Type to search

Articles & Analysis

Belichick: the NFL’s Leading Producer of Silk Purses

Bill Belichick on sideline during Super Bowl LIII

Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Even the most dedicated Belichick haters are largely conceding that it can’t be all luck, or all due to Tom Brady – the man in the hoodie is a genius at bringing out the talent in his personnel.

I’ve been hot on a theme that great coaches find ways to get the most out of players – including turning seemingly ordinary guys into stars. Bill Belichick is a master at turning sows’ ears into silk purses.

Below is a look just at some of Belichick’s “skill positions” successes. I assume he’s done similarly well with linemen and such, and I’m sure if I followed the Pats closely other rags-to-riches stories would be evident. (Yes, only one is non-white – and his name is White – make of that what you will.)

Wes Welker with Houston Texans

Wes Welker watches during warm ups before a game against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Wes Welker

Pre-BB: 5’8 ¾”, 195#; Texas Tech, subpar combine-type numbers, 4.65 dash time; undrafted in 2004; 2X 1st team All-Big 12.

Under BB: 5× Pro Bowl; 2× First-team All-Pro; 2× Second-team All-Pro; 3× NFL receptions leader.

Julian Edelman - New England Patriots

Julian Edelman (11) during warm-ups before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Edelman

Pre-BB: 5’10”, 198#; Kent State quarterback, subpar combine-type numbers, 4.52 dash time; seventh-round pick in 2009; 2X 1st team All-Big 12.

Under BB: 3x 90+ catches; 3x 970+ yards; 3x 6 or more TDs; 206 punt returns, 12.6 average; 2nd most receptions in playoff history; Super Bowl LIII MVP.

Chris Hogan and Tom Brady

Chris Hogan

Pre-BB: 6’1”, 221#; one year of football at Monmouth as a QB, receiver, and cornerback; decent Pro Day numbers, 4.50 speed; undrafted in 2011; 5 years (but with only 6 starts) with 49ers, Dolphins, Giants, and Bills.

Under BB: From 2016-18, has 28 starts, from 34 to 38 catches, from 439 to 680 yards, from 3 to 5 TDs; started 5 post-season games, 26 catches, 18.6 average, 4 TDs; started in last two Super Bowls, with 6 catches for 128 yards and 1 TD.

James White

James White

Pre-BB: 5’9 1/8”, U of Wisconsin; subpar combine numbers, 4.57 dash speed; 2× Second-team All-Big Ten; drafted in fourth round by Pats in 2014.

Under BB: though an infrequent starter over 5 seasons, he’s caught 40, 60, 56, and 87 passes in last 4 years; has scored 7 rushing TDs and 19 passing TDs; has 54 post-season catches for 444 yards and 3 TDs.

Matt Cassel

Matt Cassel

Under BB: after 3 years of minimal play, he started 15 games in 2008, compiling a 10-5 record, threw for 3,693 yards, 63.4% completions, 21 TDs, 89.4 passer rating.

After BB: in 10 subsequent years with 6 other teams, he only once had a better passer rating, and went 28-46 as a starter.

Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola

Pre-BB: 5’11”, 190#, Texas Tech; Second-team All-Big 12 (2007); subpar combine numbers, 4.58 dash speed; undrafted in 2008; 4 years as a second-stringer for Rams.

Under BB: from 2013-17, had 29 starts with the Pats, with 3x 54+ catches, 3x 600+ yards, returned 85 punts for a 9.7 yard average, and also returned 34 kickoffs.

Danny Woodhead

Danny Woodhead

Pre-BB: 5’8”, 200# RB, Chadron State, no combine numbers; undrafted in 2004; 4 years a second-stringer for Rams.

Under BB: with Pats from 2010-12; capable backup RB, with 250 carries for a 4.8 average; caught 92 passes for 10.7 average.

Postscript

I’m eager to see what LaFleur and Mike Pettine are able to get out of Oren Burks. He’s got plenty of athleticism, but his first season failed to match the hype. He played fine in preseason games, then disappeared during the regular season.

Seldom has a player been more badly mishandled than was Aaron Jones by Mike McCarthy. And he excelled anyway! I’ll be looking to see how Aaron performs with LaFleur at the helm.

There’s also a good deal of talent and physical skills among the team’s flotilla of young receivers. Belichick would no doubt turn one or two into bona fide stars. Will LaFleur and his staff be able to do the same?

Note: Tomorrow I’ll feature Belichick’s managing skills, which are as impressive as his coaching skills.

Tags:
Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

    1

21 Comments

  1. MJ February 14, 2019

    Pre Bellichick: 5’9”, 150lb
    Under Bellichick: 6’3”, 243lb

  2. Stiggy February 14, 2019

    The players mentioned in this article are lethal slot recievers… like cobb used to be before he unfortunately broke down.

    You can have quite the potent offense when you utilize the entire field. Something the pack hasn’t excelled in since the unfortunate finley injury.

    On a tangent… 2 packer greats lost prematurely to neck injuries (Collins and Sharpe) and 2 likely packer legends lost to neck injuries (finley and shields)… 3 of them would have all played together.

    As much as we shit on Ted (rightfully in may cases) that is 3 pro bowl and borderline all pro players lost in their primes during Rodgers prime…. it sucks to think what could have been

    1. PF4L February 14, 2019

      Broke down?

      I think you meant….got paid

      1. Stiggy February 14, 2019

        The two could correlate most certainly. Offseasons conditioning is a lot less important with a brinks truck guaranteed… awful difficult to spend that money during the season and a lot more fun to spend it than focus on conditioning and strength in the off season

  3. Cheesemaker February 14, 2019

    Don’t forget about Lawrence Guy!

    1. PF4L February 14, 2019

      lmao

  4. PF4L February 14, 2019

    What do you notice about those guys? Undrafted, subpar combine metrics.

    I’m cherry picking, but here’s the thing….there is a difference between an athlete, and a football player. this is why track stars, or (basketball and baseball players) don’t always make it in the NFL

    I give credit to something Bill Micheals mentioned awhile back, which rang so true to me. He said, give me one team of athletes, and give me one team of football players, and the team of football players will kick the team of athletes ass every time.

    1. Howard February 14, 2019

      Correct.

      Another example on the Rams is Corey Littleton. I don’t watch a lot of Rams games, but every time I did this year (6 or7) Corey Littleton would make plays with many being impact plays.

      In the Super Bowl Littleton had an Int., Two pass defenses, 6 solo tackles and 4 assisted tackles. During the season I looked up Littleton during the season to see why the Packers missed out drafting him, since the Packers needed LB help. WTF, Littleton went undrafted! Littleton went undrafted in part because of his poor pre draft workouts. Should look at his scouting report. The guy was not projected to make an NFL team, let alone have an impact.

      1. PF4L February 14, 2019

        NFL combines don’t measure heart. That’s maybe why teams spend so much time interviewing, well….some teams anyway.

        Bill Belichick: “I don’t care about the 40, or vertical, i care about what he can give me on the football field.”

        I made that up, but i can see him saying that.

        1. Stiggy February 14, 2019

          That’s mostly true outside of cornerback. Belichick always makes sure he has a durable legit shutdown corner. And he doesnt hesitate to move on from them for the next.

          I’m probably missing some but off the top of my head they have utilized prime revis..prime stefan Gilmore…and prime ty law as centerpieces to their super bowl defenses.

          Bb never cheaps out on his shut down corners.

          1. PF4L February 14, 2019

            Ummmm…..i didn’t say or insinuate he didn’t sign any high profile free agents. Ty Law, Gilmore, Revis are football players

            Yea, i know he will pluck prime free agents and use them for a year, maybe even two, we all know that. What we should have done is plucked Stephon Gilmore when we needed a corner in his prime.

            But then again, we got Jimmy, and Gute and Murphy are smarter than i am.

            In the future, please read my post carefully if you respond to it, i’m somewhat busy and feel like i have to, but i don’t want to have to spend time explaining myself. My post was fairly elementary.

            Not trying to be a dick, but….reading skills..

  5. PF4L February 14, 2019

    Give me guys like Jenkins, Poppinga, Noble, Wahle, Clifton, Tauscher, Wells, Hawk, Martinez, Butler, Sitton, Lang to name a few….give me football players.

    Hell, throw Favre in there, for all his faults, he epitomizes a football player. Ron Wolf didn’t see an immature alcoholic, he saw a football player who needed some work.

    Murphy can destroy everything he touches on this ball club, but he too shall soon pass the way of those underneath him because it’s his turn and it’s deserved. But when all is said and done, i’ll carry on, persevere, and still be a Packer fan who will suffer through the good and the bad, Like i’ve done my whole life.

    So if i laugh at this team, sometimes even disrespect it. It’s not because i’m giving up my fan card, it’s because it has been deserved.

  6. Deepsky February 14, 2019

    The Patriots are a patient offense that relies on the best defensive tendency analysis of any team in the league. Or as Tom Brady called it, the “institutional knowledge of opposing defenses.” They know where your defense is NOT going to be and they use this knowledge to attack with rub routes and pick plays. Ever wonder why no other team ever runs a similar offense to this? No other team is as confident in their play calling. The Patriots don’t believe in stretching the field. They get receivers who are willing to take the punishment.

    What kind of receiver is willing to take the punishment of this type of offense? The type that gets suspended for performance enhancing drugs. Wes Welker, Julien Edelman, Brian Tyms….

    I don’t think any Packers receiver has ever been suspended for peds.

    1. Stiggy February 14, 2019

      I agree… but Gronkowski is the trump card. Edelman killed it the last couple years… but teams still game planned a diminished gronk.

      Top flight teams have top flight tight ends. Look at the tight ends on the packs super bowl rosters and compare them to lance kendricks and washed up graham.

      Pack need a tight end more than anything else on offense.

      1. Cheese February 14, 2019

        The tight ends the Packers had on the Super Bowl Roster were Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree. Nothing special at all. They also had Jermichael Finley and Spencer Havner but those two were on IR the whole time.

        I don’t know what Jimmy Grahams deal was last year but he shouldn’t have sucked that much. Just the year before he had 10 TD’s in Seattle and they made it sound like that was a down year for him. If I recall, Kendricks was a decent tight end with the Rams before he came here too. People thought his production would take a jump since he was coming to play with Rodgers, much like everyone thought would happen with Graham, but that never happened either.

        Finley had his moments but it was only here and there, aside from when he wasn’t dropping the ball. We mostly just got an earful about Finely’s possible potential that never really came to fruition.

        Tight end has never been a focal point of this Packers era. One could argue that’s because they don’t have great tight ends, but even when they have decent TE’s they don’t do anything creative with them anyway. It’s more like a plan B, maybe even a plan C. Whether that changes with LaFleur has yet to be seen. If not, there’s no reason this team should be paying top dollar for a tight end.

        Wow, I just looked at a list of TE contracts and it’s depressing. On average, Graham is the highest paid in the league, making twice as much as Jared Cook. Good job, Russ. Good job.

        1. Ferris February 15, 2019

          Graham’s problem was Mike McCarthy. So was Rodgers’, so was Aaron Jones…I can do this for a while but will stop there.

          1. PF4L February 15, 2019

            I don’t disagree with McCarthy not game planning for the tight end enough sans 2011. But i think Graham’s problems, are just that, Graham’s problems.

            It’s hard to call out a guy as having a problem, it’s not his fault his team over paid and structured his deal so that he receives over 18 million 12 months after signing his deal.

            Personally, we were better off with Cook. Not sure who had their hand in that deal with the rumors of Ball taking over when Ted kept tripping over the waste baskets and walking into walls and talking to the coffee maker..

  7. Ed West February 14, 2019

    Popinga sucked

    1. Cheese February 14, 2019

      He sure did. Hearing him talk smack about Fackrell like he’s going to come out of retirement and whip some ass is laughable. Call it a fluke, and even if it was, Fackrell has more sacks in two games than Poppinga had in his entire career. You’re not as good as you think you were, Pops.

      1. PF4L February 15, 2019

        Listen, those were off the top of my head….as far as Poppinga i think he went to the Bills, and played pretty decent, i could be wrong. I believe i have CTE from my motocross days years back. I’m thinking about filing suit against the AMA. So, i have that going for me.

        That’s my excuse, i have neurological damage.

  8. Kato February 15, 2019

    Totally anecdotal, but everytime I hear or read “Danny Woodhead” I think of the Favre “what should I do” parody video.