WHY ERNIE ADAMS IS SO INTERESTING

How much did he hold the attention of the Boston sports fan?
Not much, and he likes it that way. (A check of the Associated Press photo wire reveals that there are more photos of Bigfoot than of Adams.) But when it comes to player personnel decisions, no one other than Bill Belichick is more powerful within the Patriots organization than Ernie Adams. A prep school classmate of the New England head coach, he’s officially listed on the masthead as the Football Research Director, but Adams is a stealthy, secretive figure who is barely known to the players within the organization let alone the Patriots’ fan base. On a typical day of practice down in Foxboro, Adams can be seen walking the perimeter of the field, watching things from a distance and steering clear from players, coaches and the media. But he’s singularly loyal to Beichick — the two have been friends and colleagues for 40 years — and his influence on the organization stretches from scouting to personnel to game-day operations.

How big was his impact for the team/organization?
In the Patriots’ media guide — where he’s buried relatively anonymously on page 41 with just 19 lines in his official bio — his duties are described as “researching special assignments for both the coaching staff and the personnel department." Such a vague description is apt for Adams, who is content to live his football life in the shadows. But while Belichick has had his compatriots over the years like Scott Pioli, Floyd Reese and Nick Caserio, no one has had a greater impact on the way the Patriots and Belichick operate than Adams. He has very definite ideas, and is not shy about sharing them with Belichick. The depth of his vast football knowledge (former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel once compared him to Google because he knew all the answers) makes him a valuable asset for assistant coaches. And former players will tell you that if they are a question mark when it comes to playing on game day, the one who makes the final recommendation to Belichick as to whether or not they play is Adams, and only after Adams puts them through a strenuous pregame workout that comes as close to simulating a game situation as anything they’ve experienced.

How much would he be missed if he wasn't here?
He is the yin to Belichick’s yang, a like-minded football scholar who has been friends with Belichick for decades. While the wizened Floyd Reese is perhaps the closest thing to a senior advisor that Belichick has, people within the organization believe that Adams is the closest thing to a real counterpoint that Belichick has, someone who can tell the coach the unvarnished truth about anything without reproach. It was Adams who recommended Belichick for an assistant’s job with the Giants in 1979. If he did happen to leave the organization — which isn’t likely, considering the deep roots of his friendship with Belichick — the coach would lose someone he has come to lean on as a loyal colleague and a friend for more than half his life. “Nine times out of 10, Ernie has the answer," Belichick once said.

How much buzz does he create around the water cooler?
A knowing fan — especially one who has read David Halberstam’s book about Belichick, “The Education of a Coach” — is aware of the impact that Adams has on the franchise, but he’s not the sort of figure who might inflame an angry fan base after a bad Patriots’ loss. However, his influence on the franchise is all over the place often times in out of the way areas: He’s been known to speak to Belichick in his headset during games. And he and Belichick have scoured the earth looking for ways the Patriots can get an edge, working with professors from Cal-Berkley and Rutgers on things like the probability of going for it on fourth down and when to go for a two-point conversion rather than a PAT.

How much emotion does he evoke at the mere mention of his name?
Not much, because he’s assiduously steers clear of the media. "The truth is, I've always preferred to fly under the radar," Adams said in a rare 2008 interview with Northwestern’s alumni magazine. "I just don't need a lot of notice. I love what I do, and that's enough. And there's a lot of stuff about being in the spotlight that I just don't want." As a result, he does not evoke a lot of emotion among the fan base.

How polarizing is he to the city?
In a city known for academicians, Adams’ cerebral approach to the game would be celebrated … if he were the sort who decided to seek out the limelight. A quiet introverted sort who has been described as slightly “asocial,” his approach has worked well over the years when it comes to his public image. He probably isn’t the type of guy who sparks passionate calls to WEEI on a Patriots Monday, but his association with Belichick is likely enough to give him a lifetime pass with New England football fans.

How polarizing is he to his team?
When Belichick and Adams were together when the coach was in Cleveland, Browns owner Art Modell once said, “I'll pay anyone here $10,000 if they can tell me what Ernie Adams does.” That has continued since Belichick brought Adams with him when he was named head coach of the Patriots in 2000. With many connected with the franchise, its not so much emotion as pure befuddlement or even flat-out fear. One former player who was released recalled knowing he was about to be cut because he caught Adams shooting him a stern look and a shake of the head after a poor performance. Most players are understandably wary when asked about Adams, lest they run the risk of alienating the head coach. During a film session earlier in the decade, a player put up a slide of Adams with the caption “What does this man do?” But his fingerprints are all over the franchise.

Ernie Adams

Audio Clips

  • Tom Brady, Patriots QB

    Tom Brady joins D&C to talk about the loss to the Browns, his struggles in the passing game and who is the most interesting person on his team.

  • Adam Schefter on D&C

    Our guy from the NFL Network Adam Schefter joins D and C to wrap up the Spygate coverage from yesterday.

  • David Halberstam

    This is a interview Dale & Michael had, with David, on his book, "The Education of a Coach", on the makings of Bill Belichick, in which he interviewed Bill, his Dad and others, about how Bill became Bill, on November 2, 2005. Halberstam died Monday night, in the San Francisco Area, in a car accident. This is a 2 part interview, conducted in studio.

Video Clip

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