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Krafts' lack of foresight led to a depleted roster

Graphic by Jai Khurana

While the Patriots demonstrated dominance on the field during their 2019 regular season, the end of the season could only be described as a dumpster fire. The Patriots, 12-4, lost to the worst American Football Conference (AFC) team in the playoffs, the Tennessee Titans, 9-7. What was long-time Patriot quarterback Tom Brady’s last play? A pick-6 thrown from his own endzone, returned by his former teammate, cornerback Logan Ryan.

The Patriots disappointing performance in the postseason was evident in their game against the Miami Dolphins (arguably the worst team in the National Football League (NFL)), six days prior to the Patriots’ early playoff exit. In week two of the season, the Patriots utterly routed the Dolphins, 43-0, but in this game, they lost 27-24. The main difference between these games? Antonio Brown.

The Patriots made waves on September 9, 2019 when they signed controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown. After the decision was announced, many happy Patriots fans were excitedly posting to instagram, welcoming the new addition to the team. In his Patriots debut, Brown played well, with 56 receiving yards and a touchdown. However, two weeks after signing him, the Patriots decided to part ways with Brown, releasing him on September 20, 2019.

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, was the man who made the decision to cut Brown. This decision worsened the Patriots as a football team because Brady did not have a consistent target to throw to. In fact, Kraft’s poor decisions throughout the season were the reason why the Patriots found little success in their postseason.

In the 2019 off-season, the Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was a key player for their squad. Gronkowski drew constant double-coverage and took some of the pressure off wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White, two of Brady’s favorite passing targets. Brown could have replaced Gronkowski, making it easier for Brady to find his other receivers, but Kraft cut him instead.

Based on NFL statistics, the Patriots’ red zone offense (offense within 20 yards of the endzone) this season was laughable, as they were 7th worst in the NFL for red zone offense. In fact, during that fateful wildcard game against the Titans, the Patriots reached the one yard line with three tries to get in the endzone and were held to a field goal. If Brown was still on the team, they likely would have scored, as his blistering speed could have created separation, allowing the Patriots to score. Because he cut Brown in the first place, Kraft is the person to blame for the Patriots’ loss to the Titans.

The massive fumbling of Brown was not Kraft’s only blunder. In general, he refuses to adapt to the NFL’s changing pace. For example, he does not accept that mobile quarterbacks are essential in today’s NFL. Similarly, he placed far too much faith in Tom Brady. In 2017, the Patriots had great potential and depth for the quarterback position, with young backup quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo. However, Kraft traded Garoppolo for a draft pick and Brissett for a wide receiver, both assets the Patriots did not desperately need. 

Garoppolo is not a run first quarterback, but he is mobile, unlike Brady. Garoppolo is now the star quarterback for the number one seed in the National Football Conference (NFC), the San Francisco 49ers, who he led to the Super Bowl LIV. In a few years, Garoppolo will still be in his prime, and Brady will likely be out of the league. Brissett is also fairly mobile, and went 7-9 with a mediocre Indianapolis Colts team in his first year as a starter. Kraft traded away two good young quarterbacks in order to make Brady feel invincible and that he does not need a backup because he is around for the long-haul.

In 2018, Kraft had an opportunity to fix these mistakes by selecting Lamar Jackson in the 2018 draft. However, Kraft did not, passing on Jackson twice. A year and a half later, Lamar Jackson is a star for the Baltimore Ravens, leading them to the best record in the AFC. Had the Patriots selected Jackson, they would be in a better situation, and one can only imagine how great Jackson would have been if he had Brady as a mentor.

Fast forward to the 2019 NFL offseason. Lamar Jackson, was named MVP. Former Patriots backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, is the starting quarterback for a promising San Francisco 49ers team, fresh off of a loss in the Super Bowl. Another former backup for the Patriots, Jacoby Brisett, started all fifteen games for the Indianapolis Colts, leading them to a seven and eight record. While he will probably be backing up Phillip Rivers next year, he is still a solid quarterback.

Now, the story of the offseason: Tom-pa Bay. Tom Brady left New England for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team roughly a quarterback away from being a contender. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, Tom Brady leaving was inevitable. He was underpaid, and not provided with the weapons he needed. Now, in Tampa, he has a fantastic core of receivers, and his old teammate, Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to play with Brady was traded to the Buccaneers from the Patriots for a few draft picks. 

Here in New England, it is a mess. The owner makes bad decisions, and the offense is left without a star, as Julian Edleman, a 5’10 slot receiver who is 33, is simply unequipped to lead the offense. The defense also lost some key pieces, like linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and safety Duron Harmon. Now, all Pats fans can do is cross their fingers and hope Kraft finally makes the right choice.

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