Bill Belichick is catching up to the NFL. Yes, the mastermind behind two New England Patriots dynasties, the football genius who used to set trends for the rest of the league to follow, is finally adopting trends that changed the game.
It starts with raw, straight-line speed. For years, Belichick eschewed blazing 40-yard dash times in favor of 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drills results. Quickness, change of direction, and acceleration meant more to Belichick because it’s rare for football players to run in one direction for 40 yards.
Belichick is right. Sprints don’t happen very often in the NFL. And you can’t argue with Belichick’s past results emphasizing quickness over speed. But years of the league getting faster eventually put the Patriots a few steps behind.
Bill Belichick learned the hard way some of his tried and true standards wouldn’t cut it for the New England Patriots going forward
Belichick always liked great athletes in the trenches. Now he’s added them at the skill positions and all levels of the defense. Over the past three drafts, three receivers and a running back who posted 4.4 40 times were selected (though Pierre Strong Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns).
Adding speed to the defense required giving up on big, physical linebackers. That was harder for Belichick to let go of. But he dipped his toe in the waters with Mack Wilson Jr. and Raekwon McMillan last year before selecting Marte Mapu this past spring.
Also breaking the mold were Christian Gonzalez, Ameer Speed, and Isaiah Bolden, three ginormous cornerbacks after years of stocking the secondary with sub-six-foot defenders.
At 6'2", Gonzalez could become a shutdown defender. His arrival took longer than expected, as Belichick’s experience with Aqib Talib and Stephon Gilmore should have been fresh in Belichick’s mind—a year of Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, and Marcus Jones being taken advantage of changed that.
That doesn’t mean Belichick is abandoning all of his beliefs. This year, he got a real offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He added a second, productive tight end to try to revive the success of a two tight end offense. And Belichick retains the knowledge to out-scheme many of his peers, as he did against the Detroit Lions.
Now Belichick can do it with better talent. The results could be very satisfying.