The Patriots had already lowered the bar in their last season with Brady, losing in the first round of the playoffs, something that hadn't happened to them since 2009. When GOAT left, New England tried to replace him with quarterback Cam Newton, who was named MVP in 2015. It didn't work out so well, as New England finished last season with a negative balance of wins and losses (7-9) and didn't make the playoffs. But it wasn't just the quarterback leaving. The Patriots defense took a serious blowout before the 2020 season, with several of its leaders exercising their legal right to sit out the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, with such a turnover rate, a 7-9 record is pretty decent.
In this year's draft, New England selected University of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Jones was only the fifth point guard selected in the draft, but he fits the Patriots offense well - his style (not very mobile, but accurate, smart, and cold-blooded) is a lot like a young Brady. He even has the same number of letters in his first and last name! At the end of training camp, Belichick named Jones the starting quarterback for the Patriots, and dismissed Cam Newton from the team, which shows a very serious level of confidence in the rookie.
The defense's leaders are back in action, and the Patriots have spent heavily on the free-agent market for the first time in years, so they should be back in earnest this fall. There is a growing consensus that all of New England's past victories are due primarily to Brady, and that Belichick is not the greatest coach at all, just a surly specialist who got lucky. Now Belichick has a chance to prove the naysayers wrong.