The New England Patriots are always available for conversation when picking a Super Bowl winner. The franchise has been to more final battles for the Vince Lombardi Trophy than any team ever, won it six times while Tom Brady was behind center, and own a two decade run matched by no team in National Football League history.
So, you want my opinion on the chances of the 2021 Bill Belechick led Patriots?
The team has no chance, none, can’t happen. Factors governing their play not only last season, but this season and many seasons to come, call for no more than average and more likely losing win/loss records.
Every team that has reached the pinnacle of success and maintained excellence for an extended period, consistently runs smack into a wall.
It is a convergence of factors working against the former champs, particularly when so much of that success was attributable to a single player. The one who wore a Tampa Bay jersey last year and won the Super Bowl.
While a team like the Cleveland Browns can benefit from the talent collected while bad records produced advantageous draft positions, the Patriots success had them season-after-season picking late in the draft. A great organization can certainly compensate by utilizing the talent they have to the fullest.
But, in the long run, those consistent drafts where better players were taken before New England got a selection, grinds deep into an organization’s make-up. Eventually, the talent pool runs dry in relationship to the improvements other teams in the division make with the acquisition of better players.
The Patriots are at the beginning stages of a collapse. A direction experienced by other one-time dominant teams, including the Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
None of those teams had winning seasons at the end of a dominant period. The Colts were great during the Johnny Unitas era but became cellar-dwellers after their run and his departure. Vince Lombardi’s Packers owned the football world in the 1960’s, but following their success gained only two winning seasons in the following ten years after their legendary coach left.
During the 80’s, the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls behind head coach Chuck Noll and quarterback Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers tough team image amplified by Mean Joe Greene.
Yet, after their years of greatness, the Steelers success was tempered for the next nine seasons with mostly dismal results. Same for the Dallas Cowboys, after their multiple runs to the top of the football echelon, they suffered losing seasons both straight-up, and by an even wider margin, against the point spread.
The San Francisco 49ers broke out in 1981 and won Super Bowl XVI over the Cincinnati Bengals. After missing the playoffs in the strike shortened 1982 season, the 49ers compiled 16 consecutive winning seasons, including four more Super Bowl victories.
The sweet era of greatness included a Hall of Fame to Hall of Fame handoff at quarterback. Joe Montana won four Super Bowls in the heart of the 49ers greatness, and Steve Young added a fifth to conclude the 1994 season. But, the long successful run by the 49ers depleted much of the talent available on the field through the draft, and the team only had two winning seasons over the ensuing twelve years beginning in 1999.
Two years after the 49ers downfall commenced, the Patriots success began. They won the Super Bowl in 2001, just as the 49ers did twenty years earlier, and maintained an unparalleled level of excellence through the 2019 season.
Then, last year, without Brady and a roster relying on low draft picks, New England stumbled to a 6-10 mark in the AFC Eastern Conference. While they dip, a new king of the division has emerged in the Buffalo Bills. The Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets all had their records suppressed by the Patrios longtime greatness. Now those past results are paying dividends with the talent all three of those teams have on their rosters.
The Jets continue as a longshot. Still, if their most recent high drafted quarterback, Zach Wilson, works out, and first-year head coach Robert Saleh, who did such an outstanding job with the 49ers defense in recent seasons, makes a smooth transition from assistant to head coach, the future prospects for the team that wears green in New York is bright.
The Miami Dolphins are much improved and were knocking on the postseason door last year. They too have benefited from a number of players added to their roster by virtue of high draft choices in recent years.
Then, there is the team that won the AFC East last season and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills and Patriots are two teams that couldn’t be in more stark contrast for direction.
The Bills are headed straight-up and a solid prospect for capturing Super Bowl LVI.
The Patriots … not a chance.