Tom Brady: Former New England Patriots executive Scott Pioli discusses team's chances without quarterback
"Part of what they have there is a culture and people, I have this belief that more games in the NFL are lost than won and something that the New England Patriots team has done consistently under Bill Belichick is not lose games"
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 15/06/20 6:33am
Former New England Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli has downplayed suggestions of a drastic regression in 2020 following the departure of quarterback Tom Brady.
There is a new era taking shape in Foxborough this offseason after six-time Super Bowl winner Brady hit the open market for the first time in his career, eventually signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pioli arrived in New England shortly after the hire of long-term friend Bill Belichick in 2000 and was involved in drafting Brady at 199th overall. He went on to win the Super Bowl three times with the organisation until he was named general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, where he spent three years before later becoming assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons in 2014.
Having worked in and around the Belichick-led Patriots setup for eight years, the five-time NFL executive of the year, who resigned from the Falcons in 2019, is confident of the team's ability to adapt.
"I certainly don't expect a significant or dramatic drop off," said Pioli on Inside the Huddle. "I've heard what some other people are saying, some people are just saying it because they want to be heard and want something bombastic to say.
"I think they're such a well prepared team, they're such a well coached team. Really, when I say that I don't want to diminish the amount of talent they have on that roster and the players they have.
"I was with that franchise when we lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season to an ACL against the Chiefs. We put in Matt Cassel, we went on to win 11 games that year and it was a good team."
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As demonstrated in recent years Belichick and his coaching staff have continued to get the best from rosters that haven't necessarily offered the star individuals those in the past did.
It's for the schematic innovations that Pioli expects the Patriots to remain in a position to cope with the absence of Brady.
"Is it going to be different? Absolutely it's going to be different," he said. "But I don't believe it's going to be as significant a drop off as some people are saying. There's going to be this transition.
"Part of what they have there is a culture and people, I have this belief that more games in the NFL are lost than won and something that the New England Patriots team has done consistently under Bill Belichick is not lose games.
"There's more teams that lose games because they're not prepared for situational football than teams going out and winning games."
Brady wasn't the only notable departure in New England this offseason, with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announcing his retirement in January.
The 72-year-old was the NFL's longest tenured coach with one team having spent 34 years with the Patriots, playing an instrumental role in the franchise's Super Bowl wins.
"Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best football coaches I have ever been around at any level," added Pioli. "The other thing about Dante is that he knows how to hide weaknesses.
"One of the biggest parts of the Patriots program is the fact that they know how to accentuate the strengths and limit the limitations. That was one of the quotes we used early on. You know what players you have, regardless of where you have them and what position they're at.
"Because what you need to do is put players in a position to succeed but there are a lot of coaches in this game that have systems and they want to run systems and force people into certain areas.
"Part of the brilliance of Dante Scarnecchia was he would talk with the coordinator and Bill and there would be certain adjustments not only before games in terms of game plans. He would understand protections would have to be changed week to week in a certain way.
"He would also know how to make adjustments and change at half-time which was a key part of the Patriots."
The responsibility under center is likely to fall on the shoulders of Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick out of Auburn.
While the likes of Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston have all been up for grabs this offseason, the Patriots have been yet to look beyond Stidham.
"There's a lot of pressure on him because he's following the greatest quarterback to ever play the game," admitted Jeff Reinebold.
"They didn't just wake up on Monday and say 'uh oh we don't have Tom Brady'. They have been planning for this I'm sure for a long time.
"Everything that I can gather is that they feel very strongly about Stidham's ability to lead the football team, they brought (Brian) Hoyer back and there's a familiarity there.
"I think what you'll find with the Patriots is that they'll find ways to win maybe in unique ways. They do all the little things well. They're going to play great special teams, they're going to get the ball on defense."
The Patriots have, meanwhile, seen veteran defensive tackle Danny Shelton and veteran linebacker Jamie Collins both sign for Matt Patricia's Detroit Lions this offseason, with linebacker Kyle Van Noy heading to the Miami Dolphins.
All three played key roles on the defense that ranked No 1 overall last year, second against the pass and sixth against the run.
Their departure has put an added onus on second-year defensive end Chase Winovich to step up, while potentially giving second-round linebacker Josh Uche and third-round linebacker Anfernee Jennings an opportunity to make an immediate impact.
"You look at their defense last year, if you just broke them down as 11 defensive players they were not the no 1 defense in the league based on the measurables," said Reinebold.
"I'm anxious to see the second year jump from Chase Winovich and what he's going to bring to the table because when they drafted him out of Michigan I thought 'oh boy, there is a Patriot player all the way'.
"They don't make mistakes, don't give up big plays. When you talk about the Patriots, they'll find a way.
"What I wonder about is the leadership vacuum that will be created as Brady leaves. I have seen them in practice, if you aren't bringing your 'A' game in practice No 12 is going to make sure you know about it."