Ex-Patriots assistant Rob Ryan tells D&K how Belichick coached fringe players to win Super Bowl 36

Alex Reimer
January 29, 2019 - 2:58 pm

It’s easy to forget now, but Rob Ryan is one of the few people who enjoyed a front-row seat at the formative years of the Brady-Belichick era. Rex Ryan’s older brother was the Patriots’ linebackers coach from 2000-2003, working in concert with Bill Belichick to establish New England’s dominant defense in the early aughts, which helped carry them to two Super Bowls during his brief tenure with the team.

In an interview Tuesday with “Dale & Keefe” from Radio Row in Atlanta, Ryan shared some battle stories from Belichick’s early days. One of them involved running regular tackling and footwork drills with safety Antwan Harris and running back J.R. Redmond, both of whom made big plays in Super Bowl 36.

“This guy is so much better than every other coach. It’s not fair. He’s the best, by far,” Ryan said. “My job during the first Super Bowl year –– see if this paid off. He was like, ‘Look, these guys can’t tackle. Antwan Harris, they can’t tackle J.R. Redmond can’t make anybody miss. Get over there, and work tackling every day.’ We were working tackling in the playoffs. After practice, they’re putting their stuff on to tackle. Well, let’s see. Didn’t Antwan Harris force a fumble with a form tackle on Ricky Proehl right before half when we scored that touchdown? That worked out pretty good. I thought J.R. Redmond made a few plays making people miss during the championship game and Super Bowl, he does them both. (Belichick) had the foresight to see it coming. He can’t watch TV and just see the actual movie. He sees the dials –– ‘We’re watching on RCA today.’ He sees the whole console. I don’t see that; I don’t have that vision. I don’t think anybody does.”

Ryan also talked about his first impressions of Brady, who the Patriots selected with the No. 199 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, in case you didn’t know. Suffice to say, Ryan was not initially impressed, but then Brady blew him and his older brother away with his work ethic.

“I was there with Dick Rabine to work (Brady) out,” Ryan said. “I was working out the defensive players, but we kind of put our guys together against Aaron Shea and Brady. Of course, we won thanks to my great coaching. But it was great. Rabine was so passionate about this guy. I’m like, ‘I wonder how this guy is?’ So we draft him and he’s all excited. We get out there, and I’m like, ‘Well.’ We used to have the rookies go against each other at the end of every practice to develop players. And you know, typical Belichick, it was a great fashion to bring players around. And you could see (Brady) wasn’t any good –– I knew he wasn’t going to be any good. But then around that time, he kept getting better and better and better. And by the second year, we were in the weight room every day -– I know it’s hard to believe I was, but (Eric) Mangini bet me for 162 days we were going to treat it like a baseball season. We were going to go in there every day –– and Willie McGinest and Tom Brady were in there every day with me and Mangini. Nobody else. He got stronger and stronger and better and better. By the third preseason game of our second year, he was by far the best (quarterback). My brother was like, ‘My God, the guy with the weird helmet is a really good quarterback.’ He was amazing.”