New England Patriots vice-president Scott Pioli, a two-time NFL executive of the year, had planned to head to San Antonio this week for the East-West Shrine Game.
He wanted to get another close-up look at a major player.
But hopes of scouting the brain of Spurs general manager R.C. Buford were dashed along with those of the Pats when the offseason came knocking earlier than expected, arriving at Pioli's stoop last weekend like an unwelcome visitor.
....the New England personnel guru views Buford as a good friend and like mind, part of a growing evolution of franchise architects building their operations on an old-fashioned foundation.
Strength is as much about character as sinew.
"One of the core things is that they, like us, are trying to win, but trying to win the right way," Pioli said of the Spurs. "That's the good thing about the Spurs winning — they're winning with good guys."
And, as we duck from the latest selfish slime flung our way by Terrell Owens, Steve Francis and the like, is that such a bad thing?
"You know those bracelets people wear that say, 'WWJD —What Would Jesus Do?'" Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports consultant, told the San Diego Union-Tribune last year. "After last season, people in the NFL were asking, 'WWPD —What Would the Patriots Do?' Everyone's trying to emulate their business model."
The impact of it resonates this week through the scouting corps gathered at the East-West Shrine Game workouts and game. Pioli's representatives, for instance, are examining more than the physical.
"Character and overall makeup is critical for us, and understanding who the players are," he said. "It doesn't mean that if a player doesn't fit the criteria that we're looking for, he's not any good. We have a pretty strong sense of what's right for us. You want there to be compatibility between character and makeup that your leadership believes it can work with."
However, Pioli added, "We want to win, that's for certain. But we want to win the right way, with the right kind of people."
To find them, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said recently, "Maybe you just kind of get a feeling."