Pop quiz: When is the last time you were satisfied with a New England Patriots season that didn't end with a Super Bowl title?
Championships have been the standard in New England for the past two decades, but that will change in 2020 with Tom Brady taking his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Veteran safety Devin McCourty was the first Patriots player to address the media since Brady's departure Wednesday and tried to walk a fine line when asked about expectations for this year's squad.
"I don’t think you ever come into a season and talk, 'Super Bowl, Super Bowl,' " McCourty told reporters in a conference call. "It's about improving and winning games along the way. I think that will stay the same."
While the Patriots may not "talk" Super Bowl, playing in February always was the implicit goal with Brady around. And McCourty is well aware that fans don't think New England has a shot without TB12.
"I've seen people tweeting me like, ‘Enjoy what you guys had. It’s over. You guys won’t win a game,' McCourty said. "I think that's natural, though. I think if I was a fan and ... I watched a guy for a long time and he left and he was so great, I would say that team would be terrible, too."
Whether the Patriots are actually competitive in 2020 -- one sportsbook has their win total set at nine -- may depend on how they fill Brady's leadership void.
But McCourty pushed back on the notion that Brady was the team's sole motivator.
"I know everyone is like, ‘What's going to happen? Everything is brand new.’ I don’t really see it like that," McCourty said. "I see it continuing what we’ve been doing and guys assuming the same leadership roles when you look at myself, (Matthew) Slater, Jules (Julian Edelman), (Patrick) Chung. All those guys have been there 10-plus years, so we just have to continue to do what we’ve been doing."
Slater, McCourty and Edelman are New England's three longest-tenured players with Brady and Stephen Gostkowski gone. None are Brady, obviously, but McCourty is hopeful they can continue the "Patriot Way" -- which should translate into continued success.