After this stunning loss, it won’t be Pats business as usual
It was all business at Gillette Stadium leading up to Saturday night’s Wild Card playoff game with the Tennessee Titans.
And after a stunning 20-13 Tennessee win, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made note that “It’s a results business, and it’s about winning and losing and the more things you do right and well, the better chance you have to win.”
And now the business takes over. Brady declared that as far as retirement, that “it’s pretty unlikely, but – yeah, hopefuly unlikely.”
Translation: He hopes not to retire, but if he and the Patriots can’t come to a contract agreement once his deal voids on March 18, and if there aren’t any other suitable spots to go, then maybe it’s over.
Either way, change is coming to Gillette, and we’re not talking about the music they play or the concession menus.
These Patriots will likely look far different next season, whether Brady is around or not.
You wonder if this is the year when Josh McDaniels finally gets and, even more important, accepts a head coaching job elsewhere. If he does, that could set off a chain reaction of departures.
There are several Patriot veterans who could leave via free agency – linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, safety Patriick Chung (who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return), lineman Joe Thuney, and don’t be surprised if Jason McCourt retires. Devin McCourty said after the game he expects to play somewhere next season.
“I can’t see it happening, me not playing football next year,” the longtime Patriots safety said after the tough loss.
There’s more. Matthew Slater is a free agent. So is defensive lineman Danny Shelton. And don’t you think Julian Edelman’s body is telling him it’s time to hang it up, even after he scored his first career rushing TD on Saturday night?
As for coaches, some longtime Patriot assistants such as Dante Scarnecchia and Ivan Fears could retire. It just has that feel.
It could be an incredible off-season of change, one not seen here in quite some time.
Of course, the Patriots weren’t allowing any of this to get into their thinking before Saturday night. But certainly the scene in the locker room afterward told another story. Hugs, handshakes, good-byes, etc.
It’s strange, isn’t it? Last Sunday was a feeling not present at Gillette in a long time, an opportunity missed. That led to all the feelings of finality Saturday night.
Of course, Brady’s future is the main topic, with all the contract uncertainty. You take away the name Tom Brady and just go over all the things that have happened – the voidable contract years, the house up for sale, the resignation from Best Buddies, etc. – and you say that QB is done. Then you insert the add the name Brady and you really have to wonder if owner Robert Kraft would let him go sign elsewhere. And it just doesn’t make sense that Brady would do that anyway – why go to a strange team, different system, etc.
Better to retire, but it certainly seems if whatever injuries he’s obviously dealing with aren’t enough to force an end, he’d like to keep playing.
“I love the Patriots,” Brady said. “This is the greatest organization, and playing for Mr. (owner Robert) Kraft all these years and for coach (Bill) Belichick – there’s nobody that’s had a better career, I would say, than me, just being with them. So I’m very blessed and I don’t know what the future looks like and I’m not going to predict it.
“So I wish we would have won tonight and wish we would have done a lot of things better over the course of the season, but we just didn’t get the job done.”
Of course, on the flip side, it wouldn’t make sense for an organization to go more than year to year with an NFL quarterback in his early 40s. Compacting that is the fact he hasn’t had a good year.
McDaniels is an interesting topic. Do any of the current coaching openings look all that attractive? If the player are enticing, the ownership isn’t. If the ownership is stable, the front office or roster isn’t.
All of that was on the back burner but now it’s front and center. The Patriots had to ignore the storm clouds that were above them Saturday, literally and figuratively. The playoffs mandate that.
They just couldn’t ignore Derrick Henry, who plowed past them for 182 yards rushing and the go ahead touchdown just before the half.
“A lot of plays come up over the years when I think about playoff football,” Brady said during the week leading up to the gam, “and if you’re on the wrong end of one of them, it’s your season. If you’re on the right end, you move on.
“You don’t know which play is that going to be and you can’t take anything for granted.”
The play on the wrong end was the pick six by Titan corner Logan Ryan with nine seconds left.
And after Saturday night’s near sickening loss, things will be much different the next time the Patriots play a game at Gillette Stadium.
It won’t be business as usual.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK, or email@example.com