Dave Hyde: Mike Gesicki, Bill Belichick and the larger free-agent alchemy of picking the right free agent

Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun-Sentinel on

Published in Football

There’s an old scouting report typwritten in all capital letters that explains what New England is doing, why tight end Mike Gesicki might not be done and also why Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel was still right.

The report was written by Bill Belichick before he was the Belichick we know. It involves the larger alchemy involved in free-agent decisions, more than just grabbing the biggest talent out there. As Cleveland Browns coach in 1991, Belichick handed scouts a few pages on what they should look for at each position to fit his system.

This is standard procedure of any regime. Nick Saban brought this report with him to the Miami Dolphins in 2005, breaking positions down by size and speed parameters for scouts. Adam Gase spent two hours with scouts in 2016 explaining what he wanted in a guard.

The first priority of a tight end, Belichick typed, was he, “has to be a catcher. Keith Jackson, Ozzie Newsome type. Don’t need the offensive line guy in a TE jersey. Take what we can get from him on the blocking. Just gets in the way and ties up, we can work around the blocking. Catch, run, block.”

Let the second or third tight end be the blocker, Belichick typed, and the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout, once posted on social media. Belichick then underlined this regarding how to pick tight ends: “Don’t let the lack of blocking ability eliminate a good player.”

There, in a few words, is Gesicki’s game. It’s why the Patriots signed him for the show-me contract of one year for $4.5 million and another $4.5 million in incentives. It’s also why Gesicki didn’t fit with McDaniel’s system, which is the Brendan Shanahan system, which is the Mike Shanahan system, which demands in-line blocking from a tight end.


Dolphins tight ends coach Jon Embree related a few games into last season he received a 3 a.m. text from George Kittle, the San Francisco tight end Embree and McDaniel previously coached. Kittle sent a video of laying out a Los Angeles Rams defensive back with a bone-crunching block.

“That’s what we want.,’' Embree said. “That mentality here. It’s not about how many passes did I catch.”

In other sports, systems don’t much matter. Baseball and basketball can make talent work in any system. Football decides careers on team. Take the career of two great Dolphins middle linebackers.

Zach Thomas enters the Hall of Fame this summer on full merit. He was an undersized and overly athletic middle linebacker in a 4-3 defensive system, where blockers had to, “get around [defensive tackle] Tim Bowen’s big rear end to get to me,’’ as he said.


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