Bill Belichick the GM is a Meritocratic Absolutist
Former Second-Round pick of the New England Patriots, Duke Dawson, is no longer a New England Patriot. Bill Belichick the GM shipped him off to the Denver Broncos for a bag of peanuts. With yet another supposed “second-round bust,” the delusional soldiers of the “Belichick Can’t Draft” army fired off their predictable reactionary volley. Granted, they discharged their keyboard ammunition without actually aiming at anything, but fire away they did. The equation was as simple as it always is for the dregs of the internet; “a Belichick draft pick didn’t make it, therefore it was a bad pick.”
Sure, this reasoning makes sense if you look at one pick and one pick only, and not as a collection of a whole. If this was boxing or an individual sport that would make sense. But football is a team sport. In fact, it’s the largest of the team sports. And the Patriots are the best ever at the largest team sport. To look at one pick and call it a bust is to ignore everybody else on the team. Looking at a positional pick in a particular round and extrapolating outward that Belichick is a bad drafter makes about as much sense as going to a restaurant, having the best meal of your life, and complaining the lap napkin wasn’t big enough.
Even given the nonsensical premise that Bill Belichick the GM is a separate entity from Bill Belichick the coach, Bill Belichick the GM is the best General Manager in football history. He has been at the helm of the longest dynasty in any sport, a dynasty so unexpected and improbable it only makes sense the best player is a former 199th overall pick. But go on the internet today and you will see people claiming Bill Belichick the GM can’t draft.
Bill Belichick the GM is Indeed a Great Drafter
First off, Bill Belichick is a great drafter. Even limiting ourselves to the second round sees the folly in thinking otherwise: Matt Light and Deion Branch in back to back years? Sebastian Vollmer, Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes, Shane Vereen, Jamie Collins, Jimmy G, and some dude named Rob Gronkowski. So even nitpicking the second round is inaccurate. Even if it was accurate though, it overlooks the secret success of Bill Belichick the GM.
Bill Belichick the GM does not care where you were drafted if you were drafted or how you ended up on the Patriots. The only thing Belichick cares about is, “can you help the team, and what is the best position I–Bill Belichick the GM–can put you in to help the team.” It is why so many draft picks are “busts.” Once you are drafted or signed by the Patriots, you arrive on equal footing. You are then thrust into a system run by a meritocratic absolutist. You are no longer, “second-round draft pick Duke Dawson” you are merely, “defensive back Duke Dawson.” Just one more cog in a defensive machine that is either going to help the Patriots, or hinder the Patriots. And if you are going to hinder the Patriots defense, you are not going to be on the team for too long.
The dirty secret to the Patriots is not their drafting, it is not their scouting, it is not even zigging when everybody is zagging; their dirty secret is they do not care at all about where you came from, only that you can help the team. If you can, you stay, if you cannot, you leave. They might even be abilities you did not know could help the team: a backup linebacker toiling away for some other team? You are going to become the prototype edge-setter in one of the best defenses of all-time… and catch touchdowns in Super Bowls. A defensive lineman from Brown University? You get to stay… as a Pro Bowl fullback. A Super Bowl-winning wide receiver? Time for you to show off your slot-corner abilities. Now a seventh-round quarterback out of Kent State, who can use that? Bill Belichick the GM can. He’ll take a look and see what you can do as a punt returner and wide receiver.
Your resume is entirely worthless to Bill Belichick the GM, only your abilities matter. Why do you think the Patriots have so many busts? That have halfway decent careers with other teams? Because as Jerry Thornton correctly points out, those teams are inferior to the Patriots. The Patriots only keep the cream of the crop and the best collection of guys that can help out their team. It is exceedingly difficult to crack the Patriots roster. They are the best team in the league. And it is not even close. The secret to their success and the secret of Bill Belichick the GM is simple; he is a meritocratic absolutist who only keeps the best players. Not the best draft picks, not the best free agents. The best players. For any GM out there trying to emulate the Patriots. I’ve cracked the code. Exposed the secret sauce of Bill Belichick the GM. Just. Keep. The best. Players. Good luck.