The Pips were nothing without Gladys Knight. The Jackson Five wasn’t the same without Michael. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are an average football team — at best — without Tom Brady.
Sometimes one person makes all the difference.
After Sunday night’s 24-17 home loss to the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001. It’s also the first time they’ve been 0-2 by dropping their first two games at home.
This is the sign of a bad team. Which is something that football fans hadn’t thought the Patriots to be for the last 20-plus years. But yet, here we are, in 2023 and Belichick’s team sits beside the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals in the winless column.
If you include the postseason, New England is 25-28 without Brady and only has one winning season under its belt since his departure. To put that into perspective, the Patriots won 26 total games (regular season and playoffs) in Brady’s last two seasons in Foxboro.
Saying that they’ve fallen off a cliff would be an understatement.
“If his goofy grin was any indication, he loved it. They loved it,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Shalise Manza Young — who covered the Patriots for almost a decade — after New England dropped its season opener to the Eagles, which was Brady’s return to Foxboro.
“Not so lovable: The inability of the post-Brady Patriots to consistently win close games or put up enough points to win in a league that has shifted heavily toward offense. Since drafting Mac Jones in 2021, New England is now 0-11 in his starts when the opponent scores 25 points or more. Jones also has only one fourth-quarter comeback and one game-winning drive in his 33 NFL games.
“That is not The Standard. What is the once-vaunted ‘Patriot Way,’ an idea at one point used so often it became hackneyed?”
For as much heat as Mac Jones deserves for his play, he’s in a position that no one ever wants to be in by following Brady — especially after the Cam Newton debacle. But, while Jones does have to own up to his mistakes and lack of development, let’s not act like New England has been a place that’s good at drafting quarterbacks.
Think about it, when Belichick took over the Patriots, Drew Bledsoe was already there and Brady was the 199th pick that a team could take a chance on. And while it’s fun to look back at the six quarterbacks that were drafted before Brady in 2000 (Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn) it’s not like Belichick desired to take any of them, as he was fine with the likes of John Friesz and Michael Bishop on the depth chart in his first season with the Patriots.
Guys like Rohan Davey, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Cassel, Kevin O’Connell, Zac Robinson, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Danny Etling, Jarrett Stidham, Jones, and Bailey Zappe make up the list of quarterbacks that Belichick has taken since lucking up on Brady. Defense and special teams have always been his specialty, not offense, which is why he’s still coming up with field goal schemes that no one has ever seen.
New England has a quarterback problem, which lends itself to having a Bill Belichick problem. The passing game is stale and boring. The defense is solid, but can only do so much. And the run game can’t be as effective as it needs to be because teams know they’re going to live and die with running the ball. Before the season, there were murmurs that Belichick could be on the hot seat. It felt strange to say, and even crazier to think. But after starting out 0-2 with upcoming games against the undefeated Cowboys and Saints on their schedule, things in Foxboro could get much worse before they ever get better — or even back to average — again.
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