A freewheeling, 35-minute conversation with Scott Pioli this week on our Patriots Talk Podcast hit on scads of topics.
But I didn’t think we were headed for an ode to Ernie Adams.
Pioli, the five-time NFL Executive of the Year, and VP of Player Personnel for the Patriots from 2000 through 2007, talked about the underrated impact Adams had on Tom Brady and is likely having now on Brady’s would-be successor Jarrett Stidham.
The 67-year-old Adams carries the title of “Football Research Director.” He’s a football supercomputer with an encyclopedic knowledge of every facet of the game — personnel, coaching, technique, situational football, player scouting, opponent scouting, everything.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
There have been some great stories written over the years about the rumpled, silent, spotlight-ducking, enigmatic Adams and his role with the Patriots. “Belichick’s Belichick” was how David Halberstam described Adams in his Belichick bio "Education of a Coach." He’s popped up in some of the Patriots post-Super Bowl docs.
Still, he’s so far in the shadows he never even gets mentioned, never mind credited.
New England Patriots
Pioli, who now works as an analyst for CBS Sports, pulled Adams out of the shadows when discussing who runs point on quarterback development.
“(Stidham’s) spent time with Bill, with Josh (McDaniels), with Ernie Adams, who has had a key role — he’s one of the people that’s not talked about a whole lot in terms of Tom Brady’s development,” Pioli said.
“He would identify a lot of things," Pioli said. “I’m not going to get into — that’s part of the Patriots thing, you’ve got a cone of silence. I will say this: Ernie did a lot and does a lot, and he does it as well as anybody that I’ve ever been around.
“He’s involved in game-planning, he’s involved in personnel,” Pioli continued. “He looks at things from a different perspective where he doesn’t sit in meeting rooms with individual players where he’ll end up getting distracted by certain emotional components and relationships with players. He looks at things with a very clean way.”
As an organization, the Patriots are big on “projects.” Whether you’re a coach or lowly assistant, the importance of putting hours and days of effort into analyzing very specific trends and tendencies is omnipresent.
Adams is the Project King. And when he emerges from one, he’s smarter and the rest of the organization is about to become smarter because Adams is — going against brand — a talented communicator.
“He’s a very smart guy,” Pioli said. "Everyone knows how smart and how brilliant he is, but he’s also an incredible human being and he’s very intuitive. He sees a lot of things. People make him out to be this spy-like thing. He just sees things that are just normal human behaviors and he just has a great mind. He contributes a lot to that organization.”
“One of the amazing things about him — you know how in college you had certain professors who were brilliant, but they didn’t know how to communicate the knowledge and the information that they had?” Pioli asked. “Ernie is terrific. He has rare intelligence. What he can do is, depending on his audience, communicate information that he has and he knows.
The Belichick-Adams friendship/collaboration goes back to prep school in the 1970s. But Pioli’s known Adams since they were all together in Cleveland in the 1990s.
And while Belichick bounced from Baltimore to Detroit to Denver beginning in 1975 as an assistant, Adams’ first three years were with the Patriots working for scouting legend Bucko Kilroy and head coach Chuck Fairbanks.
Adams was with the team when it fielded its best teams of that decade. And he’s been with them and figured prominently for nine Super Bowl appearances.
“Ernie has been a huge key to the (Patriots) success,” said Pioli. "He’s been a part of some great, great football teams. He’s a hidden figure that people know a little bit about. But he’s someone who’s had an enormous impact on that franchise and I hope and pray he ends up in the Patriots Hall of Fame someday."
It’s impossible to argue with that.