Jeff Saturday had a front row seat witnessing the New England Patriots' dominance in the 2000s.
He was the starting center for the Indianapolis Colts teams that, despite being led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, consistently lost to the Patriots in both the regular season and playoffs.
Saturday saw how difficult it was to beat a Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick, and even though New England has struggled mightily at times in 2020 -- the franchise just clinched its first losing record since 2000 -- he's pretty confident that the six-time Super Bowl champions will bounce back fairly quick.
The former Pro Bowl center, who's now an NFL analyst for ESPN, explained his thinking on Tuesday morning's episode of "Get Up!"
“Let’s not forget. Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels — this whole staff knows how to coach football,” Saturday said. “When their whole team comes back next year and they get all the eight opt-out guys back, and they address their quarterback position — I’m assuming in free agency — this is still a team to be reckoned with.
"Don’t hit the panic button on the Patriots. Let’s be real careful that we’re just going to act like the Bills and the Dolphins are going to run through the AFC East the next 10 years. It was 20 years of dominance. Bill Belichick isn't just going to relinquish that and just let everybody walk on their happy way. He’s going to find a way to right this ship, guaranteed.”
The Patriots will have some ammo in the offseason to improve the roster in a hurry.
They are projected to have 11 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including compensatory selections (the league has not yet awarded those picks, though). New England also is projected to have $61,539,493 in 2021 salary cap space, per OverTheCap.com, which is the fourth-highest total among the 32 teams.
If the Patriots are able to find a more competent quarterback than Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham, that kind of upgrade obviously would be a huge help, too. The Pats could find this quarterback in the draft, free agency or by making a trade for a veteran.
So, while the 2020 season has been a rare disaster for the Patriots since the team's remarkable run of success began in 2001, there are avenues for immediate improvement. It also helps that the greatest coach in league history is still running the show. Belichick's track record for roster building is quite impressive, even if some of the recent moves have not brought the type of results expected.