Patriots

Patriots

Patriots fans lament two things these days: the team giving up their quarterback of the future and Bill Belichick refusing to play Malcolm Butler on defense in the Super Bowl. 

Both are bitter pills and both are back in the news given the recent Bleacher Report and SI features on Garoppolo and Belichick's training camp-opening silence on Butler. For now, one is way worse. It's the Butler thing.

Perspective on championships has understandably been lost around these parts over the last two decades, so here's a silly reminder that there's nothing bigger in professional sports than winning a title. There's also nothing worse than losing one you could have won. 

We suspect that trading Garoppolo could end up costing the Patriots a lengthy championship window. We don't know, however, that it will actually cost the team even one championship. 

It's a different story with the benching of Butler. It's hard to argue that the Patriots would have lost that game if Butler played. Super Bowl LII was a defensive disaster for both teams; the first team to make a big defensive play in the second half won the game. 

Even if Butler didn't force some massive turnover, he could have freaking tackled Nelson Agholor where Johnson Bademosi for some reason couldn't. But he didn't get to and, as was once again suggested to us Wednesday, we're never going to find out why. 

Now, the silver lining is that the Butler decision should prove to "only" cost the Patriots one Super Bowl title, whereas the absence of a quarterback like Garoppolo could cost them more. Yet a quick look over at the Seahawks can remind you that a bad decision in the Super Bowl can do more than just lose you that game; it can derail what appeared to be a perennial championship path. 

 

The Patriots are the most resilient team in the league, but they've never had to get over a Super Bowl loss that wasn't their fault. Tom Brady and other current Patriots came to Butler's defense, so it's fair to ask whether the Butler decision will continue to have ramifications with this year's team. 

My guess is the Patriots overcome it because they're still better than everyone else in the AFC. Winning solves everything and the Patriots don't have trouble winning. You'd be foolish to count them out this year. 

Future years will be affected more by the Garoppolo move. He won't be Tom Brady in San Francisco because there's only one Tom Brady. Yet all he needs to become is one of the league's better quarterbacks for us to be rational in thinking he could have won here. This organization has thrived thanks to having the best quarterback of all time and the best tight end of all time, but when those guys are gone and the playing field is balanced, wouldn't you take your chances with one of the best quarterbacks in the league playing for the best coach of all time? 

Training camp is often a time for optimism. Instead, we're lamenting both the past and the future. Part of that is because we're miserable. It's also because there's plenty of reason to ask "what if?"

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