NFL Executive of the Year - Repeat winner
Pioli reluctantly ends up in spotlight again
By Vic Carucci
National Editor, NFL.com
KAPALUA, Hawaii (March 22, 2005) -- Scott Pioli might never find comfort in being at the center of attention, but he certainly is getting plenty of practice at it.
I welcome the day we start winning awards like this in Dallas!
For the second successive year, the New England Patriots' vice president of player personnel was honored by his peers as the Sporting News' George Young NFL Executive of the Year.
Once again, Pioli seemed almost apologetic as he accepted the award during the annual AFC coaches' breakfast at the league meetings here.
He understands as well as, if not better than, anyone that the Patriots' dynasty is the result of a total team effort -- that the foundation of their success is based on individuals putting aside their own interests for the overall good of the team. That Pioli, 39, has been recognized as the league's top executive for the past two years -- making him only the third back-to-back winner along with Bill Polian and Bobby Beathard -- goes hand-in-hand with the Patriots' winning the past two Super Bowls and three of the past four. And Pioli is the first to acknowledge he is only one of many contributors to the Pats' remarkable achievement.
"It's flattering in a sense, but it's not what's behind what I do," Pioli said of the honor. "The reason I'm in this is because of football, because of trying to win championships. And this is just a byproduct of the team success and what the players do and what the coaches do.
"This is a collaborative effort. I just happen to be the person that's (recognized)."
Modesty aside, Pioli and coach Bill Belichick have set the league standard for figuring out how to build and maintain an elite team when the forces of free agency and the salary cap are supposed to make prolonged dominance nearly impossible. They have a knack for identifying productive players whose salaries keep the overall payroll comfortably under the cap because they are young or veterans whose careers have yet to blossom. They also know when to cut strings with players whose salaries (or egos) no longer make them a good fit.
Other NFL teams have tried to duplicate the Patriots' model, although it does not always work as well elsewhere.
"It's a model, but it's a model that's right for us," Pioli said. "It doesn't mean it's the right way for other people to do business. People have to do business that suits the personalities of the leadership group. This is what's right for us.
"At the core of where we are is the fact that our leadership group doesn't believe in egos. We don't believe in being out and front and center. We've surrounded ourselves with a group of players who are similar to us personality-wise, who are more selfless than selfish. No one from the top down -- whether it's the head coach, the assistant coaches, myself, the people in the personnel department, the trainers ... no one cares about who's getting credit.
"Everything that everyone does is geared toward winning games, not things like this (the award)."
So far, Pioli has resisted the opportunity to join another team as a general manager and receive what likely would be a substantial increase in pay and power. He is more than happy to be a part of the Patriots' continued success.
"We've got something pretty special going on (in New England)," Pioli said. "I've been fortunate to be part of a couple of different organizations where we've built success, and the challenge that's in front of us here, which is very unique, is the challenge of sustaining success.
"I'm working with one of my best friends in life (Belichick) and a group of people that I'm close with. It's a tremendous situation right now. People keep referring to this 'other challenge,' but what about the challenge right in front of me?"