Pioli Does It The Right Way

Scott Pioli's entire professional life has been a laboratorial learning process, with several of the NFL's most successful people serving as his professors.

But the time to step away from their shadows and run his own laboratory is at hand.

In agreeing to become the next general manager of the Chiefs, the 43-year-old Pioli now must apply the winning formulas he helped develop for Cleveland, the New York Jets and, most significantly, the three-time World Champion Patriots to correct the chemical imbalance in Kansas City.

Specifically, Pioli must find the right mix of veteran players to be the catalysts who speed the development of the young Chiefs who struggled mightily in the 2-14 campaign of 2007.

Mixing accomplished veterans with promising draftees helped New England reach four Super Bowls and win three during Pioli's nine seasons as the vice president of player personnel for the ultimate mad professor, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"He's obviously been with some very bright and intelligent football people in Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, his father in law,'' said Mike Lombardi, a long-time league executive who first worked with Pioli under Belichick at Cleveland.

"His whole life has been a football think-tank, and Scott's very intuitive. He keeps meticulous notes and learns from the things that work. He's applied that to what they've done in New England, and it benefited the organization.''

Finding the right mix of players has always been the key element in personnel decisions, and Belichick and Pioli did that better than anyone in the league since coming to New England together before the 2000 season.

Outstanding in talent from positions 1 through 22, the Patriots also developed depth in the second-tier positions that helped them survive and even thrive in a game of attrition.

An example: In 2003, the Patriots won their second of three Super Bowls this decade with a lineup that included 42 different starters, the most ever by a Super Bowl winner. In 2005, 45 different players started for a division champion.

Pioli's player evaluation skills — as honored by his executive peers in back-to-back George Young Awards bestowed on the league's top executive — helped in the drafting of six Patriots who played in the 2007 Pro Bowl after the 16-0 regular season. His free-agent acquisition skills led to the addition of stars like Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Corey Dillon.

Those kinds of personnel moves don't happen unless the chemistry between the coaching and front office is right — the first challenge awaiting Pioli when he takes on all on-field aspects of the Chiefs organization.

"The harmony between the coach and Scott has been important,'' Lombardi said. "They share a mutual respect and trust, which lets them have open dialogues without an agenda coming into play. Sometimes in the NFL, unfortunately, those agendas become bigger than winning and losing."

"But Scott and Bill have clearly worked well together in formulating what makes their team better. They're not interested in what made other teams better, but what works for them.''

Having a supportive ownership, such as Pioli and Belichick enjoyed with the Kraft family in New England, is another key. Lombardi doubts that Pioli would have left the Patriots had he not sensed that kind of commitment from Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt.

"Most important is (an owner's) willingness to let a guy work at his job and keep doing the things he believes must be done,'' said Lombardi, who worked as a personnel director under the intrusive Al Davis at Oakland. "That's what everyone is looking for."

"If past performance is an indicator of future achievement, I'm sure Clark Hunt was influenced by his father, just as Scott obviously has been influenced by the people in his life just like. That can go a long way."

"I think he's ready,'' Lombardi added. "Like most jobs in the NFL, you're really not ready for it until you do it and you keeping growing in it. Scott's ready to take the next step. If he chose the Chiefs, it would be because they met his criteria, which is giving him what he needs to have the best chance to succeed."

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