Analysis: Pioli in the Pole Position

Lane Adkins looks at the potential Browns leader, his strengths, his differences from Phil Savage, and what he would bring to Cleveland Browns if he comes on board.

If they get their news from the local papers, many Browns fans are suddenly hearing the name of Scott Pioli for the first time today. The news and speculation regarding Scott Pioli is real, and the interest of each party has already gone beyond the introductory stages.

Pioli doesn't need a job. He is in a position with the New England Patriots that he enjoys and has admitted that doesn't necessary need to move from. This front office executive has been in the spotlight for some time, but has refrained from throwing his hat into the ring of general manager candidates in the past.

With Pioli, what you see is what you get. He is a bright executive, his background in the game is solid, and he has been associated with former Browns head coach Bill Belichick since their time together in Cleveland in the early to mid-nineties. Tough, fair and studious are all terms have been used to describe Belichick's right-hand man - in many cases, Pioli is the leader who happens to have a great professional relationship with the outstanding head coach.

The perception of Pioli is that he is second-in-command to Belichick within the structure of the New England Patriots football operation. While in essence this is true, Pioli has been a front office executive throughout his career -  and has been successful in developing, overseeing and guiding a very successful player/personnel operation with Belichick while a member of the Patriots staff.

Concerns about the lack of experience as a general manager at the professional level are reasonable. To compare Pioli to the recently departed Phil Savage, however, would be a grave injustice to a man who holds Cleveland close to his heart.

Pioli has worked extensively on the technical side of the game. His make-up is that of a solid front office executive, who manages and handles situations and issues, while making decisions based on the economics of the game and quality of the player.

Pioli has a much different background than Savage, who came to Cleveland as a super-scout. Scouting was the strength of the former Browns general manager, but forming and directing a front office was not - which was evident during his run in Cleveland. As far back as 2005, the OBR reported on concerns about Savage's abilities outside of scouting, which came back to hurt the team's GM in 2008.

Regardless of Savage's areas of weakness, this Browns organization is better today than it was prior to his arrival. The talent level on the roster is improved, and there is promise when evaluating this team - though the 4-12 record of the 2008 season would seem to indicate otherwise.

But don't entirely fooled by the record. The personnel is better, and 2008 was a season of many issues which helped create the demise of this organization.

With the team's current situation, it could provide an opportunity which a swift and decisive executive, such as Pioli may to be a great addition to the Cleveland Browns organization. Pioli is a no-nonsense decision maker, and is a man whose strength is in his ability to process information and communicate. 

Team owner Randy Lerner's swift and unquestionable desire to succeed and provide Cleveland with a winner is evident. He has wasted little time in discussing his team and its issues with some of the finer football men in the industry - and reacted accordingly when reaching out to former Browns player and assistant coach Bill Cowher.

Despite Cowher's reluctance to jump back into the game, Lerner may remain in touch with Cowher in hopes the successful former coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers may be swayed to return to Cleveland.

At this time, however, Pioli is in the pole position, and has earned that status with the exceptional work he has done in New England. It has been said that very few opportunities genuinely excite the mild-mannered Pioli - with the Browns job being one of those few.

If the terms are right, and Pioli receives the guarantees that he is responsible for the football operations, the personnel department and the personnel secured - then the odds are he will be the next man to step in and attempt to revive the long overdue success of the Cleveland Browns.

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