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#pounditSunday, October 24, 2021

Bill Belichick offers surprisingly honest assessment of Patriots’ current situation

Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots have lost four consecutive games for the first time since 2000, and the results this season have been worse than most expected — even without Tom Brady. Bill Belichick, who typically shares very little with the media about roster construction, provided a rare glimpse on Monday into why his team is struggling.

During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio Saturday, Belichick told Charlie Weis that the 2-5 Patriots have been giving younger players more opportunities this season due to both veteran players opting out and a lack of depth. He said the latter is the result of New England’s salary cap situation.

The quotes were surprising from the usually tight-lipped Belichick. He was asked about them during his weekly WEEI appearance on Monday. Belichick got a bit testy when host Christian Fauria implied the coach was using the salary cap situation as an excuse.

“I didn’t say it is as an excuse,” Belichick said. “Look, we paid Cam Newton $1 million. It’s obvious we didn’t have any money. It’s nobody’s fault. That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out and won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in an AFC Championship Game. This year we had less to work with. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.”

While it’s uncharacteristic of him to say it, Belichick is not wrong. The Patriots kicked a lot of money down the road in order to remain competitive while they had Tom Brady. When Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England had to absorb a $13.5 million salary cap hit. They ended up with $26 million in dead cap space total this offseason, which was one of the highest marks in the NFL.

The Cam Newton experiment appears to have failed, especially after seeing how the former NFL MVP blew Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills. Still, it will be hard to judge Belichick in the post-Brady era until he has some money to spend on a rebuild. That should happen this offseason, when the Patriots are projected to have around $60 million in salary cap space. They could end up with even more if they trade Stephon Gilmore, which seems like a legitimate possibility.

It’s easy to see what has happened in New England this year and draw the conclusion that Brady meant more to the organization that Belichick does, but the coach deserves the benefit of the doubt. Rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight, and almost any team that loses its starting quarterback needs to start fresh. Belichick has a better chance at a fresh start in 2021 than he did heading into this season.

You can hear Belichick’s comments from Monday below:

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