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Former Patriots executive Scott Pioli leaves Falcons to ‘pursue other opportunities’

Could a potential return to New England be in the cards?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

While the NFL’s offseason should be in full swing, news are coming out of the league on a regular basis — especially on the personnel front, these days. After the New York Jets parted ways with their general manager on Wednesday, another high-ranking executive left his team: Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli has decided to step down from his role to “pursue other potential opportunities.”

Pioli spent the last five seasons as a the right-hand man of Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff. During his time with the club, it went 42-38 and made the playoffs twice — including a trip to Super Bowl 51. Before coming to Atlanta, the 54-year-old worked as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009 to 2012 and as one of the architects of the early New England Patriots dynasty; Pioli was with the Patriots from 2000 to 2008.

His bond with New England head coach Bill Belichick goes beyond his tenure in the Patriots’ front office, though: Pioli’s career in the NFL began in the mid-1990s, when Belichick hired him in an assistant role with the Cleveland Browns. Their long-standing relationship also adds an interesting dynamic to Pioli’s departure from the Falcons because — at least in theory — it opens the door for a potential reunion.

Such a move would not be unprecedented from the Patriots’ perspective. In 2013, the team hired long-time Belichick confidante Michael Lombardi as an assistant to the coaching staff after he was ousted from his general manager role in Cleveland. While the situations are only somewhat similar, Belichick has never shied away from giving his friends a (second) chance — from Bret Bielema to Greg Schiano to Josh McDaniels.