Lack of Pioli leaves Belichick unchallenged


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.

75 responses to “Lack of Pioli leaves Belichick unchallenged

  1. Horrible press aside, I don’t really think the Patriots lost a whole lot on these 4th and 7th round players. You could easily argue the Patriots got more out of them than the vast majority of other players typically taken in those rounds.

  2. and lack of illegally obtained films of opposing teams practices isn’t helping the recent 2 time Super Bowl LOSING and last year’s AFC Championship Game LOSING coach either.

  3. officialgame says: Jul 15, 2013 11:00 AM

    All good things must end. The Pats are on their way down without question.

    Based on what?

  4. Did nobody else notice how poorly Pioli did in Kansas City? It’s laughable how much credit people give him.

    And what exactly was he supposed to have done in these instances? Nobody thought Hernandez was a murderer and he was going to get drafted by somebody. And Dennard was a throwaway 7th round pick, so they’ve already gotten great value out of him.

  5. Not sure I’m buying that. Pioli had a nice run in New England, and maybe he was a good check and balance for Belichick. However, I think Belichick did Pioli far more good than Pioli did for Belichick.

    As for the Patriots being on the way down, I’ll believe it when I see. I’m no Pats fan at all, but there are two big reasons for the decade long dominance; the are a first class organization with an outstanding head coach, and they play in a division with three other teams that can’t get their act together for more than a season or two.

  6. This is stupid. Hernandez goes out and murders someone and its meyers and belichicks fault. Why does everyone forget the patriots were a welker catch from winning a super bowl a couple years ago. AFC championship last year…just a victim of their own success.

    When you take chances on guys, some are going to work out and some are not…I dont see the issue

  7. Wow, I guess it’s possible Pioli is good for something.

    Still, dude hired Javon Belcher while in K.C…and we all know how that turned out.

  8. Uh aren’t we talking about a team that in the last 11 years has been to 7 AFC title games and 5 super bowls?

    Things aren’t perfect but they continue to be in the mix. They trail only the Ravens as the most successful team in their conference over the last two years.

    And even with some personnel issues, does anything think they aren’t going to win the AFC East? Really?

    Why don’t we talk about “what went wrong” after Brady and Belichick hang it up.

  9. Ok Ok let’s not jump the gun here. First of all yes, Alfonzo Dennard screwed up and could arguably be labeled a problem player. But to imply that the Patriots drafting of problem players to get value is ruining the organization (or is on the cusp of ruining the organization) is quite false when you compare it to the relm of other organizations. Problem players exist in the NFL, this is a fact that is undeniable and will never change. Aaron Hernandez is on a completely different level than all other situations and is the sole reason why the Patriots are getting so much flack for all of the other indiscretions by their other players. Even if no other team in the league would have drafted Aaron Hernandez (which we all know SOMEONE would have), to place the blame on the Patriots for not recognizing his potential to murder is complete BS. Aaron Hernadez aside, Belicheck has done an unbelievable job balancing talent, value and character players during his tenure. And I am a Bills fan.

  10. Hitting as much as missing is still not a bad ratio for taking questionable players…As long as they are not spending a 1st through 3rd round pick on them, then 50/50 is pretty good.

  11. When Brady goes, so will Bill. He can go hang in the Keys with Jimmy Johnson and enjoy his hardwork. But the tone of the article is correct, he has no one to check him and ultimately lay blame on. Teams miss a whole lot more than they hit, it’s the nature of the beast, on most teams you lay that on the head of the GM right or wrong and go from there.

    It’s the same thing as Dallas, if there was a GM he’d be gone, but instead Jerry just lets himself look foolish at times.

  12. This is what the culture of the NFL has come to: All 32 teams need a “Dr. Phil” on their staffs to evaluate and monitor the mental stability of incoming and established players.
    Of course, the “freak shows” start at the college level, where Florida seems to have an overabundance of cool, hip-hop, made-for-ESPN crazies.
    At least the late Joe Paterno never harbored an accused serial killer in his program. Too bad the same can’t be said for Urban Myer.

  13. Quarterbacks make coaches really good!


    Shula=Marino Oh, wait that one did not work out so well. Do you blame the GM/coach or the QB?

  14. “officialgame says:
    Jul 15, 2013 11:00 AM
    All good things must end. The Pats are on their way down without question.”

    Which means their “fans” will be on their way out also.

  15. The way to solve this problem, is.not to

    allow a team to skip out of guaranteed

    money. The money would count against

    thier cap. The scumbag would not get the

    money (to spend on lawyers) but it would

    go into a fund (to help the homeless or lower

    ticket prices). There is no real penalty now.

    Win with one scumbag, when they get

    caught replace with another scumbag and

    keep on winning. Everyone in the league

    respects the coach calls him a genius. He

    is considered a draft guru for signing these

    steals in draft or FA.

  16. Pats won 6 of 7 games without Hernandez last year… Not a big deal. Suggesting that Bill is hitting as much as missing is ridiculous.

  17. Isn’t that the point of “buying low”? If they players don’t work out, you aren’t out much. Everybody in later rounds is a crap shoot, and often you are hoping they might become backups or special teamers. Why not swing for the fences, hope a kid gets his life together, and can actually be a difference maker instead of just picking some random guy that might be a gunner on the punt team?

  18. Interesting article. Has been brought up a few times over the last few years and while I ignored it, there seems to be merit now. Once unthinkable, the Pats draft choices now are in question each year, as is much of the playcalling in critical situations that has led to losses as a direct result.
    Complacency, or a coach losing focus (he has had personal family issues with wife/now ex wife), or the loss of the other half of the brain in Pioli. Not sure, but something has changed.
    Some say they cheated to win before and are now paying the price.

    Off topic, but was fun to watch the 2010 superbowl on NFL tv yesterday.

  19. Haha a jags fan talking trash about a team losing 2 super bowls and an AFC championship game. You would love for the jags to have that resume over the past couple years. So would the Saints, Cowboys, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Niners, Seahawks, etc..

  20. Good point about Pioli, but BB has done MUCH better w/o him than he has w/o BB.
    “For years the Patriots have been willing to buy low, to take chances on players with some degree of questions marks (bad grammar but I’ll let it pass) for the chance of getting value.”

    The writer seems to be implying that the pats are just about the only organization that drafts – takes chances on – potential troublemakers, and that is completely foolish.

    The dude seems to have a bit of a woodie about the pats, but he’s not the only one.

    We’ll be fine.


  21. I’m so sick of all this hate for taking AH in the 4th round. That’s the type of round you take chances on a guy. Otherwise on a good team like the Pats you get someone who can’t make the roster year 1.

    I get he has issues in college that are coming out now, but I’m sure there is a huge list of nfl players with the same problems through college. NONE of that tells you the guy is a murderer. If this would have been any other smaller crime it would be a small story along with the Denard story.

  22. For all you BB haters that keep saying, “Belichick is done once Tom Brady retires!”

    Belichick lead 2 defenses to Championships with Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler at QB.

    Not to mention he won 10 out of 15 games with an undrafted Matt Cassell as the starting QB.

    How did jeff hostetler and Matt Cassell do after Belichick left?

    Will BB go to 5 Super Bowls with his next QB? No.

    But spare the fans with knowledge this “BB is done when Brady retires” crap.

  23. steelerchicken says:
    Jul 15, 2013 11:21 AM
    Quarterbacks make coaches really good!


    Shula=Marino Oh, wait that one did not work out so well. Do you blame the GM/coach or the QB?

    In Marino’s case? When you go back and look at the draft history of Marino’s career it has to go down as the worst personnel reign in NFL history. In 17 years they couldn’t find a defense?

  24. I’ve never heard such BS!
    Scott Pioli had as much authority in NE as You or I.
    He was hired by BB as his personal GM as a favor to Bill Parcells (Pioli’s Father in law). BB would tell Pioli who he wanted, and Pioli would comply.
    He didn’t have the balls OR the authority to question BB!

  25. People said the same thing when Pioli WAS here. He got replaced by Nick Caserio, who apparently doesn’t count for some reason, and the Patriots’ drafts have been better ever since–most of our young core players were drafted in 2010 and 2011 (McCourty, Gronk, Spikes, Hightower, Jones, Ridley, Solder, etc). Meanwhile, KC tanked.

    Besides, how does Peter King even know that no one stands up to Belichick? Is he following them around on a daily basis or something?

    I doubt it. But it’s prety easy to get clicks by painting Belichick as some all-powerful supervillain.

  26. So you’re going to use two players out of the roughly 30 draft picks Belichick has used since Pioli left as a measure of how his draft methods are failing? Someone would have taken Hernandez because he is insanely talented and not one person in existence could have predicted this murder would happen, and Dennard made a mistake with that fight, but let’s wait to see how this plays out before you label him a scumbag or a problem player

    What about the countless other teams that have players and personnel getting into legal problems? Broncos had two executives get busted for DUI, but there aren’t any articles questioning their hiring methods…Belichick has built and maintained a great team with his draft picks, compiling a resume that few, if any, teams could match and you can’t expect every draft pick he or anyone else makes to work out…sometimes you have to gamble, and it either works out or it doesn’t, but you can’t tell me that 31 other NFL teams wouldn’t have jumped to sign Hernandez prior to the murder after seeing what he can do on the field

  27. So the guy who signed a player who murdered his the mother of his child and then shot himself at the team facility is supposed to be the counter-weight that prevents the team from employing potentially violent players? I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

    In fairness to Pioli, you could make a good argument that he could not have known Jovan Belcher would do that. But the same can be said for Belichick and Aaron Hernandez. None of Hernandez’s red flags coming out of college suggested the next step for him was a gangland-style execution. Sometimes people surprise you.

  28. flash1283 says:
    “Based on what”?

    Talent, age and depth. Do think football dynasty’s last forever? Brady never slows down? Bad drafts don’t catch up with you?

    brobroski says:
    @officialgame, how many years in a row have you been saying that?


  29. Hey let the cards fall as they may. Somehow the Cowboys are Jerry Jones ends up in everyone blogs. With the talent Hernandez had coming out of school, does not fall to the 4th round unless there are serious questions about his character. Lots of players drop because of off the field issues, but ones with AH talent does not fall that deep in the draft. Kraft posted a letter that everyone knew was not written by him to say “see, he fooled us into drafting him”, BS, they had intentions of drafting him regardless. It’s been mentioned that The Patriots instead of The Cowboys should be America’s Team, BS. All teams do draft risky players, all should, because they can help these kids grow into responsible young men, and in many cases they do. My best example, Dez, risky pick that did not fall out of the 1st round, he was immature, period. He could have gone either way, Jerry was patient, because say what you like about him, he truly cares. Dez has grown into a responsible young man, that should put every team on notice with his talent. Josh Brent is a part of our family, he made a terrible terrible decision to continue drinking and driving that caused the death of his bestfriend. How many of you, do the same? That to me is at some point the same WILL happen to you. The Cowboys get much criticism and we take it. The Patriots should as well. They selected AH knowing his background, he produced on the field, but was disastrous off the field. They rewarded him for both. Now Kraft and the Patriots want to distance themselves from him, which they are entitled to do, but that does not erase the fact he was a Patriot and he failed them, but they also failed him, by not being more involved. It’s like the old saying “out of sight, out if mind”.

  30. No coaches care about the nfl taking a black eye of not. They pick players they think that will help them win and that can stay in the field. Dude caught a go ahead td pass in the sb for chrissake. This news cycle will be over soon enough

  31. Bill Belichick was fired in Cleveland, for three very good reasons: Back then, the AFC Central had teams coached by 1.) Bill Cowher; 2.) Tom Coughlin; and 3.) Jeff Fisher…
    Belichick has NEVER had to face such stiff coaching competition in the AFC North. Never. And he never will. The AFC North is the coaching Siberia of the NFL.

  32. To the haters…

    Most Reqular season wins.
    16-0 undefeated season
    Five Super Bowl Appearences (3 wins)
    8 trips to the ACF title game. (5 wins)

    Comparable pro francises and everyone of them got some measure of critisism for their success…
    Boston Celtics (1959-1970) *Auerbach cheated and manipulated the league rules getting good players.
    NY Yankees 1920 -1934, 1949-1960 * they outspent everyone else
    Montreal Canadians 1955-1980 *they had the french pipeline of players… exclusitity to talent.

    BB is paid to win… and yes … Lest we forget every organization is run by the same objective.

    See ya in the playoffs! AGAIN!!!

  33. @ belichickdominatedjoemontana

    Couple of things. Cassel was drafted in the 7th round in 2005.

    What did he do after he left NE? Well, he did make the Pro Bowl in 2010.


    @ pdidit09

    Kraft didn’t say he was duped into drafting Hernandez. The “duped” comment had to do with giving him the extension last year. And, the jury is still out on Dez. Don’t be duped.

  34. Most of the acorns from belichick’s coaching tree have not grown very well.

  35. @ bobzilla101

    Belichick did not fail in Cleveland per se. He took over a BAD 3-13 team. He had the balls to replace a Cleveland icon at QB. Got them back to the playoffs in 1994 going 11-5 with a playoff win. Then, he had to deal with the final, tumultuous season in Cleveland before the move to Baltimore. His admitted failure was how he handled the media and in delegating responsibilities. Then, he was fired before he had a chance to coach a couple of HOFers who were drafted in 1996 named Ogden and Lewis. I say that Belichick would have had that 1st SB title in Baltimore a year or two before it actually happened.

  36. jagsfan1 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:05 AM

    and lack of illegally obtained films of opposing teams practices isn’t helping the recent 2 time Super Bowl LOSING and last year’s AFC Championship Game LOSING coach either.


    Why do people keep bringing up something that never happened? The newspaper retracted the story about the taping of the story. But don’t let facts get in the way of your Patriots bashing.

  37. bobzilla1001 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:50 PM

    Bill Belichick was fired in Cleveland, for three very good reasons: Back then, the AFC Central had teams coached by 1.) Bill Cowher; 2.) Tom Coughlin; and 3.) Jeff Fisher…
    Belichick has NEVER had to face such stiff coaching competition in the AFC North. Never. And he never will. The AFC North is the coaching Siberia of the NFL.

    LMFAO!!!!! 3 top 10 defenses in the past 4 years….3 SB’s won in the past 10 years….2 coaches with SB rings and 1 coach who has rebuilt his team 3 times taken them to back to back playoffs and was credited with hiring the 2nd best DC in Bengals history…Mike Zimmer.. This is an example of a fan who either takes it personal against the AFC North or just doesnt really know football or teams outside of his own…. Ignorance is bliss…..

  38. I remember all this fear in the AFC West when Pioli became the GM for the Chiefs. Aside from signing Randy Moss as a FA, what was so special about Pioli’s drafts in NE?

  39. Neutral fan here, the Pats will just be fine.. and win their division again. Dolphin fans are hoping that wont happen, but frankly they are no threat. I wont even get started with the Bills and Jets. Brady ehh Tannenhill, my money is on a Brady led team anyday.

  40. I do think Belichick has missed having Pioli on the team. Wish they would bring him back.

    Even though he did poorly in KC, he was very valuable in New England before that.

  41. rolloversports says:
    Jul 15, 2013 1:28 PM
    I remember all this fear in the AFC West when Pioli became the GM for the Chiefs. Aside from signing Randy Moss as a FA, what was so special about Pioli’s drafts in NE?


    They got Tom Brady in the 6th round… Light, Mankins, Wolfork, Seymore, Koppen… (ect ect ect) deals for Moss, Welker, Vrable, Harrison, Seau and I think you need to understand and with the exception of Brandon Merriweather, it is who they didn’t take…. that is the point. Scott Pioli was a cog in the machine… decisions were by commitee and BB listened to him .. for better or for worse … he is missed… I wish he would come back.

  42. if you’re going to start noting 7th round “misses” then this will become a busy blog. the fact that dennard has started any games at all probably makes him a relative net positive even if he never plays another snap.

    Thus is just continued piling on of the pats for something Hernandez did on his own, outside of work

  43. Pioli was Bill Belichick’s secretary. Peter King, however, wishes to continue to perpetuate this myth that I think all Cheif fans can confirm is absurd.

    The last few drafts when Pioli was still in New England were horrific. In Kansas City, his drafts were horrific. The fabled pick that started this mythical genius status is based on a pick he didn’t even make. Bobby grier who knew he was about to get fired after the draft at the recommendation of the late Dick Rehbein. It really was as much luck as anything, but Pioli built his career on this event that occurred before he even took the job.

    When he was fired, unlike others welcomed back to the team, there was no offer to Pioli despite being a close Belichick friend much like Michael Lombardi who will commence to destroy the Browns. If Tomas Dimitroff ever got fired by the Falcons, I’m willing to bet he’d have a job waiting in New England if he wanted it though.

  44. It really doesn’t matter Bellichek’s philosophy, when your consider the AFC East’s clown-ophy. The Patriots will get into the Patriots with home field advantage because they play in the weakest division in football, then they will lose because the easy schedule makes them soft.

  45. I’ve never seen a team get so much media attention about drafting 4th and 7th round players. This is obviously easy fodder for writers that don’t want to put in the work. Maybe write an article comparing Hernandez and Denard’s contribution to any other teams 4th and 7th pick that year.

  46. So you are saying everybody Bellichek and Brady are surrounded by”YES” men?

    I would include CBX, Jim Nantz, Dan Dierdorf as “YES” men as well.

    Yes Bill, You are genius Bill. Yes Tom, you are the best QB ever.

  47. Very good points, and as I have said before I think Belichick is the most overrated coach in the league. Not only is he consistently sloppy at making key mistakes in games and doing a very suspect coaching job overall, but he takes on the GM role and fails miserably in that department. The Patriots could have had a truly epic franchise legacy if he didn’t hack off half of their upper-end potential through his own ignorance and negligence. And his arrogance and overconfidence blind him to seeing what he is doing wrong.

  48. I don’t even like the Patriots but this is rather silly. For one, it’s a stretch to think Pioli was psychic enough to say “Don’t draft that Hernandez kid. He’s bound to murder someone in a few years.” Secondly, if the Patriots get their money back from him, it’s not any type of on field disaster (while still a PR one). Hernandez was a fourth round pick. A lot of those don’t make it that long, but the Patriots got three good years out of him. Signing him to that extension only becomes a real problem if they can’t get the signing bonus back. You can’t assume if they’d skipped on him three years ago that they would have drafted or signed a comparable talent at the position. They got good value for three years which isn’t the norm for fourth rounders.

  49. The Patriots have a strong and deep roster at virtually every position. The perception that they are weak at receiver goes against their historical track record (with far less they excelled). I expect Amemdola and Edelman to improve the YAC stats (which were an issue last year).

  50. @ realfootballfan

    Pioli NEVER claimed credit for drafting Brady. He’s on camera in an NFL Films show saying that he’s not THAT good considering the Patriots themselves drafted 5 or 6 guys before taking Brady. He didn’t build a career off the Brady pick. C’mon man!

  51. Bill apologists abound. It has been quite a while since the Patriots have won with any consistency in the postseason. Now, they’re just another team that loses at home in the playoffs.

  52. Belicheat the “genius” no more. Post Spygate has proven he is just an average coach. He’ll never win another SB even with Brady.

  53. Scott Pioli is an idiot. As a long standing Chiefs fan, I know from experience. He made so many bonehead moves in KC that they are difficult to list. He has NO business being a GM. Arrogance, hubris and weakness are a deadly combination, and he had them in spades.

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