Bill Belichick wears two hats in New England — head coach and general manager. For a long time, it seemed like much of what Belichick touched as a GM turned to gold (often with the help of Tom Brady). There's been a lot less gold of late, though.

Instead, the Patriots (6-8) are in the midst of their worst season in decades. Brady's gone. New England has nothing to play for in the season's final two weeks, and it doesn't have a whole lot in the cupboard as far as young, promising players go. Decision-making is of course about more than just Belichick, but as a collective, the Patriots' management of their quarterback future, along with draft and free agent decisions, has been less than stellar.

NFL rosters turn over a lot year to year, so this isn't a breakdown of every small move but rather the big ones

that have New England looking at a few years that won't look too familiar to modern Patriots fans.

MORE: The Patriots' AFC East future looks bleak behind Bills, Dolphins, even Jets

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Quarterback moves

    Sept. 2, 2017: Patriots trade Jacoby Brissett to Colts for receiver Phillip DorsettOct. 30, 2017: Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers for 2018 second-round pick April 27, 2019: Patriots draft Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round out of AuburnMarch 20, 2020: Tom Brady signs with BuccaneersMarch 24, 2020: Patriots sign Brian HoyerJuly 8, 2020: Patriots officially sign Cam Newton

    The easy contrast here is the Patriots with Brady and the Patriots without Brady. And yes, that's cause for a lot of the struggle that New England has endured in 2020. Brady covered up a lot of ills by being the greatest to ever do it.

    But the fall off at quarterback in New England started years before Brady left town. In August 2017, the Patriots had two legitimate backup quarterbacks in Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. By November of that year, they had neither. 

    Maybe the reports from the time about Brady wanting Jimmy G out of town are true, and maybe they aren't. But whatever the exact reason, Belichick and the Pats traded away two potential future starters in less than two months. 

    New England tried to find a potential Brady replacement in the 2019 fourth round with Stidham, but he's underwhelmed so far in occasional opportunity. 

    Finally, Brady left. Whether the Patriots were truly prepared for it or not, it put them in a tough spot. Philip Rivers agreed to sign with the Colts at about the same time. Teddy Bridgewater was close to a multi-year deal with the Panthers. There wasn't an obvious, easy replacement.

    Signing Cam Newton was expected to create competition with Stidham, but Newton took and held the starting job pretty easily. New England could've signed a different reclamation project in Jameis Winston, but there's no telling if that would've went any better with limited receiving weapons. Instead of having the G.O.A.T. to make everyone around him better, the Patriots were stuck with a declining QB without enough help around him.

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    Draft picks

    The Patriots didn't pick in the first or second rounds in 2017. These are their first and second round selections from 2018-2020, with overall pick number listed in parentheses.

      2018: T Isaiah Wynn (23); RB Sony Michel (31); CB Duke Dawson (56)2019: WR N'Keal Harry (32); CB Joejuan Williams (45)2020: S Kyle Dugger (37)

      In a league where running backs are a dime a dozen and receivers are more important than ever, Belichick took a running back in the first round and appears to have whiffed on his lone early-round wideout selection. He also went with Dugger in 2020 as a versatile defender from a small school rather than take a potentially more impactful player like Jalen Hurts.

      The Patriots haven't made up for the struggles in the early rounds by finding many late-round gems. Damien Harris, a 2019 third-round pick, may turn out to be a better running back than Michel. Stidham should at least hang around as a backup QB. And it's probably unfair to make too many judgments on 2020 selections. 

      What's clear is that the Patriots have occasionally traded away high draft picks for more immediate help but then not made up for the lack in early-round picks with later-round impact selections. New England's poor record in 2020 will have it picking as high as it has in a long time, so maybe that'll help.

      The Patriots do own both their first- and second-round picks in 2021, and Belichick will likely have to hit on both of those to get the ship moving back in the right direction.

      MORE: DK Metcalf's draft, revisited

      (Getty Images)

      Free agent signings

      The Patriots haven't made huge inroads to free agency in recent years. Many of their signings have been of the bargain-bin mold, although it's fair to say not a ton have hit. Picking up both McCourty brothers (in Devin's case, re-signing him rather than letting him leave) has certainly boosted the New England secondary alongside 2017 big-money signing Stephon Gilmore. 

      Gilmore and the McCourtys are the last main successes. In 2018, the Patriots wanted an additional pass rush with Adrian Clayborn, but he recorded only 2.5 sacks in one year with the Pats. Antonio Brown was a low-risk, high-reward signing in 2019 that didn't work. Newton has been mostly bad in 2020. 

      Much of New England's money in recent years went to keeping players around from teams that were successful, a logical enough strategy. But with Brady's contract gone and a number of expiring contracts after the 2020 season, 2021 free agency could be crucial for Belichick. If he can hit the Patriots' signings like Gilmore and the McCourty brothers, it could go a long way.