New England Patriots
Who will replace the departed offensive coordinator and defensive stars?
Where does the time go? The Patriots have officially entered Year 3 of the Post-Tom Brady era. It seemed like no one could have envisioned the idea of Brady playing in another uniform. Now, three years since his departure, it looks like no one really prepared for that possibility, either.
The turnover began during the pandemic-stricken season, when the Patriots operated as a husk of their former selves. A league-high 69.0 adjusted games lost due to the pandemic alone (over twice as high as any other team) made it nearly impossible for the Patriots to continue their dominant defensive stretch from the 2019 season. Their immediate successor at quarterback, Cam Newton, was not signed until June 28. Learning an offense is hard enough in a normal season but doing so on short notice in a socially distanced environment only exacerbated the issue. The skill position players in place—especially at receiver—didn’t make things any easier, illustrating just how good Brady had been to take this offense to a playoff game the year prior. When all was said and done, the Patriots posted their worst offensive DVOA since 1999 and earned Bill Belichick his second losing season as New England head coach.
After a season unlike anything we have seen from the New England Patriots in the 21st century, Belichick spearheaded the most uncharacteristic offseason of his Patriots tenure. Belichick opened the coffers, paying upwards of $320 million for free agents and guaranteeing a record-setting $175 million on those contracts. New England brought in the likes of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to join the receiver room, made Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith the co-third highest-paid tight ends in the NFL, and added Matthew Judon and Davon Godchaux to bolster their newly reassembled defense. Then they drafted Mac Jones to take over at quarterback. All of a sudden, New England was fully reloaded just a year removed from a rare losing season.
For better or worse, those offseason additions defined the 2021 Patriots. Jones immediately came in and was trusted enough to drop back over 600 times as a rookie, surprisingly producing...