End Of An Era: Realistic Expectations for the 2020 New England Patriots
Look, when it comes to sports, I’m normally an optimist. I’m normally the guy who sees the silver lining even when my team is playing poorly. I can find something to look forward to after a disappointing season. When our best player is in a slump, you can [usually] count on me to look on the bright side and trust that they will turn it around. Today, however, is not one of those days.
Today, I’m a realist.
The truth is the 2020 New England Patriots will not be good. Don’t listen to the people who tell you they’re still a contender as long as [Bill] Belichick is the coach. They won’t be. Honestly, they will be lucky to split wins and losses and go 8-8. This will likely be the first time in 20 years the Patriots have a losing season and here’s why:
Key Losses in the 2020 Offseason
The quarterback situation aside, the Patriots lost many other key players this past offseason. Guys like Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton, Duron Harmon, and Nate Ebner were all reliable if not deeply impactful key contributors on defense, lost to other teams in trades or free agency. Veteran leader’s (tight end) Ben Watson and (full back) James Devlin both retired. And if this wasn’t bad enough, the team decided that longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski was no longer cutting it and they’d be better off finding his replacement in the draft. This leads me to the next huge problem.
Questions at Quarterback
It’s clear that the Patriots have committed to Jarrett Stidham as their quarterback in 2020. Belichick and the rest of the organization have had plenty of great things to say about the second year signal caller but whether they genuinely believe in him or he’s the quarterback out of necessity is hard to say for certain. We have little to go off of with Stidham.
In his rookie campaign last season he threw just 4 passes, completing 2 of them for 14 total yards, also throwing 1 interception. Now is where I’d like to just throw up my hands and say “in Bill we trust” like most New England fans, but I can’t. Stidham has yet to prove himself. Playing for Bill Belichick is tough. Playing quarterback in the NFL is tough. Replacing Tom Brady is sure as hell tough. Do we really think that Stidham, a 4th round pick who threw less passes last season than the Patriots have championships, is going to step up and lead this team to a positive season? Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for the kid, but he’s entirely unproven.
Strength of Schedule
If all of this didn’t come at a bad enough time, the Patriots will also have to go up against the toughest schedule in the NFL – their toughest schedule in recent history. 3 of their first 6 games include match-ups against the Seahawks in Seattle, the Chiefs in Kansas City, and the 49ers at home. Side note, I can’t wait to watch Jimmy G light it up in Gillette this year, salt in the wound to what could have been (RIP to all you #freeJimmyG guys out there). It doesn’t get easier from there because the AFC East has gotten better. The Bills, the Jets, and yes even the Dolphins are chomping at the bit to take over as number one in the division. I’ll link their schedule here so you can take a look for yourself, but without breaking down their entire season game by game, I have the Patriots going 6-10 finishing only in front of the Dolphins in the AFC East.
Now, I hope I’m wrong about all this. I hope in 7 months I have egg on my face, getting roasted for such a ridiculous take. I’m not hating on the Patriots here. They’ve surprised me before and I’m sure they can do it again. I’m just going into this season with realistic expectations, hoping for the best and ready for the worst. We are rebuilding now, and that is okay. The Brady and Belichick era has officially closed and we can now move forward to the next chapter. And you know what? I’m excited for that. We had an incredible run, I’m excited to see how Bill will start fresh and build this team. I’m excited to get behind and embrace a new quarterback. And – I know this is a total flex as a New England fan – I’m excited to root for the underdogs again.
What do you think? Do you agree? Am I nuts because obviously we aren’t that bad will go at least 10-6? Is Stidham going to step up and lead this team? I want to hear from other Pats fans so let me know in the comments down below.
-Nick Hannigan (Twitter: @TheNickHannigan)