Scott Pioli was a key figure for the beginning of the New England Patriots dynasty. He was with the franchise as a director of player personnel and later vice president from 2000-08, serving in the front office of the first three Super Bowl championships of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.
He went on to serve as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-12, and assistant GM of the Atlanta Falcons from 2014 until last offseason. He resigned from the team after the 2019 NFL Draft.
Piolo is obviously very familiar with Tom Brady, as part of the front office that drafted him out of Michigan decades ago. When asked by CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara about the rampant speculation that Brady, an unrestricted free agent for the first time at 42, could walk away from the team, he wasn’t buying it.
“I’ll qualify this by saying I do not know any of that specifically for sure that Tommy is in a different place and wanting to break the bank,” Pioli said. “As you mentioned, it’s a narrative. It’s all speculation. None of us are sure where that has come from or why that’s coming from anywhere. What I do know is over the last 20 years, he has taken less. Why he would change that now, I don’t know. Tommy has never said that publicly. His agent, Don Yee, has never said that publicly. No one has come out and said that, so I’m not sure what to believe with that because I’ve heard numerous rumors and speculation about Tommy over his 20 years, and a large majority of it ends up not being true. Time will tell if that’s what this story is this time.”
Tom Brady has a history of taking team-friendly deals and restructuring his contract to help Belichick surround him with talent.
As Pioli described, this year’s team, which lost in the Wild Card round to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, was not nearly as strong across the board as the typical dominant Patriots team.
“To me, one of the differences during some of those Super Bowl teams that I was blessed to be a part of, and even our Super Bowl loss team to the Giants in the 18-1 season, we were able to surround Tommy with a dynamic defense and also some other good players.”
The team was not able to adequately replace Rob Gronkowski (inasmuch as anyone can do so with perhaps the greatest tight end ever), Julian Edelman dealt with injuries and didn’t look like himself throughout the year, Sony Michel didn’t really progress in the backfield, and the team’s big trade deadline acquisition from Atlanta—Mohamed Sanu—was a pretty major flop.
The defense was great most weeks this season, and held the Titans to 14 points, but this may have been Brady’s least talented supporting cast in New England.
It’s hard to know if that fact is driving him away. It wouldn’t make much sense for it to drive up the price for the Patriots, as it would then make it harder to add the much-needed weapons for Brady to make another run in 2020.
It would still be a major surprise to see Brady in another uniform next year, and Pioli doesn’t seem to expect it. Still, Brady had the opportunity to shut the door on the speculation after that Titans loss, and he did anything but.