Interesting point on Belichick's talent in NE. If it seems as though there's been a quantum shift since the SB run, it's because there has been.
And not just because savvy vets like Ty Law, Troy Brown, and Tedy Bruschi have been put to pasture.
Since the 2004 season (the last of the Cheatriot's three "dynastic" SB wins) Patriots drafts
have seemingly favored quantity over quality. While this may make draftniks drool (the mere accumulation of early round picks being the end in itself for them), resultant rebuilding has not ensued: they're very young on both sides of the ball, QB and RB aside, and yet have shown little growth on defense, and had an offense predicated on Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss. One of those tripod legs is gone now, so let's all guess what happens, K?
Now, some may point to the loss of so many coordinators (Crennel, Weis, McDaniels, Mangini, etc.). While that's a fair point, it's also true of ANY head coach with longevity and success in the NFL, including Cowher, Schottenheimer, Holmgren, to mention just a few recent coaching trees. And of course, Scott Pioli defected from NE fold as personnel director to helm the KC spot. But if you look at subsequent Chiefs drafts
, even with the Chiefs selecting at the top of the order, the case has to be made that there are some big question marks in those drafts. Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles in R2 and R3 can't hide the fact that Glenn Dorsey at 1.5 looks like a pile of shite, and Branden Albert at 1.15 was way overhyped. Maybe more of the 2008-09 draft picks will distinguish themselves in time, but so far this resembles a shotgun approach where quantity is... oh wait, where does that sound familiar? The desperate post-2005 Patriots. We should just call any team that drafts a dozen guys and hopes for the best to be using the Patriots Method.
IMO, one overlooked factoid in all this has been the death of Steve Belichick
, who died in November of 2005 and literally wrote the book on scouting. Huh. So, Belichick has all these really impressive drafts right up until the old man dies, then it's just this shotgun approach. Coincidental?
Not saying Belichick's not a smart guy. He's still a good coach, has a system that seems to just run with gyroscopes and autopilots and still makes most every post season. Kudos for the brutal thoroughness, you effin' robot. But the problem as I see it, beyond personnel gaffes, is that Belichick's impenetrable hubris has made him blindly overconfidence. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to any organizational leader is too much success. Tomlin's corrective 2009 season may, in that regard, have been a better long-term tonic than a playoff season.
IMO, Belichick's success from 2001-07 relied ultimately on three factors. One, the biggest draft day gift in history, Tom Brady, the kid no one wanted because no one knew jack about him, the perfect embodiment of Belichick's offensive vision. No Brady, no SB rings, period. Two, he had the right mix of wily vets to young talent to steady the early Patriot iterations, many of whom were gone the year they lost to the Giants. Tedy Bruschi might never have been the greatest athlete per se, but he could set a defense, and he knew how to be in the right spot at the right time. Three, Randy Moss. Once the decline had set in, the Patriots still pulled the coup of the decade and got the disgruntled Moss the hell out of hell for the equivalent of a Pez dispenser and some shiny baubles. The defense was starting to show signs of aging, but it was solid enough that the Pats' 2007 offense, which just sang, could take them to an undefeated season and the SB. With Moss again disgruntled, and maybe a bit slower than he once was, you have a team predicated on Tom Brady. That's not a winning formula, no matter how great Brady may still be.
And again, getting Moss was a mixed blessing. The acquisition created an offensive juggernaut, but by hiding a multitude of emerging weaknesses, it fed the overconfidence without ever providing a natural succession. (If you want to have a smooth transition in the Colts offense, you better have a Reggie Wayne ready to take the reins when Marvin Harrison retires; etc.)
I'd make some parallels between Belichick's overconfidence and recent military strategy, but no one wants to read that, and everyone can likely infer where I'd be going anyway.