It is an oversimplification to give Brady all the credit for this decade-long run of the Patriots, especially since Belichick discovered and groomed him, albeit in the sixth round (and even though Belichick didn’t actually play Brady until Drew Bledsoe’s lungs filled with blood). But it is also impossible to overlook that so many of those who have been near this alleged Belichick magic dust, and have been hired as empire-builders because of their proximity to the magic dust, seem to misplace it with every step they take away from Brady.
The flameouts of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel and Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini and Pioli suggest that whatever you learn from the master oracle is not repeatable elsewhere, in places that don’t have Brady. If Gronkowski had been drafted by Miami, does he somehow look more like Anthony Fasano? That seems ridiculous on the surface until you consider this: Davone Bess has had not one, not two, but three seasons in Miami better than any Welker ever had here. But Welker went to New England and, very suddenly, became the first receiver ever to produce five 100-catch seasons.
Brady has this way of making personnel errors on offense not look like errors. Peyton Manning has that same ability. It is why the Colts always would hit on their offensive draft picks.
Tony Dungy guessed that, in a Peyton Manning offense, a tight end that was a shopping cart with an attached mannequin arm would gain 500 yards and have five touchdowns. (The offensive tackle, of course, would have to push the cart into its routes, and it might have a fumbling problem.)
But, as Ireland is dismissed as a bum not to be entrusted with Miami’s bountiful future, it seems clear that this “ability” to find good players in the draft might not be much an ability at all. The perception is that Belichick is combing the beach with a metal detector and a map while Ireland is armed with only a spork, but there is an amazing randomness to finding these buried treasures.
The third round of 2009 brought football LeSean McCoy and Mike Wallace while the Dolphins were selecting Pat White a round earlier. Ignoring that also ignores this: Before getting Gronkowski, Belichick tried to get that kind of tight end weapon for Brady for a decade, and in the first round no less, missing on Daniel Graham and Ben Watson (though Watson was merely average instead of a bust).
Heck, in the first three rounds of Belichick drafts, you’ll find a lot more failed Terrence Wheatleys and Shawn Crables and Marquise Hills and Chad Jacksons and Adrian Klemms than you will Gronkowskis. The perception is that Belichick stockpiles draft picks so he can use his super-secret powers to find value late where others can’t see it, but the truth is that Belichick knows there is very little science to picking Lotto numbers, so he is just tilting the math in his favor by buying more tickets, giving himself more chances to get lucky. Helps, too, that he already won the lottery once, and at the game’s most important position.