Here's Part Two of Scott Pioli's press conference at the NFL Combine. If you missed Part One, you can find it here.
Q: How much does your background with Romeo and Charlie kind of help you when you're looking at college kids and knowing what they want in players and just having those years you've spent together?
A: It doesn't just help me, it helps Todd, too. The two of us have spent years together. I think there's times when you spend a large amount of time with someone, there's some things that can be things spoken and unspoken. There's things that you're looking for without having to go through certain processes. What it does as much as anything is it reduces the amount of time you have to spend on certain things.
The good thing is the four of us and Mo [Carthon] and a couple of the other coaches who've been through some good fights before. So there's not going to be that time where people try to establish some sort of position in arguing for a player or arguing against a player. It's not just for me, it's for Todd, too. We can get through things a lot quicker.
Q: So people feel like they can speak freely with each other?
A: Oh, yeah, which is critical. Too often, this is a time when you can't be shy. If you make decisions, they're going to be critical decisions. Easier may not be the right word, but it will be more efficient.
More after the jump:Q: A lot of people are playing 3-4 defenses and trying to retain nose tackles. Can you talk about the importance of the position and how difficult it is to find that guy?
A: Even before, it's just a tough position to find a player period. Not everyone wants to play that position. It's a very difficult position to play. It takes a different type of position and I mean that in a good way. The one difference, I think, is the types of 3-4. It depends on how you play your 3-4 that has an impact on what type of nose you're looking for.
Q: What's the expectation for Matt Cassel in terms of improvement for next year?
A: It's the same expectation we have for every player. We expect every player to get better every year, to perform better, to play smarter and to improve. That expectation we have for Matt Cassel is the same one we have for every player that's on our roster. And I'll tell you this: I need to do my job better, the coaches need to do their jobs better. All of us should have expectations this year that were ahead of where we were last year.
Q: Will offensive line be a priority for you in this draft?
A: I don't know if it's a priority, but it's certainly something we need to get better at. There's no doubt. Everyone saw us play. When you win four games, it's offensive linemen and other positions. We've got some good players on the offensive line, and we need to get more good players on the offensive line -- just like we need to get more good players on the defensive line and linebacker. Again, unfortunately, this is an easy question to answer. When you win four games, you have to do a lot of things better. Like I said I have to do a better job, the coaches have to do a better job, the players have to do a better job.
Q: This is a deep draft on the offensive line, particularly tackles. Are you impressed with what you've seen?
A: Yeah, so far, and I'm not even through all of them. I think there are some good players who are ready to play and I think there are some good developmental prospects, too. It's a good group of players.
Q: Over the years, what are the tougher positions to evaluate from college to pros?
A: I think some of the offensive skill positions. I will say this, I think offensive players in general are becoming more difficult to evaluate than what I remember a couple years ago. A lot of it is the byproduct of the type of offenses that are being run in college. They're asking quarterbacks to do different things than what we ask. They run a different style of offense, which means the running back's is different. The offensive line is different. The splits are different. There's a lot of things that are very different.
When you're watching tape, with running backs for instance, you see running backs in positions and alignments that we're not going to have them in. You see splits in a running game that's very different from what we're doing in the NFL and they're not having to press the hole as much. The whole thing looks very different, so it's changing. But we'll figure out how to do that over time.
Q: Is it a lot more projection?
A: Yeah, projection's probably a good word. It's just trying to say, 'Okay, how is that player going to fit once he's in this style of offense or defense?'
Q: At the same time, why do you think so many tackles have been able to come right in and start right away - guys like Long and Thomas?
A: Well, I think it's a couple of things. Those two guys are top end players, so I don't know if there's that many or a large volume of them. I think there are talented players and good coaches who are getting them ready. I think this has become a league where you need to get the players ready in a hurry, and they're going to have to play early. Jake Long and Joe Thomas, those are two great examples of players who came in and played at a high level early. I think it's more a credit to them. There's been a number of other players to come in and play because somebody's gotta play. That doesn't always mean there's good players, it just means somebody's gonna line up to play.
Q: With the Patriots, you obviously had a lot of successful drafts. Then in '07 and '08, they don't seem as successful. Can you learn from those drafts? Is there anything you can put your finger on why they weren't as good as some of the past?
A: I haven't spent a lot of time evaluating the '07, '08, '09 drafts or the drafts the last two years I was there. Whether you have a successful draft or an unsuccessful draft, it's how you determine what was successful or what wasn't successful. Sometimes it's players that you traded for, it's where you picked players or what round you picked players, there's a lot of variables that go into it.
Regardless of whether you have successful drafts or unsuccessful drafts, you can learn from them. Some of the best learning I did, those drafts ended up being successful. That's the way it's going to be. That's the way drafts are. That's the way coaching is. That's the way life is. Some things you do well, some things you don't do well. There's times you perform well, sometimes you don't perform well. The important thing is to learn from both of them.