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Sports

November 25, 2007

Great Scott ... Pioli's personnel wizardry the perfect complement to Belichick's coaching genius

FOXBORO - It's the annual question for Scott Pioli, usually saved for Super Bowl week.



Why wait for the inevitable, right?



Why isn't Pioli somewhere else? Why isn't he sitting behind a big, oak desk; pulling the strings for the entire football operations; carving out his own niche; pulling in a salary double or even triple his current salary; saving some other franchise from ruin?



To put it succinctly: Why is he still around?



(Disclaimer here: You're not going to like his answer.)



"Because I love my situation here," said Pioli.



I tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to get more. I tried with the "be your own man" ploy. I tried baiting him with the "power" ploy.



Patriots coach and football CEO Bill Belichick, the ultimate in diffusing a party, has taught his right-hand man well.



Last week, unprovoked, Buffalo Bills president and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy was marveling about the Patriots' season and especially the organization.



"They are the model," said Levy. "They are dominant in every area, a lot like the 1970s Steelers. They do so many things well, as an organization."



Then he went off the board in terms of accolades.



"That Scott Pioli has done a magnificent job at landing talent through the draft and free agency. He and Bill Polian (Colts GM) are two guys that seem to have a knack for not only identifying talent, but convincing them to join their teams. Scott is as good as there is in the NFL."



Informed of Levy's comments, the voice on the other side of the phone went silent for about five seconds.



"I find it hard to believe," said Pioli. "It's more than flattering. Marv is a Hall of Famer. I don't know what to say."



I do.



Among the numerous story lines floating around this fall - Belichick's coaching, Tom Brady's mauling of the record book, Randy Moss' resurgence, to name only a few - Pioli's is special.



While most eyes are focused on the obvious, especially the Patriots' dominance through 10 games - the Patriots' average result this season is 41-16 - it is easy to lose focus on how the team was built.



The fact that the Patriots are so good, maybe the best ever through 10 games, would be gratifying enough. But it is not as impressive as the consistency they've shown since 2000.



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