In the run-up to Super Bowl LII, rumours were rife that this would be the last hoorah for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But with no announcements forthcoming, could it be that they are prepared to tough it out one more year, in an effort to end on a high? By Erin McRitchie
In the NFL, ‘what’s next’ questions are always going to arise when analysing a team built around the leadership of a 40-year-old quarterback and a 65-year-old head coach. This is the situation the New England Patriots found themselves in during the weeks preceding Super Bowl LII.
The duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were about to enter into their eighth Super Bowl showdown. However, talk was that the star quarterback – who already has five Super Bowl rings – and his award-winning head coach – who has coached in the league for an astonishing 40 seasons – were readying themselves for retirement.
This would be a big blow to the Patriots’ outfit. As not only were they standing to lose two of their team’s key members, but a number of assistant coaches to Belichick were looking for positions with other franchises.
Come Wednesday morning, though, this all seemed to have been merely a bad dream (probably for Robert Kraft more than anyone). By this point, the only confirmed exit was of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who is to take up the position of Detroit Lions head coach.
And so, along with the astonishing U-turn of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – who spurned his move to the Indianapolis Colts where he would have been head coach – to stay with the Patriots, it seems the winning formula may be able to stay intact.
Said formula came out of pure chance. For the star quarterback, who some fans refer to as ‘the GOAT’, was actually drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, at pick 199. Some consider it the biggest steal in draft history – I’m inclined to agree. Meanwhile, the renowned coach was thought by many as the wrong man for the job when he arrived in New England from the New York Jets in 2000.
They have proved many a doubter wrong in their 17 seasons of working together. And along the way, owner Robert Kraft has amassed an accomplished group of assistant coaches, the likes of Patricia, McDaniels, and also special teams coach, Joe Judge.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that CBS reported earlier in the week: “Bill Belichick and the Patriots seem to have had enough of the mass exodus of coaches leaving Foxboro.” This intent is possibly what brought about Belichick’s and Kraft’s determination to have McDaniels stay on with the team.
It was ESPN that later revealed, in order to try and sway his favour away from the Colts: “Belichick told McDaniels that he would spend more time with him on the inner workings of the Patriots.” They later added: “It is an arrangement that owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft endorsed because it could ultimately be part of a succession plan for Belichick, although no assurances were made to McDaniels.”
This reassurance of McDaniels’ loyalty may also hold influence over the future of Judge. It is widely speculated that following the late decision, Judge is more open to remaining a part of the franchise as well. In fact, it was reported on Friday morning that the team and their special teams coach are in the final stages of ironing out his new contract.
These latest happenings within the New England camp has caused many to ponder whether their reign is truly over. They may have just lost a Super Bowl, but could it be that they have not seen their last chance for glory? They still remain favourites for the 2018 season. Or could their determination to keep pushing with Brady and Belichick at the forefront be self-detrimental?
True, Brady and Belichick lead the pack of returning stars that looked doubtful just last week – but that will not be the case for much longer. Brady cannot play forever, as much as they would surely like it. Perhaps, it may be time for different players to come to the forefront as possible future Patriots’ leaders.