Editor’s note: Each day during the week of Dec. 31, NESN.com will feature content based on key events from Robert Kraft’s tenure as owner of the Patriots. “Krafting a Legacy” will examine how the Patriots got to where they are today following Kraft’s purchase of the team.
Bill Belichick brought a 36-44 career head coaching record, a hefty price tag and a whole lot of unpredictability when he was hired as the Patriots’ head coach in 2000. Let’s just say things have worked out OK.
Amid the Patriots’ success over the past 12 years, which includes three Super Bowl wins and five Super Bowl appearances, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the man sailing New England’s ship almost joined the division rival Jets before owner Robert Kraft made a bold, yet wise decision. Belichick was slated to become the Jets’ head coach in 2000 after Bill Parcells stepped down in the Meadowlands, but he shocked everyone by resigning on the spot during a news conference to introduce him as New York’s new head man.
The rest is history, as the Patriots obviously turned around and hired their former assistant coach, which paved the way for New England’s subsequent dominance. But it wasn’t without controversy.
The Jets, obviously upset with being snubbed, insisted that Belichick was still under contract with the team, and thus demanded compensation. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue agreed, and the Patriots and Jets were forced to enter into negotiations. The Pats ultimately paid a big price (at the time), but the Jets paid a bigger price in the long run by not being able to secure Belichick as Parcells’ successor.
It took more than three weeks of negotiations, but the Patriots and Jets finally agreed on compensation, with a first-round draft pick from New England being the centerpiece of the deal. The other pieces headed to the Jets included a 2001 fourth-round pick and a 2001 seventh-round pick. The Pats, meanwhile, received a 2001 fifth-round pick and a 2002 seventh-round pick addition to their new head coach.
So how did this play out? We all know what happened when it came to each team’s success, but while it’s tough to track draft picks, given the rapid pace at which they’re dealt in the NFL, we wanted to take a look at what exactly the exchanged draft picks turned into.
First, the big one. The 2001 first rounder that the Patriots sent to the Jets was seen as crazy by some at the time, especially since Belichick was hardly a proven head coach. Kraft may have said it best at the time, though, and his words are even truer in hindsight.
“For a No. 1 draft choice, we can bring in a man that I feel certain can do something, rather than the uncertainty of a draft choice,” Kraft said after hiring Belichick. “And it wasn’t even close when I thought about it that way.”
The first-round pick the Jets received ended up evolving into a nice pick, although it hardly compares to the impact Belichick has had in New England. The pick turned out to be the 16th-overall selection in the 2000 draft. The Jets shipped that pick and a second-round pick (48th overall) to the 49ers in exchange for their 12th overall pick. As a result, the Jets ended up with defensive tackle Shaun Ellis, while the Niners ended up with linebacker Julian Peterson and cornerback Jason Webster.
Ellis and Peterson would both go on to be Pro Bowlers, while Webster bounced around a little bit — even logging three games with the Pats in 2008. Ellis was a two-time Pro Bowler who recorded double-digit sack totals in 2003 and 2004. He last played in the league — ironically, with the Patriots — in 2011 but hasn’t caught on with a team since. Peterson became a five-time Pro Bowler — two with San Francisco and three with Seattle.
As for the other picks the Jets received from the Patriots as part of that now-famous Belichick trade, New York selected cornerback Jamie Henderson in the fourth round of 2001 with the 101st overall pick, and then selected defensive tackle James Reed in the seventh round of 2001 with the 206th overall pick. Henderson spent three seasons with the Jets before a motorcycle accident in April of 2004 derailed his career. Reed stuck around in New York for five seasons and then spent two seasons in Kansas City, playing his last game in 2007.
How about the Patriots? We all know the prize they netted, but they also received those draft picks, which is something Belichick likes to have at his disposal. The history of those picks is a little bit more difficult to track, as you’d expect, but it’s still fun to take a look.
The 2001 fifth-round pick the Patriots received turned out to be No. 149 overall. The Pats actually traded the pick, which was used to select quarterback Mike Mahon, to the Lions in exchange for a 2001 sixth-round pick and a 2001 seventh-round pick. The Patriots used the sixth-round pick (No. 180 overall) to select tight end Arthur Love, and then used the seventh-round pick (No. 216 overall) to select kicker Owen Pochman.
Don’t remember Love or Pochman? That’s because neither player ever suited up in a game for the Pats.
The 2002 seventh-round pick is even more tough to track, although the story features a name a little bit more meaningful to Patriots fans. The Patriots traded the pick, which turned out to be No. 234 overall and was used to select defensive end Greg Scott, along with a 2002 first-round pick (No. 32, Patrick Ramsey) and a 2002 third-round pick ( No. 96, Dorsett Davis) to the Redskins in exchange for a 2002 first-round pick. The Patriots used that first-round pick, which was the 21st overall selection, to nab tight end Daniel Graham.
Now, obviously, when looking back, one can’t say that Graham was part of the Belichick trade, as the Patriots parted ways with other parts — including their own first-round pick in that 2002 draft — to land the Colorado product. But it’s interesting to see what picks — or more appropriately, the trading of picks — can eventually turn into. Graham went on to spend five seasons in New England, although he never quite lived up to expectations.
So as we look back on the trade that brought Belichick to New England, it’s easy to come to one simple conclusion. The Patriots did all right for themselves — just as Kraft envisioned.
Have a look at the infographic below for an easier glimpse at the trade’s parts. Then, check out the video above to see what Patriots fans think of the Belichick deal these days.