MINNEAPOLIS — The green and white confetti was still on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium when the questions about next year began for the Patriots.
The future is cloudy for the team that lost Super Bowl LII on Sunday night. Since an ESPN story appeared a month ago, there have been questions about whether the Patriots would undergo a dramatic makeover before next year. There have been questions about whether coach Bill Belichick would leave, whether Tom Brady would retire and how much longer this Patriots group could last.
Throwing another log on the speculation fire, tight end Rob Gronkowski basically confirmed he is mulling retirement when asked about it after the game.
While the futures of Belichick, Brady and Gronkowski are being speculated on, it should become official in the next day or so that both Patriots coordinators are leaving. The Lions are expected to name defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as their head coach and the Colts are expected to tab offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as theirs.
It all sets up a very intriguing offseason for a team that usually has very little drama around it.
Belichick was in no mood to discuss his future after the game Sunday.
“I’m just talking about this game,” he said when asked about his plans.
But we should know shortly whether the whispers around the league that he might be finished with the Patriots are true. The NFL Network reported that Belichick, Brady and owner Robert Kraft will meet soon to hammer out any issues that might exist. ESPN’s bombshell report said that tension is running high among the three and many inside the Patriots organization believe their magical run might be coming to an end.
Brady certainly did not look finished on Sunday night, throwing for 505 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to the Eagles. Brady, 40, has repeatedly said he wants to play into his mid-40s. After the game, he said he hopes to be back.
“I expect to be back,” Brady said. “It’s 15 minutes after the game ended, so I would like to process this. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back.”
Brady sounded weary after the loss, but there is no reason to expect him to retire. It is safe to assume Brady assured the Patriots he was going to continue playing for a few years before they traded away backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers at the trade deadline.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Brady said. “We’ll evaluate like we always do. I’m sure everyone is pretty tired after a long year, that’s football.”
The real twist of the night was Gronkowski not squashing any idea of retiring. He was asked about pregame speculation that he might do so. The 28-year-old did not laugh it off.
“I don’t know how you heard that,” Gronkowski said when asked if he was considering retirement, “but, I mean, 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.”
Gronkowski has two years left on his contract, and it would be a shock if he walked away in his prime. It may just be fatigue at the end of the season that has him thinking about quitting.
One Patriots Super Bowl hero looks like he is definitely a goner. Cornerback Malcolm Butler played no defensive snaps on Sunday, a shocking move by Belichick. Butler is scheduled to become a free agent in March, and the Patriots clearly have soured on him for whatever reason.
This will be one interesting offseason in Foxborough.
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