The AFC East writers of SB Nation will be having a roundtable discussion over the course of the offseason. Dave of Pats Pulpit answered a question from me regarding his team's ability to replace important pieces.
Through the years, the Pats have seamlessly replaced core members of their roster, coaching staff, and front office. How much do you see the Pats missing Josh McDaniels and Scott Pioli? Will this pair be as easy to replace than others were in the past? How will the organization go about it? (from John B)
I'm going to use a very cliched answer to start with: "It's the system." As much as I cringe when typing that, it's true. The Patriots organization seems to identify talent, be it player, coach, or front office, very early and begin grooming them. For example, Josh McDaniels, former OC of the Patriots and now head coach at Denver, was tagged early on as an assistant with talent. He was pulled from the normal assistant coach duties and given the responsibility to break down film after a game.
The same is true of just about everyone on the staff; there's always an identified star in the pipeline, someone who is mentored by the head guy and gets unprecedented access to Belichick and the top execs. When Scott Pioli left to becom General Manager of Kansas City, I had an "Uh oh!!" moment. Pioli was huge in the front office and was considered one of the top player personnel people in the biz. Pioli and Belichick architected the turnaround for New England and his departure sent a shockwave through the fanbase. Until, that is, we truly started to understand how the acquisition of players works for the Patriots. Pioli was the guy who would keep his finger on the pulse of players around the league and stay in tune with up-and-coming college talent, but Belichick had the final say, always. When Scott left, Nick Caserio was tapped to take on player personnel duties. A super talented guy, he could've easily filled Josh McDaniels' shoes as OC, but the organization chose to put him in the front office. It still remains to be seen how our draft picks perform, but we seem to have gotten decent grades on the draft, so I'm feeling pretty good about Caserio.
While I like Josh McDaniels a great deal, I've been lukewarm on him since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Sure, we had an offensive line breakdown, but I believe McDaniels should've changed his strategy during the second half. In fact, all 2007 that's what the Patriots were known for: if something wasn't working, they usually adjusted. Why McDaniels simply stuck with the original gameplan mystifies me to this day. My other issue with Josh is I believed he was far less creative than Charlie Weiss's offense. It's my belief that McDaniels was able to stand on the shoulders of a great offense and not have to take too many risks. That being said, Bill O'Brien has taken over Quarterbacks coach duties and is the likely candidate for the OC job. This is the same path McDaniels took as well. During this "training period" Belichick will likely get more involved in play calling duties.
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