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Deflategate Has Hastened the Continuing Close of the New England Patriots Window

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The New England Patriots dynasty is crumbling…

You know, just like how the Patriots dynasty has been crumbling for over a decade. Now, however, it seems like the Patriots’ steady decline is facing a quickened pace both as we consider the context of “Deflategate” and as we assess the penalties levied against the organization.

So much was made in the aftermath of “Spygate” about how the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady-led team couldn’t sustain itself in a post-videotaping era—an absurd notion for so many reasons. In reality, the entire scandal was little more than a flesh wound for a team that never even dipped below double digit wins between their gate-level controversies.

The truth remains: Any fan or pundit who claims the Patriots hadn’t won anything since Spygate until 2014 are fans of a team that would kill for the kind of success the Patriots have enjoyed.

Nothing lasts forever.

Writing about the end of the Patriots dynasty is a little bit like writing about Peyton Manning’s retirement. Sure, we know it’s coming, but between now and then is likely to be a whole lot of something special. In another way, it’s a lot like writing about the Seattle Seahawks draft class where conventional wisdom has been proven wrong for far too long to be of any use now.

The big grain of salt that needs to be included with any talk of the end of this particular era is simple: As long as Brady and Belichick are leading this organization, great things can happen. Until that dynamic duo is broken up for whatever reason, it’s foolish to bet against them.

That alone points to the end coming sooner rather than later.

Brady is 37 years old and his physical abilities—never exactly his strong suit—are clearly in decline. Does he have the ability to play another handful of years? Absolutely, but the need to not only toe the line of minimum football deflation but to allegedly cross that line showcases a veteran player doing everything to stay at the top of his game.

The Patriots have always been an organization that is willing to be at the forefront of finding…shall we say, unique competitive advantages, but it’s important to realize they’re not alone. Again, any fan or pundit who calls the Patriots “cheaters” is likely backing a team with just as many skeletons in their proverbial closet.

Still, the Patriots are accepting a punishment without that much of a fight on the basis of a organization-wide conspiracy to give Brady the slightest bit of advantage. This isn’t a proud franchise strutting in its prime, but an aging dynasty clawing for a few extra years of dominance.

Please understand: I’m not slamming any windows shut here. No, the Patriots should not start planning for a Top 10 draft pick nor should they be giving Brady’s backside the boot in favor of getting the Jimmy Garoppolo era started any sooner than need be. Instead, this is simply a temperature-taking of the inevitable, and things are definitely heating up on this front.

It would take an incredible amount of Patriots fandom to deny this.

At best, most Patriots fans should be incredulous as they’ve already been preparing for this inevitability for some time.

Of course, accepting those penalties isn’t just a tacit admission of guilt or even a nod to some of these window-closing thoughts being true. If this column ended there, it would be little more than trying to create a narrative by pulling disparate strings together and calling it a sweater.

No, moreover, Deflategate and it’s penalties are contributing to the decline.

The Patriots have lost multiple draft picks in the aftermath, and there simply isn’t any better way to build a team for the longterm than through the draft. The Patriots started this incredible multi-decade run with fantastic drafting, and were defined for a better part of Belichick’s run as a team able to mine the very depth of the latest rounds for incredible talent—much like the Seahawks are now.

Shrewdly and by necessity, the Patriots have been far more apt to build via free agency in recent years.

It’s what got them over the hump in 2014 with cornerback Darrelle Revis and others, but that alone is a perfect microcosm of how short-lived building via free agency can be, as the Patriots’ cornerback corps has been decimated this offseason.

If the Patriots want to effectively bridge the gap from the Brady era to Garoppolo (or whatever QB steps in), they will need to add heaps of capable, drafted talent (read: cheap) over the last few years of Brady’s career. Say that Brady plays until 41. In that circumstance, they are already behind the eight ball in many respects.

Last season, the Patriots were one of the older teams in the NFL, and that trend looks to be continuing in 2015.

In NFL terms, the Patriots have defied odds by staying at the top of the game for so long. In the coming year, they should still be very competitive, but any decline by Brady will be felt by the whole team. After that, it’s just a numbers game, and the numbers say the Patriots dynasty doesn’t have much left in the tank.


About Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey

Michael Schottey has been covering football in various capacities for a decade and his work can be found in numerous outlets around the globe, primarily Bleacher Report where he is and NFL National Lead Writer. Schottey has appeared regularly on CNN, Headline News, Al Jazeera America, Sirius/XM and countless other national and local radio spots.