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How the Patriots convert castoffs to Champions

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The Patriots turn players cast aside from their league rivals into viable assets en route to Super Bowl championships. How do they do it?

The New England Patriots acquired LB Kyle Van Noy and CB Eric Rowe for cheap draft picks and turned them into viable starters. They have taken burnouts like EDGE Jabaal Sheard and LB Shea McClellin and found roles for them to succeed. The Patriots are the fourth team that RB Dion Lewis, WR Danny Amendola, TE Martellus Bennett, and DT Alan Branch have played for, and represent the fifth stop for WR Chris Hogan and RB LeGarette Blount (albeit just the fourth different team for Blount).

So how do the Patriots squeeze life from stone? How do the Patriots find success in players that failed to emerge with other teams?

As annoying as it is to write out, Do Your Job is the key to the Patriots success.

Blount and former Patriots exec Michael Lombardi joined Rich Eisen to talk about how head coach Bill Belichick has found a way to carve out opportunities for players that were bypassed by other franchises.

“There’s just a lot of honesty there,” Blount explained. “Bill is really upfront and honest with you, it’s a really team- and family-oriented place. You know a lot of guys that come there, you know, fresh from somewhere else, they’re accepted with open arms. I got that same kind of acceptance. I know Aqib Talib got that same kind of acceptance, we both came from Tampa. Michael Floyd got that same kind of acceptance when it got here.

“It goes on and on and they keep it real with you, they’re 100% honest, and they let you know what your role is, and in order for your role to change to go to where you want it to be, it’s up to you. And you got to obviously work hard, you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to learn to be a professional and that’s huge around here.

“And in order for you to become the player you want to become over here, Bill will tell you, anybody else will tell you, you have to just work hard, set your mind to it, and when your opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to take full advantage of it and that’s how you get more opportunities around here.”

There are two cultural strengths at play for the Patriots:

First, everyone is a part of the same team and organization, striving for the same goal. Those that have alternative motives don’t fit in with the team, but if you buy into the team-first identity, the team success will follow. The Patriots definitely prioritize those that are willing to set aside individual goals for the good of the greater team.

Second, Belichick lays out a job for everyone, or defines a role. This is a common management technique that increases employee buy-in. Once Belichick defines the role for, say, Blount as the goal line and 4th quarter back, or James White as the receiving back, or Dion Lewis as the hurry-up back, then each player can go about becoming the best possible player at their role- and if they succeed, then there is room for expansion.

Lombardi echoes the second point in his discussion with Eisen.

“His [Belichick’s] greatest strength is his ability to define the role of the player,” Lombardi said. “Kyle Van Noy is the perfect example. Doesn’t really have a home in Detroit, doesn’t really fit their defense, but for the Patriots, play nickel backer, rush, do some different things, define the role, and then work within the role within the system and that’s why he’s so successful.”

When Belichick tells his players to Do Your Job, it’s not just empty talk. It’s the entire cornerstone of the Patriots machine. In order for the whole operation to succeed, players need to trust that everyone will be doing their task- and if not, you’ll be shipped out to Cleveland.

In their previous stops, perhaps these players weren’t given specific jobs. Blount was a back-up in Pittsburgh, despite having the ability to run the ball and close out games. Van Noy was asked to drop back into coverage all the time in Detroit, despite being better at the line of scrimmage.

It’s Belichick and the Patriots front office’s core competency to identify the strengths and weaknesses of players around the league. If a player has a strength that could help the Patriots, then Belichick will add them to the roster. If a player has a weakness, then Belichick will identify it when facing them as an opponent and target it.

The key to the Patriots success isn’t overly complicated, but it requires buy in from the players. When Belichick defines the job within the mantra of Do Your Job, then the player must execute to the best of their ability. That’s the whole secret.