For years, the Patriots have been willing to buy low, to take chances on players with some degree of questions marks, for the chance of getting value.
Much of that stems from the political capital Bill Belichick gained by winning, but the recent problems with players such as Aaron Hernandez and Alfonzo Dennard also point to the fact that Belichick is missing as often as hitting with that strategy.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated points out this morning that part of that has to do with the absence of a check and/or balance in the Patriots system since Scott Pioli left the team in 2009.
Pioli’s run in Kansas City might not have gone as planned (leading to his new role with NBC). But when in New England, he and Belichick worked well together, and Pioli was willing at times to question the coach.
“But there’s no one there with Scott’s balls anymore,” a source with knowledge of the Patriots inner workings told King. “Bill needs someone to challenge him, and I don’t think he has that now.”
Whether Pioli would have, or could have talked Belichick out of Hernandez or Dennard is unknown. But having one person making decisions without checks can allow blind spots to emerge. That may be the case with Florida guys, who ostensibly got the stamp of approval from friend-of-Bill Urban Meyer.
While Brandon Spikes has been an acceptable player (other than the suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances), the Gators pipeline hasn’t produced much of use (Chad Jackson, Jermaine Cunningham, Jeff Demps, etc.).
That’s not to say Pioli could have changed all that, but it does point to the pitfalls of centralized power, something Belichick isn’t immune to just because he has Super Bowl rings.