Low-key Adams made big contributions

Ernie Adams’ title in the Patriots media guide is “football advisor.” It’s purposely broad, as Adams’ influence is felt in many areas despite a lack of fanfare around his contributions.

So when head coach and long-time Adams’ friend, Bill Belichick, publicly lauded Adams on the third day of the 2021 NFL Draft by thanking him and essentially announcing Adams’ retirement, it marked the end of an era.

Adams is unassuming, but has loomed large as a Belichick confidant for more than two decades. The two met in high school at Phillips Academy in Andover. In fact, Adams sought out Belichick upon his arrival partly because he had read Steve Belichick’s (Bill’s father) book, Football Scouting Methods. The two hit it off and launched into a lifetime friendship.

Bill Belichick No. 50 (blue) and Ernie Adams No. 61

While Belichick went on to Wesleyan and started his NFL coaching career in Baltimore in 1975, Adams matriculated to Northwestern and then joined the New England Patriots staff under Chuck Fairbanks. The two reunited with the New York Giants in 1979. Adams eventually left football in 1986 and worked on Wall Street as a municipal bonds trader. When Belichick left the Giants staff following Super Bowl XXV to become the Cleveland Browns head coach, he lured Adams back to football. Then, when Belichick was fired after five seasons in Cleveland, Adams left football again. But Belichick’s return to head coaching in New England in 2000 coincided with another call to his old friend. Adams joined Belichick in 2000 and was part of six Super Bowl championships before essentially retiring on May 1 of 2021.

Adams impacted many areas of the football operation, whether it be recalling old game plans to unearth against a certain quarterback, helping make personnel evaluations and Draft picks, film review, determining which plays to challenge during a game or even contributing specific game plan details. In fact, it was Adams who raised the coaching point the week of Super Bowl XLIX that led to Malcolm Butler’s awareness on the game-saving interception on the goal line with 20 seconds left.

Adams has amazing recall and displays it annually as part of the Patriots Hall of Fame nomination committee. His ability to provide detail about a potential Patriots Hall of Famer from almost any decade not only provides unique incite but also commands the room.

What is said in those nomination meetings is confidential, but listening to Adams describe a certain player’s impact often goes beyond what can be seen on the field and extends to the meeting rooms and game plan decisions.

So despite a low profile as advisor, Adams made big contributions to championship programs. We, however, still don’t know the meaning of “pink stripes” written on his office white board.