Patriots retrospective: The year Tom Brady left Bill Belichick

Tom Brady celebrates as the Buccaneers are presented with the NFC championship trophy.Nfl Nfc Championship Game Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Green Bay Packers
Tom Brady celebrates as the Buccaneers are presented with the NFC championship trophy.Nfl Nfc Championship Game Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Green Bay Packers /

The New England Patriots decline in 2020 started when Tom Brady turned his back on Bill Belichick or was it Belichick who turned his back on Brady?

Now that the 43-year-old quarterback is preparing to make his tenth Super Bowl appearance with a chance to win his seventh, it is easy to look back now and say the GOAT coach should’ve retained the GOAT quarterback for another run at a ring together.

But much of the 2020 NFL season was fun because of the fact that the long-time marriage came to an end.

Was it Belichick or was it Brady behind the team’s two decade reign of dominance?

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As a question that was asked on the Chowder & Champions Facebook fan page, a few Patriots fans gave credit to Brady, but most feel it is an unfair question because team comes before any player or even coach.

But how exactly did the team approach fare without Brady under center?

Bill Belichick took a chance on Cam Newton leading the New England Patriots

Brady joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Belichick and the New England Patriots leaning on second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who obviously wasn’t ready.

In signing veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer and then taking a chance on Cam Newton, the Patriots really exposed they had no real plan beyond Brady returning for another season, but what even he had succeeded if he did?

The six-time Super Bowl champion has turned mediocre or even no-name playmakers into stars during his time, but now even he had a chance to find much success with the group of wide receivers and tight ends who stepped on the field in 2020.

So, how exactly was Newton supposed to be successful with a wide receiver group led by an aging and battered Julian Edelman and a first-round pick in N’Keal Harry who only proved he was more on the side of being a bust.

As far as tight ends?  What tight ends?

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Ryan Izzo and two third-round picks in Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene combined for 16 catches.  Asiasi, the more talented of the bunch, didn’t get his first reception till Week 17.  That kind of production or lack thereof would’ve had Brady pouting more than he did in 2019.

New England Patriots never found their way offensively without Tom Brady leading the way

But, beyond the lack of playmakers, the quarterback play was just inconsistent and something neither Belichick and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are used to.

It was certainly a challenge to change styles with Newton behind center, but a 7-9 record wasn’t the record many fans or even critics expected out of a veteran quarterback with a lot to prove and a coach looking to stick it to Brady.

In all, there were no real highlights for the Patriots other than the emergence of Jacoby Meyers as a reliable playmaker.  There was also Damien Harris and a resurgent Sony Michel towards the end of the season, but the team took a major step back both offensively and defensively.

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Along with Brady walking away and Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to join forces with him in Tampa Bay, the opt outs due to Covid and how the virus impacted the team early in the season was really an opponent even the great Belichick could overcome.

While the year Tom Brady left pretty much ended the dynasty as we know it, the former Patriots quarterback run to another Super Bowl may be all the motivation in the world for a coach who now has a lot of critics to prove wrong.