What exactly is a vice president of player personnel? We're so used to focusing our attention on Head Coach Bill Belichick and the players; we often forget about the folks toiling away in offices and cubicles, keeping the machine, known as the New England Patriots, running. It's a business (technically, a franchise of the National Football League, but that's for another story) and every business needs a staffing department, someone who can understand the needs of the organization and keep the pipeline of talent flowing. That's what a VP of player personnel does and we have one of the best in Scott Pioli.
Pioli came to the Patriots organization with Belichick and has been responsible for assisting the coach in building a team that has acquired a lot of hardware since 2000. One only needs to read Scott Pioli's biography to get a sense of what the man has helped accomplish. From a speedbump on the way of a rival team's playoff ambitions to a "holy crap, we're playing the Patriots" threat, us fans should be thankful of this behind-the-scenes guy. He is responsible, in large part, for the number of Super Bowl t-shirts I own.
And he may be leaving.
Ambitious people have a number of qualities, but one that comes to mind is the drive and desire to "do it again", to prove current success isn't a fluke. To that end, Scott Pioli is interviewing for the General Manager job in Cleveland. Current GM Phil Savage was fired on December 29th, along with former Belichick student HC Romeo Crennel, after a dismal 24-40 record during their tenure. In a fanpost on this site (props to Marima) Pioli seems to have made such high demands that many think he really doesn't want the job, that maybe he's using it as a bargaining chip and he really doesn't want to leave the Patriots. Only Pioli knows.
You'll never see this in the papers, but my perception is there's a power shift in the Patriots' organization. Owner Robert Kraft is getting older and needs to groom his successor. To that end, he's put his son, Jonathan, in place as President. My belief is Pioli is making a play to wrest more control out of the old man's hands before the son takes over; he wants to cement his place in the organization. Successful people are ambitious and there's no reason to think Pioli would or should settle for status quo.
Family and business are strange bedfellows. Have a falling out in the family and the business can end up in the crapper, and often does. Or worse, letting your family ties blind you to the abilities of a child. Putting your son in charge can be good or bad. On the one hand, it keeps control in the family. On the other, if Jonathan doesn't have the skills to run a successful football franchise, the crapper awaits. If Pioli is truly trying to carve out a bigger role for himself, he's playing a dangerous game, albeit the right game. I have no knowledge of Jonathan's skills, but I DO know about Pioli's chops and his success is hard to dispute.
Mr. Kraft? Forget about family for a moment and think about what's best for this organization. Keep the dynamic duo of Belichick and Pioli together. All you have to do is look at the banners hanging from your stadium. Isn't that enough proof?