Bill Belichick knows why he’s losing his breakup with Tom Brady.
While the NFL’s oldest player has entered the MVP conversation and vaulted the Buccaneers to first place in the AFC South in his first season outside New England, Belichick has led the Patriots to wins in just two of their six games. New England could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, when Brady missed 15 games with a knee injury.
According to the longtime coach, New England — which is currently in the midst of its first three-game losing streak in 18 years — doesn’t have the depth the team has enjoyed while winning six Super Bowl titles.
“We’re playing more young players than we’ve played in the past [for a] combination of reasons. We were pretty heavily invested in our team in the past few years. From a salary-cap standpoint, we didn’t have much flexibility at all. I think that was obvious on the Cam Newton contract,” Belichick said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Then we had some opt-outs, so we lost some players there that would normally have been giving us a significant amount of playing time. And then, like every year, a couple guys are banged up and we’ve missed some guys here and there in certain games. I think when you combine it all together, there is opportunity there — some of that opportunity has gone to younger players.
“This is kind of the year that we’ve taken to, I would say, adjust our cap from the spending that we’ve had in accumulation of prior years. We just haven’t been able to have the kind of depth on our roster that we’ve had in some other years. That’s provided more opportunity for younger players. So it’s a combination of all the reasons.”
Due to COVID-19, New England had eight players opt out of the season, more than any other team in the league. According to ESPN, the Patriots also have $26 million in dead cap money, though an extension with the 43-year-old Brady would have opened up more salary cap space.
Newton appeared to be a perfect fit with the Patriots after leading the team to wins over the Dolphins and Raiders, and a near-upset of the Seahawks in the first three weeks of the season, but the former MVP tested positive for coronavirus soon afterward, forcing New England to cancel multiple practices.
“We had a good training camp. We played pretty well the first three weeks of the season. And then I’d say we regressed over the next two and a half weeks for a combination of reasons,” Belichick said. “We’re in that kind of space, we’re getting better, but we need to get better faster and, like I said, make up for some lost ground where we didn’t practice and had multiple players playing different spots on the offensive line. Things like that, where even the experience we got — it was beneficial, but it wasn’t as beneficial as it could have been.”
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