Bill Belichick’s post-draft media session took quite the turn on Saturday. The Patriots’ head coach dropped a bit of information that had nothing to do with the draft.
When offering his overall thoughts on the 2021 draft process, Belichick concluded by relaying that the 2021 NFL Draft was the final one for Ernie Adams with the Patriots.
“Just to kind of wrap up the day, with Ernie Adams, this is last draft,” Belichick said. “Certainly he’s been a huge part of the draft process with the New England Patriots, going all the way to Coach [Chuck] Fairbanks to the Giants to Cleveland, back to New England. The acquisition of a lot of great players, all the process that goes into drafting, grading players, scouting players, setting up a grading scale, trading really every single thing that is involved in that. Ernie’s had that seat and that role and been a part of all those things in the Draft room.”
The impact Adams’ made on the Patriots organization is both immense and unknown. Serving as the ‘Football Research Director’ since 2000, his exact duties have never been directly defined. However, he has a direct line to Bill Belichick on the sideline during gamedays, and is known to play a role in game planning, as well as the draft.
Adams’ ability to stay anonymous despite being near the center of the NFL’s most dominant dynasty turned him into somewhat of a folk hero among Patriots fans. In 2015, NFL Films released the ‘Do Your Job’ documentary which offered an inside look at some of what Adams does. It showed he helped prepare the call that led to the game-winning Malcolm Butler interception. It also introduced ‘Pink Stripes,’ a phrase on a white board that has become sort of a calling card for die-hard Patriots fans.
Answering a follow up question, Belichick did shed some light on what Adams has done behind the scenes, dating back to his original stint with the Patriots in the mid-70’s.
“I think Ernie’s contributions are historic. Again, they traverse several decades and 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 on all of them, but not all coaches have the kind of involvement that Ernie’s had in the draft process throughout his career, and his knowledge, experience, and decisions and organization and being part of the process and the way he set it up and taught it to all the people who have come through here from Scott [Pioli] and Nick [Caserio] to all the scouts and so forth. Really he’s had a big hand in it again, going back to the foundation of when it was laid in the middle ’70s with Bucko [Kilroy] and Chuck [Fairbanks] and so forth,” Belichick explained.
However, he wouldn’t go as far as sharing the secret behind ‘Pink Stripes.’ “No, I’ll pass on that one.”
Belichick left Adams’ overall future with the team vague. Asked if this being Adams’ “last draft” meant the 68-year-old was retiring, his answer was open ended.
“I just want to give — just give an opportunity here, as we close out this draft, to thank Ernie for all he’s done and recognize all that he’s done,” Belichick said. “That’s really what it is.”
Whether Adams leaves or just takes a step back, it’s not immediately obvious who will fill his old role, or if it will be filled at all (in part because it’s not totally clear what that role is). A name to keep an eye on is Evan Rothstein. Rothstein was a ‘research assistant’ with the Detroit Lions during Matt Patricia’s tenure as head coach, then followed Patricia to New England. His job description from Detroit, while vague, seems to line up with Adams’ general responsibilities with the Patriots.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.