The Bill Belichick coaching tree hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but the "personnel tree" has done just fine. Bob Quinn (Detroit) and Jon Robinson (Tennessee) took over as general manager of their respective teams and performed well immediately, and in Atlanta, two former Belichick staffers have their team in the Super Bowl.
Thomas Dimitroff was the Patriots college scouting director from (2003-07) before heading south to run the Falcons while Scott Pioli served as Belichick's right-hand man before moving onto Kansas City before eventually landing in Atlanta as Dimitroff's assistant.
The Falcons have had a difficult time sustaining success under Dimitroff, but the young team finally put it all together in 2016 and now stands just a win away from the ultimate prize. That's no accident as the Atlanta GM has done everything he could to mold his new team in the same fashion as his old one.
"It's indisputable role understanding," Dimirtroff told ESPN.com. "It's non-entitlement. It's the passion. It's the positivity for us here. And it's about making sure that, again, everyone does their job and stays in the line that they need to stay in, and they're putting their ego in check. And that's what we believe here. That's what [coach] Dan [Quinn] lives as well. We're very fortunate to have that.'
"It's just been fun watching us develop here over the years, and there's definitely a Northeastern stamp on it in certain ways. And yet we've really evolved into something that is very much the Falcons and not, obviously, the Patriots."
Lately the combination of Quinn working with Dimitroff and Pioli, much as was the case in Foxborough with Belichick holding the final say, has produced results. Nine of the 11 starters on defense were drafted in the last three seasons including NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley and this year's top two picks Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. Solid free agent additions such as center Alex Mack and wideout Mohamed Sanu have also bolstered the roster.
Dimitroff explained how Pioli's presence has allowed him to focus more on the day-to-day aspects of the team such as salary cap management and the roster while Pioli has been more involved in the draft.
"Scott obviously is a long and trusted friend of mine and a trusted aide, for sure," Dimitroff said. "He's a guy that I can go to on many things, whether it's personnel matters that I want to talk to him about, whether it's handling certain situations that come up as a leader in the NFL.
"Scott and I spent a lot of time together, a lot of time talking about the nuances of players in New England. So just having an opportunity to do that has been very good. We're fortunate to have Scott here. We're fortunate to have Phil Emery here and Ruston Webster is, too -- other senior guys, for our scouting staff, who do a great job. It's like a symposium every time we have scouting meetings. We don't talk about all the things that we've done positively. We all vent about all our shortcomings and what we messed up on. And that's where my entire staff continues to learn more and more. Scott is right at the forefront of that."
Just as they were in New England.
Few NFL topics have received as much attention of late as Roger Goodell's travel habits. The NFL commissioner attended back-to-back Falcons games instead of coming to Foxborough to see the Patriots win the AFC Championship, and that didn't sit well with some fans – and at least one member of the media.
Tom Brady held a press conference on Friday and was asked a long-winded question looking for his true feelings on potentially receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Goodell, the same man who suspended him for the first four games of the season.
As he has all along, Brady took the high road.
"I'm motivated for my teammates — I said that after the game," Brady said. "It takes a lot of work to get to this point, and nothing that has happened in the past is going to help us win this game. What's going to help us win this game is going through that process we talked about and being ready to go. That's enough motivation for me.
"I'm a positive person, so I just focus on all the positives. I don't get caught up in negativity and bashing other people. I'm very blessed. I get to do something I love to do, show up to work every day, play football in the National Football League, and play for the Patriots.
"I've got great support from my family and great support from my friends, and I love playing for this team."
Brady wasn't lying about the family support. Later in the day, his father, Tom Sr., eviscerated Goodell on KRON-TV in San Francisco.
Earlier this week Goodell claimed it would be an honor to hand Brady the trophy should the Patriots quarterback win his fifth title in Houston, and Brady's father was asked about that comment.
"It should be an honor, because somebody that has Roger Goodell's ethics doesn't belong on any stage that Tom Brady is on," he said.
"He went on a witch hunt and went in way over his head and had to lie his way out in numerous ways and the reality is that Tommy never got suspended for deflating footballs. He got suspended because the court said that he could -- Roger Goodell could do anything he wanted to do to any player for any reason whatsoever. That's what happened. The NFL admitted they had no evidence on him.
"When it happens to your son, it's a whole different context -- or your daughter or any one of your kids. I think any parent kind of understands that. They'd rather take slings and arrows in the heart than have their kids take it. For what the league did to him and what Roger Goodell constantly lied about is beyond reprehensible as far as I'm concerned."
Long's time coming
More than half of the Patriots will be playing in their first Super Bowl but few will be as appreciative as Chris Long. The defensive end spent the first eight years of his career in St. Louis, often excelling for an overmatched Rams team that never made the playoffs during his time there.
Asked to describe his feelings as he ans his teammates prepared to take the trip to Houston on Monday, Long had a tough time putting it into words.
"It's hard to say. Playing in the AFC Championship was, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 12 for me. So, I'm already in the extra numbers," Long said. "I don't know that I could get a Super Bowl, AFC Championship Game, a playoff game. It's all far beyond anything I've done before. I feel like I'll be all right."
Long has been a role player for much of the season but that has done little to dampen his enthusiasm. He finished the regular season with 35 tackles and four sacks and is eager to do everything he can to earn a title.
"It's the whole reason I came here," Long said. "Everybody wants to win – that's the bottom line. When you're making a decision as an older player about where you want to be, you want to be in situations like this, with opportunities like this. We've earned the opportunity, and whatever we do with it, that's up to us."
The Patriots received some good news on Saturday as both Nate Ebner (concussion) and Stephen Gostkowski (illness) were spotted during the media portion of practice in Foxborough. Both Ebner and Gostkowski were listed as did not participate on the injury reports from Thursday and Friday. Today's report will be available later this afternoon.
Seven Patriots were listed as limited on Thursday and Friday: Martellus Bennett (knee), Danny Amendola (ankle), Brandon Bolden (knee), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), Malcolm Mitchell (knee), Chris Hogan (thigh) and Jabaal Sheard (knee).
The Patriots will practice one more time in Foxborough on Sunday before leaving for Houston Monday afternoon.