In a reality check for fans, the New England Patriots face an uncertain future. The Pats lost this past Sunday to the Miami Dolphins, 22-12, bringing the team’s record to 6-8 and closing the casket on its playoff hopes for the first time since 2008.
This season was unique in many ways. The Patriots started the year with someone not named Brady as quarterback for the first time in 20 years, and Covid-19 loomed over the entire NFL all season long. New starting quarterback Cam Newton missed a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending champions, after he tested positive for Covid, and the Pats had a league high of eight players opt not to play at all this year due to concerns about the virus.
No fans were allowed at any of the games, which didn’t help the team’s cause, since Gillette Stadium is one of the loudest venues in the league.
Eastham resident Dean Frodel has been a Patriots season ticket holder for 35 years. He’s seen every NFL team play the Pats, but this year, for the first time, he wasn’t able to attend a single game.
“I understood the seriousness of the health concerns, so it didn’t disappoint me,” he said. Frodel said he opted to keep his tickets and move this year’s payment to next year, when fans are hoping to safely attend games again.
Frodel said that team owner Robert Kraft has always looked out for the fans. In 1985, the year he first got his season tickets, the Patriots finished with an 11-5 record and lost the Super Bowl to the Chicago Bears. Over the next 10 years, the team began to decline and suffered some losing seasons.
Frodel said he remembers when he thought about selling the season tickets during the ’90s, no one would make an offer.
“They used to have only one gate open at a game,” he said. “I couldn’t sell the tickets then because the team was so bad. Then, everything changed.”
In the 1996-97 season, the team lost the Super Bowl for a second time, and the future was uncertain. But in the 2001-02 season, with Tom Brady as quarterback, the team won its first title and became the best team in football for the next 20 years.
Frodel’s patience paid off.
“Kraft never really raised the prices,” he said. “They were the best team in football, and the prices only went up from $125 to $135 per seat.”
Throughout the 2000s, Frodel brought his sons, Colby and Cade, to the games, and they witnessed multiple playoff and Super Bowl victories.
But on Sunday, Dec. 20, the three sat at home watching the Patriots’ season slip away, with different opinions of what to do at the quarterback position going forward.
“I think we haven’t seen enough of Stidham,” Colby said. He was talking about Jarrett Stidham, the 24-year-old backup quarterback for the Pats, who some fans have wanted to see take over the starting job.
Younger brother Cade said he thinks the team should stick with Cam Newton, who is 31, next season and build a better team around him. The Pats don’t have many playmakers on offense, which has also contributed to low scoring totals in multiple games.
Newton has been a mixed bag all year, sending fans on the proverbial rollercoaster of emotions. He’s shown flashes of the athleticism that he used to display regularly for the Carolina Panthers, but he’s also shown signs of age and injury. His throwing ability is clearly not what it once was.
Dean thinks it might be worth it to seek a rookie quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft and develop that player into the next star passer.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady is enjoying life in the sun playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dean said he watches the Bucs games each week to keep tabs on how Brady is playing.
Brady, the longtime Patriots savior, has led Tampa Bay to a 9-5 record and a potential playoff berth. So far, the quarterback is winning the Coach Belichick vs. Brady contest.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Dean said of the Patriots. Neither do most fans.
The Frodels do agree that Brady will find success down south.
“Brady will win a Super Bowl in the next two years,” said Colby.