Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King dedicated roughly half of his weekly dissertation to discuss the New England Patriots and how the team managed to acquire head coach Bill Belichick from the New York Jets. King spoke with Patriots team owner Robert Kraft to get his side of the story.
Kraft said he knew he had a good dynamic with Belichick after the two spent a year together in 1996. The Patriots reached the Super Bowl with Belichick coaching the defensive backs and serving as assistant head coach. Belichick followed Bill Parcells to the Jets, but that single season stuck with Kraft as a major reason for putting his foot down and spending whatever it took to acquire Belichick in 2000.
It also turns out that Belichick’s appreciation for Troy Brown was a noteworthy factor in Kraft’s decision making process.
“I asked the defensive backs, ‘What has Bill [Belichick] brought?’ And they said he always put them in the right position to make plays,” Kraft told King. “When Parcells left after the Super Bowl, we decided to clean house, and I met with Bill. Now, we had just started this era of the salary cap a couple years earlier, and to understand the salary cap was to understand value. The one thing he said to me when he left was, ‘You should sign Troy Brown. Great value there.’ I remembered that. Here was a guy on the other side of the ball, and Bill knew how important he was. And he turned out to be right.”
Brown was an 8th round pick in the 1993 NFL Draft (the last year the draft lasted longer than seven rounds) and after four years in the NFL, through the 1996 season, Brown had a mere 403 career receiving yards. Belichick’s defensive backs practiced against Brown all season so the future-head coach had a taste of Brown’s talents.
From 1997-99 under head coach Pete Carroll, Brown’s production spiked and he gained 1,424 receiving yards in those three seasons. When Belichick returned to the team in 2000, Brown developed further and gained 3,184 yards from scrimmage in his first three years under Belichick.
Belichick’s ability to take advantage of players that presented good contract value was a major reason for Kraft to hire Belichick and it’s been a huge factor in the team’s success since 2000. The head coach has always preferred to spend $1 million on a B grade player instead of $5 million on a B+ or A- player for the sake of developing roster depth, and he’ll only open up the checkbook for A players that buy into the program, and Brown was one of the former those B players under Parcells that developed in an A player when Belichick returned.
King also relays a story about how Parcells called him in January of 2000 to discuss a trade for Belichick, forcing Kraft’s secretary to say, “Someone saying he’s Darth Vader is on the phone. Do you know who that is?” The Patriots were about to hire then-Jaguars defensive coordinator Dom Capers to be head coach, so Parcells wanted to finalize a deal and acquire draft picks.
Overall, it’s a great story of how Kraft doubted his decision to acquire Belichick, but how he ignored external pressure before making his ultimate decision. Read it here.