New England Patriots over/under 9 wins in 2019-2020
After the bombshell news of three-time MVP and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady departing New England for Tampa Bay, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will have to start from scratch offensively, with either veteran Brian Hoyer or 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham at the helm.
- Many key defensive pieces have moved on from Foxboro as well, including linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr., and defensive tackle Danny Shelton. The Patriots also traded safety Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions.
- With just over $1 million in cap space, Belichick faces maybe the most challenging test of his career, which spans over 40 years. Will the Patriots fail to reach nine wins for the first time since the year 2000?
After a disappointing end to the 2019-20 New England Patriots season, in which a Tom Brady pick-six cemented their elimination from the playoffs at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, everyone wanted to know what the GOAT would do. Brady, now 42 years old, had nothing more to prove to Pats fans, but they still wanted the three-time MVP and six-time Super Bowl winner to come back in red, white and blue if he was planning to come back at all.
Brady shocked New England—and most of the sports world in general—when he announced he would indeed come back to play, but that he was headed to Tampa Bay to sign with the Buccaneers. Not long after the dust settled from that media storm, former Patriots powerhouse tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement—only to be traded to the Buccaneers to rekindle his offensive connection with Brady.
For Pats fans, a nightmare was unfolding in front of their eyes. One by one, key defensive players also started to sign elsewhere. Coach and GM Bill Belichick made little effort to stop the bleeding, remaining quiet and keeping acquisitions minimal. The Patriots have been an absolute juggernaut in terms of money line betting and at the same time are one of the best NFL ATS picks over a long period of time. Pats fans are now getting extremely nervous and asking…Could this be the first losing season for New England in over two decades?
No Sense Trying to Fill Those Shoes
However you feel about Brady and the Patriots, at this point it seems inarguable to call Brady the best quarterback in the history of football. He led the Patriots to nine Super Bowls (most ever by a player), winning six of them (most ever by a player) and taking home four Super Bowl MVPs (also the most ever by a player). He tallied three NFL MVPs as a Patriot, and was named to the Pro Bowl a record-tying 14 times.
Brady holds the record for the most playoff wins as a starter with 30, more than Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson combined. He also stands atop the list of regular season wins as a starter (219). He is far-and-away the all-time leader in postseason yards (11,179), postseason touchdown passes (73), and postseason completions (1,005). He won a record 17 division titles, threw touchdowns to a record 77 different receivers, and led a record 58 game-winning drives as a Patriot.
Long story short, there will never be another Tom Brady, and nobody will ever be able to fill the massive shoes he left at Foxboro Stadium.
That being said, Belichick does not seem overly concerned with trying to do so anytime soon. The one quarterback he has signed this offseason (for $1.05 million) was veteran journeyman and former Patriot Brian Hoyer, who may start the 2020-21 season or may just mentor second-year QB Jarrett Stidham.
Neither of these guys are going to light the world on fire offensively right out of the gate. Hoyer, who Belichick drafted in 2009, has thrown 52 touchdowns and 34 interceptions across his entire career. He has a career completion percentage at 59.1 percent, and his all-time record stands at 16-22.
Stidham, meanwhile, impressed with his accuracy and decision-making at the NFL Combine last year after two strong seasons at Auburn (he transferred from Baylor after his freshman year). Across his college career (including only 10 games with Baylor), he threw for 48 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions and had a 64.3 percent completion rate. In 2017, he threw for 3,158 yards. As an NFL rookie last season, he threw four passes, completing two of them for 14 yards and throwing one interception that was returned for a touchdown.
So yeah, he’s got some growing to do as a professional. But with Hoyer as his mentor instead of Brady—who didn’t seem to relish the mentor role whatsoever—Stidham should be able to build up his confidence. Add the genius of Belichick, and the quarterback coaching ability of Josh McDaniels, and there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Patriots. Just don’t expect it to work perfectly right out of the gate, especially coming off a shaky year for the offensive line and the retirement of legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
The Pats started five different starting offensive lines last season, and injuries forced backups to combine for 26 starts. Stidham’s success will hinge largely on the healthy comeback of center David Andrews, the continued ascent of right tackle Marcus Cannon, and the consistency of tackle Isaiah Wynn and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. If they can stay on the field, and improve as a collective unit, Stidham will have the time to take care of the ball and utilize his fairly good array of skill players.
Their Standout Defense Has Also Taken Some L’s
While paling in comparison to the void left by Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots defense took quite the beating this offseason as well. What seemed like a historically elite defense midway through the season now seems like a distant memory, as several key cogs have moved elsewhere.
The biggest losses come at the linebacker position. Fresh off a superb second stint with New England, this time outside linebacker Jamie Collins elected to leave Foxboro on his own accord, reuniting with former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Collins registered 81 tackles last season (58 solo), adding seven sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovered.
Also a big blow to the defense is the loss of emergent fellow outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a Belichick diamond in the rough the Pats acquired from Detroit toward the 2016 trade deadline. In his three full seasons as a Patriot, Van Noy averaged 73.6 tackles, 5.1 sacks, and 11.3 QB hits a season. Also joining forces with a former Belichick assistant coach, Van Noy and inside linebacker Elandon Roberts have chosen to play for Brian Flores in Miami.
As if that wasn’t enough, breakout defensive tackle Danny Shelton signed with Detroit for $8 million a year. And then Belichick traded free safety Duron Harmon, who played in all but one game throughout his seven-year Patriots career, to the Lions for a fifth round pick, which subsequently also ended up getting traded. That’s a lot of Patriots talent leaving to play for former Patriots coaches.
Belichick has worked very slowly and conservatively to address the voids left by all these prominent departures. He signed Cody Davis, a safety who has played for three teams and started only five total games since being drafted in 2013. He then inked a $1.05 million deal with Brandon Copeland, a huge linebacker coming off an underwhelming year with the Jets.
Belichick then grabbed defensive back Adrian Phillips, who perked up the ears of Pats fans when they heard on sports radio that he had been selected to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams in 2018. But they were quickly dismayed to realize he was selected as a special teams player, not as a safety. Yay, we replaced Nate Ebner, the Pats fans started to groan.
And then, to replace Shelton, Belichick signed Beau Allen, also known as “The Polar Bear.” A burly pass rusher, Allen comes off an injury-hampered season in which he only played 175 total defensive snaps and logged a measly four quarterback pressures.
Besides re-signing Devin McCourty, the only truly promising move Belichick has made this offseason for his defense was focusing on his team’s needs at the draft. His first three picks addressed the gaps left by Collins, Van Noy, and Harmon, going with safety Kyle Dugger and outside linebackers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings.
An Unfamiliar Phrase to New Englanders: “There’s Always Next Year”
Let’s face it—if it’s glaringly obvious that the coach and general manager of a football franchise has treated this upcoming season as a bridge year, so too should the folks betting on that franchise. DraftKings has the over/under line for Patriots regular season wins at 8.5 (over: -130; under: +107). This number just seems like a hat-tip to Belichick and the success he has enjoyed even when Brady has been unable to suit up.
But in an unprecedented year, this organization faces unprecedented challenges, most of which simply cannot be fixed in the short-term. Because they owe $26.16 million in dead money, mostly to Brady, the ghost of Antonio Brown, and former kicker Stephen Gostkowksi, the Patriots have a mere $1.3 million free cap space and a myriad of question marks to address in training camp and the preseason.
Cut your losses and respect the process of the rebuild, New England fans. The Pats will be lucky to eke out seven wins this upcoming season.