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Tom Brady announced Tuesday via social media that he will not be returning to the New England Patriots for the 2020 season. Brady’s new team is yet to be determined, but his 20-year career in New England is finally over.

Rumors were flying around all offseason about the future Hall-of-Famer possibly leaving the team he built into a dynasty. Now that it’s official, though, it’s almost surreal. NFL fans have gotten used to penciling Brady and the Pats into the AFC Championship seemingly every season.

Brady will now get all the attention as he tries to lead another franchise to the promised land, but Bill Belichick still lurks in the AFC. Write off the Patriots all you want with Brady out of the picture. The Belichick machine is still chugging in the northeast, and it’s out to prove that the system will prevail over the superstar.

The Patriots won 12 games last year despite Brady, not because of him

Belichick has proven time and time again that he can succeed without the superstar players leading the charge. He’s even done it without Brady before.

In 2008, Brady missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in week 1. All Belichick did was lead Matt Cassel and the undermanned Pats to an 11-5 record. There’s no question he can do the same in 2020, whoever the starting quarterback turns out to be.

Belichick has always preached a team approach where no single player is more important than the next. That mantra will be proved to be true or false next season with Brady out of the fold.

Brady regressed last season from his typical Pro-Bowl-level production. He completed just 60.8 percent of his passes in 2019, his lowest mark since 2013. Brady also threw just 24 touchdown passes, which marks his second-lowest total in any full season.

The man who doesn’t age finally showed some signs of slowing down last season, and the Patriots still won 12 games. Belichick doesn’t need Brady to win, and he will prove it this season.

The Patriots still have one of the best defenses in the NFL

If the age-old saying “defense wins championships” is in fact true, Patriots fans shouldn’t worry about Brady’s departure. New England still has one of the best defensive groups in the league, if not the best.

Last season, the Patriots led the league in yards allowed with 275.9 per game. They also allowed a league-low 14.1 points per game.

The Patriots’ defense wasn’t just the best at stopping opponents from scoring, they were elite at turning teams over. They had an NFL-leading 25 interceptions last season. Opposing quarterbacks threw an interception once every 21 passes against New England.

Belichick will set out to prove the system wins, not the player

For years people have argued whether the Patriots’ lasting success was mostly due to Belichick’s coaching brilliance or Brady’s mastery at the quarterback position. The truth is you can’t win six Super Bowls without both being the case.

However, Belichick will finally have the opportunity to prove he was the main reason New England was so dominant over the past 20 years. He will embrace this upcoming season as the biggest challenge he has faced since 2008, and that’s bad news for the other AFC teams.

There are still plenty of viable options in the quarterback market to replace Brady. Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton are all options that wouldn’t be downgrades for the Patriots. Belichick will surely end up with a guy he thinks can outperform Brady.

Will the system or the superstar prove to be the cog that turned the Patriots dynasty for years? Belichick will prove he doesn’t need Brady to have a Super-Bowl caliber team in 2020.