PHOTO: Scott Pioli, New England Patriots vice president of Player Personnel, holds the Vince Lombardi trophy and waves to the crowd during a Super Bowl victory parade in Boston, Feb. 8, 2005. The Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Patriots may be Bill Belichick's team, but Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli continues to earn deserved credit for the job he's done in procuring players for Belichick to coach. Pioli was recognized for the second straight year as the George Young NFL Executive of the Year during last week's owners meetings in Hawaii.
"This is a humbling honor; a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people," the 39-year-old Pioli said. "I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a tremendous support staff. Without them, I couldn't do my job."
Pioli has done a marvelous job in building a three-time championship team and in helping to make sure the Patriots haven't rested on their success, but rather continued to work toward improving despite operating at or very near the salary cap each offseason.
The Patriots biggest splash last spring came when the club dealt one of two second round draft picks to the Bengals for running back Corey Dillon, who represented a major upgrade over the serviceable but unspectacular Antowain Smith. All Dillon did was rush for a Patriots record 1,635 yards and help the Pats repeat as Super Bowl champs.
But Pioli's work went beyond the trade for Dillon. He made the difficult decisions to draw the financial line in the sand in negotiations with Damien Woody and Ted Washington, allowing those players to leave in free agency while adding veteran Keith Traylor for much less money than what Washington received in a free agent deal from the Raiders. He also signed free agent punter Josh Miller to upgrade a position that was the team's biggest weakness in 2003 when Ken Walter struggled mightily.
His 2004 draft picks did not make nearly the impact that his impressive 2003 class did in helping him become the youngest winner of the Executive of the Year award last season, but rookie Vince Wilfork's strong season combined with Traylor's contributions negated Washington's loss.
Pioli also gets some credit for building a roster that was capable of winning a championship without the services of starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole for much of the season and for winning in the postseason with star defensive lineman Richard Seymour out with a knee injury.
Seymour missed the club's first two playoff games last January but was adequately replaced by 2002 fourth round pick Jarvis Green while the Patriots went 12-1 without Law and Poole in the lineup, instead relying on second-year man and 2003 fourth rounder Asante Samuel and undrafted rookie free agent Randall Gay at the corners. Gay was perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason after going undrafted and signing just a few days after last April's draft. He impressed from the start of training camp and carried it through the season with extensive playing time.
Pioli is only the third executive to win the award in consecutive seasons joining Bobby Beathard and Bill Polian in that category.
Patriots announced their preseason schedule and will travel to Cincinnati for
the second straight summer while also visiting Green Bay's Lambeau Field. The
Pats also will host the Saints, a team they will also face in the regular season,
and the Giants. New England will then open the season with a Thursday night nationally
televised prime time game against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium, at
which time the club will unveil its Super Bowl XXXIX championship banner.
Pioli's accolades don't end with his second straight Executive of the Year award.
Pioli will also be inducted into the Central Connecticut State University Alumni
Athletic Hall of Fame on May 13. Pioli was a three-year starter at defensive tackle
for the Blue Devils before graduating in 1988.
- The Patriots were awarded three compensatory draft picks for the cumulative loss of free agents last offseason. The Patriots lost Ted Washington, Bobby Hamilton, Damien Woody and Mike Compton while signing only Keith Traylor. Consequently, the Pats were awarded with extra picks in the third round (100th overall), fifth round (170th overall) and seventh round (255th overall), giving them nine overall picks heading into the April 23 draft.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Companies take care of it differently. They have forced retirement. They make you retire when you're 62 or 64 or 65 or whatever it is so they don't have to go to somebody who has been with their company for 35 years and say, 'it's time for you to move on.' It's structured so they can get out of it gracefully with a corporate plan that takes care of that. That's not the way it is in the NFL." - Bill Belichick on making difficult decisions to sever ties with older veteran players
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: PK Adam Vinatieri.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR David Givens; DL Jarvis Green.
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