It’s either falling apart, or business as usual in Foxboro right now. Excuse me while I put my money on the latter.
Look, I’m not here to be a cheerleader. I’m just here to remind you. I’m here to break this thing down for what it actually is. It’s a business, and Bill Belichick is going to continue to treat it as such.
That’s never been more evident this week, as the New England Patriots saw several key pieces agree to deals with other teams before free agency even officially began.
Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis are headed to the Tennessee Titans. Danny Amendola is on his way to the Miami Dolphins. And Nate Solder is now a New York Giant.
By the time you read this, maybe the Pats have lost more players to free agency. Maybe they’ve even signed a free agent or two. What we know is that the 2018 Patriots will look different. And in the heat of the moment, I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel like a “good” different. But it never does. Ever.
I wanted Butler, Lewis, Amendola, and Solder to stay. At least, I didn’t want to see all of them leave. But if I gave you a list of players that I had wished Belichick never parted ways with, we’d be here for a while, and I’d be reading off a Pro-Bowl caliber roster.
That list would be nostalgic. It would also be a reminder of how much has changed in Foxboro over the years.
Change isn’t always good. But some way, some how, the Patriots always make us forget that those changes ever happened in the first place.
It has a rinse-and-repeat feel to it. First we reject the idea of a player leaving or being traded. Then we come to accept life without that player. And we eventually move on to project who will challenge the Patriots for the AFC Championship.
I’ll admit, these early offseason exits carry a more disastrous tone. It’s because of the controversial reports, the cryptic tweets, the instagram comments, and the Facebook-exclusive documentaries. Speculation is off the charts. Rumors are being portrayed as facts. The end has come. They told us this is how it would all go down.
Sorry, I forgot I was here to remind you of something.
I’m here to tell you that Tom Brady — the reigning NFL MVP — is still the quarterback. I’m here to tell you that Rob Gronkowski isn’t going to retire for the WWE. I’m here to tell you that Julian Edelman will return this season. And I’m here to tell you that Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan aren’t all that bad either.
Given the normal, emotional reaction to losing four key pieces to free agency before free agency even begins, I can understand that you don’t want to hear any of this right now. I’m willing to accept the fact that you think I’m wrong, that your version of the story is the correct one, that the clock has struck midnight and Belichick’s Prince Charming is San Francisco, with no happy ending in sight.
Eventually, you’ll be right. This fairytale in New England will one day come to an end. But if you’re looking for me to tell you it’s all coming to an end right now, after Belichick moved on from a couple players who wanted larger contracts, then you’ve got the wrong guy.
Because I’m here to tell you it’s just business as usual. And to be fair, I’ve been right about that every single time.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.