Ernie Adams has conducted the final draft of his career with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick announced following the end of the 2021 NFL Draft on Saturday. For those who may not follow the Patriots as intently as others, Adams is the football research director for the organization, which is an all-encompassing role that includes -- but certainly is not limited to -- scouting prospects for the draft. In truth, the full job description for Adams has always been sort of a mystery. On top of wearing many hats within the organization, Adams is also one of Belichick's closest football confidants and has even been pointed to as one of the key masterminds behind New England's two-decade-long dynasty.
"Certainly, he's been a huge part of the draft process for the New England Patriots going all the way back to coach [Chuck] Fairbanks," said Belichick when making the announcement. "The acquisition of a lot of great players, all the process that goes into drafting -- grading players, scouting players, setting up a grading scale, trading, really every single thing that is involved in that -- Ernie's had that seat in that role and been a part of all those things in the draft room. As always, it was great to work with him again over the weekend here."
When asked if Adams was stepping away from all his responsibilities with the team, Belichick deflected saying, "I just wanted to give an opportunity here as we close out this draft to thank Ernie for all he's done and recognize all that he's done. That's really what it is."
Adams has been a figure within the Patriots organization dating as far back as 1975 when he was an offensive and an administrative assistant with the organization. After departing the club in 1978, he joined the New York Giants where he reunited with his childhood friend in Bill Belichick, who was serving as a special teams coach at the time. The two first met at Phillips Academy (high school) in Andover, Massachusetts.
From the time the two connected at the NFL level with the Giants, they've essentially been working in lockstep ever since, including stops with the Giants, Browns and, of course, Patriots. Adams arrived back with New England at the same time Belichick was named head coach in 2000, adopting the role that he's held to this day.
Over that tenure, Adams has helped identify key talent for New England to bring in and is a major component to all six of the franchise's Super Bowl titles. More specifically, Adams was key in identifying a goal-line play that the Seattle Seahawks liked to run leading up to Super Bowl XLIX. The Patriots prepared for it ahead of that game and, as fate would have it, undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler would later pick off Russell Wilson on that very play to clinch the championship.
"I think Ernie's contributions are historic," said Belichick. "He's literally been involved in every single aspect of the football program at every level that you could possibly be involved in. He's done an outstanding job in all of them, but not all coaches have the kind of involvement that Ernie's had in the draft process throughout his career. His knowledge, experience and decisions, and organization and being a part of the process in the way he's set it up and taught it to really all the people that came through here from Scott [Pioli] to Nick [Caserio] to all the scouts and so forth, he's had a big hand in it."
Given the aloofness of Adams, he's grown into a cult figure of sorts in Foxborough, especially following his appearance on the team's "Do Your Job" documentary. As NFL Films interviewed Adams in 2015, the words "Pink Stripes" were displayed on the whiteboard behind him, which send every Patriots fan into a tizzy trying to decipher the possible hidden message. To this day, the meaning behind it has been unclear. When asked whether or not we could finally learn its meaning on Saturday following this announcement, Belichick declined.
While it's still a bit unclear whether or not the 68-year-old Adams will be walking from all of his responsibilities or not, this does mark the end of a prolific era over in Foxborough.