A 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild-Card round of the postseason put an end to the New England Patriots' 2019 season. While the loss was the first one-and-done for New England in the playoffs since 2010, this one will bring a lot more questions than answers for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
New England's primetime game against the red-hot Titans presented much of the same that we've seen from the Patriots this season. Great defense, plentiful opportunities for the offense, but not enough production from Tom Brady and company to come out with a win against a good football team. Between a failed red-zone trip in the 1st half which involved three plays and -2 yards, and zero points scored in the second half, the Patriots proved Saturday night that a genuine playoff atmosphere wasn't even enough to get over the hump of their offensive woes.
Getting a loss at the hands of former Patriot Mike Vrabel was bad, but what lies ahead for the AFC East champions this offseason could prove to be more detrimental to the sustainability of the franchise. After 20 years, six championships, nine Super Bowl appearances, 17 division titles, 30 playoff wins and 219 career wins, the Patriots' dynasty may face their toughest task to-date in the Brady-Belichick era in the coming months.
With staff turnover likely because of coaches like Josh McDaniels, who could be taking a head-coaching job elsewhere next season, and with their HOF quarterback entering his first NFL offseason as a free agent, the corresponding moves made by the team following a one-and-done playoff run this season could factor significantly in whether the dynasty continues on or comes to a screeching halt.
"Again, I don’t want to get too much into the future and stuff. I mean, this team has fought hard, Brady said after the game when asked if winning a division title was a reason to stay in New England. "We battled every day, we tried to get better, we worked hard to improve and I was proud to be a part of this team. Not only this year, but every year. Again, I just don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to predict it.
"No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football, I love playing for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day-by-day."
Brady's contract extension that he signed last August has him slated to enter the 2020 offseason as a free agent. This will be a first time for the 42-year-old QB, as he will get to field offers from other organizations that may want to make use of his HOF career.
McDaniels is a top candidate for both the Panthers and Browns head-coaching jobs, with the latter being an alleged "dream job" for the Ohio native.
Joe Judge is also taking head-coaching interviews, and Director of Player Personnel, Nick Caserio is likely on the way out the door to pursue a large front-office job elsewhere.
To top it all off - players like Devin McCourty, Benjamin Watson and Matthew Slater will be mulling retirement, and others like Joe Thuney, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins will also dip into the free-agency pool. This leaves a whole lot of issues for New England to resolve, all of which likely won't be accomplished due to several factors. This point towards a very different Patriots team next season, one of which might not be quite as good as the 2019 team when they staff and roster are finalized.
While it's hard to count out the greatest head coach of all-time, even if the greatest quarterback of all-time may be playing elsewhere next season, at some point the hurdles become too big to jump over even for the best the league has ever seen. You never want to bet against New England given their sustained success over the past two decades. But then again - that's what we said prior to them losing to Tennessee on Wild-Card weekend.