Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

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Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The list of 2011 Patriots draft picks needs a parenthetical warning to other NFL coaches at the bottom.

(This draft was conducted by a trained professional with five Super Bowl rings, 10 consecutive seasons finishing in first place and job security equal to the pope. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH YOUR DRAFT.)

On Friday and Saturday, Bill Belichick drafted a promising cornerback who hasn't been able to stay healthy, a promising quarterback with significant off-field concerns, a promising offensive lineman withcancer and prospects in the sixth and seventh rounds that left armchair draft watchers scrambling to identify.

Belichick put his chips on all the numbers every one else chose to stay away from and now he'll let the wheel spin. And ifwhen he hits onone or two of them, it was all worth it.

Belichick, his personnel people and scouting staff are able to take not just a chance or two in a draft. They can take multiple chances. The reason? They are good at this time of year. And they are even better when the games start as the 2010 season showed when - despite a young and often porous defense and an offense being reshaped on the fly - they went 14-2 and blew out a significant number of opponents.

After closing Friday by taking the radioactive Ryan Mallett, Belichick came back with his first pick on Saturday and took Marcus Cannon, a player who began treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Thursday.

"A lot of players have medical situations going into the draft and each one is different," Belichick said when asked if he'd ever made a draft decision quite like the one he did with Cannon. "Each of us is unique and not everybodys injury is the same or does it heal at the same rate or the same way. Guys play different positions with similar injuries, so forth and so on. We could drop up examples ad nauseam, but the bottom line is you have a situation, you evaluate it and you make a decision on it.

"Whether you decide to take that player or you decide to pass on that player, then you make the decision at that time based on all the information that you have," he continued. "Some of those decisions end up being right; some of them dont. Thats the way the process works. We did what we thought was right at that point. Well see how it works out."

There's a lot to admire about the selection of Cannon.

From a football standpoint, he's a 358-pound guard regarded as a top-50 pick until a biopsy this spring revealed his malady. So viewing it from a "football value" standpoint, getting a player like that at 139 is a bargain, especially if Cannon returns to full strength and the lymphoma is cured.

From a human standpoint, well, it shows some compassion as well. Here's a young man that wasn't only dealing with a serious illness but the reality that a professional dream he'd worked toward was slipping away.

Belichick would certainly be uncomfortable being canonized for picking Cannon for that reason. But still.

And the fact that another player who battled and beat back cancer - Boston College's Mark Herzlich - went undrafted despite being theACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and playing at a decent level in 2010 makes the selection of Cannon seem that much more empathetic on the part of the Patriots.

There are a lot of unknowns in Cannon's future. The Patriots are willing to live with them.

The Patriots are willing to live with some risk, and that's not unique to Cannon. They are doing so with second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, a player who's been dogged by injuries. And they are doing so with Mallett. They've taken on a lot of question marks.

How, I asked Belichick, does he weigh the risk against the reward? At what point do the two match up?

"Historically, you can certainly look back at previous drafts and find somewhat comparable situations players coming off ACL injuries or players that missed the season the previous year and get an idea, maybe, of what the discount is on those players or players that have other issues that are somewhat similar," he explained. "Does that mean that somebody couldnt go away from that? Of course they could. Some players are off the board; Other players are in play on the exact same issue. Its just a question of what each team thinks.

"They have to make their own individual decision on that. I think you kind of get a sense of what the league-wide opinion on a player is and we certainly use that, although its very subjective," he continued. "Its no exact science . . . One team can do whatever they want to do. We see that. We saw it again over the last three days. Teams make picks that probably none of us expected, but based on what they want to do, they did it."

The Patriots wanted to roll the dice in 2011. They did. If they hit on all, some or none, Belichick isn't going to look back in anguish at what he should have done.

Belichick's father, Steve, once told me, "He's a very decisive person. When he's made a decision, he doesn't spend time second-guessing it."

There'snodoubtBelichick relishes doing things unconventionally. Whether that means running a defense with no defensive linemen, dressing like a hobo on the sidelines or taking players that other teams wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole, if he believes it's the right thing to do, he does it.

Bill Belichick thought he could take on a ton of risk in the 2011 draft. And he did so. You and I might look back and cluck-cluck about mistakes made if they don't pan out.

He won't.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

The Patriots obviously got it right when they pushed away from the table during the Darrelle Revis bidding war in 2015. 

The once-great corner spent the 2016 season languishing on the field. He’s spending the early part of the offseason reacting negatively to backpack journalism after midnight. 

MORE PATRIOTS

But the alleged double KO by Revis and his buddies isn’t what prompts this submission. 

It’s the revelation from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that the tampering the Jets engaged in when they were prying Revis loose from the Patriots was way, way more involved than what the NFL fined them for. And that Jets owner Woody Johnson knew all about it. 

Mehta leads his piece revealing that, long before free agency opened in 2015, Revis “was ready to squeeze more money out of [Johnson] who he knew would be willing to overpay for his services again.”

Mehta reports that, “back-channel discussions with the Jets in February set the foundation for a Revis reunion . . . 

“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team's landlines at their Florham Park facility. No paper trails were a must.

“Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”

The Patriots -- who were in the midst of the Deflategate colonoscopy that resulted in absurd-level discipline -- lodged a complaint with the league over the Jets tampering after Revis signed with the Jets in mid-March of 2015. 

The Jets were fined $100,000 but weren’t docked any draft picks.. The tender wrist slap came, ostensibly, because Johnson moronically stated at a December press conference that he’d “love” to have Revis return to New York. 

Maybe Johnson wasn’t being a dummy. That comment provided cover for the league office -- which has a documented history of treating the two NYC franchises with kid gloves -- to let the Jets off easy. 

Mehta’s article is the latest offering from him since completing his heel turn against Revis. 

Mehta did everything but fly the plane to bring Revis to New York once the 2014 season ended. And this is what he wrote the day the Jets penalty came down: 

The NFL’s attempt to uncover any dirt was an exercise in futility, a witch hunt driven by nonsense from a hypocritical organization with no reason to feel threatened by its competitor. 

You may wonder what’s the point? 

Clearly, the Patriots got it right while the Jets cheated, got what they wanted, and are now getting what they deserved. 

And everyone already knows the league office’s investigations and operations arms under the brutally incompetent leadership of Troy Vincent are a laughingstock. 

All true. But if I don’t write this now, I may have no recollection of this particular instance of league corruption given the absolute avalanche of other incidents
 

Five Patriots listed among Pro Football Focus Top 50 free agents

Five Patriots listed among Pro Football Focus Top 50 free agents

When the free-agency period officially begins on Mar. 9, it looks like there will be several newly-minted Super Bowl champions available for hire. And judging by the list Pro Football Focus published recently, the Patriots seem primed to lose more top-end talent via free agency than any other club in the league. 

Of the Top 50 free agents scheduled to be available next month, according to PFF, five are Patriots: linebacker Dont'a Hghtower (No. 11), safety Duron Harmon (No. 17), corner Logan Ryan (No. 26), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (No. 27) and tight end Martellus Bennett (No. 28).

Though the team doesn't have a single Top 10 player, per PFF, no other club has more than four (Cardinals, Redskins, Packers) in the Top 50. 

And the Patriots probably should have had at least one other player included. 

Not LeGarrette Blount, though he set a franchise record for rushing touchdowns last season. Not Chris Long, though he led the team in total quarterback pressures as he played out his one-year deal in New England. It's Alan Branch, 32, who is coming off of arguably his best season in 10 years as a pro. 

A powerful run defender, Bill Belichick called Branch the team's most consistent interior defensive lineman, and late in the season the coach made it clear just how much value there is in having a player with Branch's stature (6-foot-6, 350 pounds) and athleticism up front.

"Alan has done a great job for us," Belichick said. "And along with his play, which is certainly significant, one of the things that’s really been impressive about him has been his play time. So in addition to his overall production he’s played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays. 

"From a production standpoint he’s got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It’s hard to measure the disruptive plays but he’s certainly got his share of those. He’s played very well for us in the running game. He’s given us a presence in the pass rush of a long, physical player in the middle. That’s all been really good, and he’s played more plays so all of that is good. 

"How unique is it? I mean, yeah, guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is; I mean they don’t grow on trees. They’re hard to find. Ted Washington had that kind of length and size. Ted was 6-5, but Alan moves better than Ted does, or did at that point in his career. We’ve had some other longer guys like Richard [Seymour] or guys like that, but they weren’t 350 pounds. There’s not too many of them."

Though he may not make everyone's Top 50, Branch should certainly be mentioned on any list of impact players Belichick and his staff are at risk of losing in a few weeks. It's a long one.