Is This the Beginning of the End for the Patriots?


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks off the field after losing Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The New England Patriots have been a dominant but controversial sports dynasty so far in the 21st century. The organization has won five Super Bowls in the past 17 years and there are still teams that have not won one in the Super Bowl era (1967-present).  They have been nearly unstoppable, consistently winning division championships. However, they lost this last Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles who were led by Nick Foles, their backup quarterback.  So it begs the question, when, if ever, will the Patriots stop winning?  Is it soon? Will it be when Tom Brady retires, when their coaching staff leaves, or over time as many players leave the team and retire?

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Patriots GM/Head Coach Bill Belichick, despite his penchant for bending (and breaking) the rules, is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL.

The Patriots complete dominance is one reason why most of the country, except New England, hates them.  While they keeping winning, the rest of the division has barely had success.  The last time each of their division rivals played in the Super Bowl was the 1993 Bills, 1985 Dolphins, and the 1969 Jets. As soon as a team rises, they are soundly slaughtered by the Patriots. Fans like competition and diversity, but fans of other teams are bored in the 2000s because they think to themselves, “Who will be facing the Patriots this year in the Super Bowl?”

TBS students expressed their hatred for the Patriots for varying reasons.

“I hate the Patriots because of Deflategate,” said seventh grader Brin Poswencyk. “I hate the Patriots because they win too much,” said seventh grader Alex Fleming Lake. “I hate the Patriots because they cheat,” said seventh grader Andrew Moffitt.

Many division rival fans of the the Patriots are jealous of the Patriots success.  “I feel like I hate the Patriots because of their greatness,” said either grader Matthew Smith. “I’m a Dolphins fan. I don’t hate the Bills or the Jets, though I hate the Patriots because they’re in the Super Bowl every year.”

Students also believe the Patriots cheat too much because of the Deflategate and Spygate scandals. Deflategate refers to the 2014 AFC championship against the Indianapolis Colts where future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady was suspected of allegedly deflating the footballs to obtain a better grip. The NFL hired an independent investigator, attorney Ted Wells, to look into the matter. He found it “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of tampering with the official game footballs. As a result, the NFL suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2016 regular season, fined the Patriots $1 million, and stripped the team of its 2016 first-round draft pick and their 2017 fourth-round draft pick.

Spygate took place during the 2007 season when New England was disciplined by the league for filming the New York Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location during a September game that same year. According to a September 13, 2007 article by Patriots’ beat reporter Mike Reiss, videotaping opposing coaches was not illegal in the NFL at the time, but there were designated areas allowed by the league for such taping. Because the Patriots were videotaping the Jets’ coaches from their own sideline during the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell found it to be a violation of league rules. As a result, the NFL fined Patriots General Manager/Head Coach Bill Belichick $500,000 (the maximum allowed by the league and the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in the league’s 98-year history), fined the Patriots $250,000, and forfeited the team’s first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Because of this, many people blindly chalk up New England’s success to simply cheating at every turn. However, any serious football fan can’t deny the greatness of the organization. The Patriots have been to 8 Super Bowls in 15 years, winning five of them – an unprecedented run in the Super Bowl era, and made especially difficult because of free agency and the salary cap.

Others, however, think Tom Brady is the key to the Patriots offense. They call him the greatest of of all time (or the GOAT) because of his mastery at the position and the fact that he,  Belichick, and team owner Robert Kraft have been the common thread throughout these last 17 years.  

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft has taken a hands-off approach and let Belichick build one of the most successful franchises in sports.

Some, though, believe Brady to be a system QB whose success is a result of Belichick’s coaching style. In 2008, backup quarterback Matt Cassel took over for an injured Brady and had comparable annual statistics. Some people thought they cannot be that that different because Tom Brady had a 65.7 percent completion rate the year after, while Matt Cassel had a 63.4 percent completion rate throughout the 2008 season. Cassel also threw for 3,693 yards compared to Brady’s  4,398 passing yards the following year. So if Matt Cassel, a backup quarterback, could play well in Brady’s shoes, that shows the Patriots are not so reliant on Brady.  The weak link in that argument is that despite the similarities, the Patriots did not make the playoffs with Cassel in 2008.  

Also, most of the other offensive players surrounding Tom Brady have not been particularly great. Randy Moss is known as one of the all time great receivers and was just selected to the Hall of Fame, but he only played with Brady  for two-and-a-half  years. Rob Gronkowski is a historically great tight end and an All-Pro, but he has had many injuries which have kept him sidelined for much of his career. In fact, the Patriots won Super Bowl LI last year without Gronkowski who missed much of the season with a back injury. Other than those two, few players stand out as future Hall of Famers. Instead of historically great players on the team, the Patriots have consistently decent players that they coach to play at a high level. The Patriots this year had the second highest scoring offense and the offense with the most yards gained.  So if it is not the players, their success must be the general manager picking the correct players, and the coaching staff getting the best out of those players.

Belichick is arguably thought of as the best coach of all time. He found the best coordinators and players and built up his team. He drafted one of the best players in history in the sixth round (the 199th pick) of the 2000 draft, which was Tom Brady. Ever since he joined the Patriots, they have been an unstoppable force. Belichick figures out what their opponents are doing and how to stop them better than any other coach. One reason why he is able to coach all the players at such a high level is because he gives them a chance to show their skills. He starts many players that are cut or not given opportunities by other teams. This gives them hope that maybe if they work hard enough, they will obtain and keep the starting jobs. Recent examples include running back James White and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. It is a rare occasion when the team obtains a big name from free agency.  For the most part, Belichick signs “nobodies” and turns them into All Pros like cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX. Many believe coaching is the the most important aspect of the game, and having the best coach means you will have the best team.

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The Patriots 5 championships in 17 years is an unprecedented run.

The Patriots have won game after game turning almost the whole country against them. They have left the impression that they cheat and will do anything to win. With Tom Brady aging (he just became the oldest player in history to earn league MVP honors at the age of 40), many believe that the team will be on the decline. However, I believe the team will survive as long as Belichick is the coach.  He almost did it with Matt Cassel who had an unremarkable career after leaving the Patriots.  When Tom Brady retires some time before he turns 50 (60?), I am sure Belichick will find another quarterback gem in the late rounds of the draft and keep on winning.  

After five Super Bowls, the Patriots have brought New England glory and will continue for a while longer, but when will it be the end of the line? Yes, they lost Super Bowl 52, but until Kraft, Brady, and/or Belichick are gone, this is not the beginning of the end for New England. Sorry, Patriot haters.