Licht one of five first-place GMs from Patriots' tree
With three weeks left in the regular season, the Bucs' Jason Licht is one of five general managers with teams at least having a share of first place who came up in the Patriots' front office under Scott Pioli during their run of three Super Bowls from 2001-04.
The Bucs (8-5) are tied atop the NFC South with the Falcons, who have Pioli working as an assistant GM under Thomas Dimitroff, who was in the Patriots' scouting department with him from 2002-07. Licht came up through the ranks under Bill Belichick's Patriots teams, with separate stints from 2001-05 and 2009-11, and now in his third season in Tampa has the Bucs challenging for their first playoff berth since 2007.
There's a Patriots presence all over the playoff picture -- in Detroit, first-year Lions general manager Bob Quinn was a pro and college scout in New England from 2000-15, and first-year Titans general manager Jon Robinson was in New England from 2002-13 before coming with Licht to the Bucs. The Patriots' Nick Caserio, who is the team's director of player personnel and has a GM-like role with Belichick, has been with New England since 2001.
The six former colleagues took a photo together in March at the NFL's annual meeting in Boca Raton, and they now find themselves accounting for nearly half the current 12-team playoff field as well.