How long with fans and ownership tolerate the Patriots being a middle-of-the-pack team?

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
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After a 2021 season that started slowly, improved dramatically, and then imploded in a 30-point postseason loss to the Bills, the Patriots seem ordinary, at best. How long can coach Bill Belichick survive ordinary?

It’s just a question, not a prediction or an assessment that the heat on his seat may be or could be or ever will be increasing. Yes, owner Bob Kraft openly lamented in March the fact that the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game in three years. That’s a far cry, however, from ownership even beginning to contemplate life without Belichick, the greatest NFL coach of all time.

The fans, on the other hand, may be at least pondering the possibilities of what comes next, and when. Local TV ratings were down sharply for Week One, in comparison to last year’s average. They’ve been spoiled by two decades of consistent contention. Now, the Pats are slipping back toward the pack. Forget about fending off the Bills; they suddenly can’t compete with the Dolphins.

The Patriots typically get better as the season unfolds. It’s been one of the harsh realities of the past decade, in which labor-deal practice adjustments have given Belichick fewer opportunities to get his team fully up to speed before Week One. But, frankly, other teams thrive out of the gates. At some point, it’s fair to ask why Belichick hasn’t pivoted toward preparing his team in a way that allows it to do better in the first 4-6 weeks of the season?

And, yes, it worked for most the decade. Until it didn’t. Until Tom Brady left. Brady’s success in Tampa has since become the ultimate bright-line comparison between quarterback and coach. Belichick, a master of finding a way to use his coaching skills to win close games, now has a team that may have a hard time keeping it close.

In the last two games that counted, the Patriots have been outscored 67-24. By two AFC East rivals, the Bills and Dolphins.

Despite the lingering questions about the quality and the coaching of the offense, the Patriots are slight favorites at Pittsburgh today. Maybe the oddsmakers know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe the Patriots turn things around today, with those 2-3 plays that went Miami’s way last week going New England’s way this week.

Or maybe the halcyon days are truly done for the Patriots. Maybe it was more Brady than Belichick. Maybe the Patriots, who endured the inevitable departure of their quarterback, will begin to consider the inevitable departure of their coach.

It’s a question I’ve posed this week in various communications with people around the league. Some think Belichick would retire before he’d ever be asked to leave. (Even if he’s asked to leave, it possibly would be sold as a retirement.) At least one opined that Kraft would never fire Belichick because Belichick “knows too much.”

Regardless, there’s currently a weird vibe coming from the entire team. Does it come from a post-Josh McDaniels approach that consists of entrusting the offense to a pair of former Patriots assistants who weren’t offensive coaches turned head coaches turned former head coaches turned Patriots assistants who are now offensive coaches? Does it trace to the inability of Belichick to fire his sons if they just aren’t good enough and, as a result, any and every other assistant on the staff? Does it trace to the fact that Bill Belichick the coach can no longer overcome the failures of Bill Belichick the de facto G.M.?

Whatever the cause, the effect is something that seems decidedly un-Patriotic. A loss today would make the Patriots 0-2 for the first time since 2001. While that team turned it around and won the franchise’s first Super Bowl, there’s no Tom Brady lurking on the depth chart, waiting for his chance to take over the league.

Many call the NFL a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? league. More accurately, it’s what-are-you-doing-for-me-right-now-and-what-can-I-expect-you-to-do-for-me-tomorrow? That’s the standard Belichick always applies to his players. At what point will it be applied to him?

36 responses to “How long with fans and ownership tolerate the Patriots being a middle-of-the-pack team?

  1. It’s so over for the Patriots until Belichick retires. His ego will have them in mediocrity until he gets asked to resign.

    Patricia and Judge will ruin Mac Jones. Look at what Judge did to Daniel Jones.

    The city of DETROIT through a parade when Patricia left.

    Spending a fortune on free agents that aren’t taking a cut to play with Brady and compete for a SB and his drafting is just terrible.

  2. The last place patriots are a bottom of the barrel team, completely exposed since Brady got sick of the cheater stealing the credit and left.

    mac jones and the rest of this sorry roster will never compete with Josh Allen and the AFC East Champion Bills.

  3. The Patriots and their fans have had their day. The days of arrogance and the mocking of others is over.

  4. Belichicks ego has gotten the better of him. Could of hired any of the next generation of offensive minds to be his OC. Instead divides the job in half and gives it to two smart but clearly unqualified coaches.

  5. Turns out BB is no more of a genius than Bruce Arinas.
    HOF QBs cover up all sorts of coaching mistakes.
    Just ask Mike McCarthy

  6. Patriots fanbase is going to drastically dwindle over the next few years.
    Funny how easy it is to be a “fan” when all you’ve known is winning. A lot of front runners are about to get exposed.

  7. Since Tom Brady left and won a super bowl with Tampa Bay…Bill Belichick has turned into Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick.

  8. A long time. I grew up in southern Ohio in the 60’s-70’s when the Reds were the Big Red Machine with Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. We still love the Reds and talk about those great teams. As a young kid I thought it was normal for my team to dominate every year, but now I just appreciate those days and realize how fortunate I was/am to have gone to some of those games and seen those HOF players. It never gets old. We still love Sparky Anderson and we realize he wasn’t out-smarting the other managers, but we still love him. You can’t take those seven Lombardi trophies away from the Patriots. They’ll have bragging rights until some team wins #8.

  9. And now we start to figure out that the Patriots dynasty owes significantly more to Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady than it ever did to Bill Belichick. But mostly, Brady. There’s nowhere for Belichick to hide now. SO MANY “great” coaches get that special QB and ride him to glory. It takes a truly special, great coach to win three Super Bowls with three relatively pedestrian quarterbacks and three different coordinators. Nobody is putting Joe Theisman, Doug Williams, or Mark Rypien in the HOF.

  10. If the Patriots never win another super bowl, they still should just be happy with the ones they have. Suck it up.

  11. These are dark days indeed but I hardly think anyone will feel bad for the Patriots or the fans after that run.

  12. They’ve reverted back to their natural state. Pre-Brady they were nothing. Post-Brady they are nothing. Check back in another 50 years to see if they find another Brady. Until then they are regular season fodder for the division.

  13. No Maybe! It was Brady more than Belichick. Maybe Belichick the GM needs to get rid of Belichick the coach. Better a year too early no?

  14. Real Pat’s fans will always love the team. being middle of the pack after 20 years of being top dog is refreshing, I was getting bored with all the winning it just makes fans of other teams jealous and envious anyway. Time to build a new juggernaut 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

  15. After 20 years of dominating the league, I’m fine with it.

    Good luck to all the wanna-be’s who think they can just line up and win for 15-20 years, not as easy as you think and very unlikely you are able to do it.

  16. The Patriots had a decade in that “20 year run” where they didn’t win a thing.

    Please.

  17. billsrthefuture says:
    September 18, 2022 at 4:19 pm
    The Patriots had a decade in that “20 year run” where they didn’t win a thing.

    Please.
    ———————————————————–
    During that decade they beat the Bills 20 out of 20 times.

  18. How long with fans and ownership tolerate the Steelers losing to a “middle-of-the-pack team”?

  19. “iloveyouneighbor says:
    September 18, 2022 at 5:04 pm
    billsrthefuture says:
    September 18, 2022 at 4:19 pm
    The Patriots had a decade in that “20 year run” where they didn’t win a thing.

    Please.
    ———————————————————–
    During that decade they beat the Bills 20 out of 20 times.”

    _______________________________

    Is that the same as “dominating the league?” The Bills were terrible back then.

    Fact is, Pats went from 2004 – 2014 without winning a SB. It wasn’t some 2-decade reign.

    But you can always hang a banner for those wins over what was then a bad Bills team.

  20. Pats from 2004 – 2014:
    10-6
    12-4
    16-0
    11-5
    10-6
    14-2
    13-3
    12-4
    12-4
    Bills fans wouldn’t take that for their “down” years?

  21. “sosayweall says:
    September 18, 2022 at 5:57 pm
    Pats from 2004 – 2014:
    10-6
    12-4
    16-0
    11-5
    10-6
    14-2
    13-3
    12-4
    12-4
    Bills fans wouldn’t take that for their “down” years?”
    ___________________________

    Sure. But it ain’t “dominating the league.”

    I don’t think the Bills have “dominated the league” over the past few years. And the Pats didn’t from 2004 – 2014.

  22. Fact is, Pats went from 2004 – 2014 without winning a SB. It wasn’t some 2-decade reign.

    But you can always hang a banner for those wins over what was then a bad Bills team.

    ——-

    Yes it was 20 years. Stop pretending it wasn’t. They went to two Super Bowls in that decade. They were one of the best teams in the league every year, one of them they almost went undefeated.

    If that decade wasn’t dominating, then you certainly can’t claim that the Bills are dominating now or “the best team” like you say because they haven’t even been to a super bowl. Can’t have it both ways

  23. “If that decade wasn’t dominating, then you certainly can’t claim that the Bills are dominating now or “the best team” like you say because they haven’t even been to a super bowl. Can’t have it both ways”
    __________________

    I haven’t said that the Bills are the “best team,” or that they’re “dominating now.”

    Excellent try, though. The Pats didn’t dominate the league from 2004-14. Unless you’re giving out runner-up trophies now.

  24. It’s a myth that the Pats had a 20-year reign. They had 2 separate dynasties – an amazing accomplishment, which makes the insecurity of their fans even more head-scratching.

  25. If Bill B., a known cheater, can’t get above .500 without Brady, does he really deserve the HOF?

  26. Who thinks they are actually good enough to be middle of the pack? Pats fans now just keep repeating the Brady years back to everyone who is telling the truth about how pitiful they are being managed, coached and ran now. Nobody cares about the past folks. The Patriots are a bad team with a good QB who BB is ruining.

  27. jokersc says:
    September 18, 2022 at 3:09 pm
    After 20 years of dominating the league, I’m fine with it.

    Good luck to all the wanna-be’s who think they can just line up and win for 15-20 years, not as easy as you think and very unlikely you are able to do it.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Actually it has happened quite a few times. The teams who typically have always been at least a winning team and put together good seasons, SB wins or not are the traditionally better older more historically pertinent teams. The Patriots outside of the Brady years have always been fairly bad. So putting together that run is great but they never have done well and then rebuilt and done well again as many others have. Simple fact is without Brady they never would have been much. BB is not a master coach or genius. Very reason he never did much outside of the Patriots. But keep harping about the past. It makes zero difference this year, or next, or the next 10 now does it?

  28. “If Bill B., a known cheater, can’t get above .500 without Brady, does he really deserve the HOF?”

    HOF, yes…absolutely. Title of GOAT? Nope. BB is a good coach, but without Brady he’s not amazing.

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