First it was about answering the age-old sports debate: Bill Belichick or Tom Brady?
Then it was the idea that the New England dynasty would continue to chug right along toward another AFC East title and playoff berth under the direction of a smiling, energetic, reborn QB star named Cam Newton.
That storyline, though, was short-lived and poorly researched, soon replaced amid ugly on-field struggles by Tank for Trevor talk. Short-term losses investing in long-term gains.
But wait, diehard supahfans and In Bill We Trust disciples still held strong to an unlikely late-season run at the postseason.
That dream died an agonizing death at the hands of Deshaun Watson and the Texans.
So, now what? What is Patriot Nation left to do with its 4-6 football team?
Here’s a novel idea – which is certainly better for the Boston sports world and our planet than a novel virus – maybe the 2020 football season in New England, for the first time in decades, simply doesn’t have some overbearing, season-long theme and isn’t destined for the history books.
Maybe, just maybe, this fall is a simple slate of 16 football games put forth on the weekly basis for your viewing pleasure (angst??!!) in a transitional season played in the midst of a pandemic. (Boy, that’s a basic yet overwhelming thought.)
Not every TV show you watch has to be the first episode in binge-worthy, overanalyze-it-with-your-friends new series.
Not every movie is the opening installment in a big-screen trilogy set to define a cinematic universe.
Not every book must be part of a page-turning boxed set with fans breathlessly waiting for the latest installment.
Nope. Sometimes there are just one-offs, stand-alones with no direct ties to the past or the future.
Better yet, sometimes our entertainment options are not award-winning, pop culture-altering or -- sorry to say this with six games to play for Bill Belichick’s boys this season – remarkable in any significant way.
Sometimes you finish a TV show and while you didn’t turn it off half way through you aren’t clamoring for another episode. It filled a 40-minute viewing void in your life and you move on.
There are movies you watch, semi-enjoy and soon forget.
Books that you keep reading but drop in the local library donation bin shortly after flipping the final page, never to be pondered again.
That’s the reality of the 2020 Patriots. The first season without Tom Brady leading the championship show in Foxborough is probably going to finish rather insignificantly, notable mostly for its mediocrity.
The Patriots aren’t about to hit the jets on some storybook, return-from-the-grave playoff run. (Even if the Ravens or some other COVID-19 outbreak pushes the NFL to expand the playoff field to eight teams per conference.)
Nor is New England becoming the Jets, trending toward a top-5 draft pick that would be the highest ever during Belichick’s tenure in Trophy Town, a building block upon which the next great Patriots teams might be founded upon.
Nope, a Patriots team that’s been in just about every game it’s played in this season yet found a way to win just four of them will probably play out the 2020 slate in disappointingly mediocre fashion.
New England will likely finish in the middle of the standings pack in the NFL. Not good enough to be in the top third of the league and make the playoffs. Not bad enough to sink to the bottom third of the league and collect the high-end draft day prize.
The Patriots are just bad enough, lacking talent just enough to not be a good NFL team.
New England is just good enough, well-coached enough to not be a terrible NFL team.
Stuck in the competitive middle. Mediocre to the core.
So that leaves us with six more games, six more individual episodes of this season, beginning with Sunday’s meeting with rising star Kyler Murray and Cardinals at Gillette Stadium.
Sunday – and each of the ensuing five football fights -- will bring plot twists, emotional highs and desperate lows.
For sports fans, football fans and Patriots followers the next six games will provide 18-plus hours of disjointed entertainment. Six individual stories not necessarily woven into some long-form plot or theme.
They are not part of a championship series. Nor are they part of some lose-at-all-costs plan to rebuild a modern football dynasty.
Both of those ships have sailed.
But that’s OK.
It’s football, Patriots football. It’s entertainment.
And it’s certainly better than politics, COVID-19 and the rest of the real world that surrounds us.
So sit back and enjoy the final six games New England has to play, for whatever they are worth. Even if, in the end, they’re not worth much in the big picture.