Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (left) shakes hands with New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan after a game at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Jets 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
First it was the New York Jets who–after defeating the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round following the 2010 season behind loud and brash head coach Rex Ryan–declared the Patriots’ Reign of the AFC East over. The Jets imported veteran wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason in the 2011 offseason to add to their offense for young quarterback Mark Sanchez after making the AFC Championship game for a second consecutive season. On defense the Jets added outside linebacker Aaron Maybin and drafted penetrating defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
Instead of toppling Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the Jets instead went on to lose 38 games over the next four years and Ryan was fired.
In 2012 it was the Buffalo Bills who coming off a 6-10 season and decided to shake up their defense with two big moves. They broke the bank with a record free agent contract to defensive end Mario Williams to be the backbone of their their defense and they spent their top five draft pick on disruptive defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. They also went out and signed pass rush specialist Mark Anderson away from the Patriots and nose tackle Kyle Williams returned from injury. A healthy Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller on offense had the media declaring the Bills the offseason darlings and the new favorite to knock-off New England in the AFC East.
Instead the Bills repeated at 6-10 in 2012 and for a third consecutive season in 2013 despite their big free agency spending.
Dec 14, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace (11) scores a touchdown as New England Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler (21) defends during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, in 2013 it was the Miami Dolphins coming off a fourth straight season of 7 or less victories when they decided to splurge in free agency to surround young franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill with dynamic offensive talent. In came top free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace and slot receiver Brandon Gibson. Tight end Dustin Keller was plucked from division rivals the New York Jets. On defense the Dolphins paid top dollar to import linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe and in the draft the Dolphins traded up to the number three overall pick to grab pass rushing defensive end Dion Jordan.
It was unanimous by almost all major media outlets: the Patriots’ Reign in the AFC East was over for sure in 2013. Instead the Dolphins finished 8-8 in 2013 and again last year.
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