While turning his attention to this week's clash with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted Tuesday, "It's a team we don't know very well, so we're really going to have to do a good job with our preparation in making sure that we find out a lot about these guys in a hurry."
True, the Patriots aren't overly familiar with the Chiefs' players. The two teams have not met since the season opener in 2008 -- apologies to anyone who endured a cringe-worthy flashback involving Bernard Pollard -- and 21 of the 31 lifetime meetings between the two squads occurred before 1982.
As for knowing the guys running the show in Kansas City? Well, that's a whole different story.
Much of the hype this week will revolve around the Patriots' going up against a Chiefs squad shaped by general manager Scott Pioli, Belichick's former right-hand personnel man who is widely regarded as one of the key executives during New England's run of success since the start of the century.
Pioli spent nine years in New England, the last seven with the title of vice president of player personnel. During that span, New England compiled a 102-42 (.708) regular-season record and raised three Super Bowl championship banners.
Asked whether he sees Pioli's brushstrokes in the way these Chiefs have been built, Belichick took a more general approach and noted the numerous staff connections between the two teams and the inherent similarities.
"[Chiefs head coach] Todd Haley, I coached with him at the Jets, and many of the other people that are on that staff I've worked with before, whether it be [defensive coordinator] Romeo [Crennel], [defensive-line coach] Anthony Pleasant on the defensive side of the ball and [defensive quality control coach] Otis [Smith] obviously, or [assistant head coach] Maurice [Carthon], [offensive quality control coach] Richie Anderson, [offensive coordinator] Bill Muir on the offensive side of the ball along with Todd Haley [and] Scott," Belichick said.
Get lost there? A quick refresher:
Crennel won three Super Bowls in four seasons as defensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2001 to 2004; Pleasant played on the defensive line for the Patriots in 2001-03 (10 sacks in 37 games); Smith played cornerback for the Patriots in 1996 and again in 2000-02 (10 interceptions total), then joined New England on a coaching fellowship in 2006; Carthon coached the Patriots' running backs from 1994 to '96; Anderson played with the Jets from 1993 to 2002; and Muir was the offensive-line coach from 1982 to '84.
And Belichick didn't even mention Chiefs assistant general manager Joel Collier (who coached the Patriots' secondary from 2005 to '07) or Chiefs regional scout Jim Nagy (who spent seven years in the Patriots' personnel department from 2002 to '08). What's more, Chiefs director of player development Katie Douglass spent five years in New England, while Chiefs football operations assistant Tom Caracciollo has a brother, Matt, who is the Patriots' director of football operations.
So, yes, other than that, these teams hardly know each other.
"I think it's a mixture of all those things," Belichick said when pressed on Pioli. "There are certainly some similarities to some of the things that were at the Jets in the '97, '98, '99 years [when] many of us were together. I think there are some things that maybe you could relate to the Patriots. Romeo and I go way back to the Giants ... even the 3-4 defense and some of the things they do defensively and some of the players that they have, again, going back to, whether it's Maurice Carthon or Otis Smith or Anthony Pleasant, we were all together with the Jets at one time.
"There's a lot of intertwining there, and certainly Scott as the top guy in the organization has implemented his philosophy, but again, I think all those people probably have a high degree of that philosophy together and sure you see all that in the team."
The Pioli connection is notable this week in large part because of the scrutiny Belichick finds himself under for failed personnel decisions, whether it's draft picks or free-agent acquisitions that have failed to pan out. Some have fairly wondered, amid the team's most recent struggles, whether Belichick has lost his fastball in terms of shaping the roster.
The Chiefs were coming off a 2-14 campaign when Pioli took over in 2009 with Haley at the helm. Kansas City vaulted from 4-12 in 2009 to 10-6 last season, winning the AFC West.
The Chiefs are 4-5 this season but are just one game out of first place in a head-shaking division.
Upon arriving in Kansas City, Pioli traded a second-round pick in the 2009 draft (34th overall, which turned out to be Patrick Chung) for quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel. The two players went a long way toward immediately establishing a Patriots-like vibe on each side of the ball.
Cassel injured his hand last week and is not expected to play Monday night (or maybe the rest of the season). But the connections between these two teams still make it an intriguing matchup.
Nick Caserio, who was elevated to the position of Patriots personnel director after Pioli's departure, stressed the important role Pioli played in his own climb up the personnel ladder.
"Scott hired me back in June 2001, so obviously he had a lot of [influence] -- just how to approach it day to day," Caserio said. "Scott's a very meticulous, very detailed-oriented person, and I think those are qualities, departmentally, that we've tried to keep in place with the things that we do. Scott worked hard at his job, he's really smart, so you just try to observe and watch people in position and try to do the right things along the way. Whomever you work for, you always take a little bit of everybody with you and you try to utilize different things along the way.
"But I would say I learned quite a bit from Scott, and it was a great experience working for him [and I've] got a ton of respect for him. He gave me an opportunity, so I'm certainly thankful for that."
Kansas City players might not be overly familiar with their opponent this week, either, but Pioli and his staff certainly can offer a detailed scouting report. These two teams know each other far better than anyone is letting on.
Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.