Is Beane right about the Patriots?

April 03, 2020 - 3:18 am
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After two decades, Tom Brady is finally out of the AFC East.

While many believe that Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with a vastly improved Buffalo Bills roster, finally makes the Bills the AFC East, their own general manager does not agree.

In a video conference call on Thursday, Brandon Beane told the Buffalo media that until somebody dethrones New England atop the division, they will remain the team to beat.

"Until we beat them, we've done nothing, and we have our work cut out for us," Beane said.

While this is very likely a statement made to prevent giving Bill Belichick any bulletin board material, is Beane correct?

The answer to that question might depend on how much of the Patriots' success over the last 20 years has more to do with Brady, or more to do with Belichick.

Perhaps the greatest head coach of all-time has proven in the past he can have success without Brady.

In 2008 after Brady tore his ACL in the season opener, Belichick and the Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center. In 2016 while Brady was serving his suspension at the beginning of the season, New England went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett running the offense.

Belichick has proven to be one of the best defensive minds, and one of the best at in-game adjustments ever. The Patriots likely won't be picking in the top-five next year during the draft, but this situation in 2020 doesn't seem to be the same as the ones in 2008 and 2016 without Brady.

Sure, Cassel proved to be a product of the system after he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, but that 2008 Patriots team was coming off a season where they went 16-0 and nearly pulled off a perfect 19-0 season before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. That team had an elite wide receiver in Randy Moss coming off his second-best statistical season of his career. Not to forget that the '08 Patriots also had one of the best slot receivers of the decade in Wes Welker.

The defense featured a top linebacker trio of Tedy Bruschi, Jerod Mayo, and Brandon Meriweather, while defensive end Richard Seymour was also in the prime of his career.

The 2016 roster still had a core on both sides of the ball that would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.

Belichick can certainly elevate the personnel he has, but it would be naive to say he can win with anything and anyone. This 2020 roster just doesn't look like one that can carry the load without a proven quarterback like Brady and win a division title.

Even New England can't know exactly what they have in second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham until he gets real in-game experience. Should we expect Stidham to carry an offense that only has Julian Edelman as a proven pass catcher?

Now this conversation, of course, could change the minute a move is made by the Patriots for someone like Cam Newton. However, right now it doesn't appear New England is in a rush to grab a veteran signal caller.

As for a defense that was a top-three unit in 2019, it lost two of the biggest pieces from a season ago in linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. That is 137 tackles and 13.5 sacks walking out the door.

Perhaps this is naive and the machine that is the "Patriot Way" cannot be destroyed even without Brady, but don't be so sure. The 2019 season showed the limitations of a weaker New England offense even with Brady still running the show.

The departure of Brady, along with the job the Bills' front office did improving the roster in March makes a shift in the ways of the AFC East feel inevitable.

Right now - and no this isn't a dream - the Bills should be the team to beat in the division. Not the Patriots.

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