What’s that famous quote? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result?
Well I must be insane, because every year I expect Patriots fans not to freak out when Free Agency hits, and every year I’m surprised when they do.
Listening to the media freak out makes all the sense in the world to me, and I at least understand why they take the position they do. Disputation and hot takes drives traffic, and calling out New England for letting Trey Flowers walk and failing to sign Cordarrelle Patterson will get the clicks necessary to keep them employed. “The Patriots will be fine, they do this every year” will never get half the attention that “The dynasty is over” will, and so that’s the route a lot of the analysts choose to go in order to increase exposure and generate the debate that very much falls in the purview of their job description. I don’t like it, but I completely get it - and based on the amount of reactions they get, they’re all doing something very, very right.
What I can’t figure out for the life of me, though, is how there are Patriots fans anywhere who don’t like the way Bill Belichick handles the offseason.
Unless 2018 was your very first year as a Patriots fan (in which case, welcome to the dark side), you have absolutely no excuse for being upset over the lack of big moves the Patriots have made during these first few days of Free Agency. This happens every single year, almost without fail, and while it’s never fun to lose players you enjoy rooting for to division rivals or watching cities fan the flames of Super Bowl dreams with the signing of the offseason’s prize talent, the endgame trumps any joy folks in Oakland or Cleveland are feeling right now by so far that there isn’t even a word to describe it.
With very, very few exceptions, Belichick’s formula hasn’t changed since 2003, when he cut all-star, irreplaceable, heart-and-soul of the team, defensive captain Lawyer Milloy just before the start of the season en route to a 14-2 record and a second Lombardi trophy. You can go back over a decade and a half and list all of the players the Patriots have either let walk, didn’t sign when they were available, or didn’t work hard enough to get, and that list will be replete with absolute studs. The list of players the Patriots did bring in in that same time frame were solid, intelligent veterans who were able to maximize their skillsets under Belichick and help the Patriots win more division titles than I care to rattle off right now - not to mention FIVE Super Bowls since that first one, which they won with a group of relative no-names. The guys that are available once the initial frenzy dies down are the exact kind of guys the Patriots covet, and if there is a guy they really want out there somewhere, they get him, either by giving him a contract or trading for him using their usual slew of draft picks. I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t already know or haven’t already seen themselves ten times over by now. Belichick’s method works, and it works better than any other method out there by a country mile. Sure, there are plenty of misses in there, but that’s true all across the league. Luckily, when the Patriots land a dud, rarely does that dud come with millions upon millions of dead cap money.
And yet, in spite of all that, there are still fans out there furious over the lack of movement from the team so far. It never fails to blow my mind.
But perhaps what most blows my mind is that, every year, the same teams throw the same money at the same kinds of players, and rarely do they ever produce the desired result. Either Belichick is so much better at evaluating talent and understanding who fits best in his system than the rest of the league that nobody even bothers to try and emulate it, or the pressure to make a big splash and appease the front office is high enough with other franchises that coaches sign player to save their own jobs just as much as to help a team win. Whatever it is, that’s not our problem. The Patriots are going to be fine - they always are, and there are 18 seasons of evidence to back that up.
So let’s all relax, OK? I just did some math, and the first game of the 2019 season is 175 days away. This roster will look very different in September than it does now. And whoever is on that roster will be great, and will help this team win the AFC East again, and likely get a first round bye, and hopefully host an AFC Championship, and maybe get a shot to defend that Super Bowl the team won last year in that season where they lost their starting left tackle and their best running back and their most clutch playoff receiver and that deep threat they gave up a first round pick for and their quarterback hated the coach and the whole team was in disarray. We all know how this story goes. So get outside! Enjoy the upcoming Spring!
And keep Google open, because that’s the best way to learn about the player the Patriots are about to sign that you’ve never heard of who will end up making a key play in a deep playoff run next year.