Confetti rained down. The crowd roared. But it was not the celebration the New England Patriots are accustomed to. Minutes earlier, Tom Brady slumped down on the Minneapolis turf, defeated.
Forgoing the conventional, professional display of sportsmanship at midfield with the opposing quarterback, Brady made a quick exit to the locker room. When asked about next season, the future Hall of Famer said “I expect to be back…I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back“.
At a postgame party, originally planned to be a luxurious celebration, owner Robert Kraft expressed no doubt that his team would be back in the Super Bowl next season. This comes just a short time after Kraft stated that in order for the franchise’s success to last, “everybody’s got to get their egos checked in and try to hold it together“.
#Patriots owner Robert Kraft, on @nflnetwork, saying that he believes he can keep Tom Brady and Bill Belichick together for the foreseeable future: “Everyone has to get their egos checked in and get it together.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 21, 2018
Questions swirling around Brady and Belichick are only a part of the bigger picture. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski stated after the game that “I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure. I’m going to sit down the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at”. While Gronk didn’t mention retirement, he certainly hinted at the possibility.
However, both Brady and Gronkowski’s comments came within an hour of a crushing Super Bowl loss — the seventh time in the last nine seasons that their season ended without a Lombardi trophy. So, their postgame sentiments should be taken with a grain of salt. While it’s possible that neither player will be a part of the team in 2018, it is highly unlikely.
One thing is certain for New England, though — the team will look much different next season. Matt Patricia, architect of a top-10 defense in points allowed per game in each of his six seasons, was hired as the head coach of Detroit. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who’s offense never ranked below the top-4 in points per game, will reportedly depart for Indianapolis.
Additionally, the team has a long list of impending free agents including Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, and Malcom Butler — the man on the mind of many New England fans today. Butler, who played 98 percent of snaps this season, did not play in the Super Bowl aside from special teams.
As Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe put it, “Nobody thinks this was a football decision. And it’s starting to feel like that much-discussed dysfunction at the top of the Patriot pyramid we heard so much about just might be real”.
Was last night’s loss the beginning of the end for the Patriots? Is New England’s long-reigning dynasty coming to a close? While plenty of uncertainty surrounds them right now, it’s tough to bet against Tom Brady, even at 41 years of age.