When Bill Belichick finally says goodbye to football, he will have left behind a legacy as the greatest coach of all time. However, his record as a general manager for the New England Patriots has been much closer to average than elite. And when it comes to the wide receiver position, Belichick has whiffed numerous times in the draft and free agency.
So far, N’Keal Harry looks like another major miss at the receiver spot. But for his sake, as well as Belichick’s, he needs to accept Michael Irvin’s invitation quickly.
Bill Belichick has a staggering list of misses at the wide receiver position
Bill Belichick may have unearthed a future playoff star in Julian Edelman, but that came back in 2009. And let’s not forget that it took several years for him to fully make the transition from college quarterback to slot receiver.
Belichick appeared to have also hit on Malcolm Mitchell. However, the promising wideout’s career ended before it really began because of chronic knee troubles.
But other than that, the rest of Belichick’s hand-picked pass-catchers have ranged from complete nonfactors to frustrating busts. And in many cases, he passed over future stars for players who failed to deliver for the Patriots.
In 2013, New England selected Aaron Dobson with the 59th overall pick. He caught 37 passes as a rookie, but he never came close to living up to his second-round status. He played just 24 games with the Patriots and never played another official down after the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, Keenan Allen went off the board at pick 76. Despite dealing with injuries himself, the 28-year-old has put up monster numbers when he has been on the field. In 98 career games, Allen has totaled 614 catches for 7,328 yards, and 41 touchdowns.
Interestingly, Belichick rarely devoted early-round picks on the position after spending a third-rounder on Taylor Price in 2010 and a second-rounder on Dobson in 2013. In fact, prior to Tom Brady’s final season, he never spent a first-round pick on the position.
N’Keal Harry looks like another whiff by the Patriots
Everyone knew the Patriots needed a receiver heading into the 2019 NFL draft. But based on his college film, most wouldn’t have pegged N’Keal Harry as the ideal system fit. Yet, the former Arizona State star became the first receiver to ever get taken in the first round by Bill Belichick during his entire time with the Patriots.
To this point, that unprecedented move looks like a massive mistake.
Harry’s rookie season started off on the wrong foot. He got hurt in the preseason and spent the first half of the year on injured reserve. By the time he returned, he and Tom Brady clearly lacked chemistry. As a result, Harry caught merely 12 passes in seven regular-season games.
A change at quarterback hasn’t led to much better results for the second-year receiver. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has only caught 29 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games (eight starts). He’s also committed several costly penalties.
Although Harry showed some flashes in recent weeks, he simply hasn’t come close to delivering first-round results. To make matters worse, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel have all turned into instant stars.
However, Belichick passed over all three of them (plus a few other impact receivers) in favor of Harry—who struggled to separate in college against Pac-12 defenders.
That decision has had a major trickle-down effect. Brady may not have been so upset last season if Belichick had taken Metcalf, Brown, or Samuel. Newton may not be struggling quite as much if he had a bonafide No. 1 target. And ultimately, if Harry doesn’t turn things around quickly, he will be yet another huge black mark on Belichick’s legacy as a GM.
Luckily for the legendary NFL coach, he may have a savior in Michael Irvin.
Michael Irvin may save Belichick from suffering a major blow to his legacy
As N’Keal Harry’s second NFL season comes to a close, he obviously has a lot of work to do in order to avoid earning the dreaded “draft bust” label. Luckily for the Patriots receiver, he recently received a potentially career-saving invitation from former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin.
And if Harry accepts the challenge and turns his game around, Irvin will have saved Bill Belichick from suffering a major blow to his legacy.
The Cowboys legend made a recent appearance on the Dale & Keefe Show on WEEI and the topic of working with the young Patriots wideout came up. And it certainly sounds like Irvin has a terrific plan to help Harry fulfill his potential.
“I’ll put this invitation out to N’Keal Harry. I guarantee you I will turn his whole mentality around. This first week we will run routes every day,” Irvin explained. “Well, first, we will run. We’re going to run, do strength and conditioning tests, and then we’re going to run routes. We’re not running routes fresh. Anybody can catch passes fresh. Nobody wins fresh.”
Irvin reiterated that he will change Harry’s mentality to get the big-bodied wideout to harness his physicality and try to run through defenders rather than run around them.
He wrapped up with, “I will absolutely turn N’Keal Harry; I guarantee it.”
Of course, Irvin knows a thing or two about running routes and being physical. He racked up 750 catches for nearly 12,000 yards and 65 touchdowns in 12 years with the Cowboys.
If the two do indeed pair up, it could be the key to Belichick avoiding another black mark on his legacy. Harry has had two different receiver coaches in his first two seasons with the Patriots. Perhaps getting one-on-one tutoring from a Hall of Famer with actual experience will help him unlock the potential Belichick saw in him.
But if Irvin can’t work his magic on Harry, then it will only add another layer to the narrative that Bill Belichick can’t draft receivers.
And that doesn’t bode well for a team whose biggest offseason priority should be upgrading that exact position.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.