The 2008-2009 NFL season for Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots was a long ride for everyone involved. The type of ride that, if it were any other front office personnel and any other head coach, would have sent one into retirement.
In a season plagued with injuries, cast aside by rival fans and media scribes alike, the 2008 New England Patriots responded with an 11-5 record, which saw a brilliant performance over Brett Favre in Matt Cassel's first start since high school, a literal beatdown of the now NFC Champion Cardinals, and above all else, a coaching performance tantamount to the career of Bill Belichick.
Spygate aside, the 2008 Patriots proved that their season was one for the record books—no asterisk needed.
That being said, there are plenty of concerns going into the 2009 season. Perhaps the most glaring concern for the Patriots going into next year on the field is the one left behind before the 2008 season had even started by Asante Samuel. That's right, Patriot Fans. Asante "Get Rich To This" Samuel, the CB who high-tailed it to the highest bidder less than 48 hours after the monumentally disappointing Super Bowl XLII.
At first it was easy to let Samuel go. Patriot Nation knew he was on his way out after SBXLII, and after the dropped pick in said Super Bowl, I'm fairly confident half of the Nation would've packed his bags for him. But watching Cassel and Welker working hard to drop points on the opposition's defense, only to have Deltha O'Neal get burned time after time, really made me want Samuel back in a Patriot uniform.
It should be obvious at this point that the defense is what needs the most improvement for the 2009 Patriots. Starting at CB, and perhaps drafting an adaptable LB-type like Jerod Mayo is a good place to begin. Names like Ray Maualuga and Emmanuel Cook have been coming up in Patriot-related conversations.
Right now, it's hard to speculate exactly who will be available and exactly what moves they'll make but if there's one thing Patriot Nation has learned from 2008, it's to trust in Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick.
The records say it all—no asterisk necessary.