From Deion Branch to David Patten to Wes Welker to Julian Edelman to Chris Hogan to [insert name here], the New England Patriots, more than any other team in football, have the ability to take unheralded players and turn them into stars.
How is that possible? Is it scheme? Is it Brady? Is it Belichick?
“Well, I think one of the biggest things people overlook is these guys are really talented,” three-time Super Bowl champion and CSN New England analyst Troy Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They overlook that part of it. They may not do certain things like Julio Jones do well or Antonio Brown may do really well, but they do a lot of things really well. They have a unique skill set. People say it’s the scheme and this and that, but they don’t really have one particular scheme. They’ve got five or six, and they’re willing to attack whatever your defense is giving them. That’s the unique part about it. Guys are able to retain a lot of knowledge and able to change up their game on the fly and make plays that way.”
But don’t just credit the scheme or the coach or the quarterback, Brown said. Credit the player.
“There’s not a team in the league that doesn’t have a scheme,” Brown said, “so that’s no excuse to say those guys are being successful because of the scheme and because of Tom or because of Bill. It’s not their fault they have a good coach. It’s not their fault they have a good quarterback. But when I walk into that meeting room – and the sign has been there for years, since I’ve been there – and (it says): You got two jobs as a wide receiver. That’s to get open and catch the ball. That has nothing to do with coach, nothing to do with Tom Brady being the quarterback. If you’re not getting open, he’s not throwing you the ball.”
Indeed, it seems that many Patriots over the years have had an intelligence and excellence that goes beyond the X’s and O’s. Heck, Brown was a receiver, a returner and even played defense for New England.
How does Belichick do it? How does he find these guys?
“He’s tapped into a certain type of guy that he wants on his football team,” Brown said. “You look at the whole list of guys that are coming through there, and a lot of us are pretty similar in personality. A lot of us are pretty similar with our stories. All guys that have chips on their shoulders, overlooked for whatever reason. Too short, too slow, went to a small school, whatever it may be, been hurt a few times – so everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder about something. But we all had the same type of personality too somewhat: easygoing, mild-mannered, will do anything to win, whatever they ask you to do. I think it comes down to he’s tapped into that part of it. He realizes that each guy has a skill set, and I can’t really teach a guy to get open, I can’t teach a guy to catch the ball, I can’t teach a guy this and that. But I know these guys are going to go out there, they’re going to play hard, they’re going to know what to do, they’re going to be able to adjust to the fly, they’re going to say, ‘Coach, put me in, I think I can help,’ they’re going to say, ‘Coach, I got it.’”
It also helps that Belichick, at least from Brown’s experience, is willing to empower people to do their jobs.
“When I went to play defense, Bill left me alone,” he said. “He didn’t really over-coach me. I would cut my lunches short to go watch film with him, but on the field, he really didn’t bother me a whole lot unless I had a question about something. But nobody took me over and backpedaled with me. Nobody took me over and taught me how to break on the ball. He let my natural ability just do what it does. I was a punt returner. He knew I had a pretty good skill set. He knew my personality, and he knew that I was going to go out there and do everything I could to win. I think he’s tapped into that with a lot of these guys. He doesn’t get a lot of push-back from it. The guys actually embrace that type of attitude because they don’t get mixed up in a lot of the things that most other teams get mixed up in: Everybody doing self-promotion type stuff, which I’m all for that stuff. But guys don’t get caught up in that. They know they’re there for a reason and that’s to win football games and when the offseason comes around, I can do all the promoting and marketing I need to do for myself.
“But when we come through those doors, it’s about the New England Patriots and everybody’s embraced that type of approach to the game,” Brown continued. “Even the guys that come in who have been other places, when they walk through those doors, I don’t know if it’s an intimidation factor or they see just how much all those guys in the locker room are on the same page, they just kind of fall in line and do the same thing, and it works out for everybody. Corey Dillon has been through that. Randy Moss has been through that. We got a couple that came in and didn’t get in line with it, and they kind of saw the door.”