7 Worst Signings of the Bill Belichick Era: Rare Blunders of a 3-Time Champion
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Behind every man’s genius there are flaws, although sometimes they are difficult to identify.
Bill Belichick has been a meticulous mastermind in his approach to scouting and signing players.
This dominance is evident based upon his results.
In his 11 years in New England, he boasts a record of 126-50 for a winning percentage of .716, along with three Super Bowls in four years.
In the playoffs, he has elevated his performance once again, flaunting a winning percentage of .737.
Throw in four conference championships and 10 division titles, and any criticisms are statistically unwarranted of the future Hall-of-Famer.
Simply put, when a player hasn’t worked out in Foxboro, it is hard to put the blame on anyone not wearing the shoulder pads themselves.
Call these signings what you may, but for one reason or another, they have been rare blunders of the Belichick Era.
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In the 2006 draft, Belichick traded up to get a flashy receiver from Florida with impressive combine numbers, an exciting move for New England fans envisioning him as a key weapon for Tom Brady in his quest for a fourth ring.
On paper, everything checked out, but Jackson battled injuries, ran notoriously poor routes and failed to comprehend Belichick’s offensive schemes at a high level.
He simply never clicked with the offense, finishing a career in New England with a mere 13 catches for 153 yards.
Aside from Jackson’s lack of production, Green Bay used the second-round pick they acquired from New England to draft Greg Jennings, widely regarded as a one of the top six receivers in the entire NFL.
Since 2006, he has accumulated over 5,000 receiving yards on 322 catches, while also chipping in with 40 scores in the regular season alone.
Jackson may finish his career with 171 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Before the Chad Jackson debacle, the Pats selected Maroney with the 21st-overall pick, believing him to be their premier back of the future.
In college, at the University of Minnesota, he shared the backfield with Marion Barber, who had established himself as a prime NFL talent three years prior.
Drawing Barber comparisons for a punishing running style that wore down defenses, it was hard to argue against this selection.
But over four seasons in New England, Maroney frustrated fans with glimpses of excitement yet overall inconsistent production.
As the definition of a tip-toeing runningback, he ran nothing like his college counterpart Barber, an intimidating north-south runner who earned his ‘Marion the Barbarian’ nickname.
Aside from the dreadlocks, Maroney and Barber have nothing in common.
Despite playing at least 13 games in three of his four seasons, he never even reached the 1,000 yard mark.
Last year in Denver he gained 74 yards in his three-game stint, and is currently an unsigned free agent waiting to receive a phone call when the next key running back inevitably suffers an injury.
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The Pats traded first, third and seventh-round picks to grab the Colorado product at 21st-overall in the 2002 draft, believing Graham to be a dynamic physical specimen that they could build around.
In his five-year career at New England, he never played more than 14 games in a season, failing to ever eclipse the 40-reception mark.
As a quick perspective, second and fourth-round draft picks in 2010, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, immediately surpassed Graham’s single season statistics in every category, in their rookie campaigns.
Combined, they amassed a whopping 87 receptions, 1,109 yards and 16 TDs (45 percent of New England’s total passing TDs).
Comparatively, Graham had his career year in 2003, when he hauled in 38 balls for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
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Arguably my least favorite Patriot in the Belichick Era, Ellis Hobbs occasionally dazzled in the return game, but provided little benefit on the defensive end.
Although it only cost a third-round pick to get him, it baffled me that his special teams talents could not translate into success at cornerback.
Time and time again, he was abused by physical receivers off the line, and also over the top by the speedy ones.
These mismatches were most prevalent in the playoffs.
A resounding image from Super Bowl XLII is Plaxico Burress catching a ball crossing the goal line with Hobbs 10 yards behind. The next year, he did not return to New England.
After spending the following two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, he suffered a freak disc injury that forced him into retirement.
On a positive note, he did record the longest kickoff return in NFL history as a Patriot, scampering 108 yards against the Jets in 2007.
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Belichick looked to beef up the offensive line with his first ever draft choice at the helm in New England, selecting a tackle from Hawaii with his second-round pick in 2000.
Klemm never panned out as expected during his five-year tenure, only playing a full 16-game slate in 2002.
Aside from that, he never appeared in more than five games in a single year, which is disappointing at such a high draft price.
Of course, the 2000 draft wasn’t a total failure.
The Patriots did acquire running back J.R. Redmond one round later, who was a key piece in New England’s first title run.
Oh yeah, and there is that Tom Brady pick in the sixth round. Not bad, Bill.
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Like Hobbs, Bethel Johnson was most valuable as a special teams asset, but never truly clicked at his intended position. The Pats traded up to get him at 45th overall in the 2003 draft, salivating over his speed and big play potential.
And it ended there, as big play potential.
Despite boasting a 98 speed ranking in Madden his entire Pats career, he scored on only two of his 102 kickoff attempts.
Although most electric in the return game, he struggled with route-running and failed to emerge as a playmaker at wide receiver.
His career year came as a rookie, when he logged 16 catches for 209 yards and two end-zone dances.
In 2008, the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL released him due to his lack of productivity.
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Two years after selecting Daniel Graham, the Pats scooped up Watson at 32nd overall in the 2004 draft. Watson was truly a beast during his collegiate years at Georgia, just oozing big play potential with a unique blend of size and speed.
Biggest question mark: his hands.
As far as statistics are concerned, Watson did post some fairly solid numbers at the tight end position, but his untapped potential is the reason he makes the list.
I have never seen such a gifted player drop so many balls.
Watson’s best year was in 2003, when he notched 49 catches for 643 yards.
Over his other four years, he averaged fewer than 30 catches and 400 yards, hardly worthy of a first-round selection.
Surprisingly, he shined in his first year with the Browns, posting career highs in receptions and yards, at 68 grabs and 763 yards.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Watson makes no sense to me either.