The New England Patriots and Bill Belichick are at it again.
They are letting everyone feel like their 20-year stranglehold on the NFL may finally be letting up, the critics have come out the shadows once again to bury them, and through all of this Belichick is still giving monotone post-game interviews.
The dynasty took a hit when Tom Brady had QB-of-the-future Jimmy Garoppolo shipped out, and it was shaken to the core when Brady himself packed up and headed to Tampa Bay.
But the dynasty isn't over for the simple fact Bill Belichick is still a defensive genius, with or without Tom Brady.
Bill Belichick: Defensive Guru
Belichick's worst defense of the last 10 years (barring this year) was giving up around 21 points per game. Even this year, his worst year since 2011, Belichick's defense is still not giving up more than 25 points per game.
Bill Belichick's ability to assemble a good to great defense should not be questioned. The Patriots led the league in COVID-19 opt-outs with eight, and two of those were key defensive pieces in linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung. These players will return next season with even more help from free agency and the draft to breathe new life into the defensive unit.
Star cornerback Stephon Gilmore will probably not be on next season's roster but Belichick has a history of being able to replace star defenders (e.g. Chandler Jones) and keep the unit performing well.
The loss of Tom Brady is literally unmeasurable, but the Patriots' blueprint to winning games is still the same: Play great defense, don't turn the ball over, and control the clock.
Tracking the last 10 years, Bill Belichick has posted nine top-10 defensive units, so the first point is a given. Belichick as GM, head coach and de facto defensive coordinator will always have that side of the ball competent.
The Pats are currently the 4th-leading rushing team in the NFL at the season's midpoint, so controlling the clock is not an issue. The issue is turnovers, due to inconsistent to bad QB play from Cam Newton.
Patriots are a QB and some weapons away from contending
At the halfway point of the 2020 season, New England has already turned the ball over more times than they did during the entire 2019 season.
Granted, Cam Newton literally has no weapons, but he's still an injury concern so maybe a long-term future centered around him is not the best way forward. Luckily for Bill Belichick and all New England fans, a few decent QBs will be available this offseason in not only the draft but also free agency.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is hiding behind Ryan Tannehill on the above graph, making him a candidate, but if he is too risky, Philip Rivers only signed a one-year deal with the Colts. He would be a short term upgrade who could be a high-end game manager, which is all Belichick really needs from his QB's.
The future for Bill Belichick and the Patriots
Next season, Bill Belichick will welcome back two key cogs that contributed to a defense that only allowed less than 15 points per game in 2019.
Belichick will address the offense by bringing in some weapons to help Cam or whoever is taking snaps at QB.
And the Patriots will be back to contending like nothing ever happened.
A top-10 defense married with even just good QB play makes a franchise a contender. Bill Belichick is the greatest defensive mind of all time; his unit will hold up.
Belichick stole Randy Moss and drafted Rob Gronkowski, so his ability to find premier talent, while lacking lately, has always been present. He just needs to hit on a few skill position guys this offseason.
Tom Brady will never truly be replaced, but that doesn't mean New England will go from Super Bowl favorites to a dumpster fire. To return to contention, Bill Belichick simply needs to recover his fastball on defense and trot out an offense that doesn't turn the ball over so much and controls the clock.
These are not impossible-to-meet criteria. It's with this in mind that I come to the conclusion that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will be just fine post-Brady.