Belichick reflects on 2000 Hall of Fame Game and Brady's beginnings


Belichick reflects on 2000 Hall of Fame Game and Brady's beginnings

FOXBORO – Of all the people wedged into Canton, Ohio, that last weekend in July of 2000, pretty much nobody was there to see the Patriots.

Raider Nation was there for Howie Long’s induction. The Coalition of 49ers fans were there to see both Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott enshrined. Western Pennsylvania sent its denizens out for both Montana and Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Bill Belichick working a sideline as a head coach for the first time since he was canned by the Browns in 1995 just down the road apiece in Cleveland? Pfffft. Ohio knew Belichick and they weren’t really interested in spending much time thinking about what promised to be a short-lived future with the Patriots.

Anybody going to see that game was going to see Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens for a few series. To catch a glimpse of Bill Walsh, in town for the festivities.

By the time the fourth quarter started it was 20-0, Patriots and New England had just slipped in their sixth-round rookie Tom Brady for mop-up work.

He hit Sean Morey, Chris Floyd and Shockmain Davis with completions during the “let’s wrap it up” portion of the festivities.

I often think about that weekend now, 16 years later. Belichick has lapped Walsh – the jilted protégé of Belichick’s idol Paul Brown. Brady has surpassed Montana as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. 

The symmetry there being that Brady and his little bowl cut were in the stands when Montana and Dwight Clark connected on The Catch kicking off the Niners Dynasty in 1981. I think of Rice and how, 18 months later, he’d be standing under a tent in the parking lot of snowy Foxboro Stadium trying to figure out how his Raiders lost the Snow Bowl. I look at Chris Long – still a teenager at the time – there for his father Howie that day. And how now Chris is here, playing for Belichick alongside Brady.

I asked Belichick on Sunday what he recalled about the game. Belichick went to the quarterbacks.

“That was an interesting game, because we started out a little bit on the Tim Rattay trail and [late quarterbacks coach] Dick Rehbein went down there and worked him out at [Louisiana Tech],” Belichick recalled. “They ran a big spread offense and he had a lot of big numbers. We kind of liked him, thought that might be a late-round pick. Then we got on Brady, so it was kind of Brady [in the late sixth round] and Rattay in that seventh round. As luck would have it, we took Brady, they took Rattay, and here they are playing against each other. So, we kind of got a look at that. Guess we took the right one.”

Rehbein was the one that cast the deciding vote in favor of Brady during the draft three months earlier. 

For Rehbein, seeing the two players compete on the same field that night along with another 2000 quarterback draftee, Giovanni Carmazzi had to fire up his evaluative skills. Rattay looked meh – 10-for-21  for 105 yards and three sacks. Carmazzi not so much. Brady was fine in that limited duty. He would be a good student to work with.

Six days later, Rehbein died. Cardiomyopathy. That tragedy led to Belichick becoming more hands-on with the quarterbacks and getting even better insight into what Brady was about in terms of work ethic, leadership, smarts and ability.

It was a time when everyone – including the presumptive franchise quarterback – was on notice. The Patriots weren’t good enough to have players appointed to starting roles. They would need to earn it. 

“We had a lot of rebuilding to do in 2000, 2001,” said Belichick. “We had a few good players, I’m not saying that. But once you got past those guys, there was a lot of things that needed to be …changed.”

Change came. How drastic, quick and how lasting and successful the change would be, nobody could have ever known.


Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

File Photo

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

There's one gigantic hole to fill on the Patriots offensive line.

Replacing Nate Solder is no easy task and it's not exactly clear how the Pats will yet.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport was first to report the Patriots would like to bring back Waddle or Fleming.

It now appears that one of the former backup tackle is taking a serious look elsewhere, according to Ian Rapoport. 

It's not the best offensive line free agency market this season, so the Pats may prefer to bring back a guy they are familar with.

If Fleming is off the board, Waddle still remains as an option for New England.



How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

AP Photo

How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason.