Bear with me here for a bit. I live in the Washington D.C. area. So I know plenty of Commanders' fans. My father, older brother, and my best friend are Commanders' fans.
In 2018, I had a conversation with my older brother explaining something about his team that made me view what I had been seeing with the Patriots in a whole different manner. He told me that even if New England doesn't win the Super Bowl, they at least make the playoffs every year.
Something his team had no hope of doing at all.
In the time I have been a fan of the Patriots, I knew the clock was always running. At some point and time it would end. However it ended. It would end.
But that conversation with my brother left me with a deeper understanding of the game of football. It made what I was seeing more humbling as well.
What the Patriots have done with Tom Brady was a level of miraculous no NFL team had really seen. It wasn't planned. But it happened none the less.
There is a whole generation of fans who have seen a great deal of winning and of excellence that has set a different kind of standard. Leaving a mark on us all.
Usually when the season starts I have hope that there will be growth. Hope for players to declare that they want to make a positive impact for the Patriots on the game of football. No matter where they came from.
The organization now looks like a team that needs to start over. Especially at the quarterback position.
The old embers of a team that was the I Ching of football have sailed from the Grey Havens. The Patriots need to find a new heartbeat to kindle the flame. And as we are finding out, it is a lot harder than we thought it would be. But replacing a once in a lifetime player was never going to be easy. Replacing championship players was never going to be easy.
Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season. The Miami Dolphins have yet to replace him. I'm not sold on Tua yet. But it has taken nearly 20 seasons for the Dolphins to find a signal caller to be their franchise quarterback. 20. It has taken Buffalo almost as long to find someone to fill Jim Kelly's shoes. If you want to throw the Indianapolis Colts in this equation, it would be valid as well. The Colts have not been as relevant without Peyton Manning. Even with Andrew Luck as their starter.
New England had Drew Bledsoe to make the Patriots relevant again. Before Tom Brady took them to soaring heights. When Tom left, the Patriots did not just lose their best player. The lost the best player in the NFL.
I say all of this to point out that great players leave voids in their wake. Whether through retirement or choosing to leave for another team, what they brought to the table was so significant with their greatness it can become extremely difficult on the entire franchise to find someone who can lead the team in to the future.
Which brings us to Mac Jones.
Right now, it seems that Mac isn't that guy. I had hopes that he would find his stride as a better than average NFL passer this season. He looks shell shocked and hesitant. The tools are there. But until he lets the game come to him, we will continue to see some unorthodox and unnecessary mistakes from him.
It also seems to me when situations are perfect for Mac he thrives. Add in some adversity and his play changes. I will admit that pressure on the quarterback can and will change the game in favor of the other team. But some quarterbacks can handle the stress of pressure better than some others can.
Right now, Mac isn't one of those guys.
And as I watch Mac go through this, it just reminds me of that conversation I had with my brother.
It also points out that when you don't have that one player that makes everyone else better your team tends to go through the motions. They don't achieve greatness because greatness isn't in the building.
This isn't to say that great players can always make their team's champions. But the overall quality of the team is better because you have that kind of talent on the roster.
Take the early 90s Oilers and the late 90s Dolphins, both had talented teams. The Dolphins had a top 5 defense. Neither team could get over the hump despite having a strong core of players who played together and played well. Miami would often get blown out in the playoffs with that same defense.
We as fans now live with the fact that we do not carry the same hope that we did 6-7 years ago. We don't look at the coming season with the thought that Christmas could come in February. That the next title could be waiting for us at the end of another hard fought season. And we should not.
But I still have hope that somewhere in this season the Patriots can put one foot in front of the other consistently. That they can find a way to win a few games and show some of the character that I know is there.