Were the effigies of Bill Belichick in a dunce cap removed from Portland’s Longfellow Square and town commons around Maine before dawn? Or were they not hung in the first place?

Take that second deep breath, Patriots fans. Your world is not sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. You may be the best general manager in your fantasy football league, but there’s a reason it’s called fantasy.

Belichick was excoriated for choosing Devin McCourty, a cornerback from Rutgers, with the Patriots’ first pick of the draft Thursday night when plainly, the team’s crying need was for a pass rusher or wide receiver as insurance.

Some of you cried that Belichick again was blinded by his genius. That he was reaching for fool’s gold when the real stuff was sitting right there. Never mind that he and his staff spent nearly four months putting together another draft board when you might have spent four hours with a mock draft based on what? The initials DT, DE or WR that appeared after names on Mel Kiper’s Big Board?

Please.

We’re observers to what’s happening in New York’s Radio City Music Hall during these three days. We have opinions but know too little. There is no “Sit with Bill” reality show in the run-up to the draft.

In 2003, Belichick traded up to pick Ty Warren, the defensive end out of Texas A&M, with the 13th pick of the first round. The smart guys in the media thought Belichick was going after a linebacker. Warren was tagged as being soft and maybe without the smarts that’s needed to play in the Belichickian system of sophisticated defensive sets.

Warren spoke to the media about an hour after his selection. We gathered around a telephone speaker at Gillette Stadium. When Warren mistakenly thought the last question was asked and he was alone with the Patriots’ media relations head, he asked his own question: “Did I do good?”

It wasn’t Warren who needed reassurance at that moment. It was Belichick who would be judged later. Seven years later, Warren is a keeper.

Go back to 2005. Again, people outside Belichick’s sanctum expected the first pick to be used on a linebacker. The position is the Patriots’ center of operations. It is for most teams.

Instead, an offensive tackle from Fresno State was taken. His name? Logan Mankin. A rodeo guy. How’s he worked out?

You are bombarded with facts, theory, highlights, trivia — you name it — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You didn’t absorb this much knowledge in school.

But it’s not always knowledge. Sometimes it’s hearsay or false truths. But you believe you know more than the U.S. president and certainly more than the Patriots’ resident genius.

Or put another way, you no longer trust them to make the right decisions. You’ve got all the answers. You watch ESPN. You pay for the NFL Network.

With Ben Watson gone, the Patriots needed to rebuild at tight end. Rob Gronkowski won’t rush the opposing quarterback, but he should be a good pick, In the Patriots’ eyes he was the best player available and he fills a need. A bonus.

Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes are the linebackers Belichick expects to contribute. What, you heard Friday night that Spikes doesn’t have the range for the NFL? That he’s too slow?

Speed can’t be coached but with a smart player it can be masked. Patriots coaches are teachers, some of the best in the NFL. That’s why they wind up as head coaches elsewhere. They want pupils, not glory boys.

Will there be mistakes out of this class? Probably. Drafting college players isn’t a science, even if Belichick tries to turn it into one.

Remember this: The Patriots didn’t draft Wes Welker or Randy Moss or Stephen Neal or Corey Dillon or Mike Vrabel.

 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]