finally started his decline.
It’s tough to watch.
Last week, Brady uncharacteristically forgot how many timeouts the team had. This week, he threw one of the worst interceptions of his career. His pocket presence has deteriorated, he’s seeing ghosts, and he’s ducking out of throws left and right.
I can’t erase this image from my mind. When has Brady ever looked this bad on a throw?
That isn’t the real Tom Brady. That’s somebody else. That can’t be him…that’s impossible.
But I have searched my feelings and I know it to be true. That is Brady, just the 41-year-old version of him. Father Time remains undefeated.
Nothing ever ends well. Not even this.
Realistically, there is little hope that all the serious problems the Patriots are faced with can be fixed in the immediate future. It’s going to take time, and that’s something the Pats are running out of.
Brady won’t get any younger, Rob Gronkowski might never be fully healthy again, and Julian Edelman is on the wrong side of 30 with a surgically repaired knee.
Defensively, the Patriots are trending downward. Nearly all of the core players of the last decade are either aging or have been unceremoniously shipped out of town. Trey Flowers, their best young player, is about to be paid handsomely by someone else. It will likely take a number of years to rebuild this defense. There are no quick fixes to make up for the lack of young talent on that side of the ball.
By the time those fixes are made, it will be too late. Brady will be gone. The window will be closed.
Time runs out on everyone, even the Brady-Belichick Patriots.
So in three weeks, make time to watch the Patriots on Wild Card Weekend. For the first time in what seems like an eternity, Brady and company will likely be playing for the right to go on the road in the playoffs the following week.
Don’t kid yourselves: we all know how a road playoff game will end for this team.
It’s best to just accept it: these aren’t the Patriots anymore. The real Patriots are gone, perhaps for good.
I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.
Here’s to the way it used to be. We’ll never see anything like it again.
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.