New England Patriots: Franchise defining offseason receives failing grade

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Head Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots on the sidelines during a game against the Tennessee Titans during week two of the preseason at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Head Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots on the sidelines during a game against the Tennessee Titans during week two of the preseason at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots offseason seems to be going from worse to “worse.”

A recent article in gave the New England Patriots an inauspicious grade for this offseason to this point, to say the least. An F.

Ouch! Here’s their analysis:

"FNew England Patriots: Even after inexplicably divorcing themselves from the greatest player in NFL history, they’re essentially out of cap space – Brady’s exodus a major reason the team is carrying $26 million in dead money – and are apparently hoping QB Jarrett Stidham (or Brian Hoyer) can take over. Even the decision to franchise G Joe Thuney, now poised to make left tackle money in 2020, was a head scratcher. Nice to keep pillars like Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater, but the league’s No. 1 defense in 2019 lost quite a few key performers, notably Van Noy, Collins and Harmon. Maybe this will serve as the prime example of Bill Belichick displaying he’s smarter than the rest of the league – he’ll doubtless be making subsequent transactions – otherwise, the charted course is tantamount to dynasty-demolishing hubris."

Well, that sounds promising, now, doesn’t it? No, not really. But, I happen to agree with USA Today. I think they’re right.

Tom Brady’s loss:  inexplicably foolhardy

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I’ve made my feelings clear by now on the case, Tom Brady. Inexplicable. Unfathomable. Unbelievable. Inexcusable. Any superlatives I’ve left out? I ran out. Please advise.

Boiled down to it’s least common denominator (whatever that means): this was as boneheaded a football move as you could imagine. By supposedly brilliant people. Go figure.

Frankly, if they did nothing else during the entire offseason, positive or negative, whatever, this move alone condemns them in my opinion to the bottom of the NFL barrel for this offseason’s grade, and maybe for a couple more seasons, as well. This ranks among the worst personnel decisions in the history of the league.

Tom Brady (there, I’ve mentioned him again, darn it) may play for 3 more years. Or more. Who knows. Whatever the number of years, they should have been spent in New England. He was still playing at a high level, the poor offensive line and skill personnel available to him notwithstanding. Julian, James and … nothing.

Jimmy G, the backup and heir apparent

Several years ago, the New England Patriots drafted a young man, Jimmy Garropolo from Eastern Illinois of all places, and in the second round of all rounds (the Patriots notoriously flop in that round) of the NFL draft. Wow. I remember it distinctly. I had followed Jimmy’s post-season efforts in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. Closely. Hard to believe it was 6 years ago.

Jimmy was the man. He trashed so-called big-time opponents in the Shrine Game

. Winning the Offensive MVP. Nice. And in the Senior Bowl, he also performed well. No doubt in my mind, Jimmy looked like the real deal.

I also remember I did not like the Patriots’ pick. But I really liked the player. What? Here’s the rationale. I thought the Patriots needed another tight end in the second round, a quarterback, not so much. But, boy did I like Jimmy. I had a feeling that he had, “The Eye of the Tiger“.

Jimmy was confident. He was driven. He was focused. He had no fear. And it appeared he felt he was the best. Small college or no small college. He did at Eastern Illinois what a great quarterback should do, he tore the league apart.

So, he came to the New England Patriots and sat behind the greatest. Fine. But one thing seemed to emerge, the greatest saw what other people saw. This was no small college backup happy to sit. Jimmy G was real. He was good. Really good. And driven. The result was that the super-competitive Brady seemed to become super re-invigorated. TB12, training, diet, etc. Voila! 3 more championships!

And, as we know, Jimmy went on to lead the 49’er to a Super Bowl (loss) last season.

The connection

When the New England Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49’ers for peanuts (a mere second-round pick, ugh), the threat to the position was gone for Brady. But, as citing Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes,

"According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Brady’s desire to leave New England started in 2017 after learning that head coach Bill Belichick tried to trade him to San Francisco."

That would do it, I guess. Other issues also eventuated as I have noted previously. There was no question, the relationship had soured. Animosity replaced comradeship. And, as we now, that relationship had deteriorated beyond repair. Brady left.

But with Jimmy gone and with Brady’s defection, the Patriots cupboard at quarterback is now bare. The optimists among us think that Jarrett Stidham who has thrown a total of 4 regular season NFL passes is the next great New England quarterback. Maybe. We’ll see.

The 2020 outlook

The team brought back career backup Brian Hoyer for a third run in New England. They have also signed several new players most of whom have special teams expertise. Wonderful. Meanwhile, they have allowed the greatest quarterback, perhaps the greatest player in league history to leave.

The New England Patriots’ free agency moves to-date have been to put it kindly uninspiring and underwhelming. Ah, but we have the draft and it’s 12 picks to look forward to. Well, maybe not. Last year’s abysmal drafting along with dismal free agency acquisitions and absolutely awful in-season acquisitions doomed a team that should have contended for a title to also-ran status.

dark. Next. New England Patriots on a pathway towards the bottom

The personnel operation deserves an F for the entire 2019 season. But the 2020 season looms in September and with that hope. But how much hope is justifiable?

This season, the 2020 season, for the first time in 18 years, New England enters the fray without Tom Brady as starting quarterback. They are without the man who guided the destiny of the franchise on the field for nearly 20 years.

The New England Patriots have started with a poor grade this offseason again. Let’s see if they can rebound to at least pass the next tests. I’ll start a rumor and say they will!

But don’t count on it.