Whenever something goes right for the New England Patriots, everybody says, well, that’s Bill Belichick for you.
Playing angles that other coaches don’t see. Getting more from particular players than anyone else has. Digging deeper and demanding more, so that man on the roster or on the staff either owns a vital role in the franchise’s continuing success or he is quickly replaced.
Oh, and if I don’t mention that on occasion Belichick and his team have been caught cheating, somebody out there is going to say I left something out of his personal toolbox, so there’s that, too.
The point is that while we’re all focusing on Tom Brady and his singular contributions to all those Super Bowl titles, Belichick is working so far behind the scenes and doing it so well that most of it never gets noticed.
For instance, Belichick spent a fifth-round draft choice on a long snapper in 2015. That may not seem like such a big deal, but Brady was a sixth-rounder when he came to the Patriots from Michigan in the 2000 NFL draft.
For that matter, Danny Amendola, whose two fourth-quarter touchdown catches completed New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game, wasn’t drafted by the Patriots or anyone else when he came out of college in 2008.
So for Belichick to use a fifth-round pick on a specialty item like long snapper, well, it had to mean something. And it does. Joe Cardona is a highly-disciplined guy who played college football at the U.S. Naval Academy. He will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, just he played in the last one, only after receiving permission to reschedule his weekend duty with a Navy reserve unit.
Belichick grew up around Navy football and graduated from Annapolis High School. His father, Steve Belichick, was on the football staff at the academy forever, coaching special teams and producing some of the most detailed and useful scouting reports anyone has ever seen.
Those are the reports that the future Patriots coach studied and absorbed as soon as he was finished with his homework. Those are the influences that would lead Belichick to prize the minute details of snapping and kicking and punting so highly, and to call Cardona personally in 2015 to let him know that New England had used the 166th overall pick on a specialty player like him.
Only a handful of Navy athletes have been selected in the history of the regular NFL draft, not much more than a dozen. Roger Staubach and Napoleon McCallum are the best known.
As for long snappers in general, Cardona was believed to be only the fourth in history to be drafted by an NFL team at the time he joined New England. Since Belichick made such an unusual priority of that position, however, a long snapper has been selected in the sixth round of the last two drafts, one by Detroit and one by Pittsburgh.
None of this will ever matter to anybody watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday unless there is a bad Patriots snap on a kick, and I’m figuring there won’t be. Cardona can be trusted to come through. He’s a Belichick guy and has been from the start.
We could jump all over the Patriots roster and find other names that explain why this team is so great. You get the picture. There’s a coach here who know what he wants – consistency, reliability and a high football I.Q. – and he never compromises.
Yep, that’s Belichick for you.