Patriots

Don't proclaim Patriots' dynasty over, even with Cam Newton replacing Tom Brady

Don't proclaim Patriots' dynasty over, even with Cam Newton replacing Tom Brady

You haven’t truly arrived as a member of the Boston sports media until you’ve picked up your pen or microphone and declared the Patriots' dynasty dead.

Lots of people you know and love have done this, but I believe I hold the record. And it can’t be broken: In January 2000, before Bill Belichick was even hired, I said there would be no dynasty if Belichick got the job.

So there. See if you can top that.

Over the last 20 years, there have been numerous warnings, in the media and beyond, of big trouble on the Patriots’ horizon. Trades, defections, defeats, retirements, scandals, new and talented challengers. One of those things had to provide the last and final word for this historic run.

Right?

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We already know what didn’t do it: The Drew Bledsoe trade; the Lawyer Milloy release; Adam Vinatieri signing with the Colts; Spygate and the almost-perfect season; Tom Brady, age 31, tearing his ACL and MCL; the 2009 exodus (Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Josh McDaniels, Scott Pioli); the two seasons of New York Jets contention (feel free to place laughing emojis and memes here); Deflategate; the drafting, anointing, and eventual trade of Jimmy Garoppolo; the Super Bowl disappearance of Malcolm Butler; and Brady, age 41, pleading the Fifth when asked if Belichick and Robert Kraft appreciate him enough.

And so here we are, at yet another tension point on this two-decades-long ride. Brady, who will be 43 next month, is gone. Cam Newton, a dozen years younger, is here.

You tell me: Is the dynasty finally over now?

Teams aren’t supposed to be able to survive this. Brady, the best quarterback to ever play, took a lot of championship hard drive with him to Florida. The Brady-to-Newton transfer seems like the work of a rookie scriptwriter: The quarterback who has passed for more touchdowns than anyone (regular season and playoffs) is replaced by the quarterback who has rushed for more touchdowns than anyone at the position… and he’s on New England’s books for fewer dollars than Brian Hoyer.

I don’t know if Newton will be able to overcome his shoulder and foot injuries. But what should be obvious to anyone watching is that Belichick doesn’t have any “bridge year” in him. We’ll all have to keep waiting for his dynasty concession speech. It’s never going to happen.

Really, we all should have seen this one coming. Player restoration is something Belichick is always trying to do. Especially at bargain prices. He’s done it at almost every position except for quarterback, and that’s because this was his first opportunity to do it there in 20 years.

If you use Belichick’s history as a guide, you should also be expecting something else when the preseason begins. Change. Newton is not going to be asked to run the same offense as Brady. In fact, I won’t be surprised if the Patriots’ attack looks, at times, like the Patriots of the late 1970s. That is, a team whose identity is tied to a fierce running game, including the quarterback.

This is where the combination of Belichick’s experience and willingness to adapt makes his year-to-year team vision so interesting and impossible to duplicate.

I’m not just talking about schemes, but players, too. For those who wonder if he and Newton can coexist, just consider the two best players he’s coached, Lawrence Taylor and Brady. Now think about all the different personalities, styles, and societal changes he’s seen between 1981 — when LT was a rookie — and now.

Show me a great coach and I’ll show you a great teacher. Show me a great teacher and I’ll show you someone who knows how to reach the so-called unreachable.

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Frankly, I think Belichick loves what’s happened this spring. The Bills have been installed as division favorites, and Patriots departures — Brady and several others — have forced Belichick and his staff to reimagine what they’re doing. Keep in mind, that’s like asking Bruno Mars to perform. You know, that’s just what he does.

What’s so odd about this situation is that no part of it is supposed to be positive. How is it possible for Brady to leave and yet people still hesitate when you ask, “Is the dynasty over?” Then again, it shouldn’t be possible to win 78 percent of your games (162-46) during the same period in which the NFL has docked two first-round picks and a fourth. Another third-rounder will vanish in 2021.

It’s totally fair to suggest that none of the annual success can continue without Brady. He’s much older than Newton, yes, but has proven to be more durable in his 40s than Newton in his late 20s/early 30s. He’s won 10 times as many playoff games. You can’t just go from Brady to Newton and expect everything to be fine, can you?

You’re not being unreasonable if you say that Brady-for-Newton is the exchange that will finally bring the whole empire down. Or maybe it’s simply time for the league to belong to Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson now. At some point, the long run of double-digit wins has to end. The last time the Patriots didn’t do that in a season, Newton was 13 years old.

Go ahead and answer. Is it over now? Don’t worry about being wrong. You’ll never break my record.

 

Opt-out deadline looms for Patriots, rest of NFL

Opt-out deadline looms for Patriots, rest of NFL

The opt-out deadline loometh.

By 4 p.m. Thursday, any NFL player in the “high-risk” category can opt out and receive $350,000 and credit for an accrued season. Players without the “high-risk” designation will be paid $150,000. That money will be considered an advance on their 2021 salaries.

As of Wednesday night, 60 players had opted out, including eight Patriots. Meanwhile, 56 players tested positive for COVID during initial screening as they reported for this very different training camp. That’s fewer than three percent of all players. Another 107 had it prior to reporting. Those numbers are according to the NFLPA.

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So what will Thursday bring? The Patriots are leading the league in opt-outs by a wide margin. Four Browns have opted out as of Thursday morning. Several teams have three opt outs.

A team’s fortunes can be radically altered by an opt-out if a key player decides the risk is too great for him or his family. The AFC East has probably seen the most consequential opt outs so far.  

Expectations for the Patriots have to be reconfigured as they figure out how to best replace Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon. The Jets are going to be without talented linebacker C.J. Mosley. The Dolphins are without wide receivers Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson. And the Bills have lost corner E.J. Gaines and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Meanwhile, their brilliant corner Tre’Davious White was still wrestling with his decision on Thursday morning and railing on Twitter that he was being criticized for debating it. The replies are — as you might imagine — a trip. Maintaining the status quo on this topic, a fleet of people wonder how come they don’t get to opt out of their 9-to-5.

Because you can’t. OK? Maybe if you tackled people at work you’d have a shot, but you probably don’t. And if you do tackle people at work and you didn’t get the opt-out provision, you gotta get yourself to the NFL ASAFP.

Will the Patriots lose any more players? Certainly could. A number of players are still wrestling with it. With a decision so personal and difficult, I’ve come to realize it’s unfair to speculate on individual players and why they may or may not decide to play. (Patrick Chung helped me get there…).

For the lion’s share, the decision is so difficult because it revolves around factors other than their or their family’s personal health. It’s not cut-and-dried.

Age, finances, professional satisfaction, all of it can weigh in.

Saints defensive end Cam Jordan, asked last week if he considered opting out, said, "Uh, nope I feel like our team is so, so close to a championship.”

We’ll keep you updated throughout the day and Phil Perry and I will sift through all of it on Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast after the deadline. 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Should Pats give Newton a raise with newfound cap space? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps are already in full swing, but there are some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
OT Lucas Niang (August 6)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)