This week, NFL Network analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah posted on social media a single-spaced, all-caps summary of Bill Belichick’s philosophies when looking for players. Jeremiah received the handout when he attended a scout school while working for the Baltimore Ravens.
I think you’ll enjoy this... We were given this handout during a scout school from my time with the Ravens. Coach Belichick has held true to almost all of this over the years. pic.twitter.com/pWB3oqo5JU— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 31, 2020
Some of the philosophies Belichick expounded upon back in the day are hardly groundbreaking. When it comes to offensive lineman he liked “big guys who are strong powerful players.” He wanted wide receivers who could “get off [the line of scrimmage] whether with size, speed, quicks or any combination of the three, then has to be able to catch.”
Pretty much every coach at every level covets these things.
Quarterback is a little bit different.
“QB: #1 is to make good decisions — then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in. ... Emphasis on our game will be decision, timing, accuracy — guy needs to be confident, intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness and judgment.
“Can’t be sloppy, fundamentally unsound guy with ball handling, tech’s, etc. Footwork, drops, release, etc. — QB has to be able to throw the ball with accuracy.”
Good decision-making is more important than arm strength or mobility? Decision-making and leadership are prioritized. Accuracy above all.
In essence, Belichick was describing Brady, who would win him six Super Bowl titles. Through the years, there have been plenty of quarterbacks who were bigger, faster and had stronger arms (not that Brady didn’t have some of these qualities).
No one won more, though.
At the time of the handout, Brady was a 13-year-old living in San Mateo, California. Months later, as a freshman in high school, Brady was exclusively a backup on an 0-8 team. So who knew?
Belichick’s old scouting paper advanced what has been obvious thus far about the Patriots’ plan to replace Brady.
Belichick hasn’t jumped at signing quarterbacks with tangible skills (size, speed, arm strength, etc.) notably Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, all Heisman Trophy winners. Newton and Winston were No. 1 overall draft picks. Mariota went second overall.
Instead, he appears settled on Stidham and Hoyer, neither of whom jump off game film or receive much hype.
Stidham was a rookie with the Patriots last season after they selected him in the fourth round out of Auburn. In college, he completed 64.2 percent of his passes, although that number dropped across his career. With New England, he hit 67.8 percent of his passes during four preseason appearances and then went 2-for-4 in the regular season.
That isn’t much of a sample size, but it’s enough that Belichick, who would have seen and studied every practice-throw rep as well, has held steady with him. New England even cut third-stringer Cody Kessler this week.
One clue into Belichick’s opinion may have come from special teams captain Matthew Slater, who has played 12 seasons for Belichick and a day before the old scouting concepts came out, praised Stidham in a familiar way.
“Brother Stid is a great kid,” Slater said. “And I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player — who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? … Certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.
“I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position,” Slater continued. “So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us.”
That certainly sounds like someone who fits Belichick’s scouting report.
Then, there is Hoyer, who at 34 will begin his third stint with the Patriots. He is no one’s idea of a world-class athlete or cannon-armed thrower. He is reliable, solid, a good leader and teammate and thus an excellent backup and perhaps mentor.
And with that, you have the post-TB12 Patriots quarterbacks room (with a potential addition via the draft).
No Cam. No Jameis. No Marcus. No other big name, or veteran starter. No reaching on a power arm that needs to be tamed. No grabbing untapped potential.
Here in 2020, in need of a replacement for the best quarterback ever, Belichick seems to be sticking to what he’s always believed.
Can it work again?
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