The Patriots have set the platinum standard over the past 20 years when it comes to building and maintaining a competitive team. It’s not going quite as well this year, which is raising some pointed questions about the team’s recent history of collecting players.
Tom Curran of NBCSportsBoston.com posed a pointed question to Belichick on Friday regarding the team’s failure to develop draft picks in recent years.
“Over the last four years, drafted players, do you have any idea why you’ve had a harder time getting consistent production and development from the guys you’ve selected in the draft?” Curran asked, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.
Belichick paused for at least 13 seconds before saying this: “Well, look, any time you bring a player onto your team, you put him into a role or situation that you think fits him. Sometimes you have to modify that a little bit as you get to know the player. Then you work with him to try to develop that. He competes with other players at whatever position it is, or whatever role it is. Ultimately you choose, or we choose, I choose, the best player out of that competition. So that’s really the process. I don’t know how else to answer the question. Obviously, each player is different, each player competes with different players, positions are different. So I don’t know if there’s a general answer to that.”
Curran followed up, focusing on the success (or not) of players acquired via draft picks.
“I know how much you put into the draft,” Curran said. “I know how much every team puts into the draft. I guess there is a disconnect between whether it’s injuries, development, competition. So not asking a question on it and continuing to write or spitball about it doesn’t do us any good if we don’t ask the guy who is in charge of it.”
Belichick, in response, became a little defensive — and a little check-the-scoreboard-y.
“Well, Tom,” Belichick said, “I’d say the most important thing to me this week is winning games. I’m not going to apologize for our record over the last 20 years. I’ve seen a lot worse. So ultimately we try to put the best team on the field that we can to be competitive, and I don’t really see that changing. So whoever those players are, or aren’t, that’s the responsibility I feel to the team. It’s that competition plays itself out and better players play, whoever they are.”
Curran had one more for Belichick: “I know you referenced ‘over the last 20 years.’ But now over the last four, or really since about 2014, do you think the drafting and production you’re getting from draft players is where you hoped?”
For Belichick, that was the end of the conversation.
“Yeah, you know, honestly, Tom, my focus has been on the Ravens,” Belichick said. “Right now, drafting scorecard, which I understand you want to write about that, which is great — but really trying to focus on getting ready for the Ravens. So I think I’ll leave my attention to that.”
Of course, Belichick could have just said that in response to the first question, and not after Curran eventually put Belichick squarely in checkmate on the subject.
Which Curran definitely did.