The New England Patriots were once synonymous with excellence and dominance in the NFL, but that is now a thing of the past with questions. This article looks into the various factors contributing to the Patriots’ decline over the past three years, from the questions surrounding Bill Belichick, to their struggle to find the next franchise quarterback, to their multiple underwhelming and unsuccessful drafts. We also look ahead and examine the future of the New England Patriots — where they should go from here and how they can successfully rebuild and rise to the top again.
Legacy and High Expectations
For 20 years, the New England Patriots were the epitome of success. No team had ever been quite so dominant for quite so long. A huge factor was their consistency, keeping the same owner, head coach, and quarterback—a combination of talent we might never see again, considering all the pieces that had to fall into place just right to bring these people together.
Robert Kraft purchased the New England Patriots back in 1994 for $172 million, a record number at the time. After six average seasons, he decided it was time for a change and hired Bill Belichick in January of 2000. In his first season, the team finished last in their division with a record of just 5-11, but the very next year, the Patriots flipped their record, finishing 11-5 as AFC East champions. We all know how the rest of the story goes.
Normally, an NFL coach may last a few years, maybe even a decade if things go extremely well, but it’s rare for a team to have the same head coach for over two decades. As for the quarterback, when you look at who the best and worst teams have been throughout history, it has almost always come down to who is under center. The Patriots had the least likely and most lucky find of all time with Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick who wasn’t even the full-time starter while he was in college at Michigan. He wasn’t going to start for the Patriots, either, but their starter at the time, Drew Bledsoe, got injured, Brady stepped in and won championship after championship, becoming the undisputed “GOAT” of the quarterback position.
Under the ownership of Robert Kraft, the coaching genius of Bill Belichick, and with Brady leading the way, the team became a dynasty—twice! They won 219 out of 285 regular-season games, had a playoff record of 30-11, won 17 division titles, had nine Super Bowl appearances, and won six of those Super Bowls (tied for the most in the NFL), establishing one of the greatest legacies of all time. However, with success comes expectations, and the Patriots are facing the daunting task of maintaining their high standards even as the NFL landscape has evolved and their roster has changed radically. And they no longer have the greatest player in their franchise’s history.
Owner Kraft now finds himself in a bit of a predicament. With the back-to-back mediocre seasons the Patriots have had since Tom Brady’s departure, and this current season on track to be Kraft’s worst since becoming owner, many are beginning to wonder what happens next. No one would deny that Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen, but could it be time for a change? After a 23-year relationship and the success these two have earned together, it must feel almost impossible to fire someone like Belichick, but many questions have presented themselves about the coach and his stubborn methods. After so much success it makes sense that there are such high expectations and an urgency to compete for Super Bowls again. Now that the team’s best days are seemingly behind them, the blame has to fall on someone, and that someone is usually the head coach.
However, Brady’s leaving isn’t the only recent change the team has suffered; most of their roster is new. Of course, their play has changed. It is unrealistic to expect the Patriots to get back to their old level in such a short time, especially when considering how many other NFL team rebuilds have failed. Look at the Las Vegas Raiders, for example. Over the past 20 years, they have gone through over 20 quarterbacks and 12 head coaches, without winning a playoff. Teams can rebuild successfully, the Detroit Lions seem to have done it at last, but it takes longer than the three years the Patriots have had so far.
With the Patriots on pace to have a top-5 pick in this year’s draft (for the first time since 1993), perhaps Kraft should give Bill one last shot at finding the franchise’s answer.
Looking Ahead to the Future of the New England Patriots
As the Patriots face this period of rebuilding, the upcoming NFL draft offers a glimmer of hope—perhaps multiple glimmers. This 2024 draft class is loaded with talent all across the board, especially at the quarterback position with several promising and exciting prospects. As of right now, New England holds the second overall pick, giving them an amazing opportunity to lay the foundation for a successful future.
After watching the Patriots’ offense week after week, it seems as though the obvious choice is to take a top quarterback, but as most football fans know, Belichick usually does the exact opposite of the obvious. With so many franchise-level prospects within the top 5 picks, if the Patriots decide to trade out of their top pick or draft someone who was projected to be selected much later on, there may be an angry mob in the streets of Boston headed toward the Kraft household.
Some of the top projected quarterbacks coming out in this year’s draft are Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr., Jayden Daniels, Bo Nix, and Drake Maye. Whomever the Patriots decide to draft, these quarterbacks have all had great seasons in the NCAA, and are all expected to do great things as the future faces of NFL franchises.
The other two major prospects are Brock Bowers, a tight end from Georgia, and Marvin Harrison Jr., a wide receiver from Ohio State and son of Hall of Fame wideout, Marvin Harrison. While those two will surely make an immediate impact on any team, the Patriots have to prioritize their situation at QB because what good is it to draft the top pass catcher if your quarterback can’t get the ball to him? With that being said, there are still a few weeks of football left to play this season, and things change very quickly in the NFL. The Patriots may very well enter the draft with a different pick than the one they hold now, so only time will tell who falls to them this April.
The Next Steps in the Future of the New England Patriots
The New England Patriots’ journey from the standard for greatness in professional sports to one of the worst the NFL has to offer in just three years reflects just how difficult and rare sustained success is in the NFL, and pro sports in general. It’s not often you see a franchise at the top for ten years, let alone over twenty years. It’s a new feeling for the fans, players, coaches, and even owner Robert Kraft, but one thing about the Patriots, they will never quit. They have a toughness and resilience not every organization possesses.
So, while the road to redemption has been and will be a challenge, if there’s one group that can do it, it’s the Pats.
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