Memo to Scott Pioli, Eric Mangini, Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels: There is only one Bill Belichick.
You can try and act like him all you want. You can mimic the way he runs his team. You can even take on his dislike for the media, his boorish treatment of others, including his own players, and his "Omerta" philosophy of keeping your mouth shut.
But you are not Belichick, nor will copying his ways ever put you in his class.
|Belichick does crack a smile -- once in a while. (Getty Images)|
His style works for him because he wins. It works for him because he can get away with his bullying ways since he makes up for it with his acute football acumen.
Nobody does it any better.
Superman had his cape. Belichick has his gray hoodie.
As the NFL readies for the draft in a little over a week, teams all over the league are doing their final work on preparing for the 2009 season, trying to figure out how limited draft picks can fill so many holes.
In his private castle in New England -- you have to cross a moat, deal with an army and then get beheaded if you do make it in -- Belichick is doing his work while probably doing something he rarely does: Smiling.
That's because he has his team in great position, better than any other in the league. There are no holes on his roster of any significance, save for the one scarred over on Tom Brady's knee, and the Patriots have six draft picks in the first three rounds of this draft, including four in the first 58.
When Pioli left to take over as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, many wondered how the Patriots would do without him. I didn't. This was always Belichick's show anyway.
Pioli may have had input, but Belichick has always had the final say, even if they never wanted it to appear that way.
"Don't let anyone let you think otherwise," said one NFL personnel man. "Bill is the one who made those decisions."
His coordinators come and go. His staff is raided on a yearly basis. He loses Pioli. He loses his franchise quarterback to injury in the first game. And yet the Patriots keep on winning, even if they didn't make the playoffs last season. They still finished 11-5.
Belichick is the reason why.
We know he's a great coach. But he's also a brilliant personnel mind. He dives into it like a kid into a snow bank, less the joyful enthusiasm.
At the scouting combine, he was actually a bit loose when he discussed the anticipation of being able to meet with all the prospects. Of course, he wouldn't take any questions about Brady's knee. Omerta lives.
"It's fun to be a part of it," Belichick said. "It's good to see the college players. Unfortunately, I've seen a little bit more of them then I have in previous years [because his team wasn't in the playoffs]. But, that being said, it's always an enjoyable part of the process to start to get to know them. The interviews, I always think that's one of the most interesting parts of the Combine. I've never thought, and I don't think, you can ever analyze a player in a 10-minute interview. That's really stretching it. I just find it interesting to see where these kids have come from, what their background is, who's important to them in their life, what coaches, or what teammates or what situations they've been through that have kind of shaped the way they are, the way they approach the game, or the way they prepare, things like that, so I find that very interesting."
Belichick's draft booty was made even better when he traded quarterback Matt Cassel and aging linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs and his buddy Pioli for a second-round pick. Some said Belichick was fleeced, that he should have held out for more. Do you really think he ever gets one put over on him?
The guy knows all the angles. He brings street smarts to the NFL game. Nobody will ever forget Spygate, the ultimate in grabbing an angle.
Belichick may actually have traded a one-hit wonder in Cassel and a linebacker who doesn't run at all for a pick that he'll probably turn into a starter. Is that a fleecing?
With holes on his roster in January, Belichick used free agency to put his team into a great position. He signed eight veteran players as free agents and those players didn't cost the Patriots a lot of money.
To help the running game he signed Fred Taylor. With corner a concern, he added Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden. Wide receiver Joey Galloway adds speed and replaces No. 3 receiver Jabar Gaffney, who left to go to Denver. Deep snapper Nathan Hodle was signed away from Arizona.
|The addition of Fred Taylor will help New England's running game. (Getty Images)|
"He was cool with me," Taylor said. "You know where you stand with a guy like that. All he wants is to win."
The signings of those players gives the Patriots flexibility heading into this draft. They don't have to force a pick at any position. Without Springs and Bodden, corner might have been one of those positions forced early.
The Pats could play with those two and Ellis Hobbs right now. But knowing Belichick's style, he'll add a corner early for the future and to create competition for the now.
With defensive end Richard Seymour and nose tackle Vince Wilfork set to become free agents next year, the Patriots can use one or two of the their picks in the first three rounds to help find replacements in case they can't get a deal done.
Belichick isn't without draft fault. He's blown three second-round picks in his time in New England on receivers Chad Jackson, Bethel Johnson and tackle Adrian Klemm. Hey, who doesn't miss? At least he makes up for it.
With Brady coming back, plus a deep roster and all those picks, the Patriots have to be the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Vegas says so, making them 7-2 to win the Super Bowl. I agree.
Belichick is also an ogre. He also got caught cheating. Some other team's front office personnel loathe him. Some think he even tampers with their players, although there is no proof of it.
He recently acted bigger than his brethren when he didn't show up at the NFL meetings in California because he said he had too much scouting work to catch up on with the departure of Pioli.
"I guess our work isn't as important as his," one coach cracked.
That's the way Belichick views it. Nothing is as important as his job. That's why he pushes photographers out of the way trying to do their jobs. That's why he berates media members who question his decisions. That's why he doesn't tolerate stupid questions.
He's single-minded in his fun-free pursuit of success. They say there's another side to him, even if we don't see it. He pals around with Jon Bon Jovi. There's even a You Tube video of him singing with Weis and Bon Jovi at a fundraiser. He looked like he was having fun. He sounded awful, but at least he was smiling.
Maybe he was smiling because he knew what was coming in 2009. His football acumen has him coaching the most-talented team in the league, with premium picks in this year's draft about to make it even better.
Weis, Romeo Crennel, Mangini, Pioli and Josh McDaniels all are gone, but the Patriots don't seem fazed by it. They won't either, not as long as Belichick is hunkered down inside his fortress making all the football decisions.