Bill Belichick’s Affinity for Greg Schiano, Rutgers Should Be Questioned

The New England Patriots’ 2013 draft strategy was clearly influenced by Bill Belichick’s relationship with Greg Schiano. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Contributor: Dan Hope

For much of the first decade of the 21st century, the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were a team considered to be ahead of the curve when it came to the NFL draft.

From consistently finding diamonds in the rough who became team building blocks, to mastering the art of trading up and down the draft board for better value, the Patriots laid the foundation for three NFL championships and five Super Bowl appearances in an 11-year span.

But as the rest of the league has caught up, with teams such as the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks making brilliant offseason moves translate into on-field success, the Patriots are at risk of falling behind.

As a result of Belichick’s success at the beginning of the century, winning three Super Bowls in the first five years of the millennium, he has typically received benefit of the doubt. Belichick’s decisions are ultimately expected to be for the better — understandably given his accolades — even if they are unexpected or unconventional.

That said, it’s time to start looking past the benefit of the doubt, with the Patriots now eight years removed from their last Super Bowl title. Specifically, the decision to use three of seven draft picks on Rutgers players, coinciding with an apparently burgeoning friendship between Belichick and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, should raise a red flag.

Belichick’s relationship with Schiano has been no secret in recent years, or at least a poorly-kept one. It is a relationship fostered by Belichick’s son, Steve, who was a student at Rutgers from 2007-2011. After playing lacrosse for four years, the younger Belichick actually walked onto the Scarlet Knights football team, coached by Schiano at the time, as a long snapper in 2011.

Steve Belichick is now a coaching assistant with the Patriots.

With a close connection linking Bill Belichick and Schiano, the Patriots have often pulled from the Rutgers pool in recent years. Most notably, they drafted defensive back Devin McCourty with their first-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft, but have made undrafted free agent additions from the Scarlet Knights as well.

During this year’s NFL draft, however, that relationship was perpetuated to an unprecedented obviousness. The Patriots drafted three players who played for Schiano and were teammates with Steve Belichick: cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon in Round 3, and inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais in Round 7.

By themselves, the Ryan and Beauharnais selections look like great choices. Ryan is a physical, instinctive cornerback who is comfortable in both man and zone coverages, has the potential to take over a starting role in 2014 if Aqib Talib leaves via free agency, and was good value as a third-round selection. Beauharnais is a well-rounded linebacker who is a great fit to back up Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker, and was a very solid choice in the seventh round.

Combining the Harmon selection together with the Ryan and Beauharnais picks, however, make the Rutgers-heavy draft look the result of an unconventional draft strategy based upon a coaching friendship and not upon the typically successful route of year-round scouting.

That’s not saying Harmon won’t turn out to be a quality addition to the Patriots’ secondary, but calling it a questionable choice is an understatement.

The Patriots did not have a need at the strong safety position, yet selected Harmon far earlier in the draft than anyone else had expected him to go, reportedly including the Patriots’ own scouts. Well-known draft analyst Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider wrote that Patriots scouts were “overruled” by the team’s “brain trust,” while Pauline also said no scouts he talked to pre-draft thought Harmon would be drafted among the top 100 picks.

This alludes to a potential problem within the Patriots organization. The Patriots have scouts who work year-round to find the best prospects from across the college football landscape. Belichick, on the other hand, is unable to devote most of his year to scouting college talent, making him more likely to become quickly enamored with a player whose program he has a connection to without necessarily comparing him to the other talent at his position.

Belichick (along with director of player personnel Nick Caserio) calls the shots, so if he makes a decision, it ultimately does not matter if every scout in the room is against his choice.

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Tags: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Draft Strategy, Duron Harmon, Greg Schiano, Logan Ryan, Rutgers, Steve Beauharnais, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28 Responses to “Bill Belichick’s Affinity for Greg Schiano, Rutgers Should Be Questioned”

  1. Tom says:

    Guys Rutgers had a top 5 defense last year and has had a top 20 defense generally for the last 8 years. It is the defense that gets them wins. Last year, the offense was ranked ~ 110th in the country. If they had any semblance of an offense, they would have been 11-2 and in the Sugar Bowl. Even without the offense, they were a couple plays away from 11-2.

    Look at the defensive draft picks this year (or the UFAs) or any year over the last 7 years and you will see solid football players, NFL ready, hard working, and no character issues.

  2. rickey ullman says:

    B4 I RIP INTO BILL BELICHICK I WANT TO REMIND EVERYBODY THAT I DO BELEIVE HE IS THE BEST X’S AND O’S COACH OF ALL TIME!! HE PUTS AVERGE N BELOW AVERAGE PLAYERS INTO POSITIONS 2 HAVE TURNOVERS WHICH SAVES HIS BACK SIDE OVER N OVER ON HIS BELOW AVERAGE TALENT!! FIRST THE DEFENSE HIGHTOWER IS MAYBE AN ABOVE AVERGE PLAYER, HOWEVER HE WAS DRAFTED CUZ HE WAS COACHED UP BY SABAN!! NOT CUZ HE HAS ELITE NFL TALENT!! ME N ALL THE ITHER HOPEFULS JUST NEED 2 KEEP IN MIND WHEN EVALUATORS TALK ABOUT THE TOP5 YOUNG 4-3 LB’S N 3-4 ILB’S HIGHTOWER ALTHOUGH AN OK AND I MEAN ONLY OK PLAYER IS NEVER!! AND I MEAN NEVER MENTIONED!! NOT AS TOP5 OR EVEN HONORABLE MENTION!! A 4-3 OR ILB SHOULD BE EXPLOSIVE!! FLASH ON THE SCENE N HAVE ELITE CLOSING BURST!!! HIGHTOWER ALTHOUGH GOOD LONG SPEED 4 A GUY 265LBS DOESNT HAVE THESE ELEITE QUALITES THAT MAKE ELITE LB’S NO EXPLSOIVE CLOSING ABILITY

  3. rickey ullman says:

    OK OK OK HERE’S THE DEAL!! FIRST OFF I WAS THE FIRST 2 PUBLICLY CRITICIZE BILL BELICHICK’S DRAFTING BACKIN 2009 AND I WAS HEAVILY CHASTIZED 4 IT!!! I WAS IN LONELY COMPANY IN 2009 WHEN I SAID OTHER THAN VOLLMER IT WAS A TERRIBLE DRAFT AND SERIOUS NEEDS IN THE POSITION’S THAT GREATLY EFFECT THE PASSING GAME OF TODAYS NFL WAS IGNORED WHEN ELITE TALENT WAS THERE 4 THE TAKING!! IN TODAYS NFL PASS RUSHERS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER CUZ NO MZTTER HOW GOOD A CORNER IS HE CANT COVER ALL DAY!!!! AND PASSRUSH WAS CLEARLY A SERIOUS NEED 4 US VERY SERIOUS!!! BILL PASSED ON 3 PLAYERS I WAS BANGING THE TABLE 4 PAUL KRUGER CONNOR BARWIN AND MICHAEL JOHNSON ALL OF WHOM JUST CASHED IN!!!!! BUT WHAT DID BILL SAY?? HE DIDINT REALLY LIKE THIS DRAFT!!!OUCH!! WHATS MORE!!?? HE TRADED OUT OF THE PICK THAT BECAME CLAY MATTHEWS!! DOUBLE OUCH!!! INSTEAD HE TOOK BRACE WHO WAS ALONG 4 THE RIDE WITH THE ELITE BJ RAJI THE COVERING DEFICIENT PAT CHUNG AND DAVIS!! THEN IN 2010 HE TRADES DOWN AGAIN IN ROUND ONE AND SURRENDERS THE PICK THAT BECAME DEZ BRYANT!!! ONE OF THE 4 MOST TALENTED N DYNAMIC WR’S IN THE NFL AND THE WEAPON TOM BRADY HAS BEEN LACKING HIS WHOLE CAREER!!!! OTHER THAN THE YR WE HAD MOSS. IF WE HAD CLAYMAKER N BRYANT WE WOULD HAVE AT LEAST 2 MORE RING ALONE AT LEAST!!!! OR BRYANT AN ANY OF THE 3 TOP EDGE RUSHERS HE PASSED UP ON IN 2009 WHEN IT WAS A HUGE NEED 4 US!!! THAT MAKES THE DRAFTING THAT MUCH WORSE!! BELICHCIK IS THE BEST PLAYER COACH N SCHEMER IN THE NFL BUT HIS DECISIONS OVER PLAYER PERSONNEL SHOULD BE REMOVED OR AT LEAST DECREASED!! I BELEIVE BILL HAS THE KNOWLEDGE 2 DRAFT BETTER BUT HE NEEDS SOMETHING 2 MOTIVATE HIM LIKE REMOVING SOME OF HIS DRAFTING AUTHORITY!! BRADY IS BY FAR THE BEST QB IN THE NFL!! ANYBODY THINK NOT?? HE HAS PUT UP AS GOOD N EFFICIENT 3′S AS ANY QB IN THE NFL OVER LAST 7 YRS N HE HAS DONE THIS WITH WES WELKER WHO WAS NOBODY B4 BRADY THROWING HIM THE BALL DEION BRANCH RECHE CALDWELL N A LIST OF BELOW AVERAGE WR’S IMAGINE IF BRADY HAD A DEZ BRYANT OR AT LEAST AN ERIC DECKER AND STEVE JOHNSON OR COLSTON!!?? HE WOULD SET PASSING RECORDS THAT WOULD RARELY EVEN BE THREATENED IF EVER!! LIKE 55 TD’S CLOSE 2 6000 YRDS!!! BILLS EGE N BAD DRAFTING IS DESTROYING BRADY’S PRIME AND BRADY HAS COVERED UP BELICHICKS TERRIBLE TERRIBLE DRAFTING!!!!! MORE ON THIS LATER

  4. Rich m says:

    The same can be said of his coaching staff..josh Boyer was a horrible coach in college and an even worse Cb coach in pros..Dc @south Dakota school of mining and tech, with one win, then secondary coach @ Bryant, with 500 record. BB needs former college coaches with big time experience. Read The War Room, great book that shows that when he overrules scouts, the players fail

  5. DaveM says:

    He has to draft all these Rutgers players. It’s the only way little Stevie could get into the school.

  6. td says:

    So the two trips to the Super Bowl, 2 trips to the AFC Championships and annual excellence don’t count?

    Are the Packers going to (not winning, going to) the super bowl every year? The Manning led Colts, the Bronco’s, the Ravens, the Steelers?

    One not on 49ers & Seahawks; they both have extremely young talented players……on rookie contracts. They need to go all in now, before they have to pony up hard cash to Kapernick & Wilson. When they do, watch the exit of a bunch of their young, soon to be elite talent: Aldon Smith, a few OLinemen, Richard Sherman, etc, etc.

    Part of the reason BB moves down is because he knows he can get his guy(s) lower in the draft at a cheaper price.

    Part of the team building in the NFL now is getting value. The quickest way to do that is by bringing in young, cheaper guys.

    • JV says:

      Cheaper doesnt always result in good football players. Terrance Wheatly, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Cunningham, Taylor Price, Patric Chung, Brandon Tate, Tyrone Mckenzie, Shawn Crable, Chad Jackson….the list goes on.

      Bill is the best coach in the NFL no doubt..GM? not so sure about that. He has passed on alot off good football players for the above dead weight. Fact.

  7. VT Bill says:

    Brandon William, Sam Montgomery, Shamarco Thomas, Barrett Jones, Kahled Holmes, marcus lattimore, any of the 4th round QB’s, and my favorite, Denard Robinson.

    All those guys were available when BB took Duron harmon at #91

    Its not a great stretch to think that Brady has made BB a legend in his own mind

  8. Andy says:

    Your an idiot!!!!

  9. Joe Blake says:

    I guess Nepotism runs deep in the NFL: Steve Belichick on the Patriot coaching staff: what a joke. With his background, if his name were Steve Smith, the only way he could get into the stadium would be to buy a ticket. Harmon may or may not make it, but they could have secured his services as a UFA and would have an extra 3rd rounder contributing. BB is patronizing the Rutgers football program. Rather, he should be supporting his draft staff 100%. Hopefully his arrogance will not keep the Pats from a SB that doesn’t have an ** (spy gate & tuck rule).

    • MaineMan says:

      Speaking of arrogance….

      It seems pretty arrogant to assume that Steve Belichick doesn’t have a metric buttload more football knowledge than the average “joe”, or at least as much as any other candidate for his entry-level position. As far as the “nepotism” goes, it’s not as if he became an instant partner in his daddy’s law firm. He’s still just a grunt learning the ropes of the biz.

      Also, 3rd-rounders don’t often contribute a lot immediately, so, if Harmon doesn’t, it won’t be particularly unusual. Assuming that Harmon would otherwise been undrafted and available is foolish since we have no way of knowing what other teams may have been interested. In any case, none of the 14 safeties taken after Harmon seemed any more worthy and a couple of those taken ahead of Harmon seemed even less so. Similar to the Tavon Wilson situation in 2012. San Diego had the next pick after the Pats and had also held a PW with Wilson. And, none of the 16 safeties after Wilson (including the guy that SD ended up taking) did squat as rookies.

      • big w says:

        Rusell Wilson third rounder , did a fair amount instead we have Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon . Could have had Rusell Wilson and Barrett Jones. He needs to trust scouts and stay with what he knows best coach players.

        • AM says:

          I’m fairly certain that if the Patriots had drafted a QB with a third-round pick in 2012, most of the commenters on this site would have gone ballistic.

          But you are correct, we could have had Russell Wilson instead of Tavon Wilson. Of course, we also landed Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Alfonzo Dennard in that draft, in addition to signing Brandon Bolden and Justin Francis as UDFA. Even if Wilson never pans out, and Jake Bequette and Nate Ebner are cut tomorrow, that draft has already generated three starters. Hard to believe that it could have been much better; in fact, by my count, the only teams that even came close to that level of productivity were the Colts and Vikings, with the Packers and Redskins a bit further off. I wouldn’t trade the Patriots 2012 class for any of those teams’ classes, nor the last decade or so of drafting history for any of their track records.

          If your complaint is that the draft wasn’t perfect, I would probably agree (although grading a draft after a single year is a foolish exercise). But it really isn’t much of a complaint at all.

        • CC says:

          Although BB does in fact need2listen a little bit more IMO, still – well said am.

      • Joe Blake says:

        I’m finally “getting it” …this is a site for Patriot lap dogs…

        • MaineMan says:

          Leavening your sweeping, ballistic pronouncements with reason and, y’know, actual football knowledge doesn’t make anyone a “Patriots lap dog”. But, it is true that when you’re standing in the North pole, everyone else is South of you.

  10. CC says:

    Uhmmm. ………..Duh’!!!!

  11. J H TARBORO says:

    That’s it, NFL coach and similar scheme means learn faster, play faster.

  12. Conrad Lee says:

    Numbers do not lie…here is what I looked at when pondering why all those Rutgers DB’s were drafted…check out the link below. Rutgers is ranked in the top 5 in all of college football for the past four years in takeaways

    Here’s a look at which teams have accumulated the most takeaways over the last four seasons:

    http://coachingsearch.com/coaching-search-ticker/3181-4-year-study-most-takeaways-in-college-football.html

    —————————-

  13. Matt says:

    Here’s a short list of players BB selected who had ties to his college buddies:

    Michigan St., LSU, Alabama — T.J. Turner, Greg Robinson-Randall, Jarvis Green, Rohan Davey, Marquise Hill, Randall Gay, Brandon Deaderick, Donta Hightower.

    Verdict: some busts, but a better-than-average group. If you had those eight guys as your draft class, you’d be happy.

    Fresno State (Pat Hill) — Logan Mankins, James Sanders, Ryan Wendell

    Verdict: All good Patriots, and Mankins was a Harmonesque pick once.

    Florida (Urban Meyer) — Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Cunningham, Chad Jackson.

    Verdict: a mixed bag, but probably a net plus.

    Iowa (Kirk Ferentz) — Ellis Hobbs. Jeff Tarpinian, Marcus Zusevics

    Verdict: considering draft position, none were bad pickups. Hobbs was a starter for years and both of the UDFAs made the team.

    Rutgers (Greg Schiano) — Devin McCourty, Justin Francis, Alex Silvestro, Tiquan Underwood, Ryan, Harmon, Beauharnais, Jones.

    Verdict: McCourty was a WTF pick who panned out. Francis was solid for an UDFA. The rest either didn’t pan out or we don’t know yet.

    All in all, out of all of these “Belichick buddies” picks, the batting average is… Probably about average. Clearly he does well with undrafted guys who come from those schools, but that might be because he’s giving them an extra look. One notable thing is that the only guy out of all of these who had a work ethic problem we knew about was Jackson (and maybe T.J. Turner, too). He at least gets full effort from these private recommendations.

    I understand people freaking out about Harmon because he’s unknown, but Bill’s done okay with these “friends of BB” picks. Would anyone be shocked if Harmon turned out to be another James Sanders type? I wouldn’t. These dull-but-dependable players are really needed, and he’s gotten a lot of that type of player through his pipeline picks.

    • AM says:

      Agreed in principle, although Hobbs went to Iowa State. I’d also add that McCourty wasn’t really out of nowhere–he was graded as an early-second round pick, if I recall, so late-20s wasn’t much of a stretch for him.

  14. Alex says:

    I think we are holding the Patriots and BB to very high standards. They made it to the Superbowl in 2011 and to the AFC championship game in 2012. That puts them in a very select group of teams (with the Ravens and 49ers). We also seem to focus on misses and what players we could have drafted there (Clay Matthews and Mike Wallace in 2009) way too much. As AM pointed out, Mankins (and Vollmer as well, IIRC) was also a reach at the time, but almost nobody remembers that now. BB is also 5/5 with his first round picks since 2008 (Mayo, McCourty, Solder, Jones, Hightower). He found some starters in the lower rounds (Hernandez, Dennard) or as UDFA (Wendell). He does make some odd choices and some of them do not work out. The thing is, he’s not the only one making mistakes: the 49ers took AJ Jenkins in the first round last year (barely saw the field), the Seahawks took James Carpenter (over drafted) and Bruce Irvin (way overdrafted) in 2011 and 2012.
    tl;dr – BB may not be the best at drafting, but he’s above average. The Pats had 10+ wins since 2003, so he’s doing something right.

  15. AM says:

    I understand the point of the article, and agree insofar as you’re saying that it is a bad idea for Belichick–or any head coach–to overrule scouts based on personal relationships with college programs. That being said, I think it is a reach to term this a draft “strategy,” and I would caution against reading too much into the numbers from this year. Belichick’s comment about the Rutgers program was in response to a specific question about what he saw in Rutgers players, and strikes me as a generic talking point rather than a look into draft strategy. He could have said the same about a dozen other programs.

    Really, this is a question about one single data point in the last several drafts. As you mention, Ryan and Beauharnais look like great choices, and each was drafted in the range he was expected to go (Beauharnais a little underdrafted, if anything). The only issue is the Harmon pick, which seems to have been a reach. If he was overdrafted solely because Belichick likes Greg Schiano’s work at Rutgers, then that is only a bad thing insofar as the personal relationship clouds an accurate assessment of the program. On that score, Rutgers did have one of the best defenses in the country last year, even if they were in a generally weak conference. But if the relationship with the coach simply gives more insight into a particular player, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Hunter points out, it didn’t hurt with a number of Florida players, nor with Logan Mankins (also “overdrafted” out of Pat Hill’s Fresno State program) or James Sanders (same school, same year). It is also worth pointing out that Belichick has spent exactly one high round draft pick on a Nick Saban player (Dont’s Hightower, last year) and none on any Charlie Weis, Kirk Ferentz, or Bill O’Brien player. If his purported “love the program, love the player” approach is indeed a strategy, it is a very inconsistently applied one. I think it is more likely that Harmon got the benefit of the doubt because of his intangibles, not that the board was swept aside to make room for Rutgers players.

    On one final note, I would take Pauline’s report with a grain of salt. I am certain he is reporting the information he has received, but I’m always skeptical of after-the-fact draft reporting–not one team or scout will lay claim to Harmon now that he looks like a reach, but if he performs very well, they will be coming out of the woodwork in two years saying that they had him graded as a fourth-rounder.

  16. Hunter says:

    I’m just curious if a similar article was written in 2010 with all of the Florida players drafted. Very similar, with Spikes viewed as a solid pick, Hernandez a steal, and Cunningham being the WTF selection.

    Also, has Belichick ever had a draft that WASN’T a head scratcher? In the past 6 drafts (not including 2013), the team has made 56 selections, and only 23 are still on the team. That number will likely be closer to 20 after training camp. 2009 was disgusting, with only 2 of the 12 picks still here.

    I’ve learned not to worry about how the man drafts, and focus on how he coaches the team that he eventually puts in place.

    • AM says:

      Well said on the Florida issue. I know that particular affinity came back to bite the Patriots at least once (Chad Jackson), but it certainly didn’t hurt with Spikes or Hernandez.

  17. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    Intesting points, however, Bill always looks at players with more in mind than just physical ability. Bill knew these Rutgers players in person, and he places alot on a players ability to understand,lean, and adapt that does not show-up in scouting reports. I missed on all my Patriot draft picks , for the first time in 3 years,, but I rarely get to meet players in person to evaluate. Rutger’s Deffense was very good the past few years, which means more than one player is good.

  18. nicojones says:

    overall, i agree that: “Rather than focusing upon what coach each player had in college, they should focus on drafting the best talent available for Belichick and the coaching staff to mold”

    however, i dont agree with the criticism that it might not be worth taking a player if their own coach did not take that player.
    because, heck, somebody has to take the player, right??
    just about all the great players that have been drafted were not drafted by their previous college coach, and yet they turned out great.
    now, if you get too many, just cause you like the coach or the system, then, yeah, that has a higher percentage to result in failed draft picks.
    bottom line is we don’t know yet, and we won’t know for a while yet how these players will work out.
    i hope they do well and they bring home that elusive 4th ring….go pats!

  19. Jim R says:

    Valid points, Its obvious he will take players from a program he has close ties with the Head Coach. Some of these pay off. I would look over the next few years that players from Penn State and Ohio State will be the preference.



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