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New England Patriots Tidbits from Coaches Around the NFL Combine

The New England Patriots didn't have anyone speaking at the NFL Combine, but plenty of other coaches were willing to name drop the franchise, or at least point out interesting factoids.

Cardinals HC Bruce Arians

On former Cardinals defensive coordinator and current Jets head coach Todd Bowles: "Miami screwed it up a long time ago. He should have been the head coach there when he was the interim head coach. Brilliant young man. And he's a great teacher. It's not what you know. Can you teach it? He can teach it."

Rams HC Jeff Fisher

Challenges of playing in London in 2012: We thought we had it all figured out. We went over early. We did all the sleep studies. We did all the stuff you do on the airplane. Got over there, won the toss, took the ball, three plays later we were in the endzone, up 7-0.

"When the game was over, we lost 51-7 against New England. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge. That was us playing the Patriots, not what we did."

Dolphins HC Adam Gase

Lessons from Patriots OC Josh McDaniels about being a HC: "We actually talked about some things after after the dust settled on that stuff was about the message that's delivered to our players is critical, about being consistent with that but at the same time, the more guys you can put around yourself that are familiar with what you're looking to do and the guys that can kind of follow the direction that you're looking for and the less time you have to spend in one area of offense, defense, special teams, the more that you're available to everybody the better."

Gase served under McDaniels in Denver.

Washington HC Jay Gruden

The size of the gap between a good team and a legitimate contender: "That’s a good question. That’s what we’re trying to figure out. I think every team is trying to figure out and trying to get where the Packers are and the Patriots and the Broncos now. That’s what we’re trying to do.

"I think experience is number one. Consistent, winning experience is what we’re trying to look for. We did a great job, I thought, last year of overcoming adversity and getting ourselves into position to win the division, which is a great start for us. Now that we have an idea of how to win, now it’s a matter of taking how to win and find ways to improve our football team both physically and mentally and hopefully we can do that."

Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter

On the best prospects in the draft: "I’ve watched a lot of college tape leading up to this and boy, three teams that jumped out were Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama. Huge, huge, talent on those football teams. I mean really, really, impressive. There are a lot of guys on that Ohio State team that are definitely going to have long careers in the NFL."

Cardinals GM Steve Keim

On evaluating quarterbacks in the draft: "As a GM, you’re always looking at the future. You look at the final four quarterbacks this year, and with Carson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you look at their ages. Supply and demand is an issue at that position. Finding that position is the hardest job for a general manager to have.

"There is no secret, we’re always trying to look for the next guy. To be in a situation like Green Bay years ago when they took Aaron when Brett Favre was their starter, that’s obviously the ideal situation, but how many times are you sitting in the 20s where you can take a guy that you see as the future.

"When you evaluate that position, it’s one of those things where you if you see a quarterback you fall in love with, a guy who is a franchise player, you know in your heart and your gut this is the guy."

This is why the Patriots took Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, and why there's a possible chance that he bucks the trend and stays with the Patriots after his rookie contract ends. He'll still only be 26 when his rookie contract ends.

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht

On a possible retirement for OG Logan Mankins: "We’ll be talking to Logan in the next few weeks. His decision isn’t going to have any sort of hindrance on what we’re planning on doing for the future. You’ve got to build, you’ve got to look three years ahead, so his decision isn’t going to hurt us in any way right now, with what we’re planning on doing."

Jets GM Mike MacCagnan

On midseason trades in the NFL: "The big thing with trades in this league is, you really need to know what you're trading for... I think the reason a lot of teams don’t trade, historically, is if they think there’s a reason the team is trying to get rid of that player, then they may not want to bring that player on."

The Patriots are the kings of midseason trades and its a testament to the diligence of the front office that they feel comfortable enough to make it happen. Perhaps once Bill Belichick's acolytes take over the league, teams will feel more willing to trade before the deadline.

Giants HC Ben McAdoo

About new DL coach Patrick Graham: McAdoo: "Patrick came down from New England, he showed tremendously well. We didn’t want to let him out of the building. We feel very fortunate to have him and I look forward to working with him. We’re gonna spend a lot of time on blocking and tackling."

Tackling is a supremely important aspect of defense that Bill Belichick values highly. More on this below.

Lions GM Bob Quinn

On roster depth: "There’s other lack of depth at a lot of positions, so that’s one thing that, I go back to the depth thing. I’m going to keep saying that because I really believe in that because this is a league and a game where injuries happen. So I’ve got to prepare the team and have depth at every level of the team so when that happens, the next guy can step in."

What he values in a linebacker: "Instincts. Read-and-react. Quickness, power. Tackling."

What is needed for a three-down linebacker:  "The three-down linebackers in this league right now are pretty rare. It’s very role-specific now in the NFL, so if you have a three-down linebacker that guy’s going to be a high draft pick or you’re going to have to pay a lot of money for him. The best ones.

"So, you’ve got to develop a role. If a guy’s just a third-down linebacker, well, he’s going to have to have speed and coverage ability and the ability to rush the passer or blitz. If he’s a first- and second-down player, then he’s going to play the run with the things I just talked about with the instincts, the power, the tackling. So, those three-down linebackers are hard to find."

Quinn, a former member of the Patriots front office, points out what the Patriots value most in their linebackers. Instincts, quick twitch ability, strength, and reliable tackling. The Patriots are fortunate to have two three-down linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and it's why the undersized linebackers that are prevalent in this draft probably won't end up in New England.

The Patriots use three linebacker sets on rushing downs, and they need to have the power to win. A lot of the undersized linebackers are talented in coverage, but less so against the run. It's generally the bigger backers in this draft that are quality at stopping the run.

Also, this is such a Belichick approach to team building. Depth, depth, depth.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome

On speaking to Super Bowl champions: "I’ve made it a point over the last couple of years; it’s great when I got all those texts when I won the Super Bowl and the phone calls. But I made it a point to personally talk to people. I did it to [Bill Belichick] last year. I want to personally talk to Gary and thank him for what he brought to us for that one year. Hopefully, being with us, helped him get to the point where he’s a Super Bowl champion head coach for the first time with the Broncos."

Bills HC Rex Ryan

Q: How close do you think you are to equaling or catching the Patriots?

"Yeah I don’t know, I don’t want to focus on anybody else’s team, especially the Patriots."

It ain't a Rex press conference without someone trying to bait him into a Patriots quote.