Have the Patriots run afoul of the league with bizarre GM search?

Have the Patriots run afoul of the league with bizarre GM search? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots have a promising first-year head coach in Jerod Mayo and a potential franchise quarterback in rookie Drake Maye. But there's still one question worth asking: What the heck are they doing in their front office?

Director of scouting Eliot Wolf has been the Patriots' de facto general manager since they parted ways with Bill Belichick in January, leading the team through a critical NFL free agency period and arguably their most important draft in four decades.

But because Wolf was never given the official GM/lead football executive title, New England now needs to conduct a formal GM search after the draft to comply with the Rooney Rule, which states that all NFL teams must interview at least two minority candidates for head coach, general manager, and executive positions.

As our Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran have reported, Wolf is a virtual lock to be given the Patriots' lead front office executive title, which means New England essentially is conducting what could be seen as a fake job search process that some potential candidates already have turned down.

Mike Florio of NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk joined Tom E. Curran on a new Patriots Talk Podcast to break down whether the team has, in fact, satisfied the Rooney Rule, and what it means for ownership's involvement in football operations.

🔊 Patriots Talk: Have the Patriots run afoul of the league with GM search? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"As it relates to the front office, they basically just kicked the can through the draft (with) who was already there," Florio said. "And that's fine, as long as no one in any of those jobs was regarded as the chief football official in the organization.

"Now, the point I made today (is), you can't have it both ways if you're the Patriots. Either Eliot Wolf was in charge and they violated the Rooney Rule by not doing the proper search before giving him final say, or final say rested with ownership. It's one or the other."

The league confirmed to the Boston Herald's Doug Kyed that there wasn't a singular Patriots front office member in charge of personnel prior to the draft, meaning they were compliant with the Rooney Rule. But as Florio explained, that would also mean Patriots ownership -- team owner Robert Kraft and his son, team president Jonathan Kraft -- had final say on personnel decisions.

The bottom line is this," Florio said. "They either violated the Rooney Rule by giving final say to Eliot Wolf before they should have without doing the search, or ownership was making the call -- not just with (No. 3 overall pick) Drake Maye, but with every draft pick, trades, non-trades, whatever it was."

As Florio noted, this could be a "distinction without a difference," in which the Krafts technically had final say on roster decisions but empowered Wolf and his staff to make whatever football decisions they saw fit. But at the very least, it sounds like the Patriots' approach to this process have raised eyebrows across the league.

"They thought they found a loophole, but they might have outsmarted themselves by painting themselves into this corner where now we're paying attention to it and trying to understand it," Florio said. "I had gotten questions from people with other teams ahead of time, like, 'How did the Patriots avoid complying with the Rooney Rule? They put Eliot Wolf in charge. How did they not comply with the Rooney Rule before they gave him that position?'

" ... I think if we're going to be honest with reality here and we're going to press and see what was really happening, this all might just be elaborate cover for the fact that they thumbed their nose at the Rooney Rule. That might be the truth."

Also in this episode:

  • Tension between Kraft and Belichick

  • How private equity could impact the landscape of the NFL