Boston: ‘City of Champions’ no longer?

0
9

For the first time in what seemed like forever, the New England Patriots found themselves playing on Wild Card Weekend, hosting the scrappy Tennessee Titans. While the late season collapse to get there was disappointing, surely a squad previously called one of the most dominant in NFL history would advance to the next round?


Image of  Boston 's  Back Bay  neighborhood as situated along the tree-lined esplanade of the  Charles River .  Photo in the    public domain

Image of Boston‘s Back Bay neighborhood as situated along the tree-lined esplanade of the Charles River. Photo in the public domain

Wrong.

In an unprecedented sequence of events, the Patriots looked flat, letting Titans star back Derrick Henry run all over the defense for 186 yards, earning the record for the most playoff scrimmage yards in team history. Tom Brady couldn’t get anything going, leading just one touchdown drive with a total QBR of 38.9. In his last throw of the season, he threw a pick six to his old teammate Logan Ryan.

Three months later, it proved to be his last throw as a Patriot, as he signed a two- year, 50-million-dollar deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Watching that last throw at home, surrounded by other football fans, we all were thinking the same thing. Is this the end of the Patriots dynasty? That feeling was only solidified after Brady had left.

Brady wasn’t the only departure in the Boston sports world, as it was announced former AL MVP Mookie Betts would be traded from the Red Sox to Los Angeles alongside arguably the best player in the 2018 World Series in David Price. With the team already underperforming with the help of Betts and Price, and the AL East champion Yankees adding Gerrit Cole in a blockbuster signing, a much larger thought came into the minds of many New Englanders.

Is the Boston sports dynasty dead?

Less than 300 days ago, everything seemed perfect. Boston had just won two major championships (the Red Sox in October 2018 and the Patriots in February 2019) and was on the verge of a third with the Bruins one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. Signs emerged everywhere of young Bostonians at parades bragging about how many championships have occurred in their lifetime, while some cities struggle for one.

While before was a glorious time to live in New England, today brings a lot of uncertainty. How will each team look down the road? Will it be as bad as we think? Buckle up and let’s find out.

New England Patriots, NFL

After losing fan favorite Rob Gronkowski last offseason to retirement and Brady this year in free agency, what will this team look like?


Tom Brady, a National Football League player for the New England Patriots.  Photo in the    public domain

Tom Brady, a National Football League player for the New England Patriots. Photo in the public domain

At the risk of getting heat from the Patriots fanbase, the skill at the quarterback position will not drop off as much as one would think. Of course Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but last year his production dropped off after four dominant weeks to start the season. From week four on, Brady’s numbers were almost identical to soon to be backup Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Brady was ranked 12th in PFF’s final quarterback rankings of the 2019 season, and it’s hard to envision improvement in his age 43 season.

Their current options are second-year play caller Jarrett Stidham, perennial backup Cody Kessler, and journeyman vet Brian Hoyer in his third stint with the team. With their cap situation, it looks unlikely that QB1 will come from anywhere else but the current roster or possibly the draft. Stidham and Hoyer both know the system well enough to get by, especially with the defense they have, only losing linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

One of the biggest things for Pats fans to be thankful for is the return of head coach Bill Belichick, who is one of the greatest masterminds in football history. While it is important to note that Belichick has a losing record without Brady, the Patriots were able to go 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and a rookie Jacoby Brissett back in 2016 during the deflategate suspension, the last time Brady missed any games.

So, will the Patriots be worse than this past year? Absolutely. Do I believe Belichick has the ability to coach this team to a winning record for a twentieth straight season? Yes. As soon as they find a proven answer at quarterback, I could see them becoming a perennial contender like the Seahawks, just not as dominant as they used to be with Brady.

Boston Red Sox, MLB


Jacoby Ellsbury at bat for the Boston Red Sox in 2009.  Photo in the    public domain

Jacoby Ellsbury at bat for the Boston Red Sox in 2009. Photo in the public domain

Trading away arguably the second best player in baseball in Mookie Betts might not have come as a shock, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. This all came after an underwhelming season where the defending World Series champs finished third in their division and watched their rival’s AAA team make it all the way to the ALCS. Former skipper Alex Cora was fired after an investigation into his former Astros team as well, putting Ron Roenicke in the interim manager’s seat. The investigation into the Red Sox’s own cheating scandal is still ongoing, and the threat of more punishment looms over Red Sox fans’ heads. Oh, and Chris Sale now needs a potentially career altering Tommy John surgery.

So yeah, this offseason sucks.

It’s really hard to look at anything about this team in a positive lens right now, except for the fact COVID-19 is preventing them from embarrassing themselves, but for the sake of this article I’m going to try to step back and look at the bigger picture.

The major positive is the young core the team still has. The loss of Mookie is rough, but a core of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr, soon to come up Bobby Dalbec and newly acquired Alex Verdugo is something to be excited about. Despite a third place finish, the offense scored more runs than their dominant 2018 campaign, and was a top 3-5 offense in all of the majors.


Boston Red Sox players including Mitch Moreland, Craig Kimbrel, William Cuevas and Sandy Leon congratulate each other after a win at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 2018.  Photo in the    public domain

Boston Red Sox players including Mitch Moreland, Craig Kimbrel, William Cuevas and Sandy Leon congratulate each other after a win at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 2018. Photo in the public domain

The only problem is none of those players are pitchers. The Sox finished last season with a 4.70 ERA, 18th in the majors and the worst ERA for a team over .500. Most people were quick to judge the bullpen, the weak link on the 2018 team, but as the season wore on it was apparent the rotation was just as bad, if not worse. With no big new additions and Chris Sale now out for the year, it looks rough from a pitching perspective, especially when you consider the team’s cap space for the next year.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they have a brand new GM built to deal with limited cap space. Chaim Bloom, formerly of the Rays front office, has spent his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays, where low attendance keeps their spending power at a minimum. Despite this, Bloom and his team have built a strong roster capable of making the postseason on a wild card bid this year. Now, Sox fans can hope that Bloom can make the best of his restrictions here in Boston.

So will this team be as dominant as it was in 2018. Can they see a championship soon? I don’t believe so, especially with the Yankees looking as strong as they are. After a year or two of recovery time, fueled by some smart moves by the young exec, I would think this team could sneak into the wild card or even go toe to toe with the assuredly World Series contending Yankees.

Boston Celtics, NBA

We finally advance to teams with seasons currently suspended. The Celtics have always had youth and positivity since the blockbuster trade with the Nets in 2014, providing the C’s with a lion’s share of picks, two of which are developing into young stars before our eyes (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum).


Kyrie Irving plays for the Boston Celtics in 2017.  Photo in the    public domain

Kyrie Irving plays for the Boston Celtics in 2017. Photo in the public domain

Despite not having a championship to their name since 2008 (seems like forever ago, I know) the Celtics are in the playoffs every year, missing out on an NBA Finals trip in 2018 by one game and an awful offensive night from the team. Last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals beatdown from the Milwaukee Bucks was humbling, but a point guard change of Kemba Walker for Kyrie Irving has really changed the culture of the team. They sit at No. 3 in the East with a 3-2 combined record against the teams above them in the standings. If this year ever finishes up, a trip to the NBA Finals is not out of the question.

Coach Brad Stevens thrives on an underdog mentality, where he took the Butler Bulldogs to their only two Final Fours in history. He has crescendoed that at the pro level as well, outperforming expectations and getting All-Star level talent out of players like Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart. Despite not having a top 15 player in the league on the roster, Stevens has this team focused on their goal of the program’s 18th title and in the coming years don’t be surprised if they get it.

Boston Bruins, NHL

Not really much to say here. Despite a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals loss last year, this Bruins team looks poised to make another run at the Cup if the season is to continue. Last year’s team finished second in the Eastern Conference with 107 total points in 82 games played. This year to date, they have earned 100 points in just 70 games, and have the best record in the league at 44 wins, 14 losses, and 12 overtime losses.


Patrice Bergeron plays for the Boston Bruins in 2016.  Photo in the    public domain

Patrice Bergeron plays for the Boston Bruins in 2016. Photo in the public domain

The top line of this team was a major factor of their struggles in the playoffs, but the play of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak in the regular season this year and last cannot be dismissed. Pastrnak and Marchand are both top 6 in the league in points scored, at 95 and 87, respectively. With offensive powerhouses like these, especially as each is locked under contract for another 2- 5 years, it’s hard to imagine this team not making a deep run in the playoffs again.

The play of goalie Tuukka Rask is something worth noting as well. The keeper is tops in the league in goals against average with 2.12, and is second in both shutouts (five) and save percentage (92.9%). The 2020 All-Star is a force to be reckoned with in net and seeing as he is under contract for another year, the Bruins look to stay competitive into the future.

So all in all, despite the losses of franchise heads Tom Brady and Mookie Betts, the reputation of Boston as a championship city shouldn’t diminish significantly. While it may mean a few down years for the two teams most responsible for trophies this century, there’s still a lot to look forward to for each team in Beantown.


Jonathan Synott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jonathan.synott@uconn.edu.

Leave a Reply