(Photo Art by Midwest Sports Fans)
Who is Scott Pioli?
This is the question being bandied about today in cities like Cleveland and Detroit — where offseason housecleaning has already begun. In Cleveland, both GM Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel were fired, yesterday and earlier today, respectively. And as Waiting For Next Year points out, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski could be (or should be) next. In Detroit, head coach Rod Marinelli was canned after leading the Lions to the first 0-16 season in NFL history.
Before today, I did not even know what Scott Pioli looked like, although I have obviously heard his name quite often. As Vice President of Player Personnel with the New England Patriots, Pioli has been Bill Belichick’s right hand man in creating the Patriots dynasty of the 2000s. As you can tell from the picture above (and the original source photo to the right), I am obviously familiar with what Scott Pioli looks like now.
But again, I ask, who is Scott Pioli? Most football fans, like me I would presume, know the peripherals about Scott Pioli, but not a whole lot else. They know that he is a well respected front office decision maker, and that he has been a major part of the Patriots success, and that has name is this year’s IT name to be interviewed and eventually chosen to turn around some sad-sack, moribund franchise. Many fans are probably clamoring for their team to hire Scott Pioli based on name reputation and recognition alone. When I heard that the Cleveland Browns were interviewing Scott Pioli, I know that it got my heart racing a bit (and in a good way, not in the Derek-Anderson-dropping-back-to-pass-in-the-red-zone-OH-NO kind of way).
So, I decided to find out a little bit more about Scott Pioli. Who is this exalted genius that men like Randy Lerner are running to and begging to turn their franchises around?
Scott Pioli was born in March of 1965, which makes him 43 years old as of this posting. He is a 1987 graduate of Central Connecticut State University, where he was a three-time Division II All-New England selection as a defensive tackle and graduated with a degree in communications. Pioli was inducted into the Central Connecticut State Hall of Fame in 2005.
Pioli got a Master’s degree at Syracuse University, where he also served as a graduate assistant on the football team. Following his stint at Syracuse, Pioli moved onto Murray State, where he was an offensive line coach and then a defensive line coach.
He is married to the former Dallas Parcells…yes, the daughter of one Mr. Bill Parcells, which means that Scott Pioli is the Big Tuna’s son-in-law. Scott Pioli and his wife Dallas have a daughter named Mia Costa. He also is active in a variety of non-profit organizations, including the College for Every Student Foundation, and he established the Rose Pioli Scholarship in the name of his grandmother to benefit children of educators, firefighters, policeman, and other emergency medical service providers.
Scott Pioli is also credited with the Creation of Man and served as a model for Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel. Just kidding.
Scott Pioli got his first NFL job in 1992, when Bill Belichick hired him to be a pro personnel assistant for the Cleveland Browns. This was, obviously, before Art Modell ripped out the soul of the city of Cleveland and moved the Browns to Balitmore. Interestingly, Belichick put Pioli in charge of college player evaluation and handling some player contracts, despite the fact that Pioli had no prior NFL experience. Belichick was fired by the franchise after moving to Baltimore, but Scott Pioli stayed on with the Ravens as Director of Pro Personnel.
In 1997, a year later, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick were reunited in New York with the Jets. The move allowed Pioli to be closer to his hometown of Washingtonville, New York and also allowed him to work with Bill Parcells. At the time, Belichick was an assistant to the Big Tuna. Pioli was the Director of Pro Personnel in New York, and then followed Belichick again in 2000 when Belichick was named head coach by the New England Patriots. Initially, Pioli was only the Assistant Director of Player Personnel in New England. He was soon thereafter promoted to Director of Player Personnel, and then promoted again in 2002 to his current position of Vice President of Player Personnel.
During their time together in New England, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick have won three Super Bowl, titles, five AFC East championships, and been famously accused of taping opponents signals. Bill Belichick has taken most of the heat for that scandal, but it is safe to say that everyone who has worked closely with Belichick during the Patriots’ run at least has a little bit of the SpyGate stench attached to them.
Scott Pioli has to be one of the most decorated executives in the NFL. A quick rundown of the awards he has won during his time in New England:
- 2001 NFL Executive of the Year by the Dallas Morning News
- 2003 NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Weekly
- 2003 George Young NFL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News
- 2003 NFL Executive of the Year by Sports Illustrated
- 2004 Executive Achievement Award by the NFL Players Association
- 2004 Executive of the Year Award by the San Francisco Chronicle
- 2004 George Young NFL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News
- 2004 NFL Executive of the Year by Sports Illustrated
- 2004 NFL Executive of the Year by USA Today
- 2007 NFL Executive of the Year by the Dallas Morning News
- 2007 NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Weekly
- 2007 Executive of the Year Award by the San Francisco Chronicle
So apparently Scott Pioli is pretty damn good at his job. We all know about how Tom Brady was famously unearthed by the Patriots in the 6th round of the draft, but he is only one of a large handful of successful draft picks made by the Pioli-Belicheck combo. Others include Dan Koppen (5th round), Matt Light (2nd round), and Asante Samuel (4th round). Additionally, Pioli and Belichick have made good use of free agent signings by plucking Patriot stalwarts like Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and Larry Izzo. And, of course, they have made some pretty successful trades, including the deals that brought Randy Moss and Wes Welker to New England.
What does it all mean? Well, it certainly appears that the hype machine behind Scott Pioli has a hell of a lot of substance. Of course, until he has success apart from Bill Belichick, questions will remain. The hype machine around Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, and Eric Mangini was pretty intense too — and only Charlie Weis still has the job that he left New England to take, and very tenuously at that. The difference is that Scott Pioli is an executive, not a coach. And as we have seen through the amazing ability of the Patriots to maintain success through coaching and player departures, the strength of the organization is just that: the organization. There are a lot of people who wonder who good Bill Belichick would be without Scott Pioli.
The truth is that the two of them have proven to be a perfect fit, and deserve shared credit for the success of the New England Patriots. And this year is not the first year that Scott Pioli’s name has come up for other executive jobs around the NFL. The difference is that this seems to be the first year that a) the Patriots are not making a deep playoff run and b) that Pioli seems willing to interview for other jobs.
So can Scott Pioli be the next person charged with creating new hope in Cleveland? Obviously before that can be answered, he would have to accept the job first. But it appears quite certain that he will have an opportunity to ply his trade in Cleveland if he wants to. Randy Lerner had hoped to lure Bill Cowher out of retirement, but Lerner’s overtured were rebuffed by The Chin this weekend. That leaves Scott Pioli as one of the two A-list candidates that Randy Lerner hopes to have in Berea next season. And as reported on the Plain-Dealer earlier today, the Patriots have granted Scott Pioli permission to interview with Lerner for the opening with the Browns.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that if Scott Pioli is the choice as the next executive decision-maker for the Browns, that he would want to bring offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with him. I read in the Plain-Dealer that Randy Lerner was intrigued by the possibility of Eric Mangini, but as Mike Florio at PFT pointed out earlier today, Mangini likely burned any bridges with Scott Pioli when Mangini turned in Belichick for cheating — the beginning of SpyGate last year.
Before we start talking about coaches though, we will have to see if Randy Lerner can convince Scott Pioli to leave what he has helped build with Bill Belichick in New England for the chance to build something on his own in Cleveland. Lerner will no doubt open up his check book and allow Pioli to name his price, but Lerner will also likely have to explain to Pioli why he should take control of a franchise that seems to have been cursed upon being reinstated into the NFL. The Patriots have build one of the most successful winning machines in the history of the NFL, and during a time when the rules make it harder and harder to consistently dominate. In Cleveland, Scott Pioli would be charged with overturning a decade of futility since the team’s return, and bringing winning back to a city that is always expecting the worst — and always seeming to be on the look out for “next year.”
One thing is for sure: a new era of Cleveland Browns football is nigh. The tandem of Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel were given four years to prove that they could turn things around in Cleveland. Despite the unexpected excitement of 2007 and the promise of 2008, the Savage-Crennel combo was never able to get the Browns over the hump; and in fact, they presided over a precipitous tumble in both record and reputation during this 2008 Season of Disappointment.
Cleveland Browns fans, as usual, are thirsting for legitimate hope and for leadership that can restore the franchise to its Jim Brown-era glory. Hell, any Cleveland fan would take the oh-so-close frustration of the 1980s over the putridity that has defined the current decade. The cupboard is not bare either. The Browns have talent in their organization, but they lack a winning attitude and a consistent roadmap for success.
If Scott Pioli can come in and continue to upgrade the roster, hire a coach who can instill a winning attitude and a winning gameplan, and chart a course the franchise can follow for year-in, year-out success, he will become a legend in a city that lives and dies with its football team.
First, though, he has to take the job. So before we start talking about how Scott Pioli can be successful, Browns fans must hope that Randy Lerner can be successful in persuading Scott Pioli to come to Cleveland. If Randy Lerner can convince Scott Pioli to do so, then perhaps Pioli can be the one to restore hope and glory to the city of Cleveland.
An impatient nation of Browns Backers awaits his decision.