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Friday, December 26, 2008
NFL starter kit available in Foxborough?


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

In theory, it sounds about as easy as Sea-Monkeys. Just add water.

Any team in need of a dramatic change might be able to purchase its very own makeover kit, complete with general manager, head coach and starting quarterback all ready to perform.

That's what some see when they look at a New England Patriots trio ready to emerge from the shadows: vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Matt Cassel.

Pro Football Weekly this week speculated Pioli might be ready to leave the Patriots and call his own shots with another organization because of the success his understudy, Thomas Dimitroff, had in his first year running the Atlanta Falcons with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback.

Pioli's aptitude for locating talented depth players has been significant to New England's success despite myriad injuries.

Last week, I spoke to several experienced NFL executives about Cassel's future. Michael Lombardi, who worked with Pioli and Bill Belichick in the Cleveland Browns' front office, thought it would be a fabulous idea for a team to pursue a package deal if it wanted to rebuild.

Among teams that might need new blood in these three positions include the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams.

"If you put together a package where Josh McDaniels came with [Cassel], you'd feel a lot more comfortable in that decision rather than taking [Cassel] and adapting him to your system," Lombardi said. McDaniels "has done a great job coaching this player, and he knows how to play him within the system extremely well. You want to be very careful to maximize those skills to their fullest advantage."

McDaniels will be a chic head-coaching candidate. He has proven that his offense doesn't need Tom Brady to work.

McDaniels is only 32, but Lombardi wouldn't be discouraged by his youth. Lombardi noted McDaniels has had two sensational teachers. McDaniels' father, Thom, is head coach of the nationally renowned Massillon Jackson High program.

"I just know that in the National Football League it's hard to find quarterbacks and hard to find guys who can coach quarterbacks as a head coach," Lombardi said. "Any time you're around the greatest head coaches in the game, you learn something.

"His father coached for a long time. He comes from the right pedigree. He certainly has the traits you're looking for in a very good coach."