Super Bowl Autopsy: What’s Next for Patriots?

Swinging Johnson

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 6:11 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 6:11 PM UTC

The New England Patriots were upset by the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, 41-33. Does that loss spell the end of an era in Foxboro? And how will the Patriots be view by the NFL odds makers next season?

NFL: Patriots Have Issues After Super Bowl DefeatSomething Funky in Foxboro

I spent a long weekend in Sin City at the Palazzo, the exquisitely coiffed little sister of the Venetian. I remarked to my man in Vegas, and casino host extraordinaire Joel Schwartz, that leading up to Sunday I saw far more Eagles jerseys than Patriots jerseys adorning middle-aged men whose football days had long since departed. But after the game, something strange was happening as I lingered inside the Grand Canal, finishing the last of my many cocktails. Patriots fans were actually congratulating Eagles fans, who were reveling in their team’s victory. New England backers had been there and done that so often that the loss didn’t seem to sting quite as deeply as one might have expected.

Of course, those who bet the rent on New England in their NFL picks were certainly not as affable, but the sanguine mood of many Pats fans stunned me. It was a game in which the legendary Tom Brady passed for three touchdowns, no picks and a whopping 505 yards (obliterating the Super Bowl record he set last year against the Falcons), yet was still on the losing end.

However, there was far more intrigue to this loss than the two others New England suffered in recent years on the league’s grandest stage. There was the shocking benching of starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX three years ago, without even his backup Eric Rowe knowing until moments before the game kicked. Butler’s benching has been explained away as a perfect storm of issues surrounding the days leading up to the game. Sickness, tardiness and perhaps a violation of team rules are rumored to have led to his participation in just one special teams play in a loss that many believe may have been prevented by his inclusion.

The taciturn Bill Belichick has offered little in regards to his decision, which has drawn the ire of Pats fans all over New England. Butler is now a free agent and any speculation concerning the Patriots retaining his services has been virtually extinguished by this strange turn of events.

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Final score.

— New England Patriots (@Patriots) February 5, 2018

End of an Era?

Unlike the previous 17 years with Tom Terrific pulling the trigger in concert with the Evil Genius pulling the strings, this season’s end feels different. There were rumblings that Belichick wanted to keep heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo in the fold while Brady demanded that the fair-haired boy be shipped out of town. It is speculated that owner Bob Kraft ceded to Brady’s ultimatum to which Belichick, incensed that his control had been usurped, made one call to the one lousy team in which Garoppolo could thrive. And voila, Jimmy G became a 49er and the Patriots got a second-round pick for a player who many believed would fetch at least one first-rounder before the season began. It was almost as though Belichick made Kraft pay for his allegiance to his future Hall of Fame quarterback over his future Hall of Fame coach.

Next season things will be different in Foxboro. Tom Brady will be 41. The offensive and defensive coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, respectively, will be plying their trade in other cities as head coaches. And Butler, a key piece to their secondary, will be manning another team’s defensive backfield. There are even rumors all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski might retire after sustaining a concussion against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game.

New England needs a come to Jesus meeting between the holy trinity of Kraft, Brady and Belichick. They must check their egos at the door and clear the air. They also need to boost a linebacking corps that was exploited on third-down situations all season. This offseason will decide whether this is truly the end of the line for the greatest dynasty in NFL history or if it is simply a family squabble that will end in “love ya man’s” to start the 2018 campaign.

All I know is that the NFL odds are still bullish on New England, with 5Dimes installing the Patriots as +450 favorites and the Eagles hot on their heels at +670 to win Super Bowl LIII.

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