Scott Pioli isn’t bringing his best unit back to New England as he visits the place where he helped build a dynasty for the first time since getting the chance to build his own franchise out West.
However, in his third season away from New England, Pioli is coming back home clearly succeeding on his own.
Since leaving the shadow of Bill Belichick in January 2009, Pioli has built a reputation for being a strong executive in his own right. Pioli, a friend and underling of Belichick’s since their Cleveland days of the early 1990s, was Belichick’s right-hand man in New England.
The Patriots were the team of the first decade of this century and Kansas City owner Clark Hunt pegged Pioli as his top choice to lead his team after a nearly 20-year run by former general manager Carl Peterson. Hunt has to be pleased with the work Pioli, 46, has done in Kansas City as the Chiefs head to New England for a "Monday Night Football" game.
Because of a rash of injuries, however, Pioli’s team is limping into the game against the Patriots. Instead of bringing back Matt Cassel -- who started for the Patriots in 2008 as an injury replacement for Tom Brady -- to New England for the first time since he made the quarterback his first major addition in Kansas City, Pioli will have to watch his team adjust to playing with inexperienced backup Tyler Palko. Cassel may be out for the rest of the season after suffering a serious hand injury in a loss to Denver this past Sunday.
Pioli has seen the core of his young roster ravaged by injury in what was supposed to be a season of continued progress. Running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki all suffered season-ending knee injuries in September.
The streaky Chiefs are 4-5, and because of the injuries and a tough remaining schedule, they will have a difficult time repeating as AFC West champions.
Pioli’s program tasted success in Kansas City earlier than expected when the team he constructed went 10-6 in 2010. Going into that season, both Pioli and coach Todd Haley were just looking to make some progress after the Chiefs won a total of 10 games in the previous three seasons combined. A division title seemed like a pipe dream.
Regardless of what happens in this freakish season in the heartland, Pioli’s program is still on the upswing. There is intriguing, young talent throughout the roster. Pioli has put together some strong drafts the past two years and the future appears to be bright in Kansas City.
Pioli heads home Monday night, knowing his battered team is moving in the right direction and that the Chiefs are better off for prying him out of New England two-plus years ago regardless of whether they can compete with his former club.