Whether the New England Patriots deserve all of the evil and cheating comparisons they’ve received over the years, one thing remains constant and clear: They’re miles ahead of the competition in their division, finishing first 13 out of the last 15 seasons. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets? Each year is a new, painful lesson of what they’re doing wrong.
If the first three weeks of this season taught us anything, is that it has nothing to do with the quarterback. Tom Brady missed the entire 2008 season (almost all of it), and the Patriots still finished 11-5, somehow not making the playoffs. Brady has been out for the first three games of this season (and has one more to sit out before he’s back), and yet the Patriots have looked incredible, shutting out the Houston Texans and despite the misleading scorelines, were very dominant in the wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Dolphins.
So if Bill Belichick can win convincingly with Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo, what chance to the others have? Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to be the best quarterback the Jets had in years, but he’s off to a very poor start. With every year that goes by the Miami Dolphins understand Ryan Tannehill might not be the guy for years to come, into his fifth season with the team and not really showing any significant improvement. Tyrod Taylor is probably NOT the problem for the Bills.
It has to be Belichick, right? Good defense, bad defense, a lot of receiving options, few. A healthy Rob Gronkowski or not. The Patriots win and look like an unstoppable machine doing it. More than anything, it’s an organization culture that seems to infect everyone (in the positive kind of way), unless they don’t fit (or become too expensive) and get thrown out. The Jets have missed the playoffs five years in a row, and they’re the most recent postseason attendees among the last three in the division. The Bills are getting close to 20 years.
Coaching consistency being the key? It might. Rex Ryan is the 8th head coach in Buffalo since Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000; Adam Gase in the ninth in Miami; Todd Bowles is the fifth in New York, which isn’t that bad, and yet everyone feels like they have a coaching carousel compared to how the Patriots have been handling things. Obviously it’s more than Belichick, but also the team surrounding him in New England.
Does the strangle hold on the division end one day? It might. But for now, Belichick isn’t going anywhere, and it is quite incredible no one has found a way to actually dethrone him. Maybe, in the long term kind of outlook, it is Brady that combined with Belichick to form the ultimate regular season machines (and six Super Bowl trips ain’t shabby either). Whatever the answer may be, the outlook remains depressing in the AFC East for non-Pats fans.