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The Patriots Way

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Belichick inherited a tremendously talented team when he took over the reigns in 2000. The Patriots had only had one losing season in the previous six years! Parcells and Pete Carroll left a solid foundation for Belichick to work with.

Belichick won the superbowl in only his 2nd year as a head coach (2001). It is fair to say he won with Parcells' and Carroll's players, not his own.

Belichick's drafting strategy is not one designed to improve the team, it is designed to prevent the team from sliding backwards. Take the 2011 draft. The Patriots had two 1st, two 2nd, and two 3rd round picks. What did they end up with? A project OT (with "huge upside", but still a project), a 2nd round DB, two running backs, and a backup QB. All "good" players, but not a single one that would be considered an "impact" player or "difference maker." In the 2011 draft the Patriots treaded water.

Now when you are constantly at the top of your division and in the playoffs, there's nothing wrong with treading water, but we should be honest and point out a couple of problems with Belichick's strategy.

(1) This is not a strategy for building a winner, it is a strategy for maintaining one. The Parcells' way built the team. The Patriots' way is a maintenance strategy, not a building or improvement strategy.

(2) The Patriots have had little competition from their own division over this time period. The fact is over the last decade the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have been (to put it kindly) loser franchises. The Patriots have played in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, which means just maintaining the status-quo was good enough to get them into the playoffs every year. Something recently has changed that:

Jets 28, Patriots 21 - 2011 playoff game result

The Jets are a legitimate player in the division now. Plus, they are aggresive about getting better. Treading water won't be good enough for the Patriots if they expect to compete with the Jets. The Jets have raised the bar, now the Patriots have got to raise their game to the next level to stay competitive. Will they? If their 2011 draft tells the story, then no they won't.

Which brings us to the Falcons. The Patriots way got us to 13-3 last year; it got us to a certain level, but it wouldn't take us beyond that level. We're also in a no-holds-barred, knock-down, drag-out fight with the Saints. The Saints stepped it up a level in the draft. Our strategy needs to take that into account. We needed to step it up a level. Is it a risk? Sure, but playing it safe (like the Patriots did in the draft this year) is a prescrition for being the #2 team in the NFC South.

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Personally I believe their philosophy is two fold;

#1 Get the best value for your pick and don't over-extend by reaching for players.

They have the uncanny ability to find players who fit their mold all over the draft.

#2 The more the merrier.

The Pats stockpile picks like a survivalist stockpiles ammo. Every year they have plenty of extra picks and use those picks to bring in players they can evaluate and determine if they are of Patriot caliber. Having MORE quality candidates gives them the ability to weed out those who aren't Patriot material.

Sure, every team evaluates players similarly but most teams bring in undrafted free agents to fill up training camp. The Pats are doing it with multiple 2nd, 3rd, 4th round draft picks and not as many undrafted free agents. They set their bar higher by having their camp brimming talent from the get-go due to the number of high to mid level drafted players they bring in.

It's not a question of building vs maintaining. It's stock piling talented players and finding out who rises to the top via attrition.

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I heard something similar to this being discussed on the radio. Their last playoff win was 2007. There last Superbowl win was 2004. Time to take the crown off.

They hoard picks and get a lot of depth players or versatile players that fit their schemes so they maintain a certain level of competition but obviously it has been a while since they have had the right personnel to compete with the best.

Once they fill the DE spot there are no glaring weaknesses and they have an impact player who very well may light it up in the post season.

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