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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.