Obviously, the 2020 season did not go the way the Patriots had hoped.
Finishing 7-9, it was the first time they missed the playoffs since 2008 and was their worst record since going 5-11 in 2000.
But, this may have been a good thing for the Patriots going forward, particularly as it relates to Bill Belichick.
This isn’t to say he doesn’t change the way he does things after winning seasons, because he’s always looking to get better, but for the first time in a very long time the coach has given off the impression he will adapt and look to change the way he does things moving forward.
“I certainly learned a lot as a coach,” Belichick said Monday in his opening statement during his season-ending video conference. “I had to coach and do things that I’ve never done before, do things differently, and I learned a lot about our players.
“… I think we all benefitted from [social justice meetings], and again, things that we’ve done this year that will help us going forward. That would certainly fall into that category – probably at the top of that category.”
In terms of specific examples, when speaking last week Belichick indicated things may be changed with rookies in terms simplifying their roles at first before before adding more to their plates.
“Going forward, I think we’ll be able to do a better job of identifying and teaching them how they’ll be able to help us the most,” he said. “In some cases, we probably over-taught them or expanded their role to maybe a place where either it turned out we didn’t really need it, or it just added to the volume of things they needed to get and we can trim that back a little bit and be more efficient with it.”
This would seem to apply to younger players as well, so maybe the team will be able to get more from these players going forward than in the past.
It also appears like things in 2021 will be closer to the way they were in 2020 than before in terms of virtual meetings, more time away from the facility, etc. Belichick acknowledged Monday how much more value there is with meetings in-person, but he will be able to take what occurred this year to make sure he gets more out of them next year.
The entire league was in the same boat this year with it all being new to everyone, but now Belichick can use what he learned to get a leg up on the rest of the NFL.
“I’m going to try to do whatever I can to help our football team in whatever way I can,” he said. “So, things that I’ve learned I’ll try to apply and maximize the benefit from them and try to take the experience that I’ve had, whether from year one, to whatever the years were in between, to certainly this last year – because things were this year probably closer to what they’re going to be next year, if I had to guess – and how to best utilize those.”
It also felt like there were more coaching breakdowns than in any other recent year, especially when it came to substituting (it came up again Sunday when the team only had 10 players on the field for a punt return in the first quarter).
Based on how many times issues like this occurred over the season, it seems like this will be a priority to not let it happen again.
It remains to be seen how the Patriots will look next year, but it’s pretty certain Belichick will be better than he was in 2020.