Key question of 2024: Is the Patriots' objective winning or "rebuilding"?

If winning and getting to the playoffs isn't the goal, what the heck is it?
2024 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Tom Brady
2024 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Tom Brady / China Wong/GettyImages

The New England Patriots have a crucial decision to make before summer camp. Are they looking to win now and vie for a playoff spot and maybe more, or are they conceding being losers in 2024 (as predicted) and maybe beyond by engaging in a long-term rebuild that will probably flop after a few years of failure anyway?

Rebuilds mainly transform into sustained mediocrity or worse, generally consigning NFL teams to an ongoing cycle of losing, getting high draft picks, and then more losing. The thought here is that there is no season but the one right in front of you. Looking ahead through rebuilding is a process doomed to endless recycles and failure.

The Patriots justifiably sit at the bottom of the AFC East. It was no fluke. Their offense was abysmal, and even a solid defense couldn't rescue them. A pivotal decision on direction had to be made after the team jettisoned long-time Head Coach and general manager Bill Belichick.

Several aspects of the offseason have already provided solid clues as to which direction the "new" Patriots have chosen to follow. But, until summer camp and the pre-season games begin, it's still a topic of conjecture. Somewhat.

There is still time to alter the 2024 season's path if the team has the inclination and the boldness to do so. Thus far, they have lacked those attributes in several key areas. We’ll explore what
the direction they seem to be going in, and then hypothesize on the one they should pursue.

Are the Patriots choosing a “rebuild” and cashiering the 2024 season?

The Patriots look like they’ve begun a longer-term rebuild. Why is that the conclusion? In free agency, they failed to address two positions that had to be filled if they aspired to have a winning season in 2024. They neither signed a left tackle nor a No. One, or X wide receiver.

Both could also have been secured in the draft, where they had high picks in nearly every round for the first time in decades. They drafted a right tackle, and two likely Z receivers, yet the key positions remained unaddressed. These omissions in free agency and the draft indicate a team not focused on winning in 2024.

To their credit, only the third position, the most important one that needed to be addressed, was drafting quarterback Drake Maye with the third overall pick. They got that need spot on. The problem is that without those two supporting positions being adequately manned, Maye’s job becomes significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

Even the prospect of a winning season is predicated on whether they plan to play the rookie from the outset or at all this season. The team spent an exorbitant $8M on a one-year deal for backup journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett. If they didn't intend to play him, why did they make that massive outlay of cash?

All this points to a “bring the rookie along slowly” strategy. You add pieces in succeeding season(s) and fill in all the necessities for a winning team. Blah, blah, blah. Head Coach Jerod Mayo's new slogan is, "Process. Progress. Payoff" as cited by

Unfortunately, slogans don't win games. Players do. "Do your job" worked because Tom Brady was on the Patriots for 20 years. They also had a lot of other top players playing alongside. "Process ..." smacks of years of futile rebuilding that usually add up to little or nothing.

Any thoughts that a masterful, brilliantly orchestrated long-term plan unquestionably leads to NFL supremacy are pure, unadulterated drivel. It's a thinly disguised justification for losing while perhaps providing a bit of short-term job security for those in charge.

Signs that the Pats “get it” and are all-in to win now

Drafting Maye was the best step toward going all-in and a try-to-win-now strategy that should be every season's Prime Objective. No one expected the 2001 Patriots to do anything until an untested, young quarterback entered the fray and changed everything. Neither were expectations high for the Houston Texans last season until a rookie QB engineered a terrific season.

Trades, even at this time of the offseason, are possible. Unfortunately, they are difficult and costly. That’s where your objective comes in. Is your goal to step onto every gameday field to win games, and perhaps get into the playoffs, as the 2001 Patriots did with a young QB, Tom Brady did, or not?

Patriots’ personnel head, Eliot Wolf, either needs to take the bull by proverbial horns and do what's necessary or tell the public flat-out the team has folded its tent for 2024 and probably longer, so don’t expect much. He has already signaled the latter.

A question and answer with Kay Adams of the NFL Network cited by, provides a clear indication of Mr. Wolf’s take on the season's playoff objectives,

“’KA: With that defense. Last one for you, the toughest one. Is this a
playoff team?’

EW: ‘Are the patriots playoff team? Listen, we’re not really playoffs or bust. I would say we’re just looking for progress. Jerod has a saying. It’s process, progress, payoff. And that’s really something that we’re striving towards. We have a lot of good players on our team. We have a lot of things that didn’t go right for whatever reason, the last couple years, but we have a lot of good players on our team, and we’re hopeful that we’re headed in the right direction.’”

Unless the Pats trade for a solid left tackle and a top receiver, Eliot Wolf is telling Patriot Nation that for 2024 and maybe beyond, they are just looking for "progress." That sums up the expectations Patriot Nation should have for 2024 season and maybe beyond. Translation, we'll likely lose; it's not about making the playoffs, but it's all part of the plan. Some plan.

Absent those trades, the Pats will have adopted and be committed to a loser’s mentality and strategy for 2024. The season will be over before it begins. The shame is that this team has a defense that can win. All the offense has to do is allow the D to win games by not giving them away. Drake Maye can do that and more if he’s provided the support he needs.

If not “playoffs or bust,” what is the Patriots' goal then? Make of that quote what you will.
Here, it’s a loser’s perspective, a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a guaranteed trip back to the AFC East basement. It's a defeatist attitude that should make Patriots owner Robert Kraft cringe.

If nothing changes between now, the beginning of camp, or shortly after that, then welcome back to Loserville, Patriot Nation. The decision will have been made that it's OK to lose because it's all part of the "process," the "plan."

The view here is that outlook is revolting and sophomoric. Alternatively, you go all-in, make the necessary deals, and try to be the best you can be, including maybe a playoff team. If that's not the goal, then what is? The New England Patriots, no doubt, have a playoff-quality defense. Give the offense the necessary tools, and who knows what the result could be?

Standing pat signals you're throwing in the towel before the 2024 season begins. It's a terrible optic. If the Patriots had a GM, e.g., Brad Stevens of the Champion Celtics, at the helm, the bet here is he’d go all in and never accept losing as part of the "plan." It's an attitude unbecoming the New England Patriots and any Boston team. And, frankly, it stinks.

More Patriots content: