Bill Belichick was hired as the New England Patriots’ head coach and general manager in 2000, and since then has built a reputation as not just the best in the business at what he does but also a tough counterpart on the negotiating table. The so-called “Patriot Way” extends beyond players doing their jobs and putting the team first, after all, and also includes the team making financially sound decisions based on how it evaluates a player within its system.
This approach to dealing with players and their representatives has led to New England’s front office being named the toughest to deal with in a recent survey of NFL agents conducted by The Athletic’s Ben Standig and Nicki Jhabvala. 30 agents were asked to give their opinion on numerous topics related to their profession for the story, and Belichick and the Patriots naturally came up as an answer multiple times.
“Say a player is average. You may be looking for X money,” said one anonymous agent about negotiating with Belichick and company. “But Bill already has a plan for that player. And he knows, not just from a dollar amount, but from how he fits my team, how he fits the offense, how we’re going to use him. And for that role, this is why we’re willing to pay you X. So he won’t go above it. He may go below it, but he won’t go above it.
“But he’s also smart in terms of figuring out, ‘Is there anybody else out there that might pay this kid this amount?’ And if there is, then he’ll go over that amount by a certain dollar amount and know he’ll beat that other team out. He’s very smart in terms of putting those things together,” the agent continued.
New England’s negotiating tactics have been the subject of speculation and debate repeatedly in the past — the inaccurate assessment of “The Patriots don’t pay their talent” stems from this, for example — but they have played a key role in the team keeping its dynasty alive for two decades. As the club moves from one era to another following the departure of Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, being able to successfully work the financial side of business becomes even more paramount.
Luckily, the head of the team’s football department is not just among the toughest but also the smartest general managers in football.
“Without a doubt because of productivity and getting the team to the playoffs, it’s Belichick,” one scout answered when asked about his take on the smartest front office members in the league. “You know he has the final say. Any guy that could put his team continually in the playoffs while drafting at the end of the first round every year is a genius. I’m a firm believer in the ‘Patriot Way.’”
“It’s not even close. Light Years ahead of everybody. Maybe even collectively,” added another agent.
Belichick’s track record speaks for himself, but the reputation and image that he has built within the agents’ community also is noteworthy: they know that they cannot count on him and his team doing something irrational or making business with a sentimental perspective in mind. This recipe has helped turn the Patriots into what they are today, and agents know it.