Undrafted – The Network

A horizon of mediocracy at QB for New England

When Tom Brady did the unthinkable and decided he was going to flex in another NFL teams colours for a year or two, the murmurs started instantly. Who would come out on top? Brady, or Belichick? The two have worked so closely for 20 years, and won so many titles, that they’re both solidified into eternal greatness. This post is not to throw shade at Bill Belichick. Not at all. He’s still a great coach. However, Brady found his home. He got comfy in a hurry. For Bill Belichick, I’m struggling to see the answer to post Tom Brady life… quarterback

Cam Experiment

The season just passed, Cam Newton on a seasons contract at the league minimum was about all the Patriots could afford. This is something Bill addressed himself when he was prodded on a local Boston radio show. ‘We sold out and won three Super Bowls’ he exclaimed, and went on to speak about only being able to pay Cam $1M for the year. Here’s a clip about that scenario, with the hero Pat McAfee, if you wanted to check it out.

‘We paid Cam Newton a million dollars, I mean it’s obvious we didn’t have any money’. And that I can understand, as is often the case with the unfolding of a Super Bowl winning team. Quite often, you have to sell out and add vets and free agency pieces and build a temporary super team made out of sand. It lasts just long enough to withstand the season, but when that seasons over, the off season tide will quite often sweep in and drag it away.

And let’s not forget the Patriots were the team most heavily affected by COVID opt outs this season, losing the likes of Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung, a whole bunch of their Super Bowl experience. Plus the injury to Julian Edelman, the lack of support in the run game this season, and a mismatch between quarterback and offensive coordinator.

I mean, you couldn’t get any more different than Cam Newton after years of Tom Brady. They are polar opposites, and trying to prepare for a season with Cam, whilst you have a total lack of time to prepare because of COVID, and a lack of weapons, is a recipe for disaster, no matter how legendary your head coach is.

Anybody that is now trying to say Bill Belichick is a result of the greatness of Tom Brady is a casual football fan. Belichick knows how to beat just about anybody, and has proven just that. Stop it with that narrative. It’s absolutely not true.

The question now is, with Bill aged 68, how many years is he going to want to attribute to mediocre play at QB? And what is the solution?

Long Time Coming

It’s incredibly difficult to stay at the top in the NFL for 20 years. Very very difficult. As earlier mentioned, building a competitive roster is one thing. Maintaining it is a whole different story. That’s what the Patriots have been doing for the last 20 seasons, dominating. That’s not all Tom Brady. Yes he’s the greatest to ever do it, but it takes skill in roster management, man management, and a thousand other areas to keep your NFL team in the conversation for that long.

They’re finally entering the fallout. It had to happen eventually. The issue they now face is being a mid tier draft team, holding the 15th pick, with a lack of capital they can offer to other teams, and no quarterback.

This situation is FAR from ideal, and it’s extremely difficult to navigate your way out of it. You can’t offer roster talent plus your first round pick to move up for one of this years great rookies, there’s not enough young and energetic talent on that Patriots roster to entice anybody into it. You have limited bargaining chips.

So then you turn to free agency. I’d argue that the best available options for Bill Belichick and the Patriots to get a sniff at the playoffs are both gone. Carson Wentz and Matt Stafford were those options. What you’re now left with in free agency, at best, is the likes of Alex Smith, now 36 years old and moved on from Washington. Jameis Winston? Mitchell Trubisky? Not ideal.

So what do you do if you’re the Patriots? You suddenly find yourselves in a division with a very strong looking Bills team, a promising Dolphins roster that seems to be improving year on year, and the Jets now under a new coaching staff, with a top two prospect inbound.

The likelihood of a trade for a top QB is a little bleak. At this point I don’t think Jarrett Stidham is the answer, and free agency is a whole boat full of average at the position. So I have a couple of options, and one that I stole from Tom, but will credit him for…I promise.

The comeback of Marcus Mariota

Listen there was a time when Marcus Mariota was lighting up the league in the red zone. He possesses the right mind set and work ethic to go to New England and give it everything he’s got. One of the nicest guys in the league, who fell out of love with the Titans, and was replaced with a new shiny QB in Ryan Tannehill.

Gruden has been singing the praises of Mariota in Las Vegas, and the Patriots could take a spin here on an out of favour QB who probably deserves a second chance more than any other I can think of. It won’t cost you much, it’s a low risk, very high reward move in my mind. What do you have to lose? This season is going to be a real stretch for the Patriots to be competitive, unless they find a diamond in the rough, and for me, the best chance at that diamond is Mariota.

Trade back and draft Kyle Trask/Mac Jones

This 15 spot in the draft is a really unfortunate one for the Patriots because it’s too low for the top four QBs in Lawrence, Fields, Wilson and Trey Lance. But it’s also too high for the next two, which is widely considered to be Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. There’s a chance at least one of these falls to day two, but won’t be available long enough for the Patriots to get with their second round pick. So trade back, get a couple more picks, because let’s face the music, we’re in a rebuild now in Boston, and draft Trask. Or Mac Jones.

Then you can start Stidham week 1, or get a vet in to start, let the rookie start to figure it out, take the pressure off. Then introduce your brand new Tom Brady 2.0 in week 9/10, when the season is lost and you can give him some experience.

To me, drafting either one of these two at 15 is a push, and as much as Patriots fans would love to have an exciting new receiver or talented defensive stud, you need a quarterback. Jump back into the 20s, and take one of them there.

Steal Sam from Rival

Sam Darnold has not had a fair shot since he hit the league. For one, he was drafted by the Jets, so you’re immediately climbing a mountain. Then he’s never had a good offensive line, his head coach was Adam Gase (yikes from start to finish), and the receiver help has been diabolical.

So all of a sudden the Jets are dreadful (again) this season, which is only about 10% Darnolds’ fault… yet they’re in a position where he likely gets replaced.

So as Tom rightly said, nobody takes talent from a rival and turns them good quite like the Patriots. As a Dolphins fan, i wouldn’t know how to feel. It would be hilarious to see this happen to the Jets, with Darnold lifting the Lombardi in a Patriots uniform, but then just sadness again at the realisation that it’s happened again.

Darnold, much like Mariota, likely even more so, deserves a real shot somewhere else. You can’t land in a much better spot than on Bill Belichick’s side of the field, and I think he’d have the extra drive and motivation of playing against the Jets twice a season.

Regardless of what happens, the Patriots need to figure it out and are going to struggle to compete this year unless they take a punt on somebody. Yet I have no doubt that Bill and his gang will pull something out of their… pockets. Who do you think it will be suiting up for New England this year? Dalton? Minshew? Drew Lock? There are a thousand possible scenarios, and that’s why we love the NFL.

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