Belichick stirs it up by drafting Mallett

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Belichick stirs it up by drafting Mallett

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Bill Belichick just doesn't care what the neighbors think.

Or the media. Or his fellow NFL coaches. Or the rest of his football team.

If a player who can help his team has alleged turd tendencies but Belichick can reconcile those with his own expectations, he will hire that player.

Everybody else can deal with it. Or, more specifically, Belichick will deal with it. Everybody else just has to do their job.

Doesn't matter if it's Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Ted Washington, whoever. The Patriots' program and the latitude Belichick has to run it his way will either keep the player in check or the player will be gone.

Which brings us to Ryan Mallett, the 74th player chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft.The quarterback from Arkansashas been carrying the label of "baddest guy on the board" for months. It's all been very ambiguous.

And he's now a New England Patriot.

Mallett, 22,got arrested for public intoxication in 2009. That's the only documented instance of bad behavior. But the allegations of drug use have been rampant. Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly wrote that Mallett was up-front about his drug use in interviews with team executives. One executive told Nawrocki that Mallett was off his team's board entirely. Paul Burmeister of the NFL Network said earlier this week that Mallett's drug use was "documented."

But on Friday night, Belichick said that the Patriots were "obviously comfortable" with the off-field concerns about Mallett. And the head coach gushed about Mallett's thirst for football knowledge.

"Hes definitely a football guy," said Belichick after the second and third round picking for the Patriots was over. "He's a great kid to talk to, and hes very into football. You cant wear him out; as long as you want to talk about it, hell be there. However many hours it is, hes ready to go watch the film or go talk about a new technique or a route or a read or whatever.

"His father is a football coach. Hes grown up in a football family, which I can definitely relate to," Belichick noted.. "Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and you love it. Its one of the two, and I think hes, like I said, very much a football person. Both his parents are educators and hes a kid thats eager to learn and has a great thirst for knowledge for football and for his position, which there is a lot going on there. I think that hell certainly get an opportunity to receive a lot of knowledge at that position around here, so well see how it all manifests itself."

Warm, right?

But here's the thing. Ryan Mallett will not be on an unlimited leash in New England. The Patriots may have turned into Raiders East in some ways - a place where wayward talents can come and rehab their careers - but "Just Win, Baby" is not their slogan.

It's more of a reform school than a frat house. And the "screws" Belichick employs are his players and coaches.

If one thinks Tom Brady will sit idly by while Mallett screws up training or passing camp reps because he's not prepared, one hasn't heard the NSFW explosions of Brady when things go south on the practice field.

And that goes double for offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

There will be a time, some moment of agitation, when Belichick reminds Mallett that Mallett has nowhere else to goif the Patriots throw up their hands.

And that's really the most interesting thing about this Patriots program.

Hadthe Bengals - who really could use Mallett, the quarterback with the best arm in the draft - what would the reaction have been? Doomed. Inserted into a chaotic, rudderless, cheap and treadwater program, Mallett wouldn't have gotten the structure to succeed. That would have been the logical assumption.

But the Patriots can select Mallett and it's a stroke of genius because their program is built for whip-cracking and conformity.

On the surface it seems like hypocrisy. It's actually reality.

Look at how the turds have done when they left the Patriots program. Moss, for instance. He helped get two coaches fired in the three short months after he left New England.

(Ironically, Mallett was selected with the third-round pick the Patriots got from Minnesota in exchange for Moss).

Mallett handled a modest grilling from the New England media pretty well on Friday night.

In 2010, it was clear every draft choice was coached to answer any question about past issues - injuries or trouble - with a simple "That's in the past."

Mallett handled questions about the intense scrutiny he faced with reasonable aplomb.

"Its just people talking," he said about focus on his alleged drug use. "Im focusing on getting up to New England and learning as much as I can and getting on the field as quick as I can. Its just something thats behind me. Its in the past and Im looking at the future."

Asked if he was mislabeled, Mallett answered, "Im going to go up there and be the person that I am. Im a people person. I love to be around people. So Im going to go up there and work as hard as I can to get on the field. Mislabeled if thats what you want to call it, fine. I think I was portrayed in a different light than the people that know me and know who I am."

Probed again on whether he has been a drug user, Mallett answered, "All Im saying is thats in the past and Im looking in the future. I dont think that stuffs a problem. There has been a lot of stuff said that is definitely false. But Im looking to the future and looking forward to being a Patriot. ...There are people that say stuff all the time. The only thing I can do is go out and prove them wrong. And thats what I intend on doing."

The Patriots used the 199th pick on Tom Brady in 2000. He had something to prove as well. And he has.

Mallett doesn't just need to prove his doubters and detractors wrong. He has the burden and opportunity to prove Bill Belichick right. A Hall of Fame coach took a chance on him.

What will he do with that chance? It's a powerful motivator.

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

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 4

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 3

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.
 

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