The Houston Texans want Nick Caserio as their next general manager, and who could blame them? After all, Caserio has been an important cog in the New England Patriots’ machinery since he got elevated to director of player personnel in 2008. As such, he effectively can be seen as the right-hand man to head coach/de facto GM Bill Belichick — one that has played a key role in building three Super Bowl-winning teams.
Caserio has been a popular commodity for years now, but so far he has not followed the road previously walked by Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff or Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn. Both were members of the Patriots’ front office before leaving for jobs higher up on the career ladder in 2008 and 2016, respectively. The Texans are now content to change this, and to get Caserio on board.
While this has reportedly led to tampering charges being field by the Patriots, the reigning world champions themselves should try to dissuade teams from going after the 43-year-old in the first place. New England should therefore follow a familiar blueprint — a similar one that it used to keep offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the fold when he was close to becoming head coach of the Indianapolis Colts last offseason.
In order to keep McDaniels from leaving, the Patriots gave him a five-year contract — which is basically unheard of for an assistant coach — that pays him like a first-time head coach. Whether or not the club made any other concessions to keep McDaniels around has not been reported, but the club’s decision to go out and invest that much in him is pretty telling in the first place as it shows its willingness to hold onto its core personnel.
Nick Caserio certainly also qualifies as such, which is why the Patriots should do what they did last year: try to keep him, even if it means going unorthodox ways. How could those ways look like from New England’s perspective? It’s easy:
1.) Make Caserio the first member of the organization to hold the title of general manager since Patrick Sullivan in the year 1990.
2.) Increase his pay accordingly.
According to a 2017 story from then-Boston Herald writer Jeff Howe, Caserio’s contract pays him around $2 million annually. The number is of course considerable, but it also is a step behind for what other teams are paying for their general managers — and, let’s face it, Caserio is pretty much it without the title. The New York Jets, for example, are reportedly giving their recently signed GM, Joe Douglas, $3 million per year.
Could Houston be willing to pay Caserio that much? It would not be a surprise considering the supply-demand-system that is the NFL. And if such an offer came Caserio’s way, would the Patriots be willing to pay up to keep their director of player personnel around? One thing is certain, losing Caserio would be a blow to the organization considering how big his role already is. Just look at what Howe wrote about in the aforementioned story from 2017:
Caserio [...] orchestrated recent trades for tight end Martellus Bennett, cornerback Eric Rowe and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Barkevious Mingo. And Caserio’s pro personnel department properly scouted linebacker Shea McClellin, defensive end Chris Long and [Chris] Hogan before the offseason signings.
As colleague Rich Hill wrote during the 2016 playoffs, Caserio has “has done an excellent job of identifying talent over the years and has been crucial to the team’s continued success.” His contributions to the club, of course, extend beyond his role in the front office and as a ‘general manager without the title’. Caserio is also active when it comes to game preparations and in-game procedure.
Bill Belichick acknowledged as such in NFL Films’ Do Your Job documentary that originally aired in September 2017:
I don’t think there’s another general manager in the league that would do anything that would even approach what he does comprehensively in addition to all the personnel duties. He’s there for game-planning, preparation, practice, game day. [...] Nick does a tremendous job for us. Works hard, he’s got a great capacity, and has a very unique skill set.
Needless to say that Belichick and the Patriots value all of the traits Caserio possesses — which is why it is imperative the organization tries to up the ante to keep him around against what looks to be an aggressive push from the Texans. That is why the Patriots should do the two things outlined above: pay Caserio like the general manager he is in all but title, and give him that title that has not been held in New England for quite some time.
In Rich Hill’s story mentioned above, the following is written, and it rings truer than ever before considering the developments in the last few days:
If it’s the title that Caserio wants, more than the money, then the Patriots should give it to him. Belichick is so entrenched in the fabric of the team that there would never be doubt about who was running the team. And teams like the Seahawks and Chiefs operate with a general manager following the lead of the head coach; it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Additionally, if Caserio receives the title of “general manager”, then teams will no longer be allowed to interview him without the team’s permission.
This is the path the Patriots should embark upon in order to resolve the Nick Caserio saga, and come out of it with one of the organization’s most important members side-by-side.