Since 2000, we have been living in the era of Bill Belichick in the NFL. Eight Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl victories, and a remarkable, 214-74 record. Belichick is ranked the third most winning coach in NFL history, just above Tom Landry, the legendary Dallas Cowboys head coach. If Belichick can continue at this rate for another 7-8 years, Belichick could easily become the most winning head coach in NFL history. But, many say that the success of the New England Patriots is on Tom Brady, not Belichick. But this is why that statement is incorrect.
Brady is not the most athletic, strongest-armed, or even the most talented quarterback. But, because of his ability to win, many s him as extremely talented. And he is, but Belichick has helped players become stars in New England, and have a true purpose on this team, where they struggle elsewhere. And there are players who aren’t even on this list because they had limited success elsewhere but starred in New England. LeGarrette Blount is a perfect example. He ran for 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016, something you will never see again.
There’s some crazy way that Belichick trains these players to make them the best that they can be. Many NFL players have spoken about how tough he is on his players, but at the end of the day, they become champions. He isn’t a coach that goes after the star players, but he finds players that he can grow at a cheap price. Regardless of how you feel about Bill Belichick, there’s no arguing the fact that he’s one of the greatest NFL head coaches to ever live.
20 Ellis Hobbs (CB)
Let’s start with a player who comes from exactly what Bill Belichick specializes in. Before Belichick became a head coach, he was a defensive assistant and special teams coach for the New York Giants. Well, that explains how Ellis Hobbs was pretty good with the Patriots. Hobbs was a cornerback, as well as a returner on special teams.
Through his four seasons with the Patriots, he had nine interceptions with 41 pass deflections and 162 tackles. He also had 2,913 kick return yards and three kick returns he took back for touchdowns.
Through two seasons with the Eagles, those numbers disappeared.
Hobbs averaged 22.9 yards per return, opposed to his 27.7 average in New England. He also had only one interception, along with four pass deflections. In Philadelphia, his playing time decreased, and eventually, his career ended due to a neck injury.
19 David Givens (WR)
The seventh round of the NFL draft seems like the perfect place for a player that Bill Belichick can mold into a starter. David Givens was no star, but he was a good wide receiver that you could get the football to. You’ll notice there’s a trend with these players, and that’s many of them don’t stay with the Patriots after their contract is up.
Through four seasons with the Patriots, Givens had 158 receptions for 2,214 receiving yards, and 12 touchdown catches. When he got to Tennessee, he only played five games, making eight receptions for 104 yards, with no touchdowns. Those are statistics that some players have achieved in one game.
18 Brand0n Meriweather (FS)
Let’s start off by saying, Brandon Meriweather wasn’t terrible after he left the Patriots, but he wasn’t as effective. With the Patriots, it seemed that Meriweather could do a little bit of everything. Play up and against the run, be effective in coverage and attack the football. With the Patriots, he had 12 interceptions, five of which were from 2009. He had 181 tackles and forced five fumbles.
After his career with the Patriots ended, he played with the Redskins, Bears, and Giants. He was good at forcing fumbles with the Redskins, but he was making fewer tackles, and also wasn’t as aggressive against the pass. After he left the Patriots, it took him five seasons to have over five pass deflections, in which he had over five in three out of four seasons.
17 Stevan Ridley (RB)
Running backs many times are often used over and over again in the NFL. If you don’t work out with one team, another team will probably find a need for you. How is it that Stevan Ridley was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012 and scored 12 touchdowns, yet hasn’t rushed for over 150 yards in a season since the Patriots moved on from him?
Ridley was a really good running back, who had some good years in Foxborough.
Belichick constantly uses different running backs and somehow, finds a way to make them all successful. Since leaving the Patriots, Ridley hasn’t rushed for more yards than he did in his worst season with Belichick.
16 Lawyer Milloy (S)
This one may not fully be on Bill Belichick, as he was successful before Belichick became the head coach. But Lawyer Milloy was a solid defensive back for 15 seasons, but his best of days came when he was on the New England Patriots. When Belichick got there in 2000, he started deflecting more passes and became a better tackler. Milloy was already good in coverage, but Belichick helped this All American succeed for a long time.
Until his last season with the Patriots, he had at least one interception a season. When he left, there were four seasons he was without one, and the number of tackles he made a season decreased. He still was solid, but not anywhere near as good as he was in New England.
15 Mike Vrabel (LB)
Maybe with the way his career went after he left New England, Mike Vrabel should have decided to become a defensive coordinator for the Patriots when Matt Patricia left, rather than taking a head coach position with the Titans. Before Vrabel played with the Patriots, he started his career with the Steelers where he didn’t get much playing time, as he never started a game, yet. That all changed in Foxboro.
Vrabel became a reliable pass rusher, who you could count on for at least four sacks throughout the season. His best season came in 2003 when he finished with 9.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions. He was able to do it all. But then once his career ended in New England, he proved in Kansas City that he couldn’t do anything without Belichick, recording only two sacks in two seasons and not having making one interception.
14 Shane Vereen (RB)
Many know of Shane Vereen as the running back who struggled with the Giants, so they had to go out and get Saquon Barkley. Maybe that would explain why he’s still a free agent. But before the Giants, Vereen was one of the best running backs to catch the football.
In 2013 and 2014, Vereen finished with over 400 receiving yards each season, and scored a few touchdowns.
In his first season with the Giants, he was successful through the air, but the numbers got worse and worse, until he finally became a free agent. Maybe he was forgetting what Belichick taught him.
13 Patrick Chung (S)
Unlike many of the players on this list, Patrick Chung seems to have never left New England. Despite the one season he played with the Eagles, he’s pretty much played with the Patriots until this day. He’s been great all around, except when he was in Philly. No interceptions, the amount of pass deflections decreased, and he wasn’t making as many tackles.
But as a safety, you should be a ball hawk. When the ball is coming down the field, you should be there. Unfortunately, when Chung was with the Eagles, he wasn’t seeing things the same. Maybe that’s why he felt the need to come back to New England.
12 Kyle Van Noy (LB)
Kyle Van Noy’s start with the Detroit Lions was, eh, better to forget about. He wasn’t making as many tackles, he wasn’t covering very well, and he wasn’t forcing turnovers. Van Noy was traded during the 2016 season, and at that time, many considered him to be a draft bust. But with Belichick’s defensive mind, that wasn’t going to happen.
In only two starts and seven games, Van Noy had an interception and a forced fumble. Finally, he was creating turnovers. With one full offseason under Belichick, he improved a lot. In 2017, he started 12 games, finishing with 5.5 sacks and 58 tackles, both career highs. Now, the Patriots have a young linebacker to build off of.
11 Logan Ryan (CB)
When you take a look at Logan Ryan’s numbers, you would never expect him to be a third-round draft pick. From the start, Ryan was very successful and aggressive. In his rookie season with the Patriots, he had five interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown, 10 pass deflections, and 38 tackles.
As the years went by, he learned to attack the quarterback and continue to be aggressive towards the football.
In 2017, Ryan signed with the Tennessee Titans. In his first season, he continued to make tackles but finished with no interceptions. Ryan’s dropoff from when he left the Patriots to the Titans, is foreshadowing the future for Malcolm Butler.
10 Willie McGinest (LB)
To clarify, Willie McGinest is a great football player, but playing under Bill Belichick only made him even better. McGinest’s incredible career ended off with him in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Before Belichick got there, McGinest already seemed to be a strong pass rusher. But what Belichick was able to do, was help him develop as a better coverage linebacker as well, and even overcome the struggles he had.
Finally, when the Patriots released him, McGinest struggled to finish his career in Cleveland. He recorded only eight sacks in his last three seasons, and he did not come back with a single interception.
9 Matt Cassel (QB)
It seems that whenever a team is in need of a quarterback mid-way through the season, they reach out to Matt Cassel, expecting him to turn their team around into a playoff team. The one season that Tom Brady missed, Cassel threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdown passes, leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl without their superstar QB. This very season made a lot of people believe that much of the success of the Patriots is due to Belichick, as the Patriots have been able to continue to win without Brady on the field.
Throughout the rest of his career, besides the 2010 season, he struggled. He became a permanent backup that has played for six different teams and now is on his seventh.
8 Laurence Maroney (RB)
One of the forgotten talents of the New England Patriots is running back Laurence Maroney. Since day one, Maroney was a serviceable running back that averaged around four yards per carry. Through four seasons, he rushed for at least 700 yards in three of four seasons, despite 2008 where he missed 13 games.
Maroney was successful, but wasn’t a star. He worked in the system and was good for at least six touchdowns each season.
In his final season, he played with the Denver Broncos, where he rushed for only 74 yards, averaging 2.1 yards per carry, and didn’t score a touchdown.
7 Vince Wilfork (DT)
Who would ever think that a 325-pound defensive tackle could become one of the best in the NFL? Wilfork’s weight may have led many to assume that it would have held him back, but it only made him better. For his weight, he was quick, and of course he had the strength and size to stuff running holes and also to get passed offensive lineman. Throughout his career, he was a reliable pass rusher and run stopper. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as successful in Houston. Through two seasons, Wilfork only made 15 tackles, not a single sack, and no turnovers. It may have been age, but it also may have been missing Bill Belichick.
6 Wes Welker (WR)
The most popular of them all to fail after he left New England, was wide receiver Wes Welker. For those who weren’t able to watch Welker, he was the modern-day Julian Edelman. It was Tom Brady’s reliable receiver, and their star. Welker is the one who proved to NFL scouts that small wide receivers can be successful, and that speed can be a really important asset working on the outside.
Through his career with New England, he had five seasons where he caught for over 1,000 yards.
He began his career with Miami and finished with Denver and St. Louis. Never once did he catch for over 1,000 yards with them, and the only real impressive season was his first season in Denver. Even Peyton Manning couldn’t make Welker look like a star.
5 Jamie Collins (LB)
To be fair, Jamie Collins didn't get a full season in Cleveland yet to really show what he could do without Bill Belichick in his ear. Hopefully he will get that chance this season. However, in the latter stages of 2016 and the six games he played in 2017, Collins didn't quite show the same form he had in New England. Granted, Collins has walked into a mess in Cleveland and you have to wonder if Belichick sent Collins to Cleveland out of spite for wanting too much money. Hopefully Collins is able to stay healthy this year and regain his Pro Bowl form from his days in New England.
4 Will Struggle: Danny Amendola (WR)
The Patriots always lose players in free agency and they just retool and find their way back to the top of the AFC again the following year. While Danny Amendola has been a clutch receiver for Tom Brady in his years in New England, Amendola has had injury issues and has been inconsistent in his other NFL stops.
Now that he has gone to Miami, Amendola will have the inconsistent Ryan Tannehill throwing him the ball and a coaching staff not nearly as experienced as New England.
All signs point to Amendola's next stop in Miami being a failure. Amendola's contract was all about cashing in, which is certainly his right.
3 Will: Dion Lewis (RB)
Dion Lewis has mostly been a solid weapon to have on offense when he is healthy, but one thing Belichick does so well with running backs, is he finds players that are versatile and includes them in the offensive game plan according to their strengths and matchups.
Lewis is now going to be expected to do a lot more in Tennessee than he did in New England, as it's mostly a two horse backfield with him and Derrick Henry. He's no longer in a deep backfield by committee and the weaknesses in his game will start to show if the Titans use him too much.
2 Will: Nate Solder (OT)
Nate Solder has always looked solid, but not spectacular while patrolling Tom Brady's blind side. But like many former Patriots, Solder got overvalued in free agency. The problem for Solder's expectations is he now signed a top dollar contract with the New York Giants at four years and $62 million with $34 million guaranteed.
One thing Brady does better than anybody else is get rid of the ball quickly, taking pressure off his offensive line.
Eli Manning struggles in that facet and it will expose Solder. The Giants as a whole have had one of the worse offensive lines in football and Solder is going to suffer for it.
1 Will: Malcolm Butler (CB)
Many were dumbfounded when Malcolm Butler sat out Super Bowl LII despite being a starter in New England's secondary the majority of the past few seasons. Adding to the confusion was how New England was totally dismantled by the Philly offense this past Super Bowl. However, Belichick may know something we don't, as Butler was now allowed to walk in free agency to Tennessee. As per usual with former Patriots Super Bowl champions, Butler got paid big time. His deal, worth $61.25 million over five years with $30 million guaranteed, is usually for elite corners, not for solid corners known primarily for one career defining moment. That's a lot of pressure for Butler to live up to.