The Grass Is Greener In New England

Another team came barking up Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli's tree, and for the second time in two years the highly successful second half of New England's front office decided the grass is as green as ever right where he is.

This time it was the New York Giants, a team Pioli grew up following, that sought Pioli's talents as it works to replace retiring general manager Ernie Accorsi. New York requested and was granted permission by New England to speak to Pioli about its current opening, but the Patriots V.P. declined the opportunity.

"I am very honored to be granted the opportunity to discuss a potential position with the New York Giants," Pioli said in a written statement released by the Patriots. "I have tremendous respect for the Kraft family, the Mara family, the Tisch family and the Giants organization. After careful consideration, and for personal reasons, I am continuing in my current role with the New England Patriots."

Pioli has led the Patriots personnel department for the last seven seasons, working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick throughout his tenure in New England. The pair actually met at Giants training camp when Belichick was still an assistant in New York and Pioli was an eager up-and-comer. Belichick then gave Pioli his first NFL job in 1992 as a pro personnel assistant for the Browns until 1995. He then spent one season working as the director of pro personnel when the franchise moved to Baltimore before returning to Belichick's side to work for the Jets in 1997 and then following him to New England in 2000.

Pioli has twice been named The Sporting News George Young NFL Executive of the Year - 2003 and 2004 - joining Bill Polian and Bobby Beathard as the only three executives to win the award in consecutive seasons. Pioli, 42, was also the youngest to win the award the first time around in 2003.

Previously, Pioli turned down a February 2005 pursuing by the Seattle Seahawks to take over that team's front office. Despite a reported lucrative offer for five years and $15 million, Pioli remained with the Patriots and signed an extension with the team later that summer.

In 2006, Pioli and the rest of the Patriots front office endured maybe its most challenging season. The team lost a number of key free agents last spring, including Adam Vinatieri, Willie McGinest and David Givens, and then was forced into trading former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch after an extended contract dispute.

But through the tough times, Pioli and Co. put in another solid draft class led by rookie running back Laurence Maroney, have a reported $30 million of salary cap room heading into the new free agent season and are the only team to hold two first-round picks in this April's draft. All that, and the team is still playing in the postseason, competing for a chance at a potential fourth Super Bowl title in the last six seasons.

Apparently it was all too much for Pioli to pass up, even for what some have speculated would be his dream job.

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi (L) walks with Patriots VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli (R) at Patriots training camp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Aug 14, 2006 (Photo: / Kevin Saleeba)


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