There’s a reason why so many wide receivers have tried and failed to acclimate to the New England Patriots’ complex offense: It takes multiple attributes to succeed in the system.
Tom Brady highlighted the difficulties of picking up the offense, which has been in place since the quarterback was drafted by the Patriots in 2000, when it was installed by head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. The system has been passed down to offensive coordinators Josh McDaniels, Bill O’Brien and back to McDaniels.
“We do a lot of different things with the receiver,” Brady said Monday on WEEI’s “Dennis, Callahan & Minihane.” “There’s some teams that can bring a receiver in on a Monday, and he can play on a Sunday. They have a limited route tree. There’s not a lot of checks, there’s not a lot of audibles.
“Everything with what we do is memorization. We’ve got words and words and words and words that mean formation and plays and audibles and stuff like that. When you have a new guy who comes in, and you give him three sheets of paper that ‘this one word means four different things, and there’s 70 of those words,’ you really need to build it up over the course of the year.
“We move those guys a lot. It’s not like one guy plays one position. Julian’s on the perimeter on one side, he’s in the slot, then he’s on the perimeter on the other side. That means all the other guys have got to adjust, and then the tight end’s outside.
“You have to have a high level of — a high football IQ. It’s different than, ‘run a five route or run a seven route.’ A lot of offenses are probably like that. Our receiver offense isn’t like that. Being in the same system for a long time, we build up a lot of offense. We have a lot of tools at our disposal. It’s just a matter of us going out there, figuring out how they’re going to defend us and then try to go out and execute.”
The Patriots try to acquire players who are at least familiar with the system. That’s why they’ve added so many players from Josh McDaniels’ one year as offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams in 2011, including Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Brandon Lloyd and Michael Hoomanawanui. They traded for Keshawn Martin last month, and the receiver’s knowledge of the system through O’Brien, now the Houston Texans’ head coach, has allowed him to contribute immediately.
It’s not just mental capacity that’s key for a wide receiver to succeed under Brady, however.
“I think they’ve got to trust in me, and I’ve got to trust in them that when it’s contested, that they’re going to go make the play,” Brady said. “They’ve got to trust that I’m not going to fire it into zone coverage, so a guy is going to get blown up. I think that you take a lot of pride in that as a quarterback. You’re not throwing it into double coverage where the other guy can free up and try to decapitate one of your receivers. You see that a lot around the league, too. I think keeping our guys healthy, throwing them open, protecting them when they’re running — they don’t have their eyes on the defender — throwing it low so they can slide or throwing it on his back hip so he can slow down, all of those things are kind of non-verbal things that end up being little things that become big things.”
Sometimes it takes years to develop that trust. Julian Edelman spent four years with the Patriots before his first 1,000-yard season. Amendola, in his third year with the Patriots, is on pace for his best NFL season. He had eight catches on nine targets for 86 yards with a touchdown in the Patriots’ 30-23 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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