The New England Patriots’ front office will see some major changes for the second straight offseason. One year after losing long-time director of player personnel Nick Caserio to the Houston Texans, his successor will depart the organization as well: Dave Ziegler will join Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders, taking over as the team’s new general manager.
With Ziegler gone, the Patriots will need to reshuffle their player personnel department yet again. So, who will take over his old role and serve as de facto general manager Bill Belichick’s next right-hand man? Let’s take a look at some potential candidates.
Eliot Wolf: Officially listed as a scouting consultant, Wolf has had an active hand in the Patriots’ pre-draft preparation especially in 2021. His experience as an executive goes beyond the draft, however. A former director of player personnel in Green Bay (2015-16) and short-time assistant general manager in Cleveland (2018-19), he has a strong résumé and should be seen as one of the frontrunners to take over for Ziegler if New England elects to fill his role one-for-one.
Matt Patricia: Patricia served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator (2012-17) and also had a three-year stint as head coach of the Detroit Lions (2018-20), but he took on a different job after his return to New England last year. The 47-year-old worked as a senior football advisor with an active hand in multiple areas of the organization: Patricia was involved with pro personnel, pre-draft preparation and the coaching staff. While he could still return to coaching full time, it appears Belichick envisions him in more of a versatile, Nick Caserio-like front office role.
Matt Groh: One of the most experienced members of the Patriots’ personnel department, Groh is coming off his 11th season in the organization and first as college scouting director. He arrived in New England back in 2011 as a scouting assistant and steadily worked his way up the ladder. Last year, he was eventually chosen to take over the role left vacant since Monti Ossenfort’s departure in 2019. Like Dave Ziegler and Eliot Wolf, he had a prominent role in the Patriots’ draft prep last year.
Steve Cargile: After Dave Ziegler moved from pro scouting director to assistant director of player personnel in 2020, the Patriots kept the position open for one year. Last offseason, however, they gave it to one of their most experienced scouts: entering his 11th season with the club, Cargile was promoted from pro scout to pro scouting director. Given that both Ziegler and Nick Caserio were brought up through the pro scouting department, he could very well be the choice to fill the shoes previously held by those two men.
Bob Quinn: If the Patriots want to look outside the Gillette Stadium complex for a new director of player personnel, Bob Quinn appears to be a logical target. Currently serving as a senior executive consultant with the Cleveland Browns, Quinn spent 16 seasons in New England — including the final four as director of pro scouting (2012-15). He left to become general manager in Detroit in 2016, but was fired midway through the 2020 season. Quinn’s experience both with the Patriots and elsewhere cannot be denied, however.
James Liipfert: Before joining the Texans in 2018, Liipfert had spent nine years in the Patriots’ college scouting department; the final three of those as a national scout. In Houston, he first served as director of college scouting before being promoted to co-assistant director of player personnel. With GM Nick Caserio likely not going anywhere, however, Liipfert might be prompted to look for other opportunities if New England came calling.
Ronnie McGill: Another former Patriots scout who joined the Texans recently, McGill originally arrived in New England back in 2010 — first working as a scouting assistant (2010-11) and later as a pro scout (2012-21). His role with the team was a diverse one that ranged from preparing scouting reports on upcoming opponents to evaluating the free agency market. Now a pro scout in Houston, McGill is in a similar situation as James Liipfert.
While promoting in-house options such as Eliot Wolf or Steve Cargile to the position previously held by Dave Ziegler is certainly possible, it would not be a surprise if New England went a different route entirely: not using a director of player personnel, but rather having multiple people fill the responsibilities associated with that role.
In that case, the team would continue using Cargile and Matt Groh as the scouting directors for the pro and college levels with Wolf and Matt Patricia in supporting roles. Out of those four, Wolf and Cargile probably have the clearest path to eventually become director of player personnel down the line but for 2022 they would work as a team on the next level below Belichick.
Obviously, though, that is just one way to replace Ziegler — one the Patriots basically used in 2021 as well to help replace Nick Caserio after his departure to Houston. New England could also decide to go with a one-for-one replacement either by promoting somebody like Wolf or Cargile or hiring one of the outside options mentioned above.