Bill Belichick ended his week on a bit of a snarky note with reporters. The head coach was asked about the club's poor drafting over the last handful of years, particularly in the first two rounds, where foundational pieces have been few and far between in Foxborough. To those questions, Belichick essentially told folks to kiss his rings, pointing to the club's overall success over the last two decades that have resulted in six Lombardi Trophies. While the Patriots have unquestionably enjoyed unprecedented success, they've also been in a major slump at the NFL draft dating as far back as 2014. Both things can be true. It's also part of the reason -- along with Tom Brady's departure -- why the team is in the midst of one of its worst seasons in recent memory.
Back in 2018, the Patriots were in possession of two first-round picks (No. 23 and No. 31) thanks, in part, to the trade that sent receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams. That class was filled with quarterback prospects, including Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen -- all of whom came off the board inside the top 10. At the time, Lamar Jackson -- despite being a former Heisman Trophy winner -- was under tremendous scrutiny about whether or not his skills would translate to the NFL. That said, the Patriots, who had just traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers a few months prior, showed significant interest in Jackson. According to reports from 2018, Jackson had a private workout with Josh McDaniels in South Florida and also paid a visit to Foxborough.
Despite that clear interest and need for a new heir behind Tom Brady, New England elected to take tackle Isaiah Wynn with the No. 23 selection and later plucked running back Sony Michel off the board at No. 31 overall. Jackson could've been had at both spots, but New England decided to pass on him, and the Ravens later traded back into the first round to take the future NFL MVP at No. 32. The rest, as they say, is history.
While this may fall into a category that Belichick brought up earlier this year, stating that the Patriots sold out to win their most recent Super Bowl titles, you could make a strong case that New England made the wrong call, particularly at No. 31. During his rookie season, Sony Michel was particularly strong during the Patriots' run to Super Bowl LIII, rushing for 336 yards and six touchdowns over the three playoff contests. That said, they may have been able to get that production from a number of backs, especially if the offensive line played at the same high-level. To this point in his career, Michel hasn't proven to be the bell cow back the club hoped he'd develop into.
It's a tremendous "What if ..." scenario to think about. Had the Patriots taken Jackson and things fell down a similar path with Tom Brady leaving this offseason, Josh McDaniels will be unleashing a new offense with a version of Lamar Jackson that just spent the previous two years developing as a passer behind the greatest quarterback of all-time. Wowzers.
However, that reality is occurring somewhere else in the multi-verse. Here, the Patriots still have major questions at the quarterback position and a shaky history at the draft doesn't do much to instill confidence entering this new era.
Before we jumping into some other news and notes from the week, here's how you can watch the Patriots take on the Ravens during Sunday Night Football:
How to watch
Lamar and Cam's mutual respect
As Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton are set to go toe-to-toe with one another on Sunday Night Football, the two quarterbacks spoke glowingly of one another, with Jackson even noting that he looked up to Newton as he was coming up as a prospect.
"I watched Cam since Auburn," Jackson said this week. "Everyone in the country did. Everyone knew about Cam – Superman – doing his thing. A lot of us looked up to him. He's a mobile quarterback. He does his thing. He won the Heisman, won the college championship, won MVP, went to the Super Bowl. I followed him a lot, wanted to get to where he's at. Now I'm here, now I've got to play against him. I just can't wait to do that."
It's safe to say the feeling is mutual.
"Man, my boy Lamar got a gear not many human beings got. And just to see him take off, I mean, I'm a fan of the game and if I'm watching Baltimore, obviously, I'm watching to see what the MVP is going to do," Newton said. "I think for a long time, and still to date, a lot of people do not respect the art of being able to run and protect yourself and to attack the defenses in many different ways. Not taking anything against anybody who cannot or does not decide to run but, for him to be as successful and to make the impact, the big splash in this game, you know, not many people have done it.
"I say Michael Vick, I say Lamar, I don't even think I'm in that stratosphere but for him to be as dominant, dynamic, explosive at the quarterback position is something that just gives so much opportunity to the younger generation to be able to see what Lamar Jackson is doing and to get hope to say I can play the quarterback position too."
Zach Wilson on potentially landing with Patriots
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is skyrocketing up mock draft boards with his stellar play this season. With the Patriots likely working with a high pick in 2021 and in the market for a young signal-caller, the connection is obvious. So obvious that Wilson was specifically asked about possibly being drafted by the Patriots during an appearance on CBS Sports Radio.
"If that is the team that wants me I'll give it everything I have," he told The Zach Gelb Show. "Even if Cam [Newton] was still there when I went into that situation, what a great quarterback to learn from. What a great guy to sit behind and experience the way he's experienced the game and learned from all his mistakes and the things he's had success with as well. [Bill] Belichick's a great coach and they are going to be on top again one day."
Jakobi Meyers' quick evolution
To put Jakobi Meyers' breakout 169-yard performance into better context, the Patriots second-year receiver became just the third New England pass-catcher to have 150-plus receiving yards in a game over the past five seasons, joining Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Meyer's quick evolution into a reliable option in the passing game has not only been a much-needed development for the offense but one of the major bright spots of the 2020 season. As things stand, it appears New England has a suitable heir to Julian Edelman out of the slot in Meyers.
"Hopefully I can just build that trust and the coaches can see what I can do," he said after Monday's win. "I just have to keep putting good stuff on tape and keep working to get better every day. It was a fun game, I am not going to lie. It was fun just to be out there with the team and I just enjoyed every moment of it, so hopefully like I said I can just keep building on it and keep trying to get better."
Of course, the road will only get tougher for Meyers as defenses begin to game-plan against him, which could happen as soon as Sunday night against Baltimore.
Tom Brady vs. tropical storm Eta
Tom Brady still seems to be getting used to his new life down in Tampa. The Patriots legend and current Buccaneers quarterback went through his first tropical storm since arriving in Florida this week as tropical storm Eta hit that Tampa area on Wednesday. As he told reporters, Brady may not have been entirely prepared for the experience.
"The hurricane -- that was a trip for me last night, the storm," he said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN. "I had a dock, it broke, it floated away. I had these jet skis on it. I saw those things sitting out in the middle of the bay. And I was going, 'Wow, that's pretty surreal.' I was just kind of laughing, 'Oh, you'll get the jet skis back.' A lot of people are dealing with a lot worse than that. But just waking up and seeing what happened to the yard, it got pretty messed up. I'd be really nervous if a big one hit. So, it happened pretty quick. I thought you had time to prepare for these things, but apparently you don't -- they're just kind of on you and you've just gotta deal with it."
In case you were wondering, Brady did say that he got his jet skis fixed and called it "a good lesson learned from someone that's been in the Northeast for a long time."