As the Kansas City Chiefs celebrated their second straight trip to the Super Bowl, and as the Buffalo Bills sadly walked off the field, Tony Romo praised the losing team for their effort and season. The Bills, perennial losers for decades until recently, have found their franchise core between Josh Allen, Sean McDermott, and Brandon Beane. Sunday evening was a tough loss, but the future is bright for Bills mafia.
Then Romo had to throw some salt in the wounds of Buffalo loyalists by slipping in a prediction that the New England Patriots would find their way back to the AFC Championship Game next season. Sneaky, Tony. Sneaky.
That may have been Romo's boldest claim of the night. The Patriots were not a good football team by any measure this season. They finished third in the AFC East at 7-9. They were one of the worst offenses in the league outside of their run game. They were not much better defensively. And the Cam Newton experiment failed spectacularly, leaving the team without a starting quarterback for the time being.
No starting quarterback means there is no shortcut for the Patriots to get back into contention. If the team's skill position players were above-average, then perhaps a middling QB or a stopgap option like Ryan Fitzpatrick could get the job done, but that is not the case at all. The receiving and running back group for New England ranks among the worst in the league. Even with names like Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung returning to the fold defensively, New England has glaring issues on the defensive line and at linebacker that, similar to quarterback, would be very difficult to fix in one offseason.
But, as Romo points out, Belichick's organization has a lot of cap space to work with. New England is slated to have $57 million available heading into the offseason. That opens doors that were closed at this time last year to fix certain issues. Like quarterback. Nearly $60 million is more than enough to absorb a big contract in a trade, say like that of Matthew Stafford. Or Aaron Rodgers, if that particular situation goes south in a hurry.
There is a future in which Romo is right and the Patriots execute a series of moves over the next six months that gives them a chance to retake the driver's seat in the AFC. It is just hard to see that coming to fruition. Belichick does not like to take big swings on the trade market, especially when there's a lot of money involved. It's more likely he trades a sixth-round pick to Jacksonville for Gardner Minshew than giving up the farm for Stafford, and the supporting cast of the team is not and will not be good enough to hold up a league-average QB in a playoff push,.
This team just has a lot of cracks that cannot be mended in one fell swoop. It would take a miracle of an offseason (hitting on every draft pick and finding a good starting QB for cheap) for New England to even get back into the playoffs, much less end up in the final four.
Romo seems omniscient at times, but if he's right here, his talents are wasted in the realm of football. A man with that kind of foresight into future threads of fate could be used for the greater good elsewhere.