Raiders staffer points out concerningly ‘different’ vibe with Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Times have changed in New England, to say the least.
After two decades of perennial success with Tom Brady, the Patriots have regressed back to mediocrity since the future Hall of Famer’s departure in 2020. This season, however, they’ve plummeted into futility territory, with a 1-5 record and the NFL’s second-worst point differential (minus-80) entering Week 7.
Results like these wouldn’t fly in the Brady Era, but the Brady Era is in the past, and the Patriots’ opponents have noticed.
The day after New England’s 21-17 loss to Josh McDaniels’ Raiders in Las Vegas, our Patriots Insider Phil Perry shared an illuminating conversation he had with a member of the Raiders prior to Sunday’s game.
“I spoke to a Raiders staffer yesterday before the game about what’s going on with the Patriots right now — this is a Raiders staffer who used to be here in Foxboro — and what he told me was, ‘Man, it’s a different locker room now,'” Perry said on NBC Sports Boston’s Arbella Early Edition. “And he’s following from afar, like a lot of those guys are.
“It’s a very different locker room. Everyone used to know what the standard was and how to meet it. Everyone just used to know how to act. It wasn’t something that anybody had to go out of their way to tell us, whether it’s personnel people, coaches, players — everyone understood what it took. And now there aren’t that many of those guys anymore.”
Only seven Patriots players from the squad that won Super Bowl LIII in 2018 remain on the roster: center David Andrews, special teamer Matthew Slater, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, cornerback Jonathan Jones, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, defensive end Deatrich Wise and long snapper Joe Cardona. (Offensive tackle Trent Brown and cornerback J.C. Jackson were also on that team, but played elsewhere before returning to New England more recently.)
That’s a lot of leadership gone from New England’s locker room, and appears the team is having difficulty filling that void.
“(The Raiders staffer) called them torch-bearers,” Perry added. “There’s only a few torch-bearers still left in this Patriots locker room. They’re looking to pass that thing on, and they’re not sure who’s there, who wants the torch.
“And that to me is maybe the biggest concern. It’s not that there aren’t guys that you could pass it to; it’s who’s willing, who has the ‘want to’ to be that leader and step up in those situations that we’re talking about.”
Leadership may seem less important to a team’s success than pure talent (which the Patriots also sorely lack). But New England’s leadership void means the team struggles to hold itself to a high standard, which manifests itself in a wave of self-inflicted errors: The Patriots are tied for the NFL’s worst turnover differential (minus-8) and have 39 penalties through six games, tied for 10th-most in the league.
Unless the team’s young players can take the leadership “torch” from long-time captains like Slater and Andrews, it’s hard to see New England returning to prominence anytime soon.