By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Football fans in New York have not had a lot to cheer for, for a very long time. The ones who root for the green team haven’t had much reason to cheer for … decades. Like, five decades, give or take.
And so, the departure of Tom Brady from the Patriots might have some folks in New York hopeful for some change.
That much was reflected on the back page of the New York Daily News, which turned the news into some hope that the Patriots not only might not win the AFC East last year but … finish in last place.
— Back Page Guy NYDN (@BackPageGuyNYDN) March 20, 2020
The Patriots, logically, will be taking a step back from their 12-4 record last season, considering that Tom Brady fella is pretty important. On the other side, the Bills were right there with the Patriots last season, winning 10 games and losing their two games against the Patriots by a total of 13 points.
The AFC East is ripe for the taking for the Bills.
But last place for the Patriots?
Seems a bit much.
In any event, it led to Manish Mehta playing to his base by writing a story forecasting doom for Bill Belichick’s team. (It’s a regular tradition, really!) The headline blares: ‘Will the Patriots fall from first to worst in the AFC East without Tom Brady?’
The answer: Probably not!
Again, the Bills’ defense was top-three in the NFL, and Josh Allen was decent, and Stefon Diggs surely helps. The Bills should probably be considered favorites to win the division. (They’re the Bills though, so … bet at your own risk.)
On the Dolphins, Mehta writes:
“The Dolphins, who exceed expectations in what was supposed to be a Tankathon 2019 campaign, have transformed their roster in the span of a few days by rolling out a steady stream of cash in free agency. Armed with a treasure chest of draft picks, Brian Flores’ team could make a massive jump to relevance this season.”
They could. They just as easily could not. The Chan Gailey-Ryan Fitzpatrick combination remains one of the least exciting pairs in the league.
And then there’s the “case” for the Jets, which is actually just very sad.
“The Jets don’t appear to be in that class, but Sam Darnold provides hope that they won’t remain in the margins forever.”
When that’s the best thing the New York paper can say about the New York team in a story designed to make the New York fans feel something — anything — positive for the first time in a long while?
In any event. Brady is gone. Also heading out the door are Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Danny Shelton. Legendary O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring, too. (Mehta listed Ted Karras as an “important defection” but uhh … ’tis not.)
The Patriots very well could — and probably should — take a step back this year. The last time they played a season without Brady, aka the Matt Cassel season, they dropped five wins from their previous season’s total, going from 16 to 11. But they still finished second in the division, losing out on a tiebreaker with Miami.
If the Patriots were to drop five wins next year (this is not a scientific experiment here), then they’d be in some trouble at 7-9.
But Bill Belichick hasn’t coached a sub-.500 team since 2000. Suffice it to say that after cutting loose the greatest QB of all time, Belichick will be mighty motivated to ensure his team doesn’t crash face-first to the basement of the … AFC East.
Alas, Tom Brady is a Buccaneer, and it’s time for the other fanbases in the division to dream. There’s blood in the water. The Patriots are vulnerable. It’s time to strike.
Except for the Jets, of course.
Even in a story aimed at giving real hope to the AFC East teams that have been battered and bruised by Belichick and Brady for 20 years, the Jets are apparently too sad to dream of anything better than third place. Behind the Dolphins.
Kind of sad.