Patriots

Matt Cassel: How Bill Belichick, Patriots process 'bulletin board material'

Matt Cassel: How Bill Belichick, Patriots process 'bulletin board material'

There's a sign every player sees when they leave the New England Patriots' facility.

It says, "Ignore the noise."

Starting in OTAs and minicamp, Bill Belichick's message to the team is always consistent. It’s, "Look, the media is out there to do a job. They have their stories they’re going to write. But our job is not to give them what they want. Our job is to stay consistent."

It’s a business-like environment: You go in and you get your work done, and when he says we’re turning the page to the next opponent, he truly means that.

But in terms of bulletin board material, if somebody is vocal about attacking a certain aspect of the Patriots -- a weakness or where they think they can expose us -- he’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team.

It’s not overboard and it’s not blown out of proportion. But it's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."

We've already seen it this season. 

Before the Jets' game against the Patriots, Sam Darnold said something like, “We’ve got to go out there and find their weakness." 

That's just a common term most people use, but then you hear the Patriots' defense after the game say things like, ”I’m glad our weaknesses didn’t show up today.”

So, they obviously used that as a motivational tool to get themselves in the right frame of mind for the game.

He’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team. It's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."

People are going to say things all the time. When I took over for Tom Brady in 2008, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said something like, “Cassel’s not worth his s---.”

But it is what it is. The thing that New England does a great job of is focusing your attention on the opponent. Their strengths and weaknesses and how you're going to attack them this week: that’s the focal point.

It’s not about all the extracurriculars and all the extra stuff that’s said in the media. You’ve got your occasional bulletin board material, but as long as you know the approach and you’re consistent with it, then you're able to do a better job of ignoring the noise.

It's not like that in other organizations. I played for Rex Ryan in Buffalo, and on the first day of offseason workouts, he came in and said, "Our goal -- you can say it from Day 1 when they ask you -- is to win the Super Bowl."

He didn't restrict players when they talked to the media. He was like, "This is our goal, and if you want to say it, you can say it."

In New England, you feel a bit restricted at times in what you say. 

But you come to appreciate it, because it’s a consistent message throughout the organization. You’re not dealing with the outside distractions of, “This guy just said some outlandish comment," and now multiple players get asked about something one of your teammates said.

There are limitations to the distractions the Patriots have when dealing with the media because of their approach and consistency. 

Everybody in that organization understands it, so you don’t get the same bulletin board material coming out of New England that you see elsewhere.

That's because it starts at the top with Bill’s approach and consistency, and literally permeates throughout the entire organization.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


 

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.