Several Boston and Seattle newspapers have reported that the Seattle Seahawks have received permission from the New England Patriots to speak to Scott Pioli, the Pats' Vice President of Player Personnel, about the Seahawks’ open Team President position. Seattle's top executive position has been vacant since Bob Whitsitt was fired by owner Paul Allen in mid-January. Allen put together an executive committee to find Whitsitt's replacement soon thereafter.
Although several other names have surfaced regarding the position (most notably Denver Broncos GM Ted Sundquist), Pioli would seem to be the most impressive candidate by a wide margin. As the co-architect of the team that has won three of the last four Super Bowls, the 39-year-old Pioli has long been highly regarded throughout the NFL. He is well-known to be a personnel and salary cap "guru". Pioli was named NFL Executive of the Year in 2003 (the youngest person ever to receive the award), and he could easily repeat in 2004...just like the team he has helped build.
Pioli, for his part, has vowed in the recent past to see his current contract through - a contract that would keep him with the Patriots through the 2006 draft. Several other teams have expressed an interest in Pioli as they were rebuilding their front offices, including the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. And with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis taking the head coaching job at Notre Dame and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel doing the same with the Cleveland Browns, Pats owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick (who enjoys an amazingly symbiotic relationship with Pioli) would seem to need his expertise more than ever.
In a recent Seahawks.NET interview, James Lavin, the author of the book, “Management Secrets of the New England Patriots”, explained the keys to Pioli’s success:
”Pioli's another driven guy whom Belichick started out in the basement who worked his way to the penthouse. Pioli jokes that he did so much photocopying for Belichick's Browns that he got a suntan. Pioli writes everything down and is incredibly detail-driven. But he also steps back periodically to think about what he's doing and why. He has crystallized his philosophy into a document that apparently impresses the heck out of everyone who sees it. Pioli's success also stems from his perfect understanding of what Belichick wants, what he doesn't want, and what tradeoffs he's willing to make. He understands, for example, that the objective is not collecting the most "talented" football players, but building the best football team”, Lavin said.
“Pioli and Belichick's mutual trust enables them to work so effectively as a team. Pioli's staff screens out 4,900 of the 5,000 potential draftees each year before Belichick gets involved in draft preparations. Pioli is also a loyal guy who cares more about team success than money or personal glory. His draft class of 2001 (starting with Richard Seymour in the first round) was perhaps his best work. Some NFL executives said they wouldn't have wanted a single one of Pioli's free agents on their team, yet those players collectively won a Super Bowl. The Patriots had greatly overspent the salary cap in the late '90s, so Belichick and Pioli had to under-spend. They balanced the Patriots' checkbook and won Super Bowl XXXVI in the process. And Pioli's no one-hit wonder. Pioli and Belichick did the same thing with the late 1990s Jets.”
Our Take: Seven years ago, Paul Allen set his sights on Mike Holmgren, then the premier coach in the NFL, and offered him the moon to make his home in the Emerald City. Pioli is a rare executive - he has taken his mastery of the NFL's modern competitive structure to an incredibly high degree - and he just might relish the opportunity to expand his power base with a team that has approximately $28 million in cap room and several key free agents to re-sign. If there's a chance that Pioli would leave, Paul Allen needs to be the one to pry him away from the first salary-cap dynasty, write him an enormous check, and let him try to do the same thing here.