Huge news this morning from the team: The Atlanta Falcons have hired Scott Pioli as the new assistant general manager, working alongside Thomas Dimitroff.
Pioli was thrown around as a possible director of player personnel for the Falcons if Lionel Vital got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager job, but this is unexpected and welcome news. Pioli's addition to the front office tells you that the Falcons recognize they did a poor job of evaluating the readiness and talent level of the defense, in particular, and that they want to take concrete steps to remedy it. Pioli has been involved in quality defensive drafts at every stop of his career.
Pioli has a long and distinguished career in player personnel, serving as pro personnel coordinators, player personnel directors and player personnel vice presidents for several NFL teams. His most famous stint was in New England, where he helped build the Patriots dynasty of the early-to-mid 2000's through judicious drafting and free agent signings. He was there from 2000-2008, and certainly it's fair to give him a fair share of credit for the team's talent level through those years, even if Bill Belichick obviously wrung better performance out of those players than most coaches would.
From there, Pioli went to the Kansis City Chiefs as a general manager in 2009. The killer Chiefs defense you see today was at least partially built by Pioli's front office, with Justin Houston, Tyson Jackson, Eric Berry,
Brandon Flowers (one year off) and Dontari Poe and other useful pieces added during his tenure. He struggled to find offensive talent at the skill positions, however, and that can be used to build a case against him. The Falcons, of course, have less of a problem finding skill position talent than elsewhere.
His tenure in Kansas City ended under a dark cloud, with the Chiefs struggling to get over the hump and plenty of rumors about Pioli being an incredibly paranoid general manager who feuded with staff members and coaches. As the assistant general manager that should be less of an issue, but it is worth keeping in mind that he's got a reputation as someone who can be quite difficult to work with. By the time he left KC, Chiefs fans were very sour on him.
He does have a shared history with Dimitroff, who worked under Pioli in New England before being hired by Atlanta in 2008. That should help to mitigate any issues on the getting along front.
Here's Arrowhead Pride and fellow Chiefs fans on the hire:
@TheFalcoholic Pioli's biggest problem in KC was finding a QB. Falcons are set there.— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) January 22, 2014
@TheFalcoholic He either hits home runs (Dontari Poe) or whiffs completely (Stanford Routt, Jonathan Baldwin). Also, nobody liked him.— Spenser (@sjboan) January 22, 2014
Ultimately, this hire was made with an eye on the defense and lines. It was made with an eye on bringing in a respected talent evaluator that Thomas Dimitroff is comfortable with to lend a new voice and a fresh perspective to the draft and free agency. It was made, in essence, with an eye on making this a better football team. Is it a classic NFL hire in many ways, with the GM reeling in his old boss to work alongside him? Heck yes. Does that take away from the hire in any way? Hell no.
Let's hope that Pioli's hiring helps the Falcons put together a stellar offseason that catapults them back into contention for 2014. I'm amped about the hire at first blush, but we'll see what he brings for the organization. Cautious optimism is warranted.
Weigh in on Pioli's hiring.