I’ve noticed an alarming phenomenon amongst Patriots fans the last couple years: claiming that Bill Belichick can’t draft. I’ve already written, not one, but two blogs swiss cheesing the hell out of that notion, but now it seems like those same nincompoops have backed off that argument and formed another. This blog isn’t necessarily about busting that myth, but more so bringing attention to it and showing that it…doesn’t really matter.
Everywhere you turn on the socials recently, you see some jabroni yelling into the abyss that “Bill Belichick can’t draft Pro Bowlers anymore!” Which, I mean, sure, statistically speaking is true. But realistically speaking, why do you care all of the sudden? Have “not enough” drafted Pro Bowlers kept the Pats from being successful? Do you all really care about a watered down, popularity contest, which is what the Pro Bowl has essentially turned into? Patriots fans complaining they don’t have enough drafted Pro Bowlers while their team has been to more Super Bowls than any in the history of the league is about as “first world problem” as you can get.
First and foremost, a Pro Bowler is meant to be one of the best at his position right? The Pats rarely have “the best” at any given position because it’s just not how Belichick teams are built. Partly because of a system that is designed to dull personal stats, partly because of his insistence on not having a top heavy team and partly because of just who gets picked. Belichick likes depth and he drafts accordingly. The players he selects are rarely going to be the big names you’ve heard of on Mel Kipers Big Board. Of course Belichick is still trying to draft good players, but he picks guys who he hopes will fit in HIS system. And as for “None of the players he’s drafted stay on the team!” Well, amongst many other things, a lot of those players excel, jump to another team on a big deal and realize that a lot of their success can be chalked up to Bill. We’ve seen it happen time and time again while reaping the benefits for decades. But that’s an argument for another blog.
Also, with his sheer dominance over the league for the last 20 years, Belichick hasn’t had the best picks to snag a future Pro Bowl college player anyway.
Remember the good old days? When Patriots Nation scoffed at Pro Bowl nominations and almost looked down on the thing entirely? “You can have your Pro Bowlers, we’ll take our rings”. And we were right to say that. A Pro Bowl nomination, while a fine addition to a resume and oftentimes attached to contract bonuses, doesn’t always equate to winning Championships. Which, last time I checked, is what us fans want right? Or are we more concerned with personal awards now because we’re clamoring for something to bitch about after the team has ONE bad year in 22 seasons.
Randy Moss, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders and Tony Gonzalez are all current Hall of Famers who were ALSO Pro Bowlers. Know what else they all have in common? Zero (0) Super Bowl Championships.
Additionally, just because you’ve never been to a Pro Bowl doesn’t mean you weren’t a great player. Julian Edelman, Bruce Irvin, Brandin Cooks, Joey Galloway, Chris Canty and Trumaine Johnson are all considered great players with multiple Pro Bowl worthy years but didn’t make it for one reason or another. Oh, and 3 of those guys have won Super Bowls as well. Again, Pro Bowl nominations do not equal Championships.
But I can’t lie when I say being on a list with the freaking Bengals going into 2020 as the only two teams who haven’t drafted Pro Bowl player since 2013 was…annoying to say the least. But you hear fans and “experts” blabber on about it like it’s the end of the world. Lets make one thing clear, Pro Bowl draftees are where the similarities begin and end with these two teams.
The Bengals have 58 wins since 2013 appearing in the playoffs only 3 times, getting bounced in the Wild Card round each time. The Pats have racked up 93 wins in that same time frame with 7 playoff appearances and made it to 4 Super Bowls, winning 2. We are not the same.
Don’t get me wrong, drafting future Pro Bowlers is important and normally how you build a good young team for years to come. But let’s not act like Belichick having none since 2013 is this giant black mark on his resume. This isn’t the NBA. Having elite players all over the field isn’t the only way to win. If a player fits on your team, produces and helps you win titles, who cares if he is or isn’t a Pro Bowler?
Pro Bowl selections are based on tangible production. And a Bill Belichick coached team is never going to allow you to post eye popping stats. Of course there have been a few exceptions, but generally speaking, that’s not how the team operates. The Patriots rarely had more than one or two players at the top of their respective positions and that has yet to hinder their success.
But let’s talk about last year, since that horrible performance is what fans and talking heads are trying to tie into this “no Pro Bowlers” argument. The Pats had THREE players selected to the Pro Bowl last season: Stephon Gilmore, Jake Bailey and Matthew Slater. Do you know who drafted Bailey in 2019 by the way? Bill Belichick. So that “no Pro Bowl players drafted since 2013” pointless nonsense can be put to bed.
The entire point of building a team is to make sure you have enough talent to win. And Belichick has done that. Via the draft, trades and free agency, he’s succeeded. Last season the team was clearly devoid of talent where they needed it though, which he deserves some criticism for. Belichick seemingly whiffed on the two tight end picks (which is a problem he fixed immediately in free agency this off-season) and chose wrong when it came to starting QB (although, I think if given a full off-season and practice schedule, Newton would’ve performed much better) But on top of that, vital players opted out due to COVID and, in case you forgot, the greatest quarterback of all time jumped ship to play in Tampa. Of course this team was going to have a rough year! There simply wasn’t enough time to replace the talent that left.
I mean, I’m not making excuses for last season, as 7-9 is unacceptable, but it’s not the end of the world. There were reasons. And those reasons can and have been rectified for the most part. But I can tell you for damn sure that one of those reasons the Pats looked like a Walmart version of themselves in 2020 is NOT because Bill hasn’t drafted any Pro Bowl players since 2013.
Now listen, if there’s another 6 year stretch of no Pro Bowl players drafted and the team stays around .500 each season and continue to miss the playoffs, THEN I can see revisiting this entire thing, but if Belichick keeps getting Pro Bowl caliber players on this team, why do you care how they get here or if they end up being selected?
So instead of searching for things to complain about when it comes to Belichick and the Pats, how about we just enjoy the success and get excited about the wins that are sure to come next season. Because I don’t know about you guys, but when the Patriots start winning again, I won’t be pausing my excitement to say “This is awesome!….but where are the Pro Bowlers Bill!?”