Once upon a time, fall of ‘98, cloudy about 50 degrees outside sitting on those ice cold steel benches, worn out black seat numbers, shoulder to shoulder in the stands. Patriots were getting blown out, typical home game. All of a sudden the scoreboard shows the Red Sox vs Yankees score, Sox are winning. Crowd starts chanting “Yankees suck!, Yankees suck!” at a Patriots home game. That’s when I knew how much winning mattered in Boston.
Since that day, the Patriots now have FIVE Super Bowl titles and staring No. 6 right in the face. With Tom Brady coming back better than ever, I couldn’t have hoped for a better offseason.
The additions and subtractions are always big with any Super Bowl winner but I love what they’ve done starting with letting Martellus Bennett go. The Patriots had him in a “prove it” contract year which they’re the best at. I’m not in love with Dwayne Allen but he’s a good pass blocker and can catch the ball. I hope that Indy’s bad coaching stunted his growth.
Gronk is back! Don’t hold your breath though. Rob Gronkowski has played a higher percentage of his games than Avery Bradley, but his injuries are a real concern and can’t be ignored. When healthy, he’s the best tight end ever. I don’t love drafting a wide receiver in the first round and the Patriots don’t like that either but to trade for Brandin Cooks makes this wide receiving core the best the Patriots have ever had. Edelman, Cooks, Hogan, Amendola, Mitchell, Slater… BOOM.
I don’t love signing first day free agents but Stephon Gilmore has size and plays one of the most important positions in the game, cornerback. They should really sign a clutch and reliable Malcolm Butler to a long term extension but if you’re telling me we can replace Malcolm Butler with Richard Sherman, sign me up please. The thought of combining Richard Sherman with Bill Belichick is football porn. Love it. Either way the idea the Patriots will have two top end cornerbacks to combat this gauntlet of passing attacks next year is another sign of genius.
Keeping Hightower and Alan Branch were key, the addition of Kony Ealy who was a physical freak at Mizzou and can be multiple on defense, has major upside. I’d like to see them beef up their middle linebacker crew in the draft along with another secondary player.
A player I love that the Patriots probably won’t have a shot at is LB/S/WR/ST Jabrill Peppers from Michigan. He can play with the linebackers and secondary groups. He can match up man to man, is fast as hell and can tackle. Oh and by the way he can also return punts and play wide receiver at a high level. Love this player.
Patriots not having a first or second round pick is annoying to someone like me but Belichick is crafty and if he loves a player he’ll make a deal happen. Patriots don’t pick until No. 72 in the third round, so hard to say what they’ll do there but I won’t be surprised if Bill makes some moves to gather up more picks. I’ll throw some names out there, notable third round+ guys I could see the Patriots drafting. Ryan Anderson OLB Alabama, Kendell Beckwith ILB LSU, Deshaun Hall DE Texas A&M, Jourdan Lewis CB Michigan, Jake Butt TE Michigan, Jordan Leggett TE Clemson and Semaje Perine RB Oklahoma. Any of those guys would be terrific but they’re probably going with someone from Rutgers that none of us have heard of.
When I look at the Patriots this upcoming season you take everything into account. Their roster, best in the NFL. The reason they’ve beefed up their roster following a super bowl year which they usually never do, is because of this schedule. They play Brees, Carr, Rothelisberger, Ryan, Newton, Winston, Tannehill x2, Denver Defense and Houston Defense. I shouldn’t note Bradford, Dalton, Rivers and Alex Smith but them too.
Now that’s a tough schedule any way you slice it but when you look at the coaching matchup, it’s the complete opposite. Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Dan Quinn are quality head coaches but they’ve underachieved with the quarterbacks they have. They just simply don’t make enough of the right moves on game days to scare anyone. Facing off against new head coaches like Sean McDermott, Vance Joseph and Anthony Lynn should be fun. John Fox, Dirk Koetter, Andy Reid, Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio are worth mentioning. Marvin Lewis, Bill O’Brien, Hue Jackson, Chuck Pagano, Doug Marrone, Adam Gase, Todd Bowles and Mike Mularkey. This is one big pile of dog food.
So do I dare say 19-0? I love the idea of going for it and I would never challenge the Patriots competitive edge, which should be considered the most competitive sports franchise of all time. Any record that means enough to talk about, Belichick knows about and wants it. And the Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowls ever, so there are records out there still to be had. I’m not saying they’ll go undefeated but it’s certainly not crazy talk. The Patriots have a better chance at 19-0 this year than the Celtics have of making the NBA finals in the next five years. Don’t think for a second the Patriots don’t want to have the most Super Bowl wins, outright and forever. This year’s team is built better than ever coming off a championship season and as fans we couldn’t be more excited.
Looking back on that fall day when I was 12 years old, sitting on those steel benches, it’s unbelievable to see how far the team has come. They make rules so franchises can’t be this dominant in professional sports. I hope all the Patriot haters out there enjoy this upcoming NFL season.