By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has sustained a truly unprecedented run of success in New England.
They’ve won on average more than 12 games per year, they’ve won five Super Bowls and two more conference titles. They’ve won their division 14 of the last 16 seasons. And as they embark on the 2017 season, they’re once again favored to be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next February.
To many football fans, the seemingly never-ending run of success defies any reasonable explanation, hence the never-ending allegations of cheating and tomfoolery.
While there is no one simple reason, former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison presented the simplest explanation yet: If there’s any player who causes headaches as an opponent for Belichick, then the coach simply goes out and adds the player to his team.
“[Wes Welker] was causing us so many problems that Bill had to get him. If there’s a guy who is causing us problems, Bill is going to try to get him to make sure he causes problems for other people,” Harrison shared for a story on The Ringer.
Welker — who did so much as a Dolphin against the Patriots that he once successfully kicked a field goal and a PAT — represents the greatest example, as Belichick traded a second- and seventh-round pick to acquire him for the 2007 season. Welker went on to catch 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns over six seasons in New England. He caught another 69 passes for 686 yards and four touchdowns in nine playoff games, though Patriots fans do desperately wish it was 70 catches and 705 yards on Welker’s postseason resume.
More recently, Belichick essentially stole Chris Hogan from the Bills, and the receiver promptly led the league in yards per reception while setting a career high in receiving yards and tying a career high in touchdowns. He caught 17 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ three-game run to a Super Bowl victory.
This most recent offseason, Belichick again raided the Bills’ pantry by signing restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee and free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Back in 2010, Belichick had clearly seen something special in Jets running back Danny Woodhead, promptly picking him off the Jets’ scrap heap. Woodhead would go on to average 4.8 yards per carry, score 10 rushing touchdowns, add four more receiving touchdowns, and serve as a valuable weapon over three seasons.
Belichick famously added former Jets great Darrelle Revis for the 2014 season. Less triumphantly, Belichick added former Bills tight end Scott Chandler for the 2015 season. Last summer and the year before that, Belichick no doubt took notice of Saints receiver Brandin Cooks during the two teams’ joint practices, and he saw enough to trade a first- and third-round pick to New Orleans in order to acquire him.
The list is longer than that, but it goes to show that Belichick is equally adept at judging talent on other teams as he is on his own roster. It’s appropriate, considering Belichick himself joined the Patriots via trade — the best use of a first-round pick in the organization’s history.