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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Patriots have dropped the ball since Tom Brady left

The+New+England+Patriots+logo.
Illustration by Cherilyn Kim
The New England Patriots logo.

After the collapse of the Tom Brady dynasty in New England, the Patriots are struggling to replicate the Super Bowl-winning seasons led by the star quarterback. 

This season’s record is one of the worst in Patriots history due to a combination of unfortunate factors, and a change needs to be made if the team wants to come anywhere close to the playoffs in the upcoming seasons. They have the worst record in the AFC at 3-10 and the second worst in the NFL, ahead of only the 1-12 Carolina Panthers.

“If you’re not winning games, and the fans who have been there for 20-plus years, been attending those games, and you had a packed house for 20-plus years – if they stop coming, if they stop supporting you, Mr. [Robert] Kraft is going to be in a situation where he has to make a decision,” former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman said in an interview with Fox News following the Pats’ loss to the Chargers in Week 13.

Since Brady left, the Patriots are 28-36, including just a single playoff appearance (a loss), and his replacements have fallen short of creating a new juggernaut. 

After a short stint with Cam Newton, the former Carolina Panthers quarterback, that left the Pats 7-9 in the 2020 season, New England looked to the rookie players for potential.

The Pats’ two new quarterbacks, Mac Jones—occasionally referred to as “Baby Brady”—and Bailey Zappe, have not been stepping up to the challenge of filling Brady’s spot. Coming into Week 13, Head Coach Bill Belichick started Zappe over Jones. This season Jones has been disappointing, with multiple in-game gaffes leading to embarrassing losses, and ultimately being demoted to the scout team before the game against the Chargers. However, Zappe wasn’t much better, with New England having more total yards than L.A., being even in yards per play and winning more turnovers during the game—and yet unable to put any points on the board, falling 6-0.

“The offense, it starts with me,” Zappe said in a postgame interview. “I’ve gotta make plays towards the end. I gotta throw better balls, I gotta make balls catchable, especially in conditions like today.”

Even though they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 7, the Pats were coming off their first five-game losing streak since the 1995 season and their momentum wound down by the last quarter, the team barely holding onto their lead. 

Just as the Patriots looked to be in control for once, mistakes by the offense and special teams helped get the Steelers back in the game. The Pats notched only three first downs and made two big mistakes that could have cost them the game had the defense not stepped up in the second half. The Patriots special teams have had consistent issues throughout the season and were forced to rely on the defense once again to deliver a needed win.

Many players who are out with injuries or not played by the coaching staff could have definitely made an impact on the five game losing streak if they were given the opportunity to take the field. Offensive linemen Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange were hurt in training camp, and players like Demario Douglas, Christian Gonzalez and Kendrick Bourne who were projected to contribute this season, weren’t out there versus the Chargers.

Additionally, veteran offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, in his first year back with the Patriots after being hired during the offseason, was supposed to put Jones back on track, but hasn’t been able to do so. The offensive struggle raises the question of who’s lacking in talent: the players, the coaches or both?

“I’m guessing it’s going to be another three to five years before we see a really good Patriots team again, and Bill Belichick won’t be there for it,” Merriman said.

Belichick is the highest-paid coach in American professional sports by a far sight, earning an estimated $20-25 million a year. Recently, his results have not compensated for his salary. The loss to the Chargers marks the second time this season the Patriots couldn’t get on the scoreboard—and the first time in Belichick’s head coaching career that he’s been shut out twice in a season. 

While there is no set retirement age for NFL coaches, Belichick is amongst the oldest, and given the Patriots’ record the past few seasons, it might be time for him to step away from the team. 

It’s not just fans who are thinking this; former Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Tedy Bruschi agrees it’s time for his old coach to join him in retirement. 

“Fish with me on Nantucket,” Bruschi said in an interview with CBS

When asked whether he thinks Belichick should be fired, former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said it’ll be interesting– describing Belichick’s time with the team as a drawn-out marriage in a Fox Sports video

“Long marriages are tough,” Edelman said. 

The Patriots will enter the 2024 NFL draft with their highest pick in three decades, likely to land no lower than No. 3, and remaining at No. 2 even after breaking their losing streak on Dec. 7. Something needs to change in New England, and fast, if they want to bring home a seventh Super Bowl trophy anytime soon– this time without Brady.

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About the Contributor
Anna Knepley, Assistant Sports Editor
Anna Knepley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She currently serves as the assistant sports editor. Outside of the Beacon, she can be found hanging out with friends, exploring the city and writing for the CPLA newsletter. 

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