The Patriots As We Knew Them, Are No More

It took me a couple of days to find the strength to write this blog. I’ve been doing some soul searching and meditation, trying to calm myself from Sunday’s event.

I even began reading. Imagine that. Reading philosophical writings from a variety of authors. I was looking for comfort and guidance in how to handle the emotions I was feeling.

Of all the readings, one struck a cord. Who would have thought, it was a quote from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling herself.

Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery

-J.K. Rowling

This quote I think, is very important for all Patriots fans. Especially coming off what I believe is the worst loss in the Bill Belichick Era. I never thought the “Miami Miracle” could be topped, but here we are.

All Time Loss

New England’s 30-24 heartbreaking loss to the Las Vegas Raiders broke me. Not just because they lost to former OC Josh McDaniels. Also, not because the loss effectively kills their playoff hopes.

Those things are sad and definitely hurt, but that’s not what broke me. What broke me is the pure stupidity of how we lost. The Patriots did something that only a team like the Browns, Lions, or yes, the Raiders, could be capable of.

It’s numero uno on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10. It’s the Shaqtin’ A Fool Highlight of the Week. I can hear Randy Moss’ “C’mon Man!!” right now.

It was the most embarrassing loss I’ve seen maybe ever honestly, across any NFL game. The loss was truly that bad. New England is currently the laughing stock of the football world.

The game was tied. There was no need to risk it. Just knee it and go to overtime. The Patriots had up to that point dominated the second half. Why take such a chance?

How could we let this happen?

Understanding the Loss

Mac Jones gets obliterated on game ending play by Chandler Jones. Photo by John Locher/Associated Press

Circling back to the Rowling quote, we have to understand the loss to fully accept it. Many Patriots fans might be struggling with this part. I know I was at first. However, the closer you look, the easier you’ll realize how this could have happened.

So, let’s talk about it. How could this have happened? Well, the way that I see it, that last second loss to the Raiders is just the cherry on top of what has been the worst cake ever made.

What I mean by that is, this was not random. This was not just a simple lapse in judgment. No, this is just a continuation of what we’ve seen all year. Of course, this was the most extreme instance, but this is honestly nothing new.

New England has been sloppy all year. Their 7-7 record and wins over inferior opponents have helped mask a lot of the bad. The truth is, New England has been one of the most unorganized and chaotic teams all year. On and off the field.

Fall of the Empire

Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick is very much to blame for all that has gone wrong in New England. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It all starts with Belichick.

Let me just say, I love Bill Belichick. All of New England should love Bill. He’s the greatest coach of all-time, I truly believe that. New England became the most successful dynasty in really all of American professional sports thanks to him. He’s a legend to whom I’ll always be thankful.

All that being said, that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass when he fails. Boy, he has failed big time with the Patriots post Tom Brady.

I’m going to divulge into some nerd talk real quick. Bear with me. I recently finished the new Star Wars TV show Andor on Disney+. If you haven’t seen it, I implore you to watch it, it’s fantastic.

That show at its core, is really the story of how the Empire was able to be defeated. If you’ve ever watched Star Wars, it is a fair question of how was a small group of Rebels able to defeat a massive Empire.

The show presents a rather simple answer. The Emperor is simply spread too thin. There is no way for him to oversee everything. The Empire is far too large for one man to ensure efficiency across every unit. There are cracks in the foundation, which Rebels like Cassian Andor exploit and attack.

This is what I believe is also true of Belichick and the Patriots. Bill became Emperor of everything and has tried to control every aspect of the team. He only delegates work to those who are “his guys,” extreme Belichick loyalists.

The reason NFL teams have different coordinators and have so many different assistants is to ensure efficiency. One man can’t do it all, you need help. Belichick has tried to go against that methodology. He’s judge, jury, and executioner in New England.

Bill the defensive wizard is still great. He’s been able to take average players consistently and turn them into studs. New England, even post Brady, have had solid defenses. However, Bill the GM, Bill the scout, Bill the offensive coach, and Bill the special teams coach haven’t been great.

He has his hands in every part of the team. Where he doesn’t, he has guys that will do whatever he says or wants. There’s no one to challenge him, no one to offer any additional input.

It’s this methodology that has led to Matt Patricia handling playcalling and offensive line duties. This despite him clearly being out of his element and not knowing what he is doing.

The whole reason that final play happened was the ineptitude of Patricia. Any other coach would just kneel it down and go to OT. Patricia and Belichick opted to go for a HB Draw from forever away, which is asinine.

Because this play had zero chance of working, Rhamondre Stevenson was forced to improvise. The reality is that only a lateral could lead to a score in that spot. The message was clear to try and win the game in regulation.

Even if the coaching staff didn’t necessarily call the lateral, they caused it. Instead of going to OT, the game was over. The Patriots, who up to that point had outscored Vegas 21-7 in the second half, were afraid of OT. Imagine this team during the Brady Era being afraid of OT.

This is the organization that has plagued the team all season. We can sit here and blame Patricia and Joe Judge all we want. The fact of the matter is, Belichick put them there. In an attempt for complete control, he’s doomed the entire team.

It’s a trickle-down effect that has ruined the Patriots. Belichick’s “genius” has hurt the team tremendously. To understand the loss, you first have to understand what caused it. The problem starts from the top, and has corrupted the entire “Patriot Way.”

Now that we have an understanding of the problem, we can accept reality. The reality that the New England Patriots, as we knew them, are no more.

Acceptance

Mac Jones may not be the savior of this team. Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

This, I believe, is the hardest part of all this. For me, as well as the rest of Pats Nation. Accepting the reality that our beloved Patriots are not who they used to be. The dynasty is dead, and has been from the minute Brady left.

I was one of the optimists who hoped this would be the start of Dynasty 3.0. That Bill would find a way to build a contender without Tommy Terrific. I heald onto that hope up until this year.

To be fair, they were actually on the right path. They made the playoffs last season. New England had a solid defense and a young offense on a potential rise. Then they let Josh McDaniels leave.

I was fine with it. McDaniels grew stale his final years in Foxborough. A change was needed. Unfortunately, it was a change for the worse. Had New England grabbed a real OC, this conversation could be a heck of a lot different.

Again though, Bill is stuck in his way. He’s gone mad with power, and there really isn’t any chance of bringing him down. That’s the hard reality we as fans must face. This team will only see real change once Bill is gone.

He’s not going to change his ways now. He’s too old, and has been doing this for too long. You really think he’ll start delegating more? He’s not giving up his power, let alone to someone from outside his “guys.”

Pride is what is killing the Patriots. Belichick’s inability to realize his failures and try and change is crushing the team. New England still lacks a stud receiver. Even after all the resources that has been invested in the position over the past five years.

Mac Jones has regressed horribly under his watch. Bill allowed an incompetent OC to take control of his young prodigy. Patricia has poisoned Mac, and even Mac has started to realize it. You see it in all the outbursts.

New England is tied for last place in the AFC East. With the Jets. Honestly, if it wasn’t for how bad Zach Wilson is, the Jets would be far and away the better team, too. New England is being passed by every team they once bullied.

Our time at the top is over. New England’s reign of terror is at an end. The Empire has fallen. We can cling on to the hope that they’ll catch another wind. That Belichick will right the ship and get it back on course.

But that time has passed. Three years have come and gone since Brady left town. In that time, New England became one of the most disorganized franchises in the sport.

This is what the Patriots are now. A bad football team. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can begin to recover.

Recovery

Brady and Belichick embrace after a Patriots game
Photo by David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Change is never easy. Accepting the fact that the Patriots aren’t good anymore isn’t easy, either.

Gone are the days of being perennial contenders. The Patriots are no longer above the rest. We are no longer the kings of execution. New England makes mistakes, just like all the other teams.

In the draft, in free agency, on the field. The efficient days of old are no more. We are human, we bleed just like everyone else. The sooner that we as a fanbase accept that, the better off we will be.

That doesn’t mean we can’t hope for success. That the Patriots can never have expectations. It just means that at least for the time being, we have to lower them.

We were spoiled for 20 years. What a time to be alive it was. The reality is, this day was coming at some point. No team can stay like that forever. Even the Patriots were going to fall eventually.

Appreciate the good times, don’t be afraid to revisit them. There’s no shame in it. I watch Patriots’ Super Bowl highlights weekly. Gets me through how bad they are in the present.

The Patriots of old are gone, but I’ll still love them anyways. Hopefully you will too. For all the joy the gave us for so long, it seems fitting it’s time for the opposite side.

You know what? I’m okay with it too. As frustrating as things may be now, I’m finally okay with it. If this is the price of the greatest 20 year run in sports, I’m okay. I’ll take the shaky times, because my God were the good times good.

The Patriots we knew are gone, but certainly not forgotten.

Featured Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

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