The Falcons restructured the top end of their player personnel department on Wednesday evening, announcing in a press release that assistant general manager Scott Pioli will now oversee all of the organization's pro and collegiate scouting efforts. The team added that Thomas Dimitroff will remain responsible for "salary cap, player affairs, equipment, sports medicine and performance, and video activities."
From the release:
"After reviewing all of our options – internally and externally – I have no reservations that this is the best approach to setting up our player personnel groups for future success," said Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank. "It maximizes the talents of Scott, allows for more time and focus on all areas of our football operations groups managed by Thomas, and is in line with other player personnel groups in the league.
"While this decision was not tied to the head coach search currently underway, we also believe that independent thinking and collaboration will contribute to taking us to the next level in our league. Therefore, our new head coach and Thomas will report separately to me."
If anything, the timing and nature of this announcement would certainly seem to imply that Dimitroff and Pioli will stay with the Falcons in 2015. Considering the multiple previous reports indicating that Dimitroff could still fired, this looks to be the team's way of saying the pair are in the clear.
As for the changes in duties for Dimitroff and Pioli, they raise a few eyebrows for sure. The announcement noted that Lionel Vital (director of player personnel) and Steve Sabo (director of college scouting) will report to Pioli, who in turn reports to Dimitroff. In essence, though, this move hands the scouting keys over to Pioli while leaving Dimitroff to manage the salary cap and oversee the business side of operations.
However, NFL Network's Albert Breer also notes that Dimitroff can still make the final call on signings and draft selections. So really, today's restructuring may not be all that significant in practice.
Source says Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff retains final say and will be responsible for picking players. Vision is like Baltimore's model.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 7, 2015
What's also interesting is this bit from Blank: While this decision was not tied to the head coach search currently underway, we also believe that independent thinking and collaboration will contribute to taking us to the next level in our league.
Dimitroff and Mike Smith appeared to be in constant communication with each other throughout their time together, and as Knox Bardeen reported in a rather telling story, Smitty seemed to have plenty of input regarding which players the team drafted and pursued in free agency. As we know, that led some interesting long-term signings last offseason in the form of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson.
This appears to be Blank's way of both refuting the report that the next head coach will affect whether Dimitroff will be kept as general manager, and also his way of indicating that the relationship between head coach and front office will not function as it did before. Dimitroff and the new coach will report separately to Blank, and while you can't be sure just how separate the two will remain otherwise, it's reasonable to expect there will be more compartmentalization in Flowery Branch.
We'll see how that structure plays out in practice soon enough. What are your thoughts on the changes?