All eyes on Bill Belichick as Patriots continue to navigate post-Brady era
When you build the kind of résumé that Bill Belichick has, it makes sense that you would receive a little more attention than the average NFL coach.
Six Super Bowl trophies in a 20-year stretch will do that.
Bill Belichick celebrates after the New England Patriots' win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019.
But this offseason, the attention has a bit of a different feel to it. It has been a bit more skeptical, even critical.
Some of that is understandable when you consider how the 2020 season unfolded, with Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay and immediately winning a championship. Meanwhile, the Patriots struggled with a series of issues – including not having Brady – on the way to a 7-9 finish.
That caused some observers to wonder if Brady was the real engine behind New England’s success, and others pointed toward some potential weaknesses in Belichick’s game.
One of those critics was, perhaps shockingly, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who addressed Belichick’s recent performance in the NFL Draft during an interview on Wednesday.
"In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can't do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don't feel we've done the greatest job the last few years, and I really hope, and I believe, I've seen a different approach this year," Kraft said.
Former NFL lineman Jeff Saturday found that criticism to be ludicrous, and he said so on ESPN’s "Get Up."
"Do we care about winning the draft, or do we care about winning games and Super Bowls?" he said.
Bart Scott, though, responded with a more critical take on Belichick.
"He has done a horrible job [in the draft]," he said. "And now it’s going to be lonely … because when No. 12 leaves, you’re going to come back to the mere mortals, and now you’re going to have to build a team."
NFL.com writer Gil Brandt wrote that it is crucial for the Patriots to turn things around and nail the 2021 draft.
"They've been their own worst enemy, as well, in recent drafts; perhaps their most accomplished draftee over the past two years is punter Jake Bailey, a 2019 fifth-rounder who was first-team All-Pro last season. Let's see if Dave Ziegler – promoted to replace Nick Caserio, who left for the Texans, as New England's personnel chief – can help further improve a team forced to embark on a heavy free-agent spending spree to fill roster holes."
LaVar Arrington went further on "First Things First," asserting that all of this has Belichick, if not quite on the hot seat, at least feeling a little bit warm.
"That might sound crazy for some people," Arrington said. "But Bill Belichick, he has to have a good season this year. And you know why? Because there are whispers. ‘It was Tom. It was always Tom. It couldn’t have been anything else but Tom.’
"And Bill Belichick has to show before he gets too far away from Tom Brady leaving that it was not Tom Brady. That it was in fact and indeed the system of what Bill Belichick built in New England."
Whether fans agree that there is an unusual amount of pressure on Belichick this season, it’s undeniable that every move he makes is being watched. Many are wondering what he’ll do with the No. 15 overall pick in the draft — or if he might even try to trade up.
In his latest mock draft, FOX Sports Betting Analyst Jason McIntyre has the Patriots grabbing Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at No. 15. McIntyre touted Jones’ amazing numbers last season – 4,500 passing yards, 41 touchdowns – while wondering if his supporting cast with the Tide was what made him look so good.
Belichick did attend Jones’ workout at Alabama’s pro day, with the coach’s reaction to one errant pass drawing some attention.
Then, of course, there is the speculation that Belichick will seek a reunion with former Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Or maybe Belichick won’t go after a quarterback at all, having already signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal.
Either way, Belichick and the Patriots will undoubtedly continue to be a subject for debate as the NFL’s offseason continues.
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