What is your view of Belichick the coach vs. Belichick the drafter/talent evaluator?
Stephen: As a coach, Belichick is second to none. His ability to implement a specific game plan each week is unquestionably effective and his best asset. While the defense hasn’t played to the standards of the early dynasty days, that is due to a lack of talent rather than coaching in my opinion. Belichick still showed he can turn nothing into something when the Pats’ young defense grew up last year and was very effective during the second half of the season.
As a talent evaluator, I think Belichick’s resume is good, but not great. He had some great early drafts, selecting stars like Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel and some really good players like Dan Koppen, Ty Warren, Matt Light. However, over the past four or five years, his moves have been questionable. He did pick up Pro Bowl players in Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Meriweather, but he has had a number of high-round busts like Terrence Wheatley, Shawn Crable and Kevin O’Connell. Sometimes I think he can over-analyze and needs to be more flexible with his draft strategy, but when the team has double-digit victories every year, it’s hard to complain.
Jason: Can we just say he’s awesome at both? Belichick’s coaching acumen is beyond reproach, particularly when it comes to defense. In terms of talent evaluation, it’s hard to argue with production. No coach hits on 100 percent of his draft picks, especially when you venture outside the first round or two. Last year’s draft produced more starters for the Patriots than most teams get in two or three years. As many as six of their 2010 draft picks (McCourty, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Spikes, Cunningham and Mesko) project to be starters next year. In 2009, they didn’t make a first round pick and still ended up getting Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Julian Edelman and a few other players who could play a role in 2011 (Butler, Brace, Tate). And lest we forget, he’s doing it all while trading down the draft board to acquire more picks to set the team up to be a powerhouse in the future. Garnering those results while trading down the draft board is nothing short of incredible.
Rick: When I take a look at Bill Belichick, I see him as more of a coach than a talent evaluator. As we saw in 2010, Belichick took a team of young defenders and helped them mature as the season progresses. He always seems to take any guy off of the street and turn them into a good player because of the system that he has put in place. True, he makes questionable calls such as the 4th and 2 against the Colts two years ago, but more often than not, his gambles seem to pay off. He is a decent talent evaluator, but he has made Patriots’ fans shake their heads and wonder a lot the past two seasons. I think he truly misses Scott Pioli. Pioli always seemed to make the right picks for this Patriots’ team and he is doing wonders up in Kansas City. When I remember Belichick in the next 5-10 years, it will be because of his great coaching ability, not his talent evaluations.
Derek: Touting Bill Belichick’s excellence as a coach would just be stating the obvious, so I won’t dive into that half of the question. At the heart of the matter is whether his talent evaluation stacks up to his coaching prowess. I think Belichick nailed the draft through the dynasty years and then hit a lull in the 2006-2008 period. I think he’s come back strong as of late. The thing that you have to remember with the draft is that nobody gets all their picks right. There’s always going to be busts and surprises, and when you look at the full body of Belichick’s work, I think it stands up well compared to the drafting of his peers. In that regard, I suppose you could say that he’s not as good of a talent evaluator as he is a coach, simply because he is such an excellent coach that stands above all others. That’s not necessarily a knock on his evaluation skills, but more of a testament to how amazing of a coach he is.
The final thing worth noting, that some others have already touched on, is Belichick’s penchant for stockpiling draft picks. When you’re as good at wheeling and dealing as he is, it really takes the pressure off your evaluation skills. The draft is a crap-shoot no matter how well-prepared you may be. Belichick always makes sure that he has the most bullets, and I think we’ve really seen the pay-off of those moves the last couple of years.