Now we finally know where Bobby Grier fits in with The Belichick Plan.
For several uneasy Patriot fans, it looked like Bill Belichick would retain The Man Who Drafted Chris Canty. Grier was a part of the Patriot War Room in this year’s draft, and Belichick kept making overtures to “how much (he) relied on Grier’s input”.
Today, all questions were answered. Grier is gone. Sacked.
Nowhere. That’s where Grier fits in with The Belichick Plan.
In a way, it is sad when you have to fire an 18-year employee. You’d figure that there might have been some way that Belichick could have held on to The Man Who Drafted Sedrick Shaw. Guys who get canned after long tenures are usually named Woody Hayes, Frank Kush or Bobby Knight (it’ll happen, gang). Not guys like Grier.
And it makes complete the tumble-down of what used to be one of the more respected personnel minds in the league. Grier had the respect of the entire league, not to mention his legion of Patriot fans, from about the period that comprised both Patriot Super Bowls. Grier was an assistant coach when the Pats were bombed by the Bears, but his rise to the front office was about to take hold.
Yes, Grier had the respect. What Grier didn’t have in his corner was hard data to back him up. If we go on a tour of recent Patriot drafts, we begin to learn a bit more about what was really going on in the personnel offices of New England. Perhaps The Man Who Drafted Tony Gaiter was getting too much of the credit.
Grier did not become director of player personnel until 1995. But he soon left the Patriots’ sideline to move into the front office. So, we’ll examine the drafts starting with 1986, and see how good Grier (and the people he worked with) managed until Bill Parcells came along in 1993.
1986 yielded the Sed Shaw of back then, Reggie “One Yard” Dupard. Mike Ruth made some contributions, but the best selection of this draft was Brent Williams, a defensive end taken in the seventh round. 1987 yielded Bruce Armstrong and little else. 1988 brought mercurial running back John Stephens to Foxborough, and a decent linebacker named Vincent Brown. Oh, and the Patriots cut kicker Tony Franklin for some stiff named Teddy Garcia.
The next three drafts produced only two decent men, but both were tight ends and one replaced the other. The Pats took Marv Cook in the third round, he made a few pro bowls, and then was sent packing in 1991 after the Patriots took this fifth rounder named Ben Coates. High draft picks like Chris Singleton, Hart Lee Dykes, Pat Harlow and Leonard Russell were flops. The best of the high picks, Ray Agnew, was let go.
Oh, the Patriots did indeed draft two starting quarterbacks in that period. Tommy Hodson was taken in 1990 and Scott Zolak in 1991. Geez, what did we need Drew Bledsoe for?
At this point, let’s pause for a second before the Tuna makes his splash. The Man Who Drafted Tebucky Jones had watched his team regress from an 11-5 Super Bowl campaign in 1985 to two years of the first pick in the draft (1990, 1993; the ’90 pick was dealt away). Sam Jankovich was running things on the football side during the immediate period before Parcells, but Grier was involved heavily in personnel matters. The 1992 draft did yield some good players, namely Todd Collins, Kevin Turner, Dwayne Sabb and somebody named Sam Gash. But the ’92 edition went 2-14 and got the top pick in ’93.
How responsible for all this was Grier? Again, back then, this was largely Jankovich’s watch. But not for long.
Parcells came in, Janko went out. Parcells was given the autonomy he wanted in personnel decisions by James Orthwein, but Bob Kraft would take it away later on and give final decisions to Grier.
In the beginning, there were lots of folks who thought Parcells was a far better coach than a GM, and today they perhaps still do. Parcells did make a few eyebrow-raising free agent deals (Scott Secules and his kith and kin), but his draft choices eventually forged an AFC championship by ’96.
It began with Bledsoe. Then Chris Slade. Todd Rucci. Troy Brown. Willie McGinest. Max Lane. Marty Moore. Ty Law. Ted Johnson. Curtis Martin. Jimmy Hitchcock. Dave Wohlabaugh. Lawyer Milloy. Tedi Bruschi. And some wideout named Glenn.
Oh, yeah, Terry. Back to him, in a second.
Who really built this team? Was it the Tuna? Was it The Man Who Drafted Damon Denson? Or was it someone else?
The St. Louis Rams have helped reveal the answer to that question. Hidden beneath Grier and Parcells was a man named Charlie Armey. It is widely held that he was the true genius of the Patriot War Room all this time. By the way, how’d the Rams do in 1999?
Glenn helped eject Parcells from New England. Parcells went to the Jets, bludgeoned their future on himself and Martin, then bailed when it got too hot and he got too tired. Those who think Parcells is a non-giant in a War Room may be right after all.
And so, center stage of the Patriot War Rooms for now and the future was handed over to The Man Who Drafted Vernon Crawford. In three years the Patriots went from ten wins to nine wins to eight wins. Laying all the blame at Grier’s feet may not be accurate, but he sure gets his share.
Kraft disrupted a harmonious War Room crew by allowing the spat over Glenn to happen which resulted in Parcells’ departure. Kraft made a lousy choice to succeed Parcells as head coach. But Kraft’s biggest boo-boo was perhaps to let Armey walk away with virtually no headlines.
Carroll was blamed by Grier for not using his draft picks and letting them develop. Not too many coaches out there waste their time on non-talent. Give Carroll credit for seeing what little he had in Grier’s selections and for using the best men he had available. Now, if he could have only scared them into playing hard, but that’s another story.
It is small consolation, but Armey’s success in St. Louis has somewhat taken the lustre off of Parcells’ GM “acumen”. But in doing so, it has magnified the poor decisions made by The Man Who Drafted Chris Carter.
Warning bells should have gone off ringing in Kraft’s head when his new GM used his first first round pick on a projected nickel back. Drafting for depth is one thing, but Canty wasn’t high on most anyone’s draft board, never mind the bust he turned out to be. The success of Sam Madison in Miami only makes Patriot Nation even madder.
Grier also used poor judgement the next year with the non-selections of Vonnie Holliday and Randy Moss. Robert Edwards was a good selection but for his blown out knee, but debate rages as to whether Edwards would have been available at 21 that year and the Patriots erred severely by not taking at least Holliday, if not the projected head case Moss.
His 1999 draft may yet prove fruitful, but Grier really sacked himself with the 1997 disaster. If you want to list the Top Ten Reasons Why Grier Was Fired and submit it to David Letterman, the 1997 Draft is a prohibitive number one.
And so, Grier steps down as director of player personnel. He most likely gives way to Scott Pioli, who is married to Dallas Parcells. Don’t you just love poetic symmetry.
Grier now will have plenty of time to hit the ice arenas to watch his son Mike play. He’ll watch this hit and that hit his son dishes out, and he’ll wonder why in blazes Brandon Mitchell or Rod Rutledge or Chris Floyd or Derrick Fletcher can’t hit guys like his son can.
The Man Who Drafted Ed Ellis needs to turn in his cart. Bring your final purchases to the checkstand. The store is now closing.
And let there be no doubt who’s buying groceries for the Patriots now.