Were Pats Fans (and media) Unrealistically Optimistic About The 2020 Patriots?

2020 Patriots Season:
Upcoming Opponent:
Next Up: N/A

Current Patriots Twitter Feed:

jmt57

Moderator
Staff member
Were Pats fans and the Boston media unrealistic based on facts about the Patriots entering the 2020 season?

I'm not looking for a smarmy 'duh, of course, did you watch the last two games?' response. Nor is this meant to be yet another 'this offense is horrible' thread. What I am searching for is why forecasts were (apparently) overly optimistic, and what most of us collectively missed prior to the start of the season.

Personally I think I may have been less harsh in my preseason prognostications simply because so many expected more than I did, causing me to doubt my initial perception for the 2020 Patriots. Perhaps some of that can be attributed to hope versus expectations; ie, heart versus head.


1. - Salary Cap

It didn't matter when the Patriots made the decision to move on from Tom Brady. Regardless of when that date occurred, there would be cap implications. In this situation it cost the Pats $13,500,000 off the 2020 salary cap.

Add in Antonio Brown ($4,750,000), Stephen Gostkowski ($3,200,000) and Michael Bennett (2,000,000), and that is $23,450,000 of dead money that was unable to be used on free agents for this season. End result was that the Pats were unable to be a player in free agency last spring in terms of shoring up the WR and TE positions.

It appears that the Pats leaned a bit towards a 'win now' mode the last three years (based on TB12's age) in comparison to how they usually manage the cap, and now they are paying the price this season.


2. Trades

More evidence of a departure from the normal way of doing business was some of the trades made by the Pats. The most obvious example was giving a second round draft pick away for Sanu. Other less noticed examples include trading draft picks away for Josh Gordon, Trent Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jason McCourty and Danny Shelton.


3. - Free Agency

As mentioned above, the Patriots were unable to do anything in this portion of roster management, despite the dire need to do so at three starting positions (X-WR, Z-WR, TE).


4. - Net Offseason Losses

To me this was the most glaring piece of evidence that the 2020 Patriots were about to make a precipitous drop in performance - and that thought was absent of the departure of the starting quarterback.

There was not another NFL team remotely close to the Patriots in terms of the number of players that elected to opt out. Nine teams had zero opting out, and no other team has more than two.

The defensive offseason losses in free agency (and trades) had been overlooked by many outside of this forum, with TB12 moving on to Tampa dominating the discussion by the media and casual fans. That was exacerbated by the Patriots that elected to opt out.

Defensive Snaps -- % -- Rank -- Player
833 --- 81% --- #3 --- Jamie Collins
832 --- 81% --- #4 --- Kyle Van Noy
736 --- 71% --- #5 --- Dont'a Hightower
669 --- 65% --- #7 --- Duron Harmon
653 --- 63% --- #8 --- Patrick Chung
508 --- 49% --- #11 -- Danny Shelton
272 --- 26% --- #18 -- Shilique Calhoun
210 --- 20% --- #20 -- Elandon Roberts


There were also sizable losses on special teams, though to be fair that could more easily be replenished.

ST Snaps -- % -- Rank -- Player
323 ---- 71% ---- #2 ---- Brandon Bolden
319 ---- 70% ---- #3 ---- Nate Ebner
241 ---- 51% ---- #5 ---- Shilique Calhoun
201 ---- 44% ---- #9 ---- Jamie Collins
143 ---- 31% ---- #15 --- Elandon Roberts
104 ---- 23% ---- #18 --- Danny Shelton
Other departed players account for a combined 343 snaps.


Here are the numbers on offense. They look worse than they really are since some were already addressed (David Andrews' return); others were in need of an upgrade anyways (Dorsett, Watson, Ferentz) or out of the team's control (Gordon, AB) - and in the case of Cannon and the OL there were other options that worked out fine (Eluemunor, Onwenu).

Snaps ---- % ---- Rank ---- Player
1142 ---- 99% ---- #2 ----- TB12
1046 ---- 94% ---- #4 ---- Ted Karras
1014 ---- 88% ---- #5 ---- Marcus Cannon
567 ----- 49% ---- #8 ---- Phillip Dorsett
467 ----- 40% ---- #11 --- Ben Watson
325 ----- 28% ---- #16 --- Josh Gordon
205 ----- 18% ---- #20 --- James Ferentz
96 ------- 8% ----- #21 --- Brandon Bolden


Keep in mind that due to topics #1 and #3 above, the Patriots did not offset those losses with any personnel additions.


5. - Draft

There were three positions of need (X-WR, Z-WR, TE) that were not addressed in the 2020 draft, with the Pats trading down from #23 to pick up an additional draft pick (#37 & #71). Instead the club looked long term, using that #37 at the safety position already manned by two older veterans (McCourty, Chung). That decision to trade down and add another draft pick was necessitated by a very short range decision in 2019, trading a #2 pick for Mohamed Sanu. Then when the Pats made their next pick near the end of the second round, again it was based on long term planning - choosing Josh Uche rather than a TE or WE.

The 2020 draft was all about the 2021 Patriots and beyond - it was never about this year's team.



With all those changes, why did oddsmakers place New England's 2020 projected win total to be nine? Was it a reflection of the reality of the team - or more about the last twenty years, and the public perception that this team would just keep finding ways to win in perpetuity as long as Bill Belichick was in Foxboro, regardless of how empty the cupboard was? A new quarterback with virtually zero time to learn the new system and get in sync with the rest of the offense? Add in zero OTAs, scrimmages, preseason games and what should we have expected?

This is not intended to be a slam on Bill, Cam, or the front office - and I sincerely hope that is not what this thread turns out to be. I just think that many of us us had unrealistic expectations, due to the end results of the 2001-2019 New England Patriots.
 

DarrylS

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
My expectations are always high, but this year they underestimated their roster. Coupled with no TC and COVID-19 opt outs , adapting to football life post Brady was a toxic stew. My expectations are now somewhat tempered. Did not even think, because of the "rona" there would even be an NFL season, but was wrong.

Newton has been playing poorly the past two games, our WR Corps ( which at best was inadequate) is substandard (Meyers & Byrd really??) no TE impact (again). Poor O line play etc.

Defensively our D back field is pretty much the same but playing like crap, we miss Hightower, Collins, Van Noy, Shelton and Harmon.

A lot of the decisions that were made were done so before the opt-outs and the winning the arbitration of Brown & Hernandez.

End result a lot of money available to right this ship, which I have all the confidence they will do, but probably they will slog their way through this season and piss off a lot of pats fans. Queue the "the game has passed BB by", "shoulda worked it out with #12", "BB can't draft" and so on and so forth. Things will get better....
 

sb1

Pro Bowl Player
I think most of us understood that and felt they were in the range of 8-8 plus or minus a game. Wouldn’t call that optimistic but felt realistic at the time. Still doable if the QB can throw the football.
 

sean10mm

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
I mean Curran had them at 8-8, so not all of the media was blowing smoke.

I don't remember if I guessed an exact record but I had the roster pegged as worse than 2019 before the COVID stuff hit. All the glaring weaknesses that frustrated Brady in 2019 are frustrating Newton in 2020, it's just that Brady dealt with them better. Turns out throwing away the ball a lot and yelling at the bums on the roster is better than forcing interceptions and being everybody's buddy.

But really QB is almost beside the point, Newton has had ugly games but mostly he has nothing to work with so I'm not THAT down on him individually. This receiver group is probably making him nostalgic for Ted Ginn Jr for crying out loud.

This is just a bunch of chickens coming home to roost (bad drafts, bad FA gambles, COVID, injuries, QB turnover from the GOAT to anybody else...)
 

betterthanthealternative

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
20 years of success has conditioned my emotional relationship with the Pats. I used to have hope, then it evolved to confidence, then to expectation, and finally to entitlement. Subconsciously I think that something is wrong with the world when it doesn't provide me a weekly dose of happiness. I think I have some company in this.

So what may look like being "overly optimistic" is really just trying to protect myself. But reality has a way of resolving all that.

The most miserable sports fans in the world are entitled fans whose teams aren't meeting their needs - Yankee fans, Alabama football fans, Duke and Kentucky basketball fans, etc. They are all much more unhappy than, for example, Browns or Boston College fans. That's something worth avoiding.
 

Nikolai

Football Atheist
PatsFans.com Supporter
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
I think I had the team at 10-6, so I was, as of this moment, apparently a little too optimistic. For me, it was the BB mystique. He's found ways to get more out of lesser players in the past. I took for granted he could do it again. But when **** has to be one of the ingredients in the **** sandwich, it's hard to turn it into a classic reuben.

And now, I'm going to go risk E Coli, obesity, and Covid complications with a delicious reuben.
 

Nikolai

Football Atheist
PatsFans.com Supporter
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
20 years of success has conditioned my emotional relationship with the Pats. I used to have hope, then it evolved to confidence, then to expectation, and finally to entitlement. Subconsciously I think that something is wrong with the world when it doesn't provide me a weekly dose of happiness. I think I have some company in this.

So what may look like being "overly optimistic" is really just trying to protect myself. But reality has a way of resolving all that.

The most miserable sports fans in the world are entitled fans whose teams aren't meeting their needs - Yankee fans, Alabama football fans, Duke and Kentucky basketball fans, etc. They are all much more unhappy than, for example, Browns or Boston College fans. That's something worth avoiding.

Love this post. I found myself becoming the unhappy fan; only relieved when we win and very annoyed when we lose. This year, I told myself I was just going to enjoy the ride and it reminds me of when I became a serious Pats fan in the 90s. I almost kinda enjoy it more.
 

Sciz

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
I don't think it was unrealistic to expect somewhat competent quarterback play. A starting quarterback who is just a little bit below average gets them wins against KC and Denver and has the team at 4-2 right now, right in line with tons of predictions.
 
Last edited:

KontradictioN

Probably the nicest guy on the forum
PatsFans.com Supporter
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
The media and the forum in general? Maybe. There have been quite a few of us saying 8-8, maybe 9-7 at best, once Brady left. If the team plays the way it has the last 3 weeks, though, 8-8 might be a pipe dream. Covid or no Covid, the team has not drafted well since 2013 and has had to fill those voids with veteran free agents and trades. Those cost more than rookies on a 4-5 year rookie salary. The bill has come due and the team is currently paying that bill. Their debt will be cleared this offseason and 2021 has always looked more promising than 2020.
 

IllegalContact

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
QB gone and a boatload of dead cap space was the killer for me...then the opt outs......from the outset, every win was going to be a bonus to me.........getting Cam assured we would win a few games........without him, we would be 0-6
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ian

Doctor DDS

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
I really thought this team had a chance to be similar to the 2019 Bills and max out around 10-6. Great secondary and expected the Cam of the first couple week. With OL getting healthy I thought they would continue to look more like the team of the first 3 weeks than what we have seen. In hindsight, the late opt out of Hightower and Beau Allen's injury killed their ability to stop the run making their strong secondary much less impactful. Was never all that high on Cam but he has been horrific the past couple games. If Cam gets back on track they still have a chance at 9-7ish but that will require them to win all of the toss up type games. Jets twice, Dolphins, Cardinals, Chargers, Bills once etc..
 

long distance

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Its optimisms job not to be realistic ;)
(of course nothing anyone ever says about a game like football is realistic)

Nice job on OP - but just some 3 weeks ago one could post “Were people too pessimistic“ thread w everybody talking SB.
The drama of week to week reactions is futile unless you can sell it. 6 games were played. Lets see how it actually plays out IF it plays out.

I had 2 worries before the season: OL depth and mishandling TE position over the last 3 or so years. (Develin out as well.)
When OL was in original line-up & healthy this was easily a playoff team for all pundits & vast majority of fans. Then main man Andrews went out, OL reshuffled, many played out of their comfort zone, more OL injuries followed partly bc of this and now its hard to play what they set out to be this year.

There is no “mystique“ about BB. Just focus on hard work and doing your job. And putting people in a position to succeed. Both was heavily interrupted w their Covid situations also forced and mishandled by the league. They were 2-1 before that only losing @SEA on the last play, they are 0-3 after that. To expect BB & Pats to easily overcome ANY situation would indeed be a “mystique“.
 

PatsBoy12

Pro Bowl Player
Here we are...at least for me...
Same here. I wasn't thinking we'd be in the SB or anything like that, but I did believe we'd be competitve simply because BB was the coach. I said 10-6 even before Cam came along... partly because I didn't think Stidham and Hoyer were both as dreadful as they have proven. But we see that the team has major issues and BB can do very little with this bunch to date. Guys aren't even playing hard right now.

So I guess I have to admit that I was far too optimistic. Never in a million years did I think it would look the way it does now. The product is pathetic and making every single coach and player look inept and just stupid out there. And yes, regardless of what anyone wishes to argue, it does look like it was a mistake to let TB12 walk out the door, regardless of what actually transpired between the sides.
 

PatsWickedPissah

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
Guilty of over optimism but then, I'm a Pats homah! Thought Pats would win a tight division at ~10-6. And get smoked in the playoffs.
I even thought Stid at QB (before Cam's arrival) would do OK, Matt Cassell redux.
I admit I somehow lost interest in football this pre-season and did not follow the new player acquisitions like I've done for decades. Once they started playing it was my wife wanting to watch football that re-kindled my interest. I'm such a soy boy.
Where I was pessimistic was that I thought the virus would abort the season by November. Given the near impossibility of the task the NFL despite themselves has done fairly well here.
 

FCB02062

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
I am on record stating that "all" I want from this team, for 1 or 2 years post-Brady, is to be "competitive" and to play games that matter in late December. As a long time Pats fan, that's what we clammored for back in the 80s and 90s. So often the Pats were crawling into the last month at 3-9, 4-8, 5-7 that the December games just didn't matter. We just wanted them to sniff and maybe make the playoffs. As much as many of us love Parcells and can't stand Pete Carroll, Parcells' teams were out of it come December 2/4 years but Carroll's teams were very much alive in the playoff race in his 3 years at the 3/4 mark of the season.
The Pats stand at 2-4. It's going to take a massive 180 degree turn for this team not to be all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Right now I have them at 4-8 going into the last 4 games with wins against the NYJ and at Houston. Everything else is a loss.
 

203Pat

In the Starting Line-Up
I thought before the opt outs our ceiling was around .500 give or take a game. After the opt outs I figured 6 wins would be our ceiling. I think all the optimism came after the Seattle game when we nearly snuck away with a win and the he offense showed it could move the ball.
 

Top