Personnel consistency has played a major role in the New England Patriots’ second dynastic run, and the front office is no exception. Led by de facto general manager Bill Belichick, the group’s top has stayed intact for quite some time now: Nick Caserio has served as the Patriots’ director of player personnel for the last 12 seasons, while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort and director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler have been in their respective roles since 2014 and 2016, respectively.
However, change might be on the horizon. Not only will Ossenfort interview with the Cleveland Browns on Friday for their vacant general manager position, his contract also is scheduled to expire in May. The same goes for Caserio, who currently does not appear to be on the Browns’ radar but has been seen as a serious GM candidate for quite some time now (he has drawn interest from the Houston Texans the last two offseasons, for example).
This all begs the question about a potential succession plan in the Patriots’ front office in case Caserio and/or Ossenfort will not be retained beyond the NFL draft, or maybe even leave the club earlier than that. In order to get a clearer picture of who might follow them in case they do depart in the upcoming weeks and months, let’s take a few steps down the organizational ladder to find some possible replacement candidates.
Wait, what? Sure, Ossenfort has drawn interest from the Browns but he simultaneously also is an in-house option to be the next man up if Caserio leaves to become a general manager elsewhere (and have final say over the roster, something he does not have under Belichick). In case the 41-year-old stays in New England beyond this spring — as noted above his contract is set to expire in May — he is the prime candidate to take for Caserio given his impressive résumé and experience as a scout.
The aforementioned Dave Ziegler is likely the next man in line to succeed Caserio if both he and Ossenfort were to leave New England this year. Ziegler has spent seven seasons as a member of the team’s scouting department: the first three as assistant director of pro scouting, the last four as director of pro personnel. The 42-year-old, who started his NFL career with the Denver Broncos and was a college teammate of Caserio and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, is an up-and-comer in NFL executive circles. His contract with the team runs through the 2021 draft.
The longest-tenured member of the Patriots’ college scouting department, Brian Smith has been with the team since Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000. By 2010, he had worked his way up from coaching assistant to assistant director of college scouting and two years later was named the team’s college scouting coordinator. Smith appears to be a candidate to take over in case Ossenfort leaves the club and the Patriots need somebody else to head their college scouting department.
Matt Groh & Brandon Yeargan
It would be a surprise if one of New England’s two national scouts jumped to the top of the college scouting department in the wake of a potential Ossenfort departure, but they are certainly worth keeping an eye on. Matt Groh and Brandon Yeargan have been with the Patriots since 2011 and 2013, respectively, and started their careers as scouting assistants before being promoted to area scouts. Since last season, the two are serving on the national levels and appear to be on their way up the ladder.
Whether or not the Patriots need to go “next-man-up” in their front office this offseason remains to be seen. As the list of names above shows, however, there are certainly candidates within the organization who could fill any potential vacancies higher up the proverbial depth chart.