One of the more intriguing (and puzzling) story lines to come out of the Patriot's 2013 draft class is the continued love affair between Bill Belichick and the Rutgers football program.
When all was said and done this past week, the Patriot's had added four new Scarlet Knights to the prospective roster, three through the draft (CB Logan Ryan, S Duron Harmon, and LB Steve Beauharnais) and one as an undrafted free agent (CB Brandon Jones). Devin McCourty, Tiquan Underwood, and Alex Silvestro are other players the team has drafted out of Rutgers in the past. McCourty played with the players added this year during his time at the school, hopefully meaning there will be some inherent chemistry between the group in the secondary.
|Belichick's relationship with Schiano appears to be one reason for the Rutgers love|
But the question that begs asking is why does Bill appear to be so in love with the Rutgers defensive system and program. It would make more sense if it was an NCAA powerhouse that he has shown an affinity for in the past (Florida, Alabama), but Rutgers? Why?
The first thread that can be identified is his relationship with former Rutgers, now Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. Belichick's friendship with Schiano began when Bill's son was attending Rutgers and played on the lacrosse and football teams there. Bill hung out around Rutger's practices, and Schiano would soon do the same the Patriot's facilities.
But still, is Belichick really drafting these guys because his son went to the school and their former coach is his friend. It seems an odd basis for selecting potentiallly pivotal defensive players for the team's future. Speaking on the influx of Scarlet Knight's in this year's draft, the Pats coach had this to say (Quote from BostonHerald.com):
''I just would say, I've known coach Schiano for quite awhile. The players he recruits and the program he runs is in a lot of ways similar to what we do. So, the fact he's recruited those kids 4 to 5 years ahead of when they come into this league, and then have been in program that's in a lot of ways similar to ours, it's probably not that surprising we would like a lot of kids that he's produced both talent-wise and total make-up.''
There are certainly similarities to be drawn here to Belichick's well-known enthusiasm for the Florida and Alabama programs during the tenures of fellow coaches and friends Nick Saban and Urban Meyer (since moved on to Ohio State). In 2010, the Patriots spent 3 draft picks on players coached by Meyer at Florida (Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham).
This seems to tie back into the thinking that one of the values the Patriot's look for above all in player's is their ability to fit into the complex Patriots system. Having a proven track record in a program with distinct similarities to that system appears to be a characteristic Bill and the rest of the front office seek out as they build the team for the future. Obviously, there are elements of the Rutgers defensive philosophy that Bill believes translates well to New England's.
Devin McCourty, though shaky at times, has proven to be a solid pick who has become a cornerstone of the current Patriots unit. Hopefully, the new young additions coming to the Patriots from Rutgers will have similar success, aided by the bond with McCourty, a player already well-established in the Patriots system.
In Bill we Trust.