Soon after watching New England Patriots Head coach Bill Belichick's press conference in regards to former Patriot Aaron Hernandez's situation (Charged w/Murder in the 1st Degree) I noticed a few things about the usually calculated, and straight laced speaker Belichick presents himself to be. He showed the emotion he usually refrains from showing to the media, and in an effort to defend the "Patriot way" he even went into how this Franchise goes about evaluating prospects.
I remind you this is the NFL franchise that many hold in high regards in terms of class in this league. Team owner Robert Kraft, and Coach Belichick have been the pioneers of football excellence the last 10+ years, and for anyone in that organization to have to defend their decision making due to one man's wrong doings is a sign of our depleted memories. The Patriots aren't use to this type of off season, and the attention is clearly not wanted. However this is the Patriots we are talking about, and they can rise from this due to two people: Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady.
For starters let's look at the state of the roster as the team is looking to head into training camp with nothing but football on their mind. Tom Brady will be going into this season with arguably the worst off season of any top QB. Brady who is still worth top dollar in this league, agrees to a 3-year $27M extension with the Patriots. A move he made to give the Pats the leeway to re-sign his top target Wes Welker, and make any other moves that will improve the team.
Brady's humbling move was a class act, and it was prasied by many. However it didn't work, as talks between the Patriots/Welker broke down before our very eyes. And just like that Wes Welker the player who became Tom Brady's most lethal weapon in the slot, the player that provided for the last 6 seasons: 672 Receptions, 7,459 Yards, 37 Touchdowns, 11 Yards Per Reception, & 389 Receiving First Downs (Five 100 Receptions seasons) was gone. And just to sweeten the situation, Welker becomes a Denver Bronco. Despite the provisions made by his leader.
Fast forward as another of Brady's top weapons Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm injury) arguably the most productive tight end in the NFL suffers more set backs with injuries as his playing future looks to be a mid to late return this season. Aaron Hernandez the second half of that talented two tight end system is charged with 1st degree murder, and is arrested (released from team on the same day).
We also saw veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd, and versatile back Danny Woodhead depart from the team via free agency. With all these players lost, and the major Gronk setback Tom Brady's offense going into this year's training camp is highly questionable.
Last season Tom Brady totaled an NFL's 4th best 4,827 passing yards. The combined yardage for the players he has lost this off season is a staggering 3,984 yards. With that said the Patriots made moves to fix what they can immediately signing promising slot receiver Danny Amendola formerly of the St. Louis Rams, and veteran receiver Michael Jenkins. And with running back Stevan Ridley looking to continue his success on the ground all hope may not be lost. However looking at the total damage already done, how can Patriot fans not be worried?
The 2013-14 NFL season is not going to be an easy one for the Patriots. Although the AFC East is rightfully under their rule, teams around them such as the Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills have improved a great deal this off season. Enough for people to even ask the question: "Can they really dethrone the Patriots?"
I don't know the answer to that question, and I don't know if the Patriots can reach or even get close to the level of dominance their offense showed last season. What I do know is that Bill Belichick's system year after year has proven to be the back bone of this team. With arguably the highest success rate of any coaching system the last 10 years. And I also do know that Tom Brady throughout his career has not only prefectly ran this system, but he has also turned the unknown into lethal known targets. Helping turn two later round draft picks into the most feared tight end duo the last 4-5 years. Turning an undrafted free agent who was previously under used into arguably the most lethal slot receiver in NFL history.
It should be interesting to see how the Patriots get through this rough time. Both Belichick, and Brady have spoken on these matters. However the common theme within both seems to end at the organization moving on. Worrying about who is in the locker room, and the task at hand.
However I believe that if the New England Patriots some how over come these obstacles this season, dominate like they have been the past 10 years, and miraculously get their hands on another Lombardi Trophy we could argue Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady being the greatest ever in their respective positions. It's one thing to win, but it's another to do so when all the odds are stacked against you. This situation is not in their control, but how they deal with it will determine if the "Patriot way" is good enough.