Bill Belichick gets the final say on just about everything that the Patriots do. Winning three Super Bowls and appearing in five over 13 seasons will get you that sort of leeway. But it wasn’t always so cut and dry in New England.
When Scott Pioli, who worked in the Patriots’ front office from 2000 to 2008, was around, all of Belichick’s decisions and thought processes didn’t go by without opposition. Pioli was very vocal in the decision-making process, something that apparently left along with him when he became the Kansas City Chiefs’ general manager in 2009, at least according to SI’s Peter King in his weekly MMQB.
“There’s no one there with Scott’s balls anymore,” someone with knowledge of the Patriots’ organization told King. “Bill needs someone to challenge him, and I don’t think he has that now.”
The quote is in reference to the recent arrests of Patriots former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was charged with first-degree murder, and current cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who was cited for “suspicion of DUI.” King admits that there’s no telling if Pioli’s outspoken presence would have kept Belichick from drafting either of the two players, considering their questionable pasts, but the quote does suggest that unlike Pioli no one seriously challenged those decisions.
There are the few famous instances when Belichick overruled scouts or other personnel in favor of his own opinion, which was well documented in the book War Room, when he decided to select eventual draft busts Laurence Maroney (first round) and Chad Jackson (second round) in the 2006 NFL draft. He also apparently made the decision to take safety Tavon Wilson in the second round of the 2012 draft, which, at the time, was considered an unfathomable reach by many draft experts and NFL executives. So, there’s no telling how many other such decisions he’s made in the past and especially since Pioli left.
The Patriots do maintain a solid core of personnel evaluators on their staff, including offensive coordinator and former Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as well as director of player personnel Nick Caserio. But, from the sounds of it at least, none of them quite holds the same clout, or takes as much opposition, with Belichick as Pioli.
After Hernandez’s arrest, Robert Kraft made it sound like some changes were going to be made in the decision-making process, which could mean bringing in another voice like Pioli or giving someone like Caserio a more active role in the process. And that might be just what the Patriots need to correct their ways.
Photo via screenshot of Patriots.com