Good Felger column - not, as previously thought, an oxymoron
I don't like Michael Felger. I think he's a mediocre reporter, nothing special as a writer, and utterly obnoxious on the radio. He's a left-liberal who thinks it's funny and appropriate to complain that the Terry Cashman song on opening day was "gay. It was a gay song."
That said, he has an excellent piece in the Boston Herald today, addressing the Patriots draft tendencies and techniques. Some of the highlights:
Through five drafts in Foxboro, the philosophies of Belichick and Pioli have become clear.
We all know the buzz words. They want players who are coachable, versatile and tough. They value position flexibility on the field and character off it. They demand football intelligence. They want size, speed and strength, but those traits don't have to be a player's defining characteristic.
They believe the most important skill for a wide receiver is catching the ball -- not running or jumping. They believe the most important attribute for a lineman is leverage -- not bench-press strength. They like their linebackers big and don't care if their cornerbacks are small, as long as they are willing to tackle.
With a few notable exceptions -- Tom Brady [news], Richard Seymour [news], Corey Dillon and Rodney Harrison [news] among them -- the Pats are a team made up of role players. And the way [Gary] Horton [an area scout under Belichick in Cleveland in 1991] sees it, that's the way Belichick and Pioli draft.
"I remember sitting in a meeting with Bill that first year in Cleveland and the scouts were going around explaining what this guy does wrong and what this other guy does wrong and on and on. It was all criticism. And Bill said, 'Stop telling me what this guy does wrong. I want to know what he does well. Let's focus on that, and I won't even worry about the rest of it. We just won't ask him to do those things.'
"And you can see he still does that. Everyone else seems to be looking for the perfect player, and he's just the opposite. He says, 'Find out what they do well, we'll use them in that situation for 20 snaps and be thrilled with it.'"
"Going back again to that first year with the Browns, Bill came in and for three straight days he held meetings with the scouting staff going over the entire roster and what he expected out of every position," said Horton. "We must have spent four hours on nose tackles, going over exactly what he wanted from that position. It was all very well-defined. And I don't think he's changed that much. Thorough, extremely hard working. That's Bill."
Belichick got a bad rap coming out of Cleveland. He built a good team there, starting with an awful one, and improved every year, until he went 11-5 and won a play-off game (against the Patriots.) The following year, they got off to a mediocre start, then it was announced that the team was moving to Baltimore, and everything cratered. Vince Lombardi, assissted by Knute Rockne and Paul Brown, couldn't have won in that situation. Before the move was announced, he'd built something very similar to what he's built in New England - a smart, tough, physical football team. If he'd found a Tom Brady instead of Vinnie Testaverde, he might have won a Super Bowl in Cleveland, very likely at least an AFC Championship. The Patriots were very lucky to get him.