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Dan Shaughnessy

Has there ever been a more important Boston sports figure with a more anonymous profile than Ernie Adams?

Ernie Adams retired Tuesday, effective immediately, as the Patriots' football research director.Jim Davis

Picked-up pieces while anticipating a long Bruins playoff run and a quick exit for the Celtics . . .

Sixty-eight-year-old Ernie Adams retired this past week after serving as Bill Belichick’s “football research director” for 21 seasons and nine Super Bowl appearances.

Has there ever been a more important Boston sports figure with a more anonymous profile than Ernie Adams? In the words of the late, great David Halberstam, Adams was “Belichick’s Belichick.” Adams was Belichick’s sounding board, confidant, and consigliere. He was The Man To See and The Decider. Adams was Belichick’s Dick Cheney, trusted, invisible, and happy to be in a position of power without ever having to explain himself. He was the J.D. Salinger, New England football’s Garbo in khaki pants, a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When Ernie worked for Belichick in Cleveland in the 1990s, Browns owner Art Modell famously said, “I’ll pay anyone $10,000 if they can tell me what Ernie Adams does.”

Nobody stepped forward to collect the Ernie bounty.


I did a deep dive on Adams before Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona in February 2015 (that’s the one when Ernie worked on the “Go Malcolm” goal-line call in the hotel ballroom walkthrough the day before the game). It was at the height of the Deflategate nonsense and the “dominant” Patriots had not won a Super Bowl in 10 years. Adams did not agree to be interviewed (still won’t, and can’t say that’s a bad call by him), but I interviewed more than a dozen football folks who had seen Adams climb through the Patriot organization — starting in 1975 — to his position as Bill’s silent, aide-de-camp.

No one was able to explain what Ernie Adams did. We knew there was a dedicated “Ernie” phone on the Patriots sideline. We knew Adams was in Bill’s ear the entire game (”What have we got, Ernie?”) telling Belichick whether or not to throw a challenge flag. We knew Adams ran downstairs to make recommendations at halftime and that the Patriots had an amazing history of great third-quarter play.


The "Ernie" phone, pictured at Gillette in 2014.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

I called Bill Parcells, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who restored the Patriots to respectability in the mid-1990s, to ask about Ernie Adams.

“I can’t really tell you anything about him," said Parcells. “I just don’t know the guy."

Swell. But Bill, I postured, the Giants press guide says that Ernie Adams was your “director of pro personnel” when you were head coach of the team in 1983 and 1984.

“He was?” Parcells asked, incredulously. “I don’t remember that. I don’t remember him being on my staff. If he was on my coaching staff, I don’t remember what he was doing. And I . . . have a pretty good memory. And I didn’t have any interaction with him.”

Perfect. Only Ernie Adams could be “director of pro personnel” for a Hall of Fame NFL coach and inspire no recollection decades later. It was ever the Ernie Way.

Adams was with Parcells in the 1980s because Belichick was with the Giants in those years, winning his first two Super Bowl rings under the Tuna.

Belichick and Adams go way back — all the way to prep school. Bill and Ernie played offensive line at Phillips Andover in the 1970s and forged a football bond that was not broken until this week when Adams voluntarily stepped down from his ambiguous but important position with the Patriots.


Adams was an NFL’s Rain Man, a grid savant who dazzled Chuck Fairbanks’s staff in the 1970s, memorizing playbooks in a single day when he worked in the bowels of old Schaefer Stadium. In 1979, at the age of 26, he was Phil Simms’s quarterback coach with the Giants. Adams left football in the late 1980s to make a bundle on Wall Street for a few years, but came back to the NFL when Belichick was hired as head coach of the Browns in 1991. For the next 30 years, he was Belichick’s Belichick.

Last Saturday, in a surprise move, Belichick took a moment to cite Ernie’s contributions and announce that it would be Adams’s final draft with the team. Belichick said he wanted to “thank Ernie for all he’s done and recognize all that he’s done.”

Three days later, the Patriots announced that Adams was officially retired, effective immediately.

There was never anyone like him. There will never be anyone like him. Adams was the power behind the throne. He was legit. A football force. His retirement is the end of an era. Belichick and the Patriots are going to miss him.

▪ The Red Sox’ cost-cutting plan came back to bite them last weekend in Texas. Brock Holt beat Boston with a two-run single Sunday. Holt was let go after 2019 because the Sox wanted cheaper options for a Swiss Army knife reserve player. On the same day Holt beat the Sox, Andrew Benintendi had two more hits, giving him five hits and two homers over two days for the first-place Royals. Meanwhile, Franchy Cordero, the “cheaper” alternative the Sox acquired for Benintendi, made the final out in Texas on his way to a hitless streak of 0 for 25.


▪ All those who believe Madison Bumgarner should have been credited with a no-hitter for his seven inning “complete game” against the Braves, consider this: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Nolan Ryan on 23 occasions pitched seven hitless innings. Elias counted 497 instances of a starter pitching seven-plus innings of no-hit ball between 1961-2021.

▪ Headline last week in the New York Daily News: “Hold on to your trash cans, Astros are comin’ to town.” This was followed by “WELCOME CHEATERS!” one day later, while the New York Post settled on, “TAKE OUT THE TRASH!” A Globe commenter submitted, “Bang The Trash Can Slowly.” Just too easy.

▪ Quiz: Whitey Ford faced 18 batters at least 100 times. Only one batted over .300 against Ford, hitting .339 off the Chairman of the Board. Name him (answer below).

▪ Oscar Robertson compiled 181 triple-doubles while playing in an era that made no note of the distinction. The Big O averaged a triple-double in his second NBA season. Wizards guard Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double with the Thunder in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19, and goes into the final week of this season with a chance to pass Robertson’s career total. Westbrook had 180 triple-doubles going into the final week of regular-season play.


▪ Folks from Our Lady of the Valley Regional School in Uxbridge on Thursday broke ground on the Grace Rett Athletic Complex. Rett, a Holy Cross rower, was killed in a Florida traffic crash en route to a training session with her teammates in 2020. The project posthumously fulfills Rett’s longtime dream for her elementary and middle school to have its own indoor athletic space.

▪ The New York Times this past week reported that 78,000 unvaccinated volunteers are scheduled to work the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July. “Unless they qualify for vaccination through Japan’s slow age-based rollout, they will not be inoculated against the coronavirus,” the Times reported. “For protection, volunteers are being offered little more than a couple of cloth masks, a bottle of sanitizer, and mantras about social distancing.”

▪ On his way to his fourth MVP award, Mike Trout hit .413 in his first 23 games. So why is it that I feel like he rarely does anything against the Red Sox? Just my imagination? Sort of. It turns out Trout is a lifetime .304 hitter against Boston with 9 home runs, 28 RBIs, and 8 stolen bases in 49 games. The Angels make their only trip to Fenway next weekend.

▪ Mac Jones and Christian Barmore are the 11th and 12th Nick Saban players drafted by Belichick.

▪ Pass Go! and collect $200 if you knew that Barry Bonds hit three of his 73 homers against Curt Schilling in 2001.

▪ Mets franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor ($341 million) had a horrible April and got booed by hometown fans, so the Mets fired hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater. Veteran eyeballs were replaced by analytics. Weak.

▪ The late, great Stan Musial would be happy to know he is not forgotten. In a random note about baseball symmetry last week, I failed to mention that Stan the Man had exactly 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road. No less than 20 readers reached out to give Musial his due. The number is engraved in the minds of seamheads.

▪ Stan Kasten, one of the Dodgers’ owners, is a superstitious guy. When the Dodgers led the Rays, 3-2, in last year’s World Series, Kasten went to the potential clinching game with one of his sons and visited the restroom at Globe Life Field while the Dodgers trailed in the bottom of the sixth. “We scored and took the lead while I was in there, so I couldn’t leave the [expletive] bathroom," acknowledged Kasten. “I ended up watching us win the World Series on a concourse monitor in front of the bathroom."

▪ Willie Mays, the “Say Hey Kid,” turned 90 Thursday. Go to ESPN.com and read Tim Kurkjian’s Cooperstown-worthy piece on Mays. Kurkjian has first-hand accounts from Mays, Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose, Juan Marichal, and just about everyone else who matters. A must-read.

▪ There’s a real possibility that the Celtics’ regular-season finale against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden could have important playoff implications regarding seeding and the “play-in” round, which will take place May 18-21.

▪ Folks at NBC Sports Boston need to stop blaming referees when the Celtics lose. They’re making NESN look like “60 Minutes."

▪ Former Globe sports scribe Peter May has a book coming out this coming week examining one of golf’s hot-button issues: Did Ben Hogan win five US Opens? Set against the backdrop of the wartime home front, the tome explores the 1942 Hale America National Open, which Hogan won, and the controversy attached to the USGA decision not to count it as an official US Open. Hogan went to his grave believing he’d won five.

▪ Quiz answer: Al Kaline. Kaline (April 6) and Ford (Oct. 8) both died in 2020.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.