"What happened during our time here together for the nine years was special," said Pioli, according to WEEI-AM (via ProFootballTalk.com). "A lot of things came together, the alignment of a lot of things: ownership, coaching, players and all the other people, It's inevitable that things are going to change."
Pioli -- now the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs -- believes Belichick's résumé should afford him the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm not sure why Patriots fans are disillusioned at different times, because they're going to be in the hunt every year," Pioli said. "They still have great ownership, they still have the best coach in the NFL and there's a lot of good people there that are finding players. It's still a special place. Don't worry, Patriots fans."
When Jets defensive end Calvin Pace jokingly called the Patriots the "Evil Empire" earlier this month, the man was onto something. In the wake of the New York Yankees' dynasty years of the late 90s and early 2000s, the George Steinbrenner doctrine of "Anything less than a championship is failure" came to define the mind-set of both the organization and fanbase. Robert Kraft is no Steinbrenner, but the same thinking saddles the Patriots, who will always be measured against their glory years.
Pioli has moved on, quickly learning in K.C. how difficult it is to replicate year-to-year success. Belichick hasn't hit on every draft, free-agent signing, or trade, but he's done enough to keep the Patriots at the top of the AFC for a decade and counting. He might not be beyond reproach, but he's certainly close.