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Patriots, Jets: Two Teams Heading In Opposite Directions

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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick know that their window of opportunity for winning a championship is closing. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick know that their window of opportunity for winning a championship is closing. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Looking at all the predictions for this upcoming season, many picked the Patriots to win the division and the New York Jets to be in last place.

Most football fans might agree with that. But remember 2010, when the Pats, on an eight game winning streak, were stunned in the divisional round by the Jets in Foxborough. Or those games where the Jets defense pressured Brady all game long and Revis was shadowing Moss, it looked like finally another team could take the AFC East crown.

Seems like a long time ago, but if you recall, it was only in the past few years.

So why are the Jets rebuilding again, drafting Geno Smith out of West Virginia and questioning Mark Sanchez’s status as the starting quarterback? The team could also change coach, as Rex Ryan’s job looks like it could be in jeopardy this season.

The Jets have worried the Pats. But they haven’t dethroned them and it doesn’t look like it is going to happen either.

What makes the Patriots so consistent? Is it the team’s coaches, players and scouts or just the luck of playing in a weak division?

The Patriots’ divisional rivals were obviously not powerhouses in the last years, but a team does not finish first in its division nine times in 10 years only because of its opponents.

There has to be more that makes them a contender years after years.

The Patriots know when to let go of players, sometimes risking letting go a player that still might have some good years left. By being creative and not being shy of taking risks, the Pats have even set the most recent offensive trend of the NFL with the tight end.

In the documentary A Football Life: Bill Belichick that followed the New England Patriots’ coach throughout the 2009, after a week 5 loss at Denver, Bill Belichick is seen talking with his coaches. Around the 35 minutes mark he says: ‟If they just take Moss away in the deep part of the field and get down on Welker, we’re done.”

Ironically, the draft following that season, which finished with a humiliating 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Pats drafted tight ends Rob Gronkowski, 42nd overall, and Aaron Hernandez, 113th overall. The Patriots had learned that they needed new options for their quarterback.

In the 2010 season, the Patriots transitioned to a Moss centered offense to a multi-talented tight end offense. Moss was traded to the Vikings in the mid-season, while Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 87 receptions, 1109 yards and 16 touchdowns in the Pats offense.

The two tight ends performed very well in the next seasons, Gronkowski notably getting the record for most touchdowns in a season with eighteen in 2011. The ‟Gronk” was a beast, and teams like the Saints and the 49ers were starting to discover how tight ends could be used for more than blocking.

This summer was different for both players. While Gronkowski’s is a concern, it is certainly Hernandez’s situation that is most troubling. This talented player will most probably not see the football field soon. Add the fact that Welker was acquired by the Denver Broncos in the offseason, and to make things worse, Welker’s new quarterback will catch passes from Brady’s biggest rival, Peyton Manning, and it would seem like the Pats are doomed. Hurray for the Pats haters, which includes most NFL team’s fans.

Pats fans’ response: ‟In Bill we trust.”

Charting the future from the past, their calm might be justified. Ground and pound offense, high octane or tight end offense, it seems like the Pats always have the good personnel to perform. Belichick emphasizes versatility when drafting players, (remember Troy Brown playing wide receiver and cornerback), and emphasizes situational football. Good coaching has certainly been one of the main reasons why the Patriots are consistent. They develop players year round. Belichick’s ability might be his capacity to adapt to his roster and to his schedule. Sometimes a coach’s strength can be to let circumstances dictate his strategy. We might feel like a leader is someone who enforces his way, but good leaders recognize when it’s time to let things pan out.

Belichick could have milked out Randy Moss to the point where he wouldn’t have been efficient no more, but he instead traded while Moss could still perform (Moss had had 83 receptions and thirteen touchdowns the year before). Moss’ attitude didn’t help him either, but it is safe to say that Belichick already had other plans for his offense.

Tom Brady might also be a reason why the Pats are successful. But Brady’s success — and he would probably be the first to say that — is in large part due to his offensive line, which over the years has enabled him to pass for large amounts of yards. The Patriots’ offensive line might be even more useful this year, as the team from New England may run the ball more this season due to the uncertainty of Gronkowski’s health and the Hernandez situation.

It seems like only the Patriots could have dealt with such an offseason with ease. The fact that most NFL experts give them the division title is revealing both on the inefficiency of the three other divisional opponents and on the Patriots’ competent managing.

But the clock is still ticking. We all know it and Brady and Belichick realize it.

Good coaching might defray Brady’s departure, but it is safe to assume that when Brady is gone, the team's success may be over. Yes, I know, Matt Cassel went 11-5 with Belichick, but do you think Cassel could have taken the Patriots to the same heights as Brady in recent years?

The Patriots’ window is closing. Fans of the Patriots’ divisional opponents can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless the Patriots find another hall of fame quarterback in the late rounds of the next couple of drafts.

Well, that would just fit with the Patriot way. Or the Patriot luck.