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- The New England Patriots may be set up for one of the most turbulent offseasons in recent memory.
- The Patriots are expected to lose their offensive and defensive coordinators to other teams, meaning they will need to fill two huge vacancies.
- They also need to rebuild a defense that was one of the worst in the league while there is also speculation about Rob Gronkowski’s future.
- We’re also still waiting to see the effects of a reported rift between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
The New England Patriots’ Super Bowl loss immediately catapulted them into an offseason full of the unknown.
The Patriots have been the NFL’s most table franchise over the past two decades, but this season, the cracks began to show.
It remains unknown how much of ESPN’s bombshell story on the growing rift between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is playing out – they certainly seemed to function well enough in coming one touchdown short of a sixth Super Bowl – but there have been hints that there is indeed work to be done.
Team owner Robert Kraft has vaguely referred to the need for each side to put egos aside and mentioned “tension” in the building. It’s possible that that could grow this offseason, as Brady turns 41, and Belichick at least explores drafting a backup quarterback to be Brady’s successor.
Past reports have indicated that Brady does not always take kindly to quarterbacks who could be his replacement. ESPN’s Ian O’Connor said Brady is aware that he cannot retire this offseason after the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady has not said he planned on retiring, but at the very least, he knows he has to stick it out longer while the Patriots look for an eventual replacement.
There are other more tangible issues at hand. The Patriots are expected to lose offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Indianapolis Colts and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to the Detroit Lions as both take stabs at head coaching. That means Belichick and company will either have to promote from within or hire from the outside to fill two huge vacancies.
On the player personnel side, it seems that the entire defense needs to be overhauled after the Patriots gave up 41 points to the Eagles. Though the Patriots slowly created the appearance of being a good defensive team – they allowed very few points per game – advanced stats like defensive DVOA ranked them 31st in defense when the season concluded.
The Patriots appear to need help at every position, but the top priority may be at cornerback after they appeared to push Malcolm Butler out the door in the Super Bowl. Butler, who came up with the Super Bowl-sealing interception against the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, and who played the most defensive snaps of any Patriot player this year, did not play a single defensive snap in the Super Bowl on Sunday. He said afterward that he wasn’t sure why he didn’t play, saying the team “gave up” on him.
There’s also the question of Rob Gronkowski’s future. After the Super Bowl, Gronkowski said he would weigh his NFL future in the offseason, not ruling out retirement. Gronkowski could very well decide to return, but in the meantime, the Patriots have to at least consider the idea that their best offensive weapon could call it a career.
The Patriots have been masters at re-tooling on the fly – something that’s made easier when you already have a franchise quarterback in tow. Brady isn’t going anywhere, and there’s no reason to believe the Patriots will experience any dramatic fall-off.
But this offseason could be one that brings more change than usual to the Patriots. The effects of a rift between their coach and quarterback remains to be seen, but they have a defense that needs to be rebuilt while Belichick looks for his top assistants on the coaching staff. It may be a busier offseason than usual in Foxborough.