It is often said that the lifeblood of a successful NFL team is the draft. The ability to draft and develop quality players is critical in the salary-cap era.
For New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, his approach extends beyond the locker room.
It goes into the coaching and meeting rooms as well.
In what might have been the most thorough answer of his 45-minute breakfast session with reporters Tuesday at the NFL’s owners meetings at the Boca Resort, Belichick explained his philosophy in constructing a successful coaching staff that can sustain over time.
What Belichick most often does is hire young coaches, have them learn from ground zero, and then hopefully have them grow within the system to rise up the ranks.
“It’s what I told [Art] Modell when I went to Cleveland [in 1991] and it’s what I told Robert [Kraft] when I came to New England: We’ll develop from within, teach coaches our system and develop them from within so we didn’t have to change philosophies when coaches changed,” Belichick said.
“I have my [X’s and O’s] philosophy, that’s what we were going to do, obviously with modifications. But we weren’t going to change offensive, defensive and special teams philosophies in personnel every time we made a coaching change. I’ve tried to live by that my entire head coaching career, and expect to continue to do that.”
By doing so, the Patriots’ have had uncommon continuity in their systems, which is something quarterback Tom Brady has noted as being beneficial to his career growth.
Because of this, the number of mid-to-late-career assistants Belichick has hired to join the team over his 17 years is minimal, and they haven’t always worked out.
One notable example came in 2008, when veteran coach Dom Capers joined the staff with the title of special assistant/secondary. At the time, there was media-based chatter about the possible fusion of the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme and more of the Capers-based attacking 3-4 scheme, but it never came to fruition and Capers departed after one season.
More recently, Belichick took a similar approach by hiring mid-career assistant Dave DeGuglielmo as offensive line coach in 2014. DeGuglielmo and the team parted ways after two seasons.
So to no one’s surprise this year, Belichick has stuck to the in-house development plan.
After head strength coach Harold Nash (Lions) and linebackers coach Patrick Graham (Giants) departed, the team promoted assistant strength coach Moses Cabrera, shifted safeties coach Brian Flores to linebackers, and elevated Steve Belichick from coaching assistant (a position he held from 2012-2015) to safeties coach.
Also, offensive coaching assistant Jerry Schuplinski — who had been in that role for three seasons — was bumped up to assistant quarterbacks coach.
Now to keep feeding the pipeline, a couple of entry-level coaching assistants should soon join the mix as well.
For Belichick, this perpetuates the continuity that has been a core part of his philosophy as Patriots coach.