Stop the presses and cue up the hyperventilation: The New England Patriots “lost the offseason.”

Please explain how that’s a new concept or why it should scare the non-bandwagon fan base one whit.

They’ve lost the draft, with perhaps one notable exception named Rob Gronkowski, for the past 15-plus years, too. It’s normal, everyday business for the Patriots, who are content to lose everything except AFC divisional playoff games.

Say what you will about our owner and head coach and their personal lives, but by golly, they don’t get romanced by the statistics-based foolishness that overwhelms every other real-life or fantasy football personnel director on the planet.

There is nothing sexy about the way the Patriots’ front office operates. Nor shall there ever be, so long as the current administration is in place. So every time you or someone like you starts the rumor that someone of Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown’s ilk could be Foxborough bound, please do your family and co-workers a favor and don’t lose your ever-loving mind when it never comes true.

The New York Jets’ acquisition of Bell doesn’t make them an immediate player in anything except the lottery to see who gets that coveted first pick in your summer snake draft. Because those of us back here on Planet Earth realize the J-E-T-S are so bereft of talent that they’ll ride their new workhorse like a dime-swallowing motorized pony in front of a 1978 Kmart.

Lest we forget, the last time the NYJ landed an RB who harbored anything in the neighborhood of Canton credentials, they mined him directly from the Patriots’ roster. They surrounded Curtis Martin with better material than Bell will see when he reports for organized team activities, and it still wasn’t enough to get them over the cusp of contention for anything that matters.

Rather than cry and wring their hands like their much-smaller-than-now nation of support at the time, the Patriots inked a relative B-lister, Antowain Smith, plucked an overachiever from the draft, Kevin Faulk, and won two Super Bowls. Then they rented a Pro Bowler in his twilight, Corey Dillon, and grabbed another ring.

And that was back when you could make the case that running back was actually a significant position in the National Football League. The Pittsburgh Steelers plausibly replaced Bell’s production with James Conner, a third-round draft pick who was only three years on the good side of an MCL tear and cancer treatment.

The Steelers didn’t miss the playoffs this past year because Le’Veon Bell had enough money in the bank to sit out a year and defend his position for making more. They were home in January because they were a wretched road team with a divided locker room, led by one of the most overrated game-day coaches in the galaxy.

Even so, let’s forget that the Patriots already have super soph Sony Michel locked up for at least the next couple years, or that they eons ago cleared up the fact that bubble screens are superior to straight hand-offs in their system. What about all those other guys who slipped away, or were available and allowed to go elsewhere?

What about them? So the Oakland Raiders picked up the unrelated Trent and Antonio Brown. Unless they lured Dante Scarnecchia or Tom Brady, too, I fail to see how that vaults them past Kansas City and Los Angeles in their own division, never mind the AFC as a whole.

Cordarrelle Patterson went to the Chicago Bears. Yawn. He earned his keep as an emergency running back, certainly, and ever since Troy Brown took a few significant repetitions in the secondary we Patriot fans have a soft spot for guys who perform tasks that aren’t in their signed job description.

Again, here in the real world, he was a distant second to Matthew Slater in special teams importance, and his look-at-me antics made him an uneasy fit for Bill Belichick. Not to mention that he was almost useless as a receiver.

Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions celebrated the slow-arriving spring by purchasing Flowers (Trey, that is) and inking the overvalued, one-and-done-in-South-Beach Danny Amendola as a preemptive strike to keep him from returning to the only team on which he truly fits.

To that, I will simply shrug and allow that organization’s failure to ever play in a Roman Numeral Game and the overall ineptitude of Belichick disciples as head coaches to speak for themselves.

It would take a month to go through the list of even better players who left town during this incomparable 18-year stay at the top. We all know their names, and we all know who in our circle of friends shrieked that the sky was falling every time.

Assuming the return and health of a few key components, next year’s Patriots will do what has become second nature. They will oh-so-quietly sign a smattering of misfit free agents. They will use their stockpiled draft picks to land new pieces that don’t trip anyone’s excitement meter.

Then they will lose a meaningless game or two as a road favorite in September, October and/or November, inviting forecasts of their impending doom from everyone except those who have actually paid attention since the turn of the century.

Which will morph into another AFC East title and a run at that seventh Lombardi Trophy.

There. Now you’re free to worry about politics, potholes and other more important stuff. Win your own offseason. Enjoy the championship afterglow, again, and let an endless volume of recent history be your north star.

— Kalle Oakes spent 27 years in the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.

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