Bill Belichick dropped a relative bombshell over the weekend when he announced that the 2021 NFL Draft would be the last for arguably his most trusted, important advisor – New England football research director Ernie Adams.
Adams has been an almost mythical figure in Foxborough throughout the Belichick-led dynasty. A man behind the scenes – or as one player once described him, the guy who’s always behind the action on the practice field just watching everything with no one quite sure exactly what he does– making critical contributions to success, even if those contributions were rather undefined.
Having a football resume nearly as long as his high-school pal Belichick’s, Adams was always in the War Room on draft weekend to offer up his thoughts on draft picks and trade opportunities.
But that was far from his only work. Fans know that Adams, who actually pre-dates Belichick in New England and first worked for the Patriots as an assistant coach from 1975-78, also famously helped Malcolm Butler and Co. prepare on the practice field for one of the most important singular plays in Super Bowl history to help beat the Seahawks.
On game days, Adams has always been in the coaching booth, there to assist in such analytical endeavors as clock management as well as replay challenges.
In the middle of his NFL career, which included time with the Giants as both an assistant coach and rising up the team’s personnel ranks, Adams actually ran a change-of-direction play and worked as a trader on Wall Street.
In many ways, Adams’ role on Belichick’s staff was as curious and complex as the man in the dark glasses who filled it.
To say Adams had one of the most unique, important and somewhat undervalued NFL careers as Belichick’s top confidant would be a massive understatement.
“I think Ernie’s contributions are historic,” Belichick said talking about Adams’ departure. “They traverse several decades in so many different areas, in every corner of the room and then some. He’s literally been involved in every single aspect of the football program at every level that you could possibly be involved in. He’s done an outstanding job in all of them.”
Amidst the relative brain drain in recent years in the Patriots organization, which also included longtime director of player personnel Nick Caserio moving on to the Texans this offseason, Adams’ apparent retirement (Belichick would not specify when his Phillips Academy buddy would actually be leaving the organization) is indeed a massive blow for the rebuilding team.
In many ways replacing Adams is impossible. No one would have the longtime comfortable relationship with Belichick. No one could bring the unique resume, combining varied football experience with more analytical expertise.
Or could they? As the cliché goes, when one door closes another one opens.
After three unsuccessful seasons as the head coach of the Lions, Matt Patricia has returned to the Patriots from Detroit this offseason.
New England’s former defensive coordinator, who rose through the ranks from the lowest of levels during his initial 14 years in the organization, has an as of yet undefined role for his second tour through Foxborough. He was in the War Room on draft weekend. His name has appeared representing the Patriots on contracts signed by free agents this spring. He cut his NFL teeth on the sideline.
With Steve Belichick now entrenched as the leader of the Patriots defense, even though he’s not yet been given the title of coordinator, Patricia’s old role is likely not an option to him.
But as Patricia works the NFL career rebound, maybe he’s the perfect candidate to replace the man of mystery and mysterious contributions, Adams.
Patricia, in case you hadn’t heard the oft-told tale has a degree in aeronautical engineering from RPI and turned down a chance to work on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers when he chose to begin his football coaching career.
Over his years at Gillette Stadium Patricia brought that unique background and brain power to his job. He helped the team bring some of its technology and best practices to a modern level throughout the football program.
Thanks to his time in Detroit, earning experience if not nearly enough wins, Patricia has looked at an organization from the top, in a truly holistic sense.
No one is ever going to truly replace Adams, his contributions or his unique relationship with Belichick built over 60 years of friendship.
But if anyone could come close, both personally and professionally, Patricia might just be the perfect guy for the job.
Whatever exactly that very important job is that Adams filled so very well.