Pioli’s Combine Advantage

This time of year every NFL team is looking to get a leg up on the competition when it comes to finding diamonds in the rough leading up to the draft.  The Virginia-Pilot reports that Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli may have just that in Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder.

“Bobby and I have had long conversations about talent evaluation, recruiting and talent procurement,” Pioli said.  “Whether you’re recruiting or scouting, there’s evaluation of human beings involved, and Bobby’s very, very good at that.”

Nearly 25 years of contact with Wilder brings Pioli to that assessment honestly.  They played I-AA college ball in the Northeast against each other.  Crossed paths again as graduate assistants – Wilder at Boston College, Pioli at Syracuse – and then as full-time assistants, bonding a friendship throughout.

Eventually, they heard different calls and their paths diverged.  Wilder tracked his muse from Maine, his alma mater, to Norfolk, while the pro personnel business intrigued Pioli and drove him to Kansas City through Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and New England.

“Scott loved the recruiting more so than he loved the coaching,” Wilder remembered Thursday over the phone.  “He was always going to be a pro guy.”

Yet, Pioli flavored his comments in the combine’s media center with frequent nods to the kind of collegial stuff Wilder’s public is used to hearing from him, i.e. identify the right people first, and let that lead you.

That’s why Pioli referenced “chemistry” a lot, that ever-popular, often-elusive quality within a team or program.  It’s what Pioli said he wants most in his locker room and in his coaching suites, way more than he wants go-along-to-get-along types.

Sounds to Wilder like the Pioli he’s always known, and the model Pioli and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick followed for nine seasons before Pioli left a year ago for Kansas City.

“This is a typical Scott Pioli project,” Wilder said of the Chiefs.  “They’re going to be built to be a consistent winner.  He’s not going to go with people who can’t pass the character test.  He’s going to be smart with his money.”

From what I saw of him yesterday and the wide array of stories that are out there this morning, Pioli seemed he was the mayor of the combine.  Winning three Super Bowls makes you a pretty popular guy around the league and I’m sure having Bill Parcells as your father-in-law doesn’t hurt matter either.

With Charlie Weis coming from the college game last year and Pioli using resources like Wilder, there shouldn’t be any doubt the Chiefs will look under every rock to try and find the right players.

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