Is the dynasty dead?

New England’s early playoff exit and Tom Brady’s looming decision have the Pats in disarray.

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Is the dynasty dead?

Tom Brady’s uncertain future is one of many questions facing the Patriots this offseason.

Tom Brady’s uncertain future is one of many questions facing the Patriots this offseason.

Tom Brady’s uncertain future is one of many questions facing the Patriots this offseason.

Tom Brady’s uncertain future is one of many questions facing the Patriots this offseason.

Bennett Carollo, Sports Editor

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It’s no secret that I am not a New England Patriots fan. Some may even call me a hater. Nonetheless, even I can appreciate the sheer dominance that Belichick, Brady and Co. have had over the rest of the NFL over the span of nearly two decades. Beginning with a Super Bowl championship in 2001, the Pats have added five more titles since then and have won the AFC East division every season since 2003, save for 2008 when Brady missed nearly the entire season with an injury. That 2008 outlier is also the only season since 2003 that didn’t feature New England in the playoffs. This is staggering to me as a Bucs fan, seeing as my team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007. Sustained excellence to that magnitude can’t come solely from luck and cheating. However, all good things must come to an end, and the Patriots dynasty is, at best, on life support at the moment.

It was a glorious sight: former Patriot Logan Ryan taking what could end up being Tom Brady’s last pass as a Patriot into the endzone for a game-sealing pick six. The crowd at Gillette Stadium was stunned, as the Tennessee Titans delighted the rest of the NFL with a 20-13 Wild Card round win over New England. However, the writing had been on the wall for this inevitable demise since before the 2019 season even started. The somewhat surprising retirement of star tight end Rob Gronkowski was the first sign of trouble. Even as the Patriots got off to an 8-0 start, there were reasons for concern. The defense was one of the NFL’s best, but Brady and the offense looked out of sync, failing to score more than 22 points in the next five games, in which New England went 2-3. Patriots haters were licking their chops as the stage was set for a pivotal AFC East matchup between the Pats and the upstart Buffalo Bills in week 16. The Bills, unfortunately, weren’t up to the task, as the Patriots wrapped up another division crown with a 24-17 win. The only thing in their way to a tenth straight first round bye in the playoffs was the lowly Miami Dolphins. To everyone’s surprise, the Dolphins came out swinging, and had a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. A Brady touchdown pass to James White took care of that sliver of hope. But then, it happened. Ryan Fitzpatrick, of FitzMagic fame, orchestrated a game winning drive, hitting Mike Gesicki for a 27-24 lead that would stick. The Patriots, amidst all of their issues, had blown their chance for a much-needed bye week to regroup and would be forced to play in Wild Card weekend. We all know what happened next: Derrick Henry ran through the Patriots defense and, just as everyone suspected would happen, the Titans finished what the Dolphins started and delivered the knockout punch to New England.

The Patriots’ failure was a culmination of many problems, and the good news for the rest of the NFL is that they won’t be quick fixes. For one, there is a glaring lack of talent, and even a good amount of incompetence on the offensive side of the ball. The receiving corps took a huge hit from the loss of Gronk and it only got worse when both Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon failed to get out of their own way and left the Pats without a skilled outside receiver. The unimpressive likes of Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, and Ben Watson were left to pick up the pieces. Sure, the ever-reliable Julian Edelman is still around, but it became difficult for Brady to find him when he was the only real threat on the field for opposing defenses to cover. Gronk-type players don’t grow on trees and it is difficult to see the Patriots finding another star pass-catcher in the near future. Still, New England has been known to make do with, and even win Super Bowls with, uninspiring-on-paper receiving groups. So why was this time different? That brings me to the main problem surrounding the Patriots and the problem at the core of the dynasty’s possible fall: Tom Brady. Unlike in his prime, Brady appeared desperate for help in the 2019 season. He is no longer skilled enough to do it all himself, and it showed. On top of this, it is also in question if the ageless wonder will even return to the Pats next season, although outright retirement seems unlikely. Should Brady depart, the internal options at QB in New England leave much to be desired with career-backup Cody Kessler and fourth round draft pick Jarrett Stidham being the only guys in-house. A question mark at the most-important position is enough to derail any team’s season, even Belichick and the Patriots. Barring an unforeseen change of events, the dynasty just might be dead.