Is this the way a sports dynasty sometimes ends?
Not with a bang, but a whimper, a victim of too many self inflicted wounds.
We now wonder if this is where the New England Patriots are after their Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Are they the victims of too much hubris, too much believing “The Patriot Way” is infallible, too much believing in one man having all the answers?
Is The Patriot Way still the right way? Will they make another Super Bowl?
It is too early to tell as the Pats prepare for the 2018 season, when they will try to become the first team since the perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972 to lose the Super Bowl one year and win it the next.
But there are a lot of troubling signs that the Patriots have made a lot of ill-advised decisions in the last year.
Starting with owner Bob Kraft’s decision to put 283 diamonds on their Super Bowl rings because they overcame a 28-3 decision against the Atlanta Falcons a year ago.
That ticked off Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said he told Kraft, “You didn’t have to do the 28-3 thing in the ring.’’
It came across as gloating.
Then there was the stunning decision to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a bargain price of a second-round pick.
Since Belichick had already traded Jacoby Brissett to the Colts, it left him with Brian Hoyer as his backup, who signed with the Pats after being cut by the 49ers.
It turns out, according to a ESPN report, that Kraft all but ordered the trade when he told Belichick that Tom Brady was the quarterback as long as he wanted to be. The report detailed the friction in the organization.
Then in an interview with Andrea Kramer during Super Bowl week, Kraft said, “There’s no dysfunction. There’s tension. And I think a certain amount of tension helps make great things happen.’’
His son Jonathan Kraft then said, “Dysfunction is when people take energy and use it to think about how to undermine other people. That does not happen If it happens in this organization, I haven’t seen it.’’
Maybe he hasn’t been looking closely enough or has been blinded by the Patriots’ success.
And he made it obvious that Tom Brady is in control of his football future and will decide when he will retire.
“I think Tom Brady has earned the right to make that decision when he wants to make it,’’ he said.
What happens if Brady hits the wall, but he keeps wanting to play?
Two cornerstones of the 49ers dynasty, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, didn’t end their playing days as a 49ers. Teams usually make those decisions, not players.
Then Belichick made the stunning move in the Super Bowl to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler and not play him a down on defense even as Nick Foles was strafing their secondary. As usual, Belichick hasn’t explained why he did it.
And the Patriots created another firestorm when they talked Josh McDaniels into turning down the Indianapolis Colts job when he came into the office to clear out his desk to leave.
If the Patriots wanted to keep him, they should have had that conversation in December before he started interviewing for jobs. The way they did it doesn’t make The Patriot Way as something anyone wants to emulate.
And while he wasn’t promised the job when Belichick retires, that is the perception.
ESPN also reported that Belichick told McDaniels if he stayed, “I am going to open up my world to you.’’
Huh? McDaniels has been working for Belichick for years and doesn’t already understand his world as far as things like operating the salary cap?
And how does it work with a team having a coach and a coach in waiting?
So now we see what happens going forward. Belichick’s track record in personnel hasn’t been stellar in recent years. When he benched Butler, it showed how thin the secondary is.
They also will lose Rob Gronkowski if he decides to retire.
And Belichcik has to find a quarterback of the future because Brady will be one year older and Jimmy G is gone.
Brady likes to tout his TB12 method that features, among other things, muscle pliability.
The New York Times quoted Stuart Phillips, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an expert in muscle physiology as calling it “balderdash.’’
Phillips said soft muscles are sick. Bedridden patients get soft muscles, and Brady’s trainer, the controversial Alex Guerrero, who was banished by Belichick last year, said Guerrero has not conducted or published clinical trials of muscle pliability. Neither has anyone else, according to The Times.
The odds are that the real secret to Brady’s is a combination a good genes, a short passing game that enables him to cut down on the number of hits he takes … and pure luck.
But age will eventually catch up to him.
That is the current state of the Patriots as they chase that elusive sixth Super Bowl.
Unless the Krafts and Belichick right the ship, they are likely facing some stormy weather ahead.