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At this point it's clear Bill Belichick was not messing around in 2021 free agency, and his acquisition of the top two tight ends on the market played out like a fever dream for Pats fans pining for the days of peak pass-happy Tom Brady. Yet the additions of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry also raises fascinating questions about just what Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the Patriots are up to. More precisely, are the Pats trying to recreate their Gronkowski-Hernandez tight end tag team from a decade ago, or are they planning to build a run-first offense with Cam Newton that operates like the Ravens steamroller of 2019?
It's a viable question, and one that begs for more research. So let's take a closer look at the relevant offensive Quality Stats from both those teams to see which offense the Patriots should be trying to model, all quarterbacking considerations remaining equal?
|TEAM||RECORD||REAL QBR||OFFENSIVE PASSER RATING||SCOREABILITY|
|2011 Patriots||13-3||99.35 (3rd)||105.68 (3rd)||13.35 (4th)|
|2019 Ravens||14-2||102.51 (2nd)||109.00 (2nd)||12.28 (1st)|
Well, there you have it. As great as the 2011 Patriots were, finishing just shy of a Super Bowl win thanks to some uncharacteristic butter fingers by Wes Welker, the 2019 Ravens were demonstrably better in the regular season. Given the nature of modern offenses, it's also just more likely that the Patriots are attempting to take advantage of similar defensive instabilities brought on by utilizing multi-tight end sets.
That also speaks to another go-round for Newton under center, even if that's not exactly the desired result for many Patriots fans. Is it possible the Patriots plan to select their successor at quarterback in April's NFL Draft, with an eye toward transitioning to him during the season? Absolutely. Is it possibly they could still acquire former quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the 49ers? It's possible. Superstar Deshaun Watson from the Texans? Unlikely, though nothing seems truly impossible this offseason with Belichick and co. at the switch.
More importantly, with a run-first, yard-after-catch-focused attack, will the identity of the Pats' next quarterback really be all that important anyway?
It's a legitimate question, and one which could present Belichick with the ultimate chance to prove one of his favorite football aphorisms: the quarterback is just another piece, no bigger than any other, when putting together a championship roster. Now we know that roster will feature at least a pair of highly-compensated, uber-athletic tight ends. That could mark the start of a true new era in New England, where the Patriots could be stuffed full of talent, but the quarterback depth still leaves quite a bit to be desired.