Revisiting Patriots storylines from year ago this week, and looking at how things have changed

Ryan Hannable
February 11, 2019 - 12:48 pm
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What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time things were unlike anything we’ve ever seen before when it came to the Patriots.

Not only did they just lose to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, but there were plenty of other storylines on top of that, including the on-going drama with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler being benched in the game, Josh McDaniels deciding to stay in New England after accepting the Colts' head-coaching job, Matt Patricia departing for Detroit, and Rob Gronkowski surprising everyone when after the game he said he needed time to contemplate his future.

Right now, aside from replacing a number of assistant coaches and rebuilding a Super Bowl roster, it’s a drama-free offseason for the Patriots.

And that’s a good thing.

Here’s a quick look at some of the bigger storylines of a year ago and where they stand now.

BILL BELICHICK-TOM BRADY DRAMA

2018: Things didn’t appear to be in a great place going into the offseason, as in the final episode of Tom vs. Time Gisele Bundchen said Brady didn’t feel appreciated the last few years and indicated he wasn’t having much fun. This was furthered when Brady was asked by Jim Gray at a conference in May if he felt appreciated by the team and he responded, “I plead the fifth.” By all accounts, it was not the best way to head into the offseason, especially following a tough Super Bowl loss.

2019: This story has went away. At some point last offseason something changed as there was no talk of any issues between the quarterback and coach this season. In fact, both parties went out of their way to praise the other on multiple occasions. “We meet at least twice a week going on 19 years,” Brady said the Thursday before the Super Bowl. “We’ve had a great working relationship. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s been a great mentor, taught me so much about football. I was just talking with my friend — how I see the game now versus how I used to see it. So much of it is coach Belichick’s influence on me as well as what coach Belichick taught Josh McDaniels, who I’ve worked with for so long.” This storyline is no more.

MALCOLM BUTLER BENCHING

2018: This was the biggest story in the entire NFL as everyone wanted to know why Butler didn’t play a single defensive snap in the game when the Patriots defense was getting gashed left and right by Nick Foles and the Eagles offense. No definitive answer ever really came, except for when Butler said he wasn’t “mentally” ready for the game.” Butler left New England for Tennessee in free agency.

2019: There still hasn’t been a real answer given as to why Butler was benched in Super Bowl LII, but he’s more of an afterthought in New England. The 28-year-old struggled in a big way early on with his new team, but did turn it around for the second half of the season. With that being said, the Patriots found adequate replacements for him in Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson, so they are doing just fine without him and he really hasn’t been brought up in New England since the Patriots played the Titans in November.

JOSH MCDANIELS STAYING IN NEW ENGLAND

2018: McDaniels left the Colts standing at the altar by deciding to stay in New England the day before he was scheduled to officially be introduced as their next head coach. This of course made McDaniels public enemy No. 1 in Indianapolis and general manager Chris Ballard had the line of “the rivalry is back on" when speaking about what happened and connecting McDaniels to the Patriots.

2019: Indianapolis ended up by hiring Frank Reich and he had a terrific first season with the organization. After a 1-5 start, the Colts won nine of their last 10 games to make the playoffs as one of the wild card teams. They then beat the Texans on wild card weekend before falling to the Chiefs in the divisional round. With the success the team had led by Reich, no one in Indianapolis really cares about what happened last year with McDaniels. And in New England, McDaniels had another great season leading the Patriots offense to the Super Bowl with below average talent on that side of the ball, especially at the skill positions.

MATT PATRICIA DEPARTING FOR DETROIT

2018: Patricia left his defensive coordinator position with the Patriots to become the head coach of the Lions. This was an expected move at the time, but the only questions were how would he work out in Detroit, and how would Brian Flores do in taking over the reigns as defensive playcaller with the Patriots?

2019: Things certainly went in the Patriots’ favor on both ends. Patricia struggled in his first year in Detroit, going 6-10 and missing the playoffs, although they did beat the Patriots in Week 3. Patricia also was criticized heavily by the Detroit media at times. Meanwhile, Flores had a great first year calling plays. It was so good that it got him a head-coaching job with the Dolphins. He also capped his Patriots career off in style by holding the Rams to a Super Bowl-low three points in the 13-3 win.

ROB GRONKOWSKI RETIREMENT TALK

2018: Immediately following the Super Bowl, Gronkowski said he would need to spend a few weeks thinking about his future, as he would not commit to playing in 2019. Ultimately, it took until April for Gronkowski to officially say he would be playing in 2019.

2019: It’s pretty much the same thing a year later, except it isn’t much of a surprise. There were rumors all year long that 2018 would be Gronkowski’s final season, and when asked all throughout Super Bowl week and after the game, he said he would take a couple of weeks to decide on his future. The only difference this year from last year is a decision is not expected to drag out the entire offseason.

Related: How backup QB Brian Hoyer was so important to Patriots in Super Bowl LIII win over Rams

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