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When did things change with Belichick and the Patriots? Dial it back to Super Bowl LIII.

Updated: Apr 10, 2023



Once perennial and legitimate Super Bowl contenders spanning nearly two decades and not so long ago, your New England Patriots have fallen beyond league mediocrity. They have fallen into a place rarely seen when under the stewardship of stable, emotionally invested and local ownership which they absolutely have. That place is one of unsubtle, organizational dysfunction. A place normally reserved for the likes of the Jets, Raiders and the other dredges of NFL society.


Welcome to the race to bottom of the toilet Pats fans...


Throughout the 2022 season and most recently, back in December, while hosting Friday night radio on WEEI and writing for WEEI.com, I pointed the Patriots issues squarely and directly at one man; Patriots Football Overlord Bill Belichick. The all-knowing, all-seeing, smartest guy in the room, used those high opinions of himself to completely derail the 2022 season. That derailment was largely fueled by lazy, arrogant, and questionable decision making throughout that very offseason.

As chronicled here:


2022, a season featuring the leanest of lean coaching staffs. Outstretched, under-staffed and filled with loyal but questionable disciples (Matt Patricia & Joe Judge topping the list) of the all-knowing overlord. Each oddly appointed into positions they had no business, resume or aptitude to be placed in. It was a recipe for failure before it even began. That's on Bill.


2022, the critical second season of his then prospective franchise quarterback Mac Jones. Jones unsurprisingly regressed, given the lack of structure, continuity and competence cast upon him from the sidelines.


2022, the year following a fleeting playoff appearance after being two seasons removed from the NFL postseason tournament.


2022, the second year of several high priced free agent contracts from the season prior. Theoretically, the players boasting those high contracts should have progressed forward from the year before. One did, Matt Judon. The rest? Not so much. A full year in the Pats system should have been an opportunity to gain momentum. Momentum is a funny thing though. Like plants, if you don't feed them water, they tend to wilt and die. Which brings us to current day. The Patriots aren't dead but as both their division and conference is continuing to blossom around them, they are most certainly wilting.


Now we are firmly immersed in the 2023 off-season. The NFL Draft is right in front of us but the continuity and organizational consistency, that was a longtime hallmark of this storied franchise for the two decades prior, seems a distant memory. 2023 imparts a feeling of dysfunction in these parts not felt since the final year of Parcells and the eventual failed transition to Pete Carroll in 1997.


The questions now are, how did this happen? When did this happen? After further review, you can dial it right back to February 3rd, 2019 and the aftermath of the Patriots sixth and final Super Bowl Championship.


Everything changed during the post game analysis of that game. As Belichick was lauded from every corner of both the local and national media. The drool fest competition between ESPN and NFL Network was a tongue bathing for the ages and it was all for the Pats head of state, Bill Belichick. Deservedly so. Belichick devised a defensive game plan that flew in the face of damn near every game we saw throughout that explosive 2018 season.


NFL teams were outdoing themselves every week that year. NFL Red Zone was must see TV each and every week, as offensive innovation got more intriguing as the season wore on. This was league wide too and that made it stand out. Those who bet the over most weeks were cashing in.


The game plan Belichick devised for Super Bowl LIII brought the league's most high powered team, the 2018 Los Angeles Rams, to a near full stop on the nation's biggest sports stage. It was a helluva game plan and featured damn near perfect execution of it on the gridiron. Though the high school football level score was close throughout, only ending with a final score of 13-3, the Patriots were in comfortable control all game long, largely because the Rams could do nothing.


The end result? A sixth Super Bowl Championship for the Patriots, and an eighth Super Bowl ring for their legendary coach. An already cemented legacy, cemented yet again. Cemented to impenetrable force field levels. Maybe just maybe, over exposure to that much cement leaked into Belichick's brain in the years to follow because there haven't been very many good decisions since. It's got me thinking, did the future fortunes of the Patriots change for the worse in that very moment after their championship victory?


Coaches preach to their players all the time not to 'read their press clippings.' The search for productive humility has to be an endless challenge. Belichick himself coined the phrase "we're onto Cincinnati" and "we're onto Seattle." Translated, the past is gone. The question I have for Bill is simply this; is it though? He seems to be leaning on the old resume quite a bit these days whenever someone dare question his very questionable decisions. The highly questionable decisions start well before last season and have leaked directly to the current team build. Always showing the receipts these days and that's new for Belichick, at least over the course of his full Patriots career. So when did it change? I think everything changed after that Super Bowl and we're starting to reap the negative results of it now over time.


It hasn't been a pleasant four-year window of time, in fact, it's been very frustrating.


Did Belichick leave that Super Bowl in February of 2019, covered in the glory of all the praises bestowed upon him, only to think he no longer needs Tom Brady? That his genius would be enough for him to do it himself? The four years of evidence since certainly suggests it.


First, not offering a contract extension to Brady just one season removed from winning the league's MVP and a sixth Super Bowl Championship of his own by his side, has proven to be a historically bad decision. If it is the case that Bill read his own press clippings after years of preaching against it, then, bet too heavily on himself, he'd have been wise to rewind the tape to the AFC Championship game from that season. A heavily contested game, where Brady cooly led his offense down the field, on the road when it mattered most in Kansas City. He slayed the favorite, on the road when the lights were the brightest, continuing onto the Super Bowl Championship as we had seen time and again. Bill had better seat than anyone, a closer perspective than anyone and should have known better. I digress...


Defensive genius aside, that Super Bowl has a few Brady highlights to boast as well and Belichick would have been wise to consider those moments before he made his first of several bad decisions that derailed this team off of their path; one of elite consistency that they created together.


The recent painful history aside, Belichick's approach to this offseason, the lack of accountability for the frankly arrogant decisions he's made and his lack of continuity of organizational message, has me looking back for answers rather than ahead. History shows that's not a winning path. So what lies ahead? What's the upside as presently constituted? A ceiling of a 10-7 season and an early playoff exit feels about right given the current state of things.


Does that move you? Get you excited? It's not working for me. In 2021 it was different. 10-7 represented something. It felt like the beginning of something. This feels like a home repair job when a full renovation is required. Overhaul might be a better word.


Things have changed since Super Bowl LIII. That specific game was the fleeting moment. The league showed its future that year and although Belichick figured out a way to put a plug in it for another Super Bowl Championship, he hasn't been able to adapt to it since. The league is faster, boasting quarterbacks he can't contain, receivers he can't cover and defensive backs his pass catchers cannot escape. Yet, it's business as usual. Belichick believes in his way above all else and he's repeatedly been proven wrong over the course of the last four years. The league I'm sure is happy to let it all pass him by.


It's time to evolve. Time to change as Peter Brady once so perfectly crooned...


It all goes back to that Super Bowl LIII aftermath. The genius was fed exactly what his ego needed and even though history was made that day, how's the recent history been since? Worse, how are you feeling about the future? Was it worth it? Was that sixth Super Bowl Championship worth the years of mediocrity to follow with no clear path ahead?

Frankly, I'm not so sure.







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