What A Week For The Patriots

Feb 8, 2018

What’s the next headline for the New England Patriots? Belichick Retires? Kraft Sells Pats? Brady Inks New Pact? Gronk: I’ve Had Enough?

Whew! What a week for the Patriots, and it’s still only Thursday. Let’s review.

Sunday

Eagles backup QB Nick Foles picks apart Pats pathetic defense for 373 yards and three touchdowns, leads Philadelphia to a 41-33 victory over the Patriots and is the MVP of Super Bowl LII. Forty-year-old Tom Brady, a backup when he won the first of his five Super Bowls in 2002, throws for 505 yards and three touchdowns.

Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who played 97 percent of the snaps during the regular season, was on the field for the playoff victories over Tennessee and Jacksonville, and was the hero of Super Bowl LIX with his goal-line pick of Seattle’s Russell Wilson in the last minute, weeps during the National Anthem and is on the field for only one play with special teams despite the Eagles embarrassing the New England defense. Coach’s decision, Bill Belichick says after the game.

Despite nine receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, tight end Rob Gronkowski says he will think about his future and is evasive when a reporter asks about retiring.

Monday

Belichick declines to elaborate on Butler’s benching. Speculation swirls about Butler’s partying, drug use, tardiness, trustworthiness.

Detroit Lions announce the hiring of Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as their head coach, as expected.

Tuesday

Belichick remains mum on Butler.

Colts announce Josh McDaniels, Pats offensive coordinator, as their new head coach, as expected. Press conference is set for Wednesday afternoon.

Rumors about Butler’s behavior feed sports talk radio and social media. Butler posts statement on Twitter and Instagram denying all allegations; calls them “. . . not only false, but hurtful, to me and my family.” Brady and other Patriots “like” the post.

McDaniels changes his mind, reportedly after conversation with Robert Kraft, shocks the Colts and stays with the Pats. Colts resume search.

Wednesday

Belichick remains mum on Butler. Talk jocks, callers, columnists, bloggers, former players feast on Butler situation, speculate on Belichick’s and Brady’s future and debate the merits of McDaniels as the heir apparent. A popular opinion: Belichick coaches the 2018 team, retires, and McDaniels takes over. Patriots and McDaniels quiet on his about face.

Colts GM Chris Ballard ends a press conference in Indianapolis with, “The rivalry is back on.”

Speculation arises that Gronk, 28, concerned about his long-term health in the wake of multiple injuries and concussion, will quit football and pursue a second career in movies or professional wrestling.

Sports Illustrated reports that Belichick buddy Greg Schiano will stay as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, leaving open the likelihood that Pats linebackers coach Brian Flores will move up.

Got that?

All this drama surrounding the Patriots, uncharacteristic for a franchise noted for its bunker mentality, makes the actual Super Bowl game seem like four months ago, not four days. But it was last Sunday that the Eagles made plays while the Patriots made errors. Foles, the quarterback who stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz in December, caught a swing pass for a touchdown on a trick play. Brady, on a swing pass from Danny Amendola, dropped the ball. Philly’s pass rush got to Brady once, and he fumbled. New England’s pass rush produced nothing. A botched reverse on the kick return after Philly had taken a 41-33 lead put the ball in Brady’s hands 91 yards from the end zone with 58 seconds and no timeouts to get there. To Brady’s credit, he drove the Patriots to midfield and on the last play heaved a Hail Mary to the goal line. Gronk was there, but so was a flight of Eagles to deflect the ball as he stretched for it.

That the Eagles won is no surprise. They were the better team in Super Bowl LII and deserve the parade in their honor today and every accolade that has come their way this week.

How the Patriots lost is a surprise. Questionable coaching decisions on the sideline and errors on the field were so un-Patriotic. As a result, the Patriots deserve the harsh scrutiny they have received this week. The Kraft-Belichick-Brady dynasty remains intact, but cracks have developed. Let’s see if they grow.