Phil Perry

Eliot Wolf's message to free agents: There's a new Patriots culture

The Patriots are actively working to change the perception around their franchise.

NBC Universal, Inc.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Last offseason, one free-agent-to-be asked around the league for advice from fellow players as to where he should think about signing. What he received as a short list of places not to go: New England under Bill Belichick and Las Vegas under Belichick pupil Josh McDaniels.

Those places had established reputations as hard teams to work for, this free agent told NBC Sports Boston, where the culture in those facilities could grind on you.

Now, under new leadership, the Patriots are trying to change that perception.

"I would say our pitch to free agents is this is a new program," New England director of scouting Eliot Wolf told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday. 

"We're heading in the right direction. It's a new era. We have leadership with (head coach) Jerod Mayo that is going to be tremendous. He's an unbelievable leader and developer of people. I think as we move forward with the new offense and defense, it's going to be pretty special and exciting here."

🔊 Patriots Talk Podcast: Eliot Wolf reiterates Patriots’ plan for sweeping change at NFL Combine | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Owner Robert Kraft has given Wolf the final say on the 53-man roster should a difference of opinion emerge in what is expected to be a collaborative front office. Asked to define the culture that he and Mayo hope to see in Foxboro, Wolf said, “I think it’s about people and developing people. It’s about doing the right thing. Being honest and open. And people being comfortable enough, if there’s an issue, to say something.”

It's a far cry from the chain-of-command approach Belichick employed with great success for the better part of two decades with the Patriots. And while Wolf's commentary on the kind of culture he hopes to foster could be viewed as a veiled shot at his former boss, it may be more easily explained as a flashing neon sign to let agents and prospective free agents know that One Patriots Place won't be home to the kind of militaristic culture Belichick preferred. 

Has the culture already changed, Wolf was asked?

"I would like to say yes, and I think the answer is ultimately going to be yes," Wolf said. "It’s easy to say the culture has changed, but there are no players here right now. But certainly there’s more of an open -- less hard-ass type -- vibe in the building that we can move forward with."

It sounds as though in a variety of areas -- both in the front office and the culture around the facility -- Wolf is hoping to bring a Packers vibe to New England. "The Packer Way" has a football definition, but it goes beyond a team-building approach, Wolf explained. 

"The Packer Way, to me, is just sort of a draft and develop, extend your core performers from within," he said, "and it's about honesty, respect and treating people the right way."

Wolf added: "I still believe -- this is great to be able to work with Jerod -- this is a people business. It's about developing people. The culture is created from the people in your building. Whether that's scouts, coaches, players, support staff. I think that's tremendously important as you try to build a culture that you want."

Building that culture is a priority, it's clear after hearing from Wolf in Indy. How effectively it's implemented will, in part, determine whether Wolf and Mayo believe their first year heading up this new regime is headed in the right direction. 

"Just showing good progress," Wolf said when asked what he would deem a successful season, "and turning the culture around."

Contact Us