How Patriots got here: Recapping the last year, which was certainly quite eventful

Ryan Hannable
January 01, 2019 - 8:54 am
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It’s been quite the year for the Patriots with plenty of ups, but also some downs.

The 2017 season ended in defeat with a crushing, 41-33, loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, which led to an interesting offseason, an up-and-down regular season, but it ended like it usually does — with another AFC East title and a first-round bye.

With it being New Year’s Day, and the Patriots in the midst of their playoff bye week, we figured it was a good time to recap the last year to show how the Patriots got to where they are now.

February 4, 2018: Patriots lose Super Bowl LII with the biggest story of the game being Malcolm Butler getting benched. "They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is," Butler told ESPN afterwards.

February 4, 2018: Speaking after the Super Bowl, Rob Gronkowski doesn’t commit to playing in 2018. "I don't know how you heard that [the game might have been his last] but I'm definitely going to look at my future for sure. I'm going to sit down the next couple of weeks and see where I'm at," he said.

February 5, 2018: Bill Belichick confirms he will coach the team in 2018. It was never really in doubt, but there was quite a bit of tension between Tom Brady and the coach during the 2017 season, so it was worth wondering. “Absolutely,” he said after a long pause on a conference call the day following the Super Bowl.

February 6, 2018: Josh McDaniels tells the Colts he will not be their next head coach and instead is staying in New England. McDaniels had agreed to become their next coach during the playoffs and the team had planned his introductory press conference for the next day.

February 7, 2018: Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is officially introduced as the Lions’ new head coach. 

February 12, 2018: Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson calls the Patriots out for being a “fear-based organization” and adds they don’t have much fun. "I just think that 'The Patriot Way' is a fear-based organization," Johnson said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast. "Obviously, do they win? Hell yes, they win. They've won for a long time. Do I think people enjoy and can say, 'I had a lot of fun playing there'? No, I don't. That's just the God's honest truth.”

March 12, 2018: The final episode of Tom vs. Time is released and it came with two major takeaways. One, an indication Brady did not enjoy himself the last few years. “These last two years have been very challenging for him in so many ways,” his wife Gisele Bundchen said. “And he tells me, ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’” Second, Brady reflects on if it is still worth playing. “It’s a big commitment, laying here three days after the game and getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb,” Brady said. “You go, ‘What are we doing this for?’ You know? ‘What are we doing this for, who are we doing this for, why are we doing this?’ You gotta have answers to those questions. And they have to be with a lot of conviction. You know, when you lose your conviction then you probably should be doing something else.”

March 13, 2018: Butler agrees to a five-year, $61 million deal with the Titans in free agency.

March 13, 2018: Danny Amendola agrees to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Dolphins. This came as somewhat of a surprise since he had taken a few pay cuts in recent years to stay in New England.

March 15, 2018: At his introductory press conference, Butler admits he wasn’t locked in and focused 100 percent for the Super Bowl, which could explain not playing. “I wasn’t feeling too well," he said. "I felt like that was kind of part of it. Not to blame anybody. I accept full responsibly for myself,” he said. “I am not blaming the New England Patriots or no one. It could have been just me, you know. It could have been anything, but I was not feeling too well and the New England Patriots are all about doing their job and they want everybody locked in and focused 100 percent and that probably was not the case. I am glad to be a Tennessee Titan.”

March 17, 2018: The team officially signs free agents Adrian Clayborn, Jeremy Hill and Matt Tobin. Overall, it was a pretty underwhelming free agency period for the team.

April 3, 2018: Patriots trade Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Rams in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick (No. 23 overall) and a sixth-rounder. Cooks was scheduled to be a free agent after the 2018 season and it was unlikely the team would have been able to re-sign him.

April 14, 2018: In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Amendola goes in-depth on why he left New England and his time with the organization, including seemingly taking a dig at Belichick. "It's not easy, that's for sure. He's an a--h--- sometimes. There were a lot of things I didn't like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn't like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him," he said. "I didn't like practicing in the snow, I didn't like practicing in the rain, but that was going to make us a better football team and that was going to make me a better football player. It wasn't easy, and he'd be the first to admit, at the [Super Bowl] ring ceremony, that it wasn't easy playing for him. The silver lining was that we were at the ring ceremony."

April 21, 2018: A week before the NFL draft, Gronkowski holds a strange press conference at Gillette Stadium promoting a Monster Energy motocross event at the facility. “My status is doing really great,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve been riding dirt bikes, I’ve been training really hard I can vroom vroom really good. I can ride that bike like no other.” Will you attend voluntary OTAs? “No,” he said. “I’ve got my dirt biking skills to work on.” At this point it still wasn't official that he would play in 2018.

April 24, 2018: Gronkowski confirms via Instagram he will play in 2018 following a meeting with Belichick.

April 29, 2018: New England selects eight players in the NFL draft: Isaiah Wynn (first round), Sony Michel (first round), Duke Dawson (second round), Ja’Whaun Bentley (fifth round), Christian Sam (sixth round), Braxton Berrios (sixth round), Danny Etling (sixth round), Keion Crossen (seventh round), Ryan Izzo (seventh round). It was somewhat notable the team did not draft a quarterback high, as they were connected to a few.

May 21, 2018: Brady and Gronkowski are not present at the start of the voluntary OTAs and they did not appear for any of them.

June 5, 2018: Brady and Gronkowski both attend mandatory minicamp and each received the same number of reps as they typically would despite missing OTAs.

June 7, 2018: It’s reported Julian Edelman is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.

June 12, 2018: Belichick cancels the final two OTA sessions, which went against the “no days off” motto of previous years.

July 28, 2018: Brady ends his first press conference of the summer abruptly after questions connecting his personal trainer Alex Guerrero to Edelman and his suspension. “I have no comment,” Brady said. “It is just ridiculous. I’m out. See you guys.”

August 2, 2018: Veteran wide receiver Eric Decker signs a one-year deal with the Patriots. 

September 1, 2018: Patriots set their 53-man roster, which includes only four wide receivers. This highlighted the number of receivers that didn’t work out during training camp and over the summer.

September 16, 2018: After a win over the Texans in Week 1, the Patriots fall 31-20 on the road in Jacksonville in a rematch of the 2017 AFC title game.

September 17, 2018: With Edelman still suspended and the receivers not getting it done, the Patriots trade a fifth-round pick to the Browns in exchange for troubled wide out Josh Gordon.

September 23, 2018: The Patriots play one of their worst games in recent memory, falling 26-10 to Patricia’s Lions on the road on Sunday Night Football. The team started the year 1-2 for the first time since 2012 and there was quite a bit of scrutiny coming the team’s way.

September 23, 2018: A report comes out that the Patriots had a deal in place prior to the draft to send Gronkowski to the Lions, but the tight end nixed the deal saying he would have retired and only wants to play with Brady as his quarterback. "Yeah, it happened," Gronkowski said after the game when asked about the report. "Brady's my quarterback. ... I wasn't going anywhere without Brady."

October 14, 2018: New England beats the previously undefeated Chiefs, 43-40, on Sunday Night Football. It was their third straight win and third straight game of scoring at least 38 points. This was arguably the high point of the 2018 season.

October 21, 2018: Gronkowski pops up on the injury report and has to miss the game in Chicago with a back injury. This would be the first of three total games missed on the year.

November 11, 2018: The Patriots suffer their worst loss of the season, 34-10 on the road in Tennessee against a number former Patriots, including Dion Lewis, who took a shot at them afterwards. "Hell yeah it's personal," Lewis said. "That's what happens when you go cheap. You get your ass kicked."

December 9, 2018: The struggles in Miami continue. On the last play of the game and several laterals later, Kenyan Drake scored a 69-yard touchdown to stun the Patriots, 34-33. It was also an opportunity to clinch the AFC East, which they also failed to do a week later in Pittsburgh.

December 20, 2018: Gordon is suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his reinstatement. It was later learned the Patriots reportedly had around-the-clock supervision of him, but his slip up happened during the bye week.

December 23, 2018: The Patriots beat the Bills, 24-12 to win the AFC East for the 10th straight time. Brady did have one of his worst statistical games of his career, throwing for just 126 yards.

December 30, 2018: The year finished in style as the Patriots beat the Jets, 38-3, to clinch a first-round bye for the ninth straight season. Brady rebounded with 250 yards passing and his first four-touchdown game of the season. 

Related: Tuesday’s Mashup: Jimmy Garoppolo gives update on ACL injury after end of 49ers season