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Tribal Warfare
11-20-2011, 02:50 AM
Duplicating the Patriots’ Way hasn’t been easy for Belichick’s protégés (http://www.kansascity.com/2011/11/19/3275928/pioli-sticks-to-patriot-way-an.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. | A chilly wind blows through Patriot Place on a Friday afternoon, visitors and workers going from here to there on the immaculate concourse adjoining Gillette Stadium. It’s sunny on this day, bright noontime light shining on the field.

Some passers-by look down and admire the two swatches of turf interrupting the concrete, not far from a museum that honors the New England Patriots’ history, most of it recent. There are three Super Bowl trophies in The Hall, all won in the last decade by coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and a franchise that has become a model for other NFL teams.

“We all had small roles in it,” Belichick says, “but when you combine it all together — that was scores of people in their areas of responsibility, working together collectively — we were able to produce a team.”

It’s not just a philosophy here. It’s a culture. There’s a certain way to draft. A certain kind of player to target as a free agent, and a certain way to behave. This is a place where philosophy shares the space with football. Most important, there’s a certain way to think.

“It’s a big transition for people who haven’t experienced it,” former Patriots assistant coach Eric Mangini says. “But the one thing that, especially in New England, that guys know is: If they do it, they’re probably going to win a lot of games.”

Many of Belichick’s protégés have attempted to leave the nest and duplicate the Patriot Way. Most have failed. Mangini says it’s a mistake to try to copy the design precisely. He knows, because after two terms as a head coach, sticking too closely to Belichick’s philosophy helped to derail his promising career.

Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, who left New England in 2009 after nine years and all three of those championships, is among the ones still trying to perfect it in a location far from Patriot Place. He downplays the New England influence on the Chiefs, but others see a noticeable Patriots fingerprint.

“Some of the environmental things and operation things, I’m finally seeing where they come from,” says offensive lineman Brian Waters, who signed with the Patriots this season after 11 seasons with the Chiefs.

As Kansas City waits to see if Pioli can get it right — succeed where so many others have fallen short — the sun keeps shining on New England.

“I learned,” Pioli says, “by watching.”

• • •

During Pioli’s first months in Kansas City, the transference seemed to be on. The Chiefs began looking, sounding and thinking like the Patriots. Rules were tightened. A team-first culture was shared among the players Pioli had inherited.

Not everyone who played for the Chiefs needed a lesson. Of the 39 new players the Chiefs acquired in 2009, 14 — including six of Pioli’s first seven acquisitions — had played for Belichick in New England. Pioli’s top aide, assistant GM Joel Collier, had been an assistant coach for the Patriots.

Perks, such as televisions in the training and weight rooms, were removed; they would be reinstalled only after the Chiefs began winning.

“Overall the structure of how the organization is run from the top down, is similar,” says quarterback Matt Cassel, whom the Chiefs acquired along with linebacker Mike Vrabel via a March 2009 trade with the Patriots. “At least it feels that way.”

Some balked at the shift. Players who couldn’t adapt, such as safety Bernard Pollard, a talented but volatile former second-round pick, were let go.

In New England, Belichick and Pioli reminded players that they were small parts of a large machine — a machine that needed them but only if they did their jobs as expected. Rodney Harrison remembers his initial talk with the Patriots after San Diego released him.

Harrison was known as a reckless defensive back. This, Belichick and Pioli told him, would have to be controlled.

“They told me exactly what they expected. They told me exactly what they wanted,” says Harrison, who played six seasons for the Patriots. “They said: ‘We’re trying to build a certain locker room.’ ”

The philosophy followed Pioli to Kansas City. In Pioli’s second draft, the Chiefs drafted players with leadership in mind. The idea was the same as it was in New England: If the locker room is flooded with good people — players who understood their roles and wouldn’t question the team’s direction — the machine would eventually run itself. If a player with a questionable background was eventually brought in, leadership wouldn’t have to keep an eye on him. Other players would be in charge of that.

“We were in the business of saying, ‘Are you part of our team? Are you part of our locker room?’ ” Harrison says. “If you’re not part of our locker room, eventually you will be out of our locker room.”

That first year was uncomfortable at times, Cassel says. Coach Todd Haley, who was Pioli’s first hire but had no connection with New England, was known to humiliate players and assistant coaches if they struggled to keep up with the plan.

Cassel says that was necessary if the Chiefs were to see results like the Patriots. As resistors began finding their way out, the strategy to bring over players who had lived the New England way began to make sense.

“We tried to impress upon these guys that this is a formula and a formula for success,” Cassel says. “You have to buy in, though. You can’t be halfway committed. You can’t dip your toe in the water; you’ve got to jump full-in.”

• • •

The transition didn’t come without roadblocks. A central basis of the Patriots’ success was their draft strategy. Since Belichick became the Patriots’ coach in 2000, his team has drafted 110 players, more than any team except Tennessee, which has taken 114 picks. Over that same period, the Chiefs drafted 14 fewer players than the Patriots.

By acquiring more picks, the Patriots were thereby improving their odds of succeeding in an arena that many NFL executives admit involves some guesswork.

Instead of selecting one player in each of the draft’s seven rounds, the Patriots in some years drafted as many as 12 players. In six of Belichick’s dozen years in New England, his team has selected at least 10 players — at least three more opportunities to find a contributor, starter or even a star. In 2005, Cassel was taken with a seventh-round pick acquired from Minnesota long before he became a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Chiefs in 2010.

“It’s really, really good business,” Mangini says.

Pioli has tried to bring this idea to Kansas City, too. But because the Chiefs’ first-round picks in 2009 and ’08 were in the top five, slots that at the time guaranteed the draft picks enormous guaranteed contracts, other teams had little interest in making a deal with the Chiefs.

The NFL’s new rookie wage scale, adopted this year as part of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement, lowered the staggering amounts rookies had been paid.

“Borderline impossible,” Mangini says of being able to trade a top-five pick before the new scale.

The Chiefs tried in ’09 to move down from the No. 3 spot, attempting to slide perhaps into the mid- or late first round to acquire LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, but trade partners stayed away. The Chiefs took Jackson at No. 3 and signed him to a $57 million contract. Three seasons later, Jackson has fallen short of the expectations that come along with that draft slot, the same as the contract.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, that when the Chiefs landed the No. 21 overall pick this year after a 10-win season, Pioli traded down five spaces to acquire an additional third-round choice.

Still, the Patriots haven’t drafted in the top five since Belichick became coach. Since Pioli departed New England, he has been unable to impart this philosophy, though the Chiefs have acquired additional picks in two of his three seasons in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the Patriots keep doing business their way: Over the past three seasons, New England has selected 33 players, nine more picks — and nine more chances to get it right — than the Chiefs.

• • •

Mangini spent six seasons on Belichick’s staff, winning three Super Bowls, before becoming coach of the New York Jets. After he went out on his own, he says he still heard his mentor’s voice in his head, guiding him to follow the path.

“Just like as I’m raising my kids,” he says, “I’ll hear my father’s voice.”

Mangini says he did what most Belichick protégés do: Copy the formula exactly. But Mangini learned the hard way, as others have, that this can be a mistake. The only flaw of the Patriot Way, it seems, is that it cannot be duplicated.

More than a half dozen of Belichick’s best students, including Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, have been charged with transplanting the culture to places like Cleveland, Denver and even South Bend, Ind. None of them won a championship, and those inspired architects are again in Belichick’s shadow.

“That set me back,” says Mangini, who’s now an ESPN analyst after being fired in January after two seasons in Cleveland.

Mangini says he tried in New York to do much of what Pioli is attempting in Kansas City. Mangini tightened media access, enforced strict rules on players and had no problem embarrassing assistants and players if they strayed. Before long, Mangini says, the men he was supposed to lead were beginning to tune him out.

Each year, Mangini says, he distanced himself further from the Patriot Way — knowing that he had to change the plan if he was going to succeed.

“What I learned over time is: You want to take all the things — the good things, the things you really liked and agreed with — and then make sure that you do the things that you believe in, as well,” he says. “Because I think I went too far in that direction initially.”

The challenge for Pioli might be greater. He is a fiercely loyal man, and he remembers the day that a friend introduced the college-aged Pioli to Belichick, who at the time was the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator. They immediately formed a bond, eventually forming a partnership that would last 16 years.

“Bill had absolutely nothing to gain from that relationship at that point in time,” Pioli says, “and he opened the door.”

They made magic in New England, doing things in a specific, unyielding way. Improvisation was the process’s kryptonite.

But Mangini says Pioli must improvise for perhaps the first time in his career: The needs of Kansas City — and Cleveland and Denver and South Bend — are different from those in New England.

Recent years suggest Pioli has begun to distance himself, even if slightly, from the Patriot Way. Of the 17 players the Chiefs have acquired in 2011, only offensive tackle Steve Maneri had played for New England. Haley has cut out much of the drill-sergeant act. The TVs are back in the weight room.

Still, the New England flavor remains.

“I can see the imprint,” Cassel says.

Mangini says time will tell whether Pioli can succeed where others have failed.

“It wasn’t always my voice,” Mangini says of how he ran his teams. “It was sort of the voice that I thought was the right voice.”

• • •

He speaks into the telephone late on a Thursday night. Scott Pioli is returning to New England for the first time since leaving the nest, and three seasons into his own endeavor, another student will see how he matches up against the teacher.

He says the lessons are still with him.

“The importance of doing every and any job regardless of how menial it may be perceived to be. No job too big, no job too small,” he says.

His undertaking with the Chiefs is enormous, and Pioli knows success will depend not on following the Patriot Way, but rather following what works — and tweaking it to what his team requires. It’s easier sometimes to lean on a template.

“You almost have to take a step back and say, ‘Who am I to say my way is going to be better than Bill Belichick?’ ” Mangini says.

Pioli says he never saw much of Patriot Place, that gleaming concourse that all that success helped to build. Instead, he and Belichick were usually in some meeting or conference room, trying to figure out the next opponent, the next draft, the next season.

“Park in the parking lot,” he says, “and away you go.”

Pioli says Monday night won’t be a time to savor his reunion. He’ll say hello to a few old friends and former colleagues, but mostly it will be a time to see how his project measures against the one here.

“A business trip,” Pioli says.

HMc
11-20-2011, 03:06 AM
the bit about top 5 picks being impossible to trade away is revisionist history bullshit. Maybe you won't get what you think they're "worth" but there always some deal to be made.

KCtotheSB
11-20-2011, 03:40 AM
I'm about goddamn sick of hearing about the "Patriots Way". You want to know what the "Patriots Way" is? Tom f**king Brady...and last time I checked our roster, we didn't have one of those.

milkman
11-20-2011, 06:58 AM
I'm about goddamn sick of hearing about the "Patriots Way". You want to know what the "Patriots Way" is? Tom f**king Brady...and last time I checked our roster, we didn't have one of those.

The other thing about "The Patriot Way" is that those SBs came early in Belichick's time there, with players drafted by the previous regime.

This whole concept that more picks give you a better chance to draft contributors is not a bad concept.

But sometimes you have to sit where you are and draft that potential difference making playmaker.

How many years has it been since "The Patriot Way" has won a SB?

DaFace
11-20-2011, 07:04 AM
It's going to be interesting to see how Bellichick does without Brady.
Posted via Mobile Device

KCtotheSB
11-20-2011, 07:23 AM
It's going to be interesting to see how Bellichick does without Brady.
Posted via Mobile Device

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Indianapolis_Colts_season

Baconeater
11-20-2011, 08:50 AM
It's going to be interesting to see how Bellichick does without Brady.
Posted via Mobile Device
You mean like in 2008, when they went 11-5?

milkman
11-20-2011, 08:52 AM
You mean like in 2008, when they went 11-5?

Against a soft schedule.

GloryDayz
11-20-2011, 09:10 AM
It's going to be interesting to see how Bellichick does without Brady.
Posted via Mobile Device

This...

JD10367
11-20-2011, 09:13 AM
The other thing about "The Patriot Way" is that those SBs came early in Belichick's time there, with players drafted by the previous regime.

From '01 to '03 to '04 to '07, each SB team started half or less the same guys from the SB before. (The only five constants for all four were Matt Light, Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Richard Seymour.)

'Hamas' Jenkins
11-20-2011, 10:51 AM
That's an awful article with awful insight and awful implications.

1) It assumes that simply having a lot of picks will mean that you draft well. New England has had more picks than ever the last three years, and they've largely drafted terribly

2) It completely leaves out the fact that the Patriot Way is really Tom Brady

3) It indicates that if we do finish with a top pick, we'll more than likely trade down, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a shit, mid-round QB, scooping up extra picks in the process.

tredadda
11-20-2011, 10:59 AM
It's going to be interesting to see how Bellichick does without Brady.
Posted via Mobile Device

Exactly. Let's see if he really is the "genius" everyone claims he is or if he has benefitted from Tom Brady.

DaFace
11-20-2011, 11:03 AM
You mean like in 2008, when they went 11-5?

I won't deny that Belichick has a knack for landing major players through free agency, and he's managed to build a pretty solid team most years.

However, part of the reason that players want to go there is that they know they'll be playing with Brady, who gives them a chance to win no matter who else is on the team. If Brady were gone, they might be OK for a year or two, but eventually the shine would wear off. THAT is when I'll be interested to see how he does.

'Hamas' Jenkins
11-20-2011, 11:31 AM
I think if we learned anything, it's that none of them seem to have any idea how to draft pass rushers.

Baconeater
11-20-2011, 11:35 AM
I won't deny that Belichick has a knack for landing major players through free agency, and he's managed to build a pretty solid team most years.

However, part of the reason that players want to go there is that they know they'll be playing with Brady, who gives them a chance to win no matter who else is on the team. If Brady were gone, they might be OK for a year or two, but eventually the shine would wear off. THAT is when I'll be interested to see how he does.
Eh, I wouldn't be surprised to see him "retire" the same time as Brady does.

Chocolate Hog
11-20-2011, 12:08 PM
Looks like the propaganda for passing up on a QB in the first round has started.

Bowser
11-20-2011, 01:21 PM
If we're going to adopt a "way", I vote we adopt the Green Bay Way, or the Pittsburgh Way, or maybe even the Baltimore Way.

As has been aid, having a Patriots Way is like having a Colts Way - it's great if you have the quaterback they do.

Shit, I guess the bottom line is that we need to draft and develop a QB, eh?

FAX
11-20-2011, 01:44 PM
"A business trip."

I like that.

FAX

WhiteWhale
11-20-2011, 02:00 PM
Get a QB.

No, really. I don't care if it's the Steelers way, the Patriot way, or the Milky way.

Get a QB, polish the defense, and compete for championships.

Finding the right QB is the hardest part. It's like looking for a wife. Don't settle for someone simply because you're scared you can't do better.

milkman
11-20-2011, 02:05 PM
Get a QB.

No, really. I don't care if it's the Steelers way, the Patriot way, or the Milky way.

Get a QB, polish the defense, and compete for championships.

Finding the right QB is the hardest part. It's like looking for a wife. Don't settle for someone simply because you're scared you can't do better.

My way or the highway, bub.

chuxtrux
11-20-2011, 05:21 PM
There wasn't a lot of concrete stuff in that article. They never really explained what exact "Patriot Way" ideas didn't work for Mangini. The only thing they alluded too was that he yelled too much and players tuned him out. That happens everywhere. The only examples they mentioned of Pioli distancing himself from the "Patriot Way" is that they put TVs back in the weight room and Haley doesn't yell as much. I like the idea behind the article, but Babb should have put more effort into finding out real information - which is tough because he doesn't get access, but still I give the article a C-.

Count Zarth
11-20-2011, 06:09 PM
There wasn't a lot of concrete stuff in that article. They never really explained what exact "Patriot Way" ideas didn't work for Mangini. The only thing they alluded too was that he yelled too much and players tuned him out. That happens everywhere. The only examples they mentioned of Pioli distancing himself from the "Patriot Way" is that they put TVs back in the weight room and Haley doesn't yell as much. I like the idea behind the article, but Babb should have put more effort into finding out real information - which is tough because he doesn't get access, but still I give the article a C-.

It's all bullshit anyway.

The Patriot Way is a bunch of bullshit posturing and strong-arm tactics from coaches and GMs who think they can get away with it because Brady is awesome.

The Patriot Way has resulted in 0 playoff wins since 2007.

ClamChowdah
11-20-2011, 06:11 PM
When was the last time the Chiefs won a playoff game?

We've been to 4 Superbowls in the past 10 years, the Patriot way is winning football games, The Chiefs fan should envy us.

Count Zarth
11-20-2011, 06:13 PM
the Patriot way is winning football games

Not in Kansas City.

ClamChowdah
11-20-2011, 06:14 PM
Not in Kansas City.

You don't have Bill Belichick, he is the Patriot way, winning games with Matt Cassel thats almost as good as anything else he has achived, you've seen his happy feet.

Okie_Apparition
11-20-2011, 06:16 PM
IPWNFOOLS
BlueBolt & now ClamChowdah

DaFace
11-20-2011, 06:16 PM
You don't have Tom Brady, he is the Patriot way, winning games with Matt Cassel thats almost as good as anything else he has achived, you've seen his happy feet.

Fixed.

ClamChowdah
11-20-2011, 06:18 PM
Fixed.

Tom Brady was groomed by Bill Belichick, if he was drafted somewhere else how can you say he would become the Tom Brady of today?

It is both the QB and the coach, this isn't Indianapolis, we went 11-5 without Brady in 2008.

Chiefs Pantalones
11-20-2011, 06:22 PM
This is all bullshit. There is no such thing as a "way." Coaches get way too much credit. Just find a franchise QB and put a pretty good team around him, and hell, you can have your team meetings at freaking Taco Bell and you'll still be competing for Super Bowls. Life is so much easier with a franchise QB.

SNR
11-20-2011, 06:23 PM
Tom Brady was groomed by Bill Belichick, if he was drafted somewhere else how can you say he would become the Tom Brady of today?

It is both the QB and the coach, this isn't Indianapolis, we went 11-5 without Brady in 2008.1. Don't say groomed

2. Vince Wilfork was Belichick's last truly great draft pick. There have been a few hits (some of you offensive line, your two TEs, Jerod Mayo) since then, but not really. It's been all Brady for the most part who has carried your team.

If Bob Kraft had the choice of keeping either Tom Brady or Bill Belichick for the next 5 years, I'll betcha he would choose Tom Brady.

ClamChowdah
11-20-2011, 06:25 PM
1. Don't say groomed

2. Vince Wilfork was Belichick's last truly great draft pick. There have been a few hits (some of you offensive line, your two TEs, Jerod Mayo) since then, but not really. It's been all Brady for the most part who has carried your team.

If Bob Kraft had the choice of keeping either Tom Brady or Bill Belichick for the next 5 years, I'll betcha he would choose Tom Brady.

A few?

Rob Gronkowski is the best TE in the NFL right now, he is a complete player, the only really bad drafting has been the DB's, you have to factor in its alot harder to make a team who consistantly wins their division.

There is also salary cap issues, you can't have everything, teams who have a franchise quarterback typically have flaws on defense which they can't really fix due to lack of cap.

SNR
11-20-2011, 06:28 PM
A few?

Rob Gronkowski is the best TE in the NFL right now, he is a complete player, the only really bad drafting has been the DB's, you have to factor in its alot harder to make a team who consistantly wins their division.I included him in the "hits". I will wait until I crown his ass as a truly great draft pick.

Also, Gronk has a ways to go if he wants to be the best TE in the game, bree

WhiteWhale
11-20-2011, 06:30 PM
Chiefs fans downplaying the success of the patriots.

Yeah, I've just about seen everything now.

tk13
11-20-2011, 06:30 PM
Belichick hasn't won anything without Romeo Crennel.

:)