There have been MANY debates around here about our GM Scott Pioli. The main argument I think is who is ultimately responsible for the Patriot’s dynasty in the 90’s, Bilichick or Pioli? Daily we hear arguments giving blind support to Pioli because of the great Patriot teams he created and that we need to "Trust the Don" because of past success.
I’m just not so sure.
Look, I’m not looking to Poo-poo this offseason but I would like to temper some of the enthusiasm that Pioli can turn around a terrible Chiefs team in a season or 2. This is a very difficult offseason as without a new CBA, there is hardly any unrestricted free agents available, and face it….Unrestricted Free Agents aren’t lining up to come to a team that’s won 9 games the last 3 year. Which takes us to the draft.
Most people agree that successful teams are build through the draft and sprinkled with a dash of free agents and throw in a couple trades. Awesome. We have 3 draft picks in the top 50 and we have draft genious Scott Pioli at the helm. But is he a genious? Certainly the 2009 draft was underwhelming. Well Craig, Pioli was handcuffed because he didn’t have HIS scouts and HIS people involved. Wait until he get’s HIS people in place.
Ok. Lets look back in history to a time when Pioli did have his people in place. Let’s examine the Patiots drafts. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that Pioli was instrumental in the Patiots success, not just riding the Hoodie’s coattails.
Let’s examine the Patiots draft history in the Hoodie/Pioli regime. To better understand the inner workings, I’ve once again consulted Patriot Superfan Bill Simmons who wrote an artice about the Patriot’s "fall from grace" with zero playoff wins in the past 2 seasons and site’s poor drafing as the reason.
Take it away Bill:
Here's what we know: Belichick and helper Scott Pioli landed Brady in his first draft (2000), then crushed the next three (2001-2003) Nailing picks is the NFL's biggest ongoing advantage, especially after the first round; it's the best way to circumvent the salary cap, by getting cheap labor. Those four drafts directly set up the 2003-04 seasons: 34 wins, 4 losses and two Super Bowl titles. Not an accident.
The early 2000's were the Patriot's heyday. Drafting one of the best QB's of all time in the 6th round is one of the alltime great Draft steals. Richard Seymore, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Jarvis Green, David Givens, Daniel Graham, Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Dan Kopen, Banta Cain were all draft picks that contributed to multiple Superbowl wins. Then the wheels started to fall off...
The following two drafts (2004-2005) went fine. Nothing special. Things fell apart in 2006 when only kicker Stephen Gostkowski panned out. The Pats took Laurence Maroney over D'Angelo Williams, traded up from No. 52 (Greg Jennings) to No. 36 (WR Chad Jackson, a bust) and chose tight end David Thomas over Owen Daniels. Egads. As far as drafts go, this was Belichick's "Funny People" -- such a mess that you almost want to pretend it never happened.
The next three drafts looked worse than they actually were because they lost the Spygate pick (No. 32 in 2008) and dealt two picks for Wes Welker and Randy Moss, but from 2007-2009, only Mayo has emerged as an impact player, and only three current starters (Gostkowski, Mayo and Brandon Meriweather) came from the last four Patriots drafts (even though the team had three firsts, six seconds and five thirds over that time). When seventh-rounder Julian Edelman emerged as Welker Jr. this summer, I remember being shocked that we finally struck pay dirt with a non-first-rounder. Not a good sign.
Uh Ohh. Certainly recent draft failure is a direct correletion to the Patriot's no longer being the super power of years ago. One particular Beef that Simmons had with the regime is chosing a need over BPA, which is something that Pioli is known for.
The last few years, he's been drafting by need instead of just taking the best players, which he never used to do. And he spends so much time flipping picks that I reached the "can't we just stand pat and take the best guy?" point two years ago. Just this spring, instead of moving up 2-3 spots to grab game-breaker Percy Harvin or just taking tackle Michael Oher at No. 23 (now a staple of Baltimore's excellent offensive line), the Patriots traded down twice, picking up a second and two thirds (none of whom are starting). Quantity over quality yet again.
This is something that several people in AP'ville want, for Pioli to wheel and deal ala Bilichick. I'd argue with backup from my good friend Bill Simmons that it hasn't really worked for the Patriots. Patriots were the strongest back when they identified their guy, and drafted him rather trying to play the game stockpiling 2nd rounders. Drafting 2nd rounders is all well and good, as long as you draft well, which Bilichick haven't done well lately.
I'm certainly in Pioli's corner and I'm hoping he does well, but I still roll my eye's a little when I hear "In Pioli we trust".
Thanks for reading,