Some people are fans of the New England Patriots. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the New England Patriots. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: New England Patriots.
Your 2020 record: 7-9, with the goal-line stoning you see above ushering them back into football anonymity with a righteous quickness. No more Super Bowls. No more dynasties. Those days are gone now, just as we all prayed for. This is a team that ceded dominion over the AFC East to the Buffalo Bills. Half their roster opted out because they knew they’d be awful, and they were. They lost to the Broncos in a game where Drew Lock went 10-for-24 for 189 yards with two picks. Their starting quarterback got COVID—real COVID, where you’re actually sick and lucky you don’t run out of breath entirely—and never physically recovered. They tried running the 2011 Tim Tebow offense to make everything work and failed miserably. Everyone they did dirty this century got their licks in, with the exception of the Jets because the Jets.
And of course, they let their six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback walk to Tampa and watched him IMMEDIATELY win a seventh ring without them. Turns out the Patriots were utterly superfluous to Tom Brady’s success in the end. That could have been any other team, which is what the Patriots now are.
Your coach: This fraud.
For 20 goddamn years I’ve had to hear about Bill Belichick’s genius. How he doesn’t waste precious tape-study time on wardrobe selection. How he’s so good at owning the press by dryly repeating “I’m on to sniffing panties” on a loop after every game. How he’s the only person in the league who knows about the existence of compensatory draft picks. How he’ll bravely lowball everyone who’s ever played capably for him and cut anyone who doesn’t respect ball security. How only he knows the arcane sections of the rulebook that permit drop kicks. How he should be in the fucking Senate (this was seriously proposed). How he can solve any opposing offense by consulting the library of ancient scrolls located in his fruit cellar. How he’s actually a pretty funny guy if you get to know him.
Well guess what? FUCK ALL THAT. The second Tom Brady left the Patriots, Belichick instantly reverted back to the sorry-ass head coach he was back in Cleveland. Turns out your ability to coach ‘em up is entirely dependent on the talent you have on hand. WHO THE FUCK COULD HAVE GUESSED IT. This is the decade in which Belichick proves just as ineffective and miserable a head coach as every one of his assistants turned out to be.
Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff? Two! Former Patriots Troy Brown and Jerod Mayo are both on staff, because Belichick like to source his Guys from in house. When Belichick retires, both these men will get passed over for head coach in favor of Steve Belichick.
Your quarterback: For now, it’s still Cam Newton. Did getting a nasty bout of COVID motivate Cam to get vaccinated? LET’S FIND OUT!
If Cam Newton dies of a repeat engagement with COVID at this point, it’ll be a mercy killing. Cam has a grand total of eight touchdown passes the past two seasons. He’s finished, and the only person who doesn’t know it is his head coach.
“Cam [Newton]’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There’s no question about that,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday morning, via team transcript. “I mean, as you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt and he’s able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year.”
Close your eyes and tell me that sounds any different than Dave Gettleman talking up Daniel Jones. Pathetic.
Speaking of which, here’s your alleged savior:
That’s former Bama starter Mac Jones, who was most notable at draft time for being the guy every fan was terrified their team would take. When the Niners passed on Mac Jones, the entire Bay Area got naked and fucked. Absolutely everyone knows Jones will be a stiff: a typical Bama passer who can’t hit any receiver who’s actually covered. What fanbase worth a shit is gonna buy into this piece of shit? OH.
Right. Folks, does Mac Jones know to do his job? He does.
What an asset. Mac Jones was once arrested for DUI, which makes him instantly more personable and interesting than Tom Brady ever was.
What’s new that sucks: LOOK WHO’S BACK! DO YOUR JOB OR HE’LL SCOLD YOU FOR YOUR POSTURE!
On the field, the Patriots spent more money on free agency than any other team in NFL history but one. For that splurge we got one more round of “This was all part of Belichick’s brilliant long game” takes. Now let’s see what all that money bought.
- Wideout Nelson Agholor, and yes I’m leading off with him for heightened comedic effect.
- Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, who require capable quarterbacking to be worth a shit.
- Slobby wideout Kendrick Bourne, who can’t even succeed with the above prerequisite firmly in place.
- OLB Matt Judon, who ranked 52nd last year among edge rushers.
- OT Trent Brown, who got put on the COVID last twice last season AND had the Raiders training staff pump air into his bloodstream like they were filling up a fucking bike tire.
- One demonstrably average defensive tackle and one who played for the Jets.
- Jalen Mills, who was part of an Eagles secondary that allowed opposing passers a 102.4 rating last year.
- Fucking old-ass Kyle Van Noy.
This is Belichick doing something drastic to prevent history from showing that the only thing he did right was start Tom Brady. But actually, this dimestore Panthers roster he’s cobbled together is actually another masterstroke, because once all of these players fail, Belichick will petition the league for a little known benefit called “extra win additionture,” which would entitle the Patriots to an additional sixth-round pick every year plus exclusive rights to any player coming out of Rutgers.
Julian Edelman retired to be Brady’s personal food taster. The Pats still have no running backs, which is only a canny roster-building strategy when you can actually pass the ball. Stephon Gilmore is unhappy. N’Keal Harry is also unhappy, which is much funnier. Harry’s trade demand—OH NO WHAT IF YOU LOSE HIM?—is objectively Some Bad Team Shit that is now happening to the Patriots. Just a bunch of stuff no one really has any reason to care about, performed heatedly. “Our draft pick, who sucks and who the coach clearly doesn’t like or care about, is upset.” This is you now, New England. And not just in football. This is you in EVERY sport now. Feels great to watch you suffer.
Robert Kraft is a pig.
What has always sucked: Tom Brady left Foxboro the second he realized this team and its fans were no longer of any use to him. And look at you now, Pats fans. You never meant a fucking thing to your favorite QB. Your team is nothing now. You are nothing. You’re so anonymous you belong in the AFC South. You’re an absolutely common and forgettable franchise, not even fit for Thursday Night Football. You are no longer the center of the football universe, and you’ve only begun to reap what you’ve sown for being the loudest, neediest fans on Earth for years now. A 7-9 record was downright kind compared to what awaits you. You’re FUCKED. Good and hard. You are Josh Allen’s whipping post. You’re a blank hole in the schedule. You are dead to the world.
Half of you jumped off the bandwagon already, like the frauds you always were. The other half of you are gonna use the next two decades of futility to rebuild your fan cred and act like you DESERVE a second run of titles. I’m no fool. I’ve seen the tape. I’ve watched every living Pats fan go I WAS FACKIN’ THEY-AH FOR-AH THE RAWD RUST ERAH! Like the rest of us give a rat’s ass. I already know your methods, and they’ll be just as transparent when 2050 rolls around and the oceans are burning and you want me to CARE that you had to endure the Josh McDaniels years. Fuck you, fuck your team, and fuck your families.
As always, fuck Bill Simmons. Look at this photo of Simmons that reader Michael sent us:
After David Roth saw this photo, he emailed me, “If there was such a thing as getting Larry Bird surgery, this is what it would look like.”
That’s you, Boston. The portrait is out of the attic now. Everyone can see how fucking diseased you are. I hope you all die alone.
Ratto says: Cam Newton being pushed by Mac Jones is so very Belichick. But since neither is Tom Brady, the winner will be Matt Schaub. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Gunner Olszewski.
What might not suck: This’ll be the 90th straight year I gotta hear about how good Matthew Slater is on special teams. Fuck Matthew Slater.
HEAR IT FROM PATRIOTS FANS!
Last year, I emailed you that I should be strangled in a back alley and no jury should convict my killer. I’m happy to report that a year has changed nothing.
Our evil genius coach got outfoxed by a fancy dog.
Instead of finally drafting a mobile QB and bringing our offense into the future they drafted the QB equivalent of one of those million dollar cars that’s an exact replica of a 60s Jag, right down to the awful ride and terrible breaks.
Damien Harris is a good RB, but he’s going to end up splitting time with an already-washed Sony Michel because Bill wants to have four RBs who are all ineffective.
I’m a New Englander who has lived in the Midwest for the past 7 years. The only times I’ve seen a local cross the line from “passive-aggressive” to “openly hostile” is when I say I’m a Pats fan.
I don’t blame them one bit. Fuck us.
Because I know multiple Patriots fans who live in Massachusetts and have purchased season tickets for the fucking Bucs. You watched your team win six Super Bowls in 20 years and now you can’t even stomach a moderate rebuild? Eat your fucking vegetables you child.
Fans like me have fully gaslit themselves into believing that Belichick and Rich Grandpa Handjob are behind the scenes tinkering to bring us back to glory. We haven’t had an above average offensive line, passing offence, defensive pass rush or kicking game in three years. We haven’t had a good draft in eight years. And yet our fans think this will change in 2021 and we will be an AFC contender. It’s not logical but that doesn’t matter. New England fans don’t actually understand football, nor do they want to. The majority of us are casual football watchers who watch this team like it is (was) a good Netflix show.
We signed the 2015 NFL MVP last year at the ripe old age of 31, ran him like he was 21, told him to make chicken salad out of Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers, and most of the fans say nicer things about Bill Belichick’s dog.
We didn’t even get to see Kraft’s dinger.
Every type of New England accent sounds dumber than the last. Foxboro is a toilet and there’s only one road in and out. Dunkin Donuts is shit.
Julian Edelman is gone and will either unretire in October to orchestrate a way to join the Bucs, or he’ll become some hybrid version of Mark Wahlberg and Doug Flutie: the owner of a shitty restaurant chain who says yes to every local commercial he’s offered. In either case it’s embarrassing.
They let the two greatest players at their respective positions walk, got nothing in return, and pretended like Brady and Gronkowski ceased to exist despite 99.6% of Patriots fans owning one or both of their jerseys.
This team had Justin Rohrwasser under contract this calendar year.
I have a friend with a pregame sideline pass, reserved luxury box seat, and VIP parking access to every home game and he’s yet to set foot in Gillette post-Brady.
We spent a bajillion dollars in the off-season in hopes of ending our two-year long Super Bowl drought. Everyone is convincing themselves Mac Jones in the next Tom Brady without taking even a second to remember they did the same thing with Jarrett Stidham.
The Patriots will be caught hiding positive COVID results and get docked draft picks in an effort to make the playoffs that will result in a tepid 7-10 record.
These are the same fans that turned purple when Kyrie Irving stomped on the leprechaun and none of them understand why this city has a bit of an optics problem on racial issues because here in Boston we take pride in having no shame whatsoever.
After Tom Brady’s Ballghazi suspension was upheld, my dad tweeted “Patriots Lives Matter.”
I successfully convinced him to delete his account.
We’re the old-money college kids that overdraw mom and dad’s credit card every single month and think it’s a grave injustice when they freeze it until we actually make a budget.
Whenever I mention I’m a Pats fan, everyone asks if I’ve switched over to the Bucs now that Brady is there; everyone assumes Pats fans are bandwagoners who switch from team to team, which is pretty spot on actually.
This tweet from WEEI’s Courtney Fallon with a broken dog whistle.
I feel like I got stuck with the shitty parent after a divorce.
When Brady left, my husband donated his jersey to the thrift store. He did the same with the Gronk one when he joined the Bucs. Disloyal, both of them. As far as my husband is concerned, all Super Bowl victories that included those two are now tainted and don’t count anymore. He got mad at me for watching the highlights from the Atlanta one when I was trying to succor the pain of last season.
He also got mad at me for watching the NFC championship and the Super Bowl. I just thought it was nice to be able to watch players I like succeed. He hate-watched the SB until the third quarter then left to sulk upstairs. I think he now sees me as disloyal too and treats me differently. I don’t know what I can do to get him to let go of his grudge. I am very sad.
We are all terrible people. Most New Englanders around my age know nothing except for success, yet we still have our parents’ chips on our shoulders. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Curse of the Bambino young. I cried when Aaron Boone hit the Game 7 winner in 2003. It all stopped mattering in 2005 and became embarrassing to try to claim after ‘08. We are bad losers. We are bad winners. We’re just plain bad.
And those of us self-aware enough to know our friends don’t share our riches try to deflect and demur. But the self-deprecation and jokey “I know right” comments only make it worse.
Now we enter Year Two without Brady in Schrodinger’s Foxboro, where every move the Pats make is simultaneously terrible and amazing at the same time, even to the same person. I want to see Cam succeed and I think he should have moved on. N’Keal Harry just needs to prove himself with a good season and should already be out the door. The defense will be in better shape once the COVID-exemption guys (the smartest ones in the league) come back and do we really need them anyway?
Brady’s comments at the White House symbolize Patriots fandom to me. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon trying to figure out how I feel about something I didn’t need to feel anything about at all.
And yes, I recognize this email probably comes off haughty and better-than-you in its tone. And that’s with me openly aware of how much everyone hates us. Which is quintessentially Boston Sports Fan, isn’t it?
We’re so fucking entitled that I’m pissed our team won’t be appearing at the end of this series in our proper glory, but instead we’ll be in the forgotten middle of the pack like a damn Jeff Fisher team.
At least our fans are so slavishly devoted to the cult of Coach Belichick that they largely resisted their natural racist urge to say horrible racists things about our struggling black quarterback since Bill loves him. But fear not: the calls to replace Cam with the next great white hope started this year as soon as Cam missed a throw in minicamp.
We invented calling our owner Mr. Lastname.
February 5, 2017, the night the Patriots came back against the Falcons to win their fifth Super Bowl, was the night I realized I have depression. My wife worked nights at the time and I didn’t throw a party that year, so I watched the game alone with my dog. When the Pats won in overtime, I jumped off my couch, yelled something unintelligible and fell to the floor; I was amazed. I watched the trophy ceremony, then put the harness on the dog and took him out.
It was a clear night in Chicago, and as I looked up at the few stars I could see over the city’s persistent glow, I realized I felt nothing. I wasn’t happy about seeing a team I’ve loved two thirds of my life complete the biggest comeback in playoff history to win the Super Bowl. I was impressed by an objectively impressive feat. It felt like I heard that someone won the Nobel Prize in Physics. That was the start of a slide that would lead to denial, stupid choices that are best left unsaid, suicidal ideation, therapy, and, after about a year and a half, divorce. I’m much better now, but after 4 years I still associate this team with a feeling of emptiness. Not just because of that unpleasant memory, but because that’s what being a Pats fan is like now.
Every year, they do something impressive, but unsatisfying. In 2019, coming off another Super Bowl, they started the season 8-0, with an average score of 31-8. But every Pats fan I knew was disappointed that they didn’t shut out every team. Didn’t score 50 every game. Last year, in the middle of a pandemic, Tom Brady left, they had no receivers, half the defense opted out, and Cam got COVID in week 4, but they still won 7 games. We should be excited that a team with 2-14 talent went 7-9. Optimistic even. But no. There’s no joy left in rooting for this team. There’s just getting everything you want and still feeling like you have nothing.
Young fans like myself are going to be unable to handle the next 20 years of football obscurity, and we deserve every single painful moment.
That being said, we’re going 13-3 and snagging another Lombardi trophy bitches! Big Mac Jones is here to stay baby, WOOOOOOOOO! I’m sure this won’t end horribly!
I am so overdosed on success that I have lost the ability to feel anything other than a sort of bored complacency. Last year was the first year I actually enjoyed the Pats in some time, since their mediocrity and failure provided at least a brief sense of novelty.
There was egregious holding on the Helmet Catch and the Pats should have gone 19-0.
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