Breaking Down What Makes Patriots Coach Bill Belichick a Football Genius

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 31, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots answers questions from the media during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI between against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The New England Patriots enter their fifth Super Bowl under Bill Belichick since he started as head coach in 2000. Here's a man who has climbed the Mt. Rushmore of NFL head coaches and planted his flag firmly atop the mountain as the greatest head coach in the game today—if not ever. 

Some will tell you Belichick has lost his touch. Their arguments are weak.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the
Al Bello/Getty Images

Here's one from Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News. You almost can't tell he's writing in Giants-friendly NY.

His giant football brain has shrunk somehow to mortal size these past seven years. Bill Belichick hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2005, his draft picks have flopped and his defense this season gave up the third-highest total yards in NFL history.


Yes, Belichick's genius has clearly shrunk to the point that his team is playing for another Super Bowl title. And yes, that's sarcasm. 

Mr. Bondy correctly points out that Belichick's draft picks have flopped, and yet they are still playing for a Super Bowl title. Doesn't that alone speak to the genius of Belichick as a coach? The fact that converted wide receiver Julian Edelman can replace first-round draft picks at cornerback and this team still wins enough games to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC and make the Super Bowl is a genuine credit to Belichick's genius. Nothing else.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 11:   Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots tackles Roy Helu #29 of the Washington Redskins during the second quarter at FedExField on December 11, 2011 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Personnel aside, when the 2011 season was threatened by a lockout, Belichick did the smart thing and shifted his defense to a very classic, very basic 4-3 scheme. As the team has progressed through the weeks, the Patriots are shifting to more of a 3-4 and other hybrid sets. Belichick didn't force his schemes on a young roster, he fit his schemes to a roster that was young and inexperienced with limited time to develop.

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Take a look at where the Patriots' starters have come from in the draft and you'll see a coach and personnel director who has picked his spots and found a unit that can win him games.

Position Player Round Drafted
QB Tom Brady Sixth
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis UDFA
WR Wes Welker UDFA
WR Deion Branch Second
TE Rob Gronkowski Second
TE Aaron Hernandez Fourth
LT Matt Light Second
LG Logan Mankins First
C Dan Connolly UDFA
RG Brian Waters UDFA
RT Nate Solder First
DE Brandon Deaderick Seventh
DT Kyle Love UDFA
DT Vince Wilfork First
DE Mark Anderson Fifth
LB Rob Ninkovich Fifth
LB Jerod Mayo First
LB Brandon Spikes Second
CB Devin McCourty First
FS Patrick Chung Second
SS James Ihedigbo UDFA
CB Kyle Arrington UDFA

Belichick's genius was cemented when the team drafted Tom Brady with pick No. 199 overall and then had the foresight to keep him in as the starter when Drew Bledsoe went down with injury. His genius has been increased by winning three Super Bowls, guiding his team to an undefeated regular season and now taking them to five Super Bowl appearances in 10 seasons. Fan or not, what Belichick has done is unprecedented.

Team Defensive Rank 2011 Result
Steelers No. 1 Overall 12-4, lost in Wild-Card Round
Texans No. 2 Overall 10-6, lost in Divisional Round
Ravens No. 3 Overall 12-4, lost in AFC Championship
49ers No. 4 Overall 13-3, lost in NFC Championship
Jets No. 5 Overall 8-8, missed playoffs
Patriots No. 31 Overall 13-3, AFC Champions

The Patriots may not have the best defense statistically, but they have one of two defenses still playing football this season. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. 


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