The offseason is a time for reflection. It's a time to think about the players and situations that put your team in a position to win, and the things your team did wrong that left them a play or two away from winning the Lombardi Trophy.
Football is a game of emotional inches. You win some Super Bowls by a few points, you lose some Super Bowls by a few points. A safety in the first quarter ends up determining the entire conclusion of the game. A receiver catches a potential game-winning football, but can't hold on to it. The little quick hits of pain in the hearts of Patriot Nation are the emotional inches that we'll reflect on.
The concept of counter-expectation is key. When you begin a new season, you expect to play well. When you advance to the Super Bowl, you expect to win. When your expectations are ultimately thwarted, that's when counter-expectation sets in. You begin thinking of the weaknesses in your team that finally got exposed to sunlight.
This is a very special offseason for teams and fans alike. The free agency pool is loaded with guys who have the ability to complete teams that are a piece or two away from a title, and the draft is stacked with players who will dramatically alter franchises all across the league.
Will Bill Belichick use this opportunity to fix the inches of daylight that came between him and the trophy?
The Giants were able to rely on their third option receiver to make the biggest play of the year. Think about that. It's startling. A defense can successfully shut down the Giants' two most elite receivers, and Eli Manning can still count on another guy making a 38-yard catch in smothering coverage.
That's how good the Giants are. Their strengths ended up defining our weaknesses. They have a third option receiver who can make that catch, but we didn't have a first option receiver who could make that catch. They could hurt our quarterback's shoulder, but we couldn't affect their quarterback at all. They could force us to play at their tempo, but we couldn't force them to do anything.
So what now? Free agents? The draft? Yes and yes.
How about trades? Possibly. The NFL really isn't a trading league. Franchises generally build themselves up through free agents and draft picks. But the trade list is still vital; it gives an impression of what your team lacks, and your dream scenarios for filling those holes.
These are the 6 non-free agents that I would most like to see on the Patriots.