Super Bowl LI: How New England Patriots were built

The great former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips once gave his adversary Don Shula the ultimate coaching compliment:

“He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n,” Phillips said.

He may as well be describing Bill Belichick. As the Patriots coach prepares for a potential fifth Super Bowl title with New England — and the unquestioned title as the best coach of the Super Bowl era — Belichick’s ability to “take your’n” looms larger than ever.

The Patriots acquired five players since the end of last season via trade, more than any other NFL team. Guard Jonathan Cooper, part of the Chandler Jones trade with Arizona, was released in October, but three of those players — tight end Martellus Bennett, cornerback Eric Rowe and underrated linebacker Kyle Van Noy — played key roles in Belichick’s seventh AFC championship. This isn’t a new trend: He acquired four players via trade during the team’s 2014 title run, too.

Belichick’s unique role as coach and head personnel evaluator sets him apart as a team builder. Not every deal works out, but Belichick has the flexibility to take low-cost, high-reward chances because he’s confident he can coach up a player’s best attributes. Over the last year, Belichick addressed clear weaknesses on his roster without giving up much.

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