Clements: Bill Belichick Should Be Given a Pass for 2020 Season
After nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships, a two-decade long relationship between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady came to an end this offseason when Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With the greatest head coach-quarterback duo of all-time now splitting up, the football community is now looking for an answer to the age-old question: who played a larger part in New England's success over the past two decades, Tom Brady or Bill Belichick?
Unfortunately for both parties, they haven't exactly had a normal offseason to prepare for their new situations. That's why trying to figure out who was more valuable based on their production this upcoming season isn't quite fair.
COVID-19 has completely changed how this offseason works in the NFL. Players and coaches couldn't go to their respective facilities during offseason programs, everything was done over a virtual landscape, and OTAs and minicamps were completely cancelled. If players wanted to build chemistry with each other they had to hold their own private workouts. But the NFLPA asked them to refrain from doing such (though that didn't stop the players).
As if trying to help your team improve during an odd offseason wasn't challenging enough, some of New England's players have chosen to opt-out of the 2020 season. Those players include 2019 Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, running back Brandon Bolden, guard Najee Toran, fullback Dan Vitale and wide receiver Marqise Lee.
The Patriots defense was going to have a tough time trying to replicate the way they performed last season due to the losses of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts this offseason. But now that they have lost Hightower and Chung their linebacking corps is decimated and two of their team leaders are gone, so having a "good" defense may be the ultimate goal, but at this point even that will be a tough challenge. Sprinkle in the fact that Cam Newton - who the team signed on June 28 and would have been the unanimously projected starter had he had a preseason to work in the Patriots offense - doesn't even get to play in the preseason because the preseason was cancelled.
So now Belichick is left with a wide open quarterback competition, a hole at right tackle, a depleted linebacking corps, a reliance on a lot of young talent, and no live-action gameplay to prepare his players before the regular season begins.
You know how many players have opted out down in Tampa? None. As for the reserve/COVID-19 list, they have added one player to that list - rookie running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Add on the fact that they acquired tight end Rob Gronkowski and some talent that will have immediate impact via the draft, and Brady has himself a pretty good situation with the Buccaneers.
So when the 2020 season begins, Belichick will be at a disadvantage right off the bat.
That's why Bill Belichick deserves a pass this year.
If you really want to figure out who needed who more over the past two decades in Foxboro, 2020 isn't the year to find out.
Let's pause that narrative until 2021.