It’s almost mind-blowing just how quickly the fortunes of the New England Patriots seem to have changed since their Super Bowl victory this time last year.
If you were to summarize this unusual chapter of the New England Patriots‘ history in only two words, those two words would be “uncharted territory.”
Two years ago — heck, even just one year ago — it would have been inconceivable to imagine we’d be at the crossroads we’re at now with this team. Consider that before this year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots had played in four of the five previous championship games… and won three of them.
Even at the beginning of the 2019 season, hope around this team in the New England area seemed as high as it had ever been.
Sure, Rob Gronkowski was unexpectedly retired, but there were tons of rumors and reports that he’d find his way back to the team when Tom Brady came calling. Antonio Brown was on the team, Josh Gordon was on the team, the defense was on a historic pace.
Life was good. No, scratch that — life was great.
Fast-forward to February 2020, and all those good vibes and feelings of optimism are long gone. In their place are new feelings — unfamiliar feelings for Patriots fans — that have more to do with doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty than anything else.
Barring a massive mental turnaround from either side, it appears that the Pats and Brady are definitively headed towards free agency at the QB position. Brady seemingly wants to see what kind of market he has out there and what other teams might be able to offer him, and the Patriots seemingly are ready to let him do just that — and perhaps might not even want him back.
The defense is still largely intact, but a number of high-profile mainstays could be headed elsewhere this spring… just like Brady. Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy — all of them could we wearing different uniforms when September rolls around again.
Offensively, there are somehow just as many question marks now as there were when Gronk first retired — if not more.
Sony Michel’s status as the future of the running back position in New England is a legitimate quagmire and area of concern. Damien Harris was drafted on Day Two last year and barely saw the light of day as a rookie in playing time.
The offensive line still has its weaknesses, and two of its biggest strengths could be MIA in 2020 if David Andrews remains out with blood clots in his lungs and Joe Thuney signs a big deal elsewhere.
The New England wide receiver position is a four-alarm dumpster fire. Julian Edelman is about the only reliable option and he’s getting older — not to mention his body seems to be breaking down at a faster rate each season. Mohamed Sanu was inconsequential to this team after the Patriots burned a second-round pick in a trade for him. Phillip Dorsett was a ghost the second half of the season.
And then of course there’s tight end. The Patriots’ top trio in 2019 — Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo — had all of 418 combined receiving yards between them.
What’s the moral of the story? New England desperately needs to make some changes if they hope to return to the postseason and make a crack at another Super Bowl appearance before the dynasty officially dies.