The Tom Brady Patriots era is over. In what has already been a surreal 2020, we’re in for a truly bizarre sight – Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform, the ultimate culmination of yet another Tom Brady news cycle. However, as weird as it’ll undoubtedly be to see this sight, Tom Brady leaving the Patriots has felt inevitable for years. Each season has brought about stories of rifts between Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Perhaps the most notable straw on top of the pile was the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo, the NFL Championship quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Once considered the heir apparent to Brady, Garoppolo was shipped to the 49ers in 2018. And now, less than two years later, Brady is history in New England.
How will the Pats fare without their star QB or his ex-successor? Below, we’re taking a closer look.
Retooling in New England
It seems almost beyond comprehension to picture a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team without Tom Brady. However, that’s the reality in which the Patriots find themselves. The Tom Brady contract with the Buccaneers takes the QB off the team, but still leaves behind a $13.5 million cap hit, limiting the Patriots’ ability to do major tinkering with their roster.
At this point, no one knows who’s going to be the starting quarterback for New England in 2020. Jarrett Stidham was a mid-round pick in 2019, and he’s spent a year learning the Josh McDaniels offense behind Brady. He seems to be the current leader in the race, but the job is far from guaranteed to be his.
The Patriots have declined to chase a big name in free agency, so the job will likely go to Stidham or a potential first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots pick 23rd, which is very early for them, so there could be a franchise QB available for the taking. However, as of right now, Stidham seems to be the most likely option to start in week one.
The Immediate Future
A cynic’s response to the Patriots’ dominance over the last two decades is that they’ve played in the AFC East with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins – three teams that have engaged in an arms race for futility since Brady’s emergence as a starter. However, these teams should see significant improvements in 2020, with each adding key free agents. Plus, both the Jets and the Bills have another year of experience for their young franchise quarterbacks. If these teams improve, it could spell trouble for the Patriots, who already have their hands full with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on their schedule.
Brady’s departure and a difficult schedule have led to a lot of guesswork regarding the Pats’ future. Is the team entering a rebuilding phase? Is Belichick winding down his legendary career? Belichick will be in New England at least for 2020, and his likely successor as coach, Josh McDaniels, is already in place.
Keep in mind, Belichick’s main skill is tinkering with his roster, and he’s known for getting huge results out of teams full of no-name players. So, regardless of who’s starting for the Patriots during the 2020/2021 season, expect them to be on the list of championship contenders in January.