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Bill Belichick expert at covering up personnel mistakes

Every team makes personnel mistakes, especially when acquiring aging veterans. The New England Patriots are no exception. (Some would argue that Bill Belichick has actually made more free agency mistakes than most of late.)

No team, however, survives mistakes quite like the Pats.

New England's big splash moves last offseason were wideout Chad Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.  They gave up late round draft picks. They paid Ochocinco like a No. 1 receiver and Haynesworth like a quality starter.  Both players were spectacular busts.

And yet the Patriots overachieved, got the No. 1 seed in the AFC again, and nearly won the Super Bowl.

No team covers up its weaknesses better than the Patriots. A lot of times that means Bill Belichick will coach around the weaknesses on his defense. Or say, his skill position groups early last decade. New England has also become better at covering up Belichick's personnel mistakes. (Signing Rob Gronkowski to a long-term deal, now that's a safe bet.)

They haven't had consistent edge pass rushing for years, but Belichick's coaching makes up for it. They haven't drafted well in the secondary either despite pouring tons of resources on the position. Tom Brady's play and Belichick's coaching makes up for that, too.

It's not like last offseason was a total wash for New England. They signed Andre Carter and Mark Anderson to low cost contracts at defensive end. Both players worked out fabulously. James Ihedigbo was a nice cheap option off the scrap heap at safety. Belichick picks up players in volume -- like at receiver this offseason -- and sees what sticks.

Still, it's hard to argue with the fact that Belichick the coach has grown consistently better than Belichick the personnel evaluator. New England hasn't won the AFC East or tied for the division lead every season since 2001 because of their free agent pickups.

The Patriots do so well each year because they know how to cover up for mistakes.

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