The New England Patriots’ front office has suffered a major loss: Nick Caserio, director of player personnel and right-hand man of head coach/GM Bill Belichick, will leave the organization after 20 years to take over as the Houston Texans’ new general manager. Caserio has played a massive role in New England since rising to his most recent position in 2008, being one of the architects of three Super Bowl-winning teams.
How will the Patriots replace the versatile skillset and relentless work ethic he brought to the table? They could, for example, opt to split his responsibilities and broaden the front office structure in a move similar to how they approached offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement last offseason (two assistant coaches, Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo, have filled the role since then).
If New England opts for a more traditional method of replacement, however, here are six candidates that stand out.
Ever since his promotion to assistant director of player personnel last year, Ziegler has been the natural next-in-line in case of a Caserio departure. After arriving in New England in 2013 following a three-year stint with the Denver Broncos, he spent three seasons as assistant director of pro scouting and four as director of pro personnel before being promoted to his current role in 2020.
Ziegler, who was a college teammate of Caserio and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels at John Carroll University, has a contract through the 2021 draft but could now be in line for a new deal and promotion. The 43-year-old taking over Caserio’s old job would certainly make the most sense, even though the Broncos have reportedly also set their sights on him as a candidate to fill their open general manager position.
Wolf joined the Patriots last offseason and served as a scouting consultant in 2020. Before his arrival in New England, he has held numerous roles around the league: starting his career in the Green Bay Packers’ pro personnel department in 2004, Wolf worked his way up the organization to become director of pro personnel (2012-14), of player personnel (2015), and of football operations (2016-2017).
In 2018, he joined the Cleveland Browns as assistant general manager but was let go again one year later. Following a short stint in Seattle, Wolf finally arrived in New England last March to work in a lower-level role — but one that could serve as the foundation for a jump up the hierarchy this year.
While Ziegler is the leading candidate to take over for Caserio, the Patriots — especially if he too leaves the organization at one point this offseason — could also look to their pro scouting department to move up the proverbial depth chart. One of the names that stands out there is Steve Cargile. A former NFL safety, Cargile arrived in New England in 2011 as a scouting and special teams assistant and moved to pro scouting the following year. He has been in this position ever since, being voted as the AFC’s Scout of the Year in 2016 by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
The most senior member of the Patriots’ pro scouting department, McGill joined the Patriots back in 2010 — first working as a scouting assistant (2010-11) and later in his current role as pro scout (2012-). As such, his role is a diverse one that ranges from preparing scouting reports of upcoming opponents to evaluating the free agency market. A former running back at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, McGill started his time in the NFL as a seasonal intern in the Tennessee Titans’ player personnel department.
If the Patriots want to go outside the box — at least somewhat — they could also take a look at one of their former long-time executives: Bob Quinn, who was recently let go from his previous position as the Detroit Lions’ general manager. Before taking on the Lions gig in January 2016, Quinn served in numerous roles in New England. He started as a player personnel assistant in 2000, and worked his way all the way up the scouting department before being named director of pro scouting in 2012. Quinn held the role for four seasons.
His tenure in Detroit was a disappointing one, however: the team reached the playoffs only once (in his first year) and accumulated a combined record of just 33-48. Now a free agent, Quinn could decide that a return to a familiar environment might be best to rebuild his reputation.
Thomas Dimitroff falls under the same category as Bob Quinn. He too is a long-time Patriots executive, who left to run the show elsewhere but was recently fired from his previous job. In Dimitroff’s case that previous job was general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. While he had more success than Quinn — the Falcons went a combined 113-94 and reached a Super Bowl (only to lose to New England) — he was still let go last October and with the Falcons on the way to a third straight losing season.
Before joining the Falcons in 2008, had worked as a national scout for the Patriots (2002) as well as their director of college scouting (2003-07). Going back to his old home might also help him get some momentum back, but one has to wonder whether or not he would return to a lower-level role after having served as a general manager the last 13 years.