By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
If we’re being honest, this is not how anyone envisioned it, least of all Bill Belichick, who started preparing for the departure of Tom Brady almost six years ago. That’s when Belichick selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the NFL draft while essentially telling us that Brady was in the twilight of his career.
The idea was to move from one quarterback to the other and to do so - key word here - seamlessly, without using the toxic word of rebuild, or the dreaded term bridge year, or taking one step back to take two steps forward.
But that’s where it feels like the Patriots are now, at least pending the balance of free agency, the NFL draft and shrewd maneuvers that Belichick has tucked up the severed sleeves of his hoodie.
Think about it: in the past two offseasons, the Patriots have lost, among others, Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Trent Brown, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Trey Flowers, Danny Shelton and Stephen Gostkowski. Meanwhile, according to the respected Mike Reiss, they have nearly $23 million in dead salary cap space, one of the highest figures in the league. They’ve also had a seeming succession of bad drafts – again, that is subject to change – and lost a parade of coaches, including Dante Scarnecchia, Matt Patricia, Brendan Daly, Joe Judge, Chad O’Shea and Brian Flores, among others.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels seemingly wanted to get but couldn’t. (Belichick reportedly angered McDaniels by recommending Judge for the New York Giants job.) And player personnel director Nick Caserio wanted the job as Houston's general manager only to have the Patriots block him by filing tampering charges against the Texans.
To summarize: the Patriots have lost a mountain of talented players and coaches while having questionable (at best) drafts and relatively little money to spend.
Sounds more like the Red Sox than it does the winner of six Super Bowls.
Of course, Belichick and the Pats have earned some latitude – and then some – whether Belichick wants it or not. But that’s not the point. Given the deft nature in which the Patriots have handled their business over their years, they simply weren’t as prepared for this transition as they should be. At the moment, the Pats have serious questions on the defensive and offensive lines, in the linebacking corps, at receiver and tight end. And lest we forget, they also have a huge question at quarterback, where the development (or not) of Jarrett Stidham could have a ripple effect.
Worried? Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. After all, this is Bill Belichick we’re talking about. But on paper, at least, the Patriots weren’t as ready for this inevitable day as we all might have expected, especially when you consider that, historically speaking, Belichick has always seemed ready for everything.