FOXBORO -- Judging by what Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis could do on the field, the Patriots liked them well enough. But having sources of information who saw both players work behind the scenes was critical when it came to deciding to acquire them.
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That's why Bill Belichick credited one current and one former member of the coaching staff, Josh McDaniels and Mike Lombardi, with helping the Patriots land those two key offensive cogs a week-and-a-half before taking on the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Amendola, who scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the AFC title game against the Jaguars to help the Patriots overcome a 10-point deficit, spent just 2011 season with McDaniels (then the Rams offensive coordinator), and Amendola was hurt for the majority of that year, playing in just one regular-season game.
Though that doesn't seem like much, Belichick said McDaniels' experience with Amendola was critical in knowing he was a player the Patriots should pursue. Without any assurances that Wes Welker would be back in 2013, that's exactly what they did.
"Really, the light went on with Josh," Belichick said Wednesday. "Josh was here. Josh had had him in St. Louis, and we saw a good player in St. Louis, but you didn’t see all the things behind the scenes that you kind of can see when you actually have the player on your team.
"Josh saw that, and he made me aware of -- us aware -- of what all the things that Danny does, and how well he does [them], and what his skills were and so forth. That’s kind of when it started, and once we got him here, then all that became evident to everybody who works with him."
How Lewis arrived to the Patriots has been touched on in this space in the past, but Belichick went into some detail on that process again Wednesday, singling out Lombardi, a former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff and one-time Browns general manager.
"Dion, very productive at Pitt," Belichick said, "we all saw that, went to Cleveland, got off to a fast start, got injured, missed most of the [year]. Then, again, it was Mike Lombardi. Mike was here. Mike was with him and saw him, and same thing I just talked about Danny with Josh . . . Mike saw that with Cleveland.
"We signed him as a future player and that’s, again, when you see somebody on the practice field on a daily basis and you’re around him, you know a lot more about him. Especially a player like Dion, who you didn’t get to see on the field a lot [due to injury].
"What you saw was good, but it just wasn't very much. When somebody's on the inside like that, then you can know a lot more about the player than what you do just seeing him on however many snaps he gets on Sunday afternoon, which in Dion's case wasn't very many. They were good. They were just minimal."
Acquiring players who've worked with Patriots staffers elsewhere, or with Belichick himself, has long been a staple of Belichick's team-building process. As Belichick was getting settled in New England, players like Roman Phifer, Bryan Cox, Bobby Hamilton and Anthony Pleasant helped him establish the kind of culture he was looking for with the Patriots.
Having inside information on players is critical in painting a full picture on what certain people will bring to the organization, Belichick explained.
"When I’ve changed teams in the past, you take the information and the knowledge of the players you have with you," Belichick said. "I haven’t been anywhere but here for a long time, so I don’t really know what anybody does anywhere else. We have (had) a few coaches on our staff, like Mike, like Josh, those two examples, where they had been with other teams and seen other players.
"And so maybe someone coming on here, staff can do that. Scott [O’Brien] when he came from Denver or Joe [Judge] when he came from Alabama in the SEC. You get that occasionally, but by and large most of us have been here. Matt [Patricia], Brian Flores, Dante [Scarnecchia] — we haven’t seen any other team, only teams we’ve practiced against. So, that knowledge base is limited. If you get it from somewhere else, you get it. If you don’t, go with what you have and do the best you can."