This Bill Belichick picture above says it all. Not just about the year 2020 as a whole, but the entire 2020 campaign for the Patriots was down right ugly from start to finish and now we are left wondering what exactly is next for this team as they head into an earlier offseason than what we have been accustomed to over the last 20 years.
The Pats did finish the season off strong with a 28-14 win over the New York Jets to end the season with a respectable 7-9 record. Cam Newton had his best day at Quarterback for the Patriots as he threw for three touchdowns and also caught a touchdown as well. Slow start but an overall great day for the Patriots as they still fought until the end. But with the season finished, there are still many question marks that surround this team and we're going wait for those answers between now and late July. That's when Training Camp will open for the 2021 season (so we hope.)
One thing we know for sure is that Bill Belichick will be returning for his 22nd season as head coach of the New England Patriots as we will never know what Belichick's contract actually looks like. The only people who know that status of the contract is Bill himself and owner Robert Kraft. Other than that, who knows how long Bill's contract runs through.
But the question should be asked, how long is Bill's leash? We know that when Kraft first hired Belichick that his leash was pretty lengthy and was given time to build up a championship winning team. Since then, the Patriots are the only team in the NFL not to have at least one head coaching change in the last 21 years. All of the other 31 NFL franchises have changed their head coach at least once. Some more than others.
However, given how the fans have seen the talent level of the team drop considerably over the course of the last three or four years, it begs the question of how much longer we as fans and Robert Kraft will tolerate the lack of talent that has been brought in. Belichick hasn't drafted a pro bowl player since 2013, draft picks haven't lasted the length of their rookie contracts, and all those picks are out of the NFL.
Perhaps it's time for Belichick to start to take a new approach into building the team. It's obvious that Belichick wants to pass Don Shula for most wins all time by an NFL Head Coach, but with the season that we just witnessed, its going to take a lot more than a broken down quarterback, a lack luster receiving core, and no tight end help. The offense is a key to a teams success. No one thought much of the offense prior to 2017 because he had Tom Brady, and as good as he is, made the players around him better, which was able to cover up the flaws of the offense. Now that Brady is gone, the offense is fully exposed and their is no one to blame but Belichick for not putting in the effort to sign the talent to help improve the offense.
Obviously it is not all Belichick's fault, the performance of Cam Newton this season certainly didn't help matters. The health of the receiving core didn't help and that was major factor. Plus you guys like Patrick Chung and Dont'a Hightower opting out of the season due to COVID concerns which really exposed the pass rush of the defense. The Patriots had eight total opt outs, the most from any team in the league.
So the questions looms, what is Bill; the GM going to do to get this team immediately back to the playoffs? Evaluating the Quarterback position is a good start. It's clear that Newton isn't the answer, but he could be part of the solution. Now to Belichick's defense, he didn't believe Stidham was ready and needed to find the best guys available, Cam was available. Plus with all the protocols in place at the time, Newton did not get the proper time to gain a relationship with his offense that he would've normally gotten in a regular training camp period.
It's one of those high risk, low reward situations. Signing Newton was a high risk, knowing that you weren't going to get much production from him. The same could be made of Stidham, and we never want to see Brian Hoyer taking meaningful snaps under center ever again for the Patriots after his extremely pathetic performance out in Kansas City in Week 4.
Should Newton get a second contract? Probably not, but shouldn't be ruled out entirely. There are reports that the Pats are expected to part ways with Newton, but again, he shouldn't be ruled out completely. However, it is extremely important for the Patriots to draft a Quarterback in the first round of the draft. Brady was a rare diamond in the rough when he was drafted 199th overall in 2000. No team in the history of the NFL is ever going to find a Tom Brady-like Quarterback in the sixth round ever again.
It is also important that Belichick finally rebuilds the offense. He cannot rely solely on the defense to bail the team out, week in and week out. That's what happened last season between Weeks 10-17, Belichick allowed the discrepancies on the offensive side of the football to happen while relying on the defense to win games.
News flash: you need to move the ball and score points on offense in order to give your defense a chance to make a stop or get a turnover to give the ball back to the offense. That is something the Pats had difficulty with this entire season. Moving the ball on offense consistently. The offense looked good from Weeks one through three. From Weeks four through seven, the offense had a difficult time moving the ball. Weeks 8 through 13, the offense was moving the ball, Cam wasn't turning the ball over and it seems the team finally hit a turning point. That all came crashing down after the Rams game and the team reverted right back to not moving the ball consistently.
It's obvious the defense can be fixed. Bringing back both Chung and Hightower to help these young linebackers and secondary core will be a huge plus. But the offense needs a complete overhaul and that is where it will be up to Belichick to go out and get some actual help for the offense.
May want to see who is out there for Offensive Coordinators while he is at it because there is a chance that Josh McDaniels could be out the door for good this time around with teams looking for head coaches like the Falcons, Texans, Jets, in all likelihood the Chargers and Jaguars. Or teams that will be looking for a new OC with a reliable quarterback.
Just hope that Belichick doesn't bring in former Jets head coach Adam Gase for a coaching position on his staff. That would be a nightmare situation. Look at how badly Sam Darnold has looked the last couple of seasons. Patriot fans, do you really want that to happen to a rookie quarterback or to possibly Jarrett Stidham? Would hope not.
So many questions needs to be addressed this offseason. Will McDaniels be back? Will Newton get a second contract? Is Julian Edelman's tenure in Foxbrough officially over? Are both Chung and Hghtower coming back for certain? Will Belichick finally put some assets into the offense?
Two more questions should give Pats fans food for thought. If the draft and free agency goes poorly, should Robert Kraft strip Bill of his General Manager and roster control status? Plus, if the Patriots are to have a similar season next year or worse under Belichick under the same construction as the current roster, will the 2021 season be Bill's last as Head Coach of the New England Patriots?
It's going to be a long offseason. Gear up Pats fans. A lot of uncertainty is coming up.