November 26, 2013

NFL: Belichick’s hits and misses

Patriots coach has made decision that work, didn’t

By Howard Ulman
Ap Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick has made plenty of notable decisions in his 14 seasons as the highly successful coach of the New England Patriots. Most have worked out, not surprising considering his team’s success.

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Others have been failures that tarnished his reputation.

Here are six of Belichick’s good decisions:

• DRAFTING BRADY: Tom Brady lasted until the sixth round in 2000 when Belichick tapped him with the 199th overall pick. Brady became the starter in the third game of 2001 after Drew Bledsoe was hurt, and Belichick stuck with him when Bledsoe recovered. Brady became one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and, this year, has led the Patriots to an 8-3 record despite offensive injuries and inexperience.

• TRADING FOR WELKER: Wes Welker caught just 96 passes in three seasons before Belichick obtained him from Miami in March 2007 for two draft picks. Welker immediately clicked with Brady, catching 112 passes in their first season together. He had 672 receptions in six seasons before signing with Denver in March.

• GOING FOR IT: The Patriots got the ball at their 17-yard line with 1:21 left after the St. Louis Rams tied the Super Bowl in February 2002. Television analyst John Madden said the Patriots should let time expire and go to overtime. Belichick stayed aggressive and New England marched to the St. Louis 30. Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal on the final play gave the Patriots a 20-17 win and the first of their three championships.

• GATHERING MOSS: Belichick got the deep receiving threat the Patriots lacked when he traded for Randy Moss in April 2007. Moss brought plenty of off-field baggage with him, but responded with 98 receptions and an NFL record 23 touchdown catches that season. The Patriots went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

• TWO-WAY PLAYERS: Belichick used wide receiver Troy Brown in his injury-plagued secondary in 2004. Brown tied for second on the team with three interceptions, and the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years. Belichick also used wide receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater at defensive back when injuries struck in later years.

GOING WITH THE WIND: Belichick made the unusual move of choosing to kick off after winning the overtime coin flip last Sunday night. He wanted the wind at his team’s back, knowing it would be harder for Peyton Manning to pass and for Denver to kick a long field goal. The Broncos punted rather than try a winning field goal with the ball at the Patriots 37. Then New England punted and recovered the ball after it bounced off Denver’s Tony Carter. Two plays later, Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal gave the Patriots a 34-31 win.

Here are six of Belichick’s bad decisions:

• SPYGATE: Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000 and stripped of their 2008 first-round draft choice by the NFL for videotaping New York Jets signals during a game between the teams on Sept. 9, 2007. Belichick said he thought that was allowed and apologized for what he said was a mistake in his interpretation of the rule prohibiting it.

• DRAFTING HERNANDEZ: Tight end Aaron Hernandez dropped in the 2010 draft because of off-field problems and Belichick took him in the fourth round. For three years, Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were the NFL’s best tight-end combination. But the Patriots cut Hernandez the day he was charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player whose body was found June 17 near Hernandez’s home. Hernandez pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

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