In case you missed it somehow, the Falcons restructured their front office last night, taking Dimitroff out of scouting and elevating Scott Pioli in the process. This is a noteworthy move, one with a host of repercussions, but one that is inevitably going to be inflated to the point where it assumes an importance it does not have.
Let's start with the two major changes here, both of them significant for the year ahead, and both of which were a little unexpected.
- Thomas Dimitroff has been removed from scouting. He'll retain control of the 53 man roster, the salary cap and player affairs, plus other, more nebulous responsibilities. That more or less guarantees he'll be retained, in my mind, but it does alter his role.
- Scott Pioli is now in charge of scouting, which means he'll have a major role in the draft and in free agency in 2015 and potentially beyond. From 2000-2008 he was in charge of player personnel in New England, where he had an active role in building one of the great teams of the 21st century.
Ultimately, this move is one I approve of, even if the timing is odd and suggests the Falcons already have their head coach lined up. Presumably, a top candidate or two has agreed to this structure, and the Falcons are just getting around to announcing it now. But why do I like it?
Changes in Atlanta will be tweaks. Pioli will run a few more a meetings. Coach could get final say on 53, but Dimitroff has it on draft/FA.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 8, 2015
On Falcons, team wanted to give coaching candidates clarity on structure. Yesterday did that. Candidates amenable to working w/Dimitroff.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 8, 2015
In the press release, Blank talked about this being the best possible alignment for the team.
"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."
I actually find it difficult to disagree with that assessment. Dimitroff will retain final say over free agency and the draft, but he's removed from the day-to-day scouting work, where his tendencies toward collaboration with the head coach and an ongoing allergy to pass rushers clearly irked Arthur Blank and a large portion of the fanbase. His cap management has consistently been good, so keeping him in that role and having him still involved in free agency and the draft makes a certain amount of sense.
Meanwhile, Pioli winds up in his most natural role. As a full-time general manager, his tenure was marked by paranoia, a failure to acquire a quarterback and a strong dislike from fans. As a director of player personnel in New England, he consistently worked in tandem with Bill Belichick to unearth gems in the draft, make savvy acquisitions and generally surround the legendary Tom Brady with enough talent to keep the Patriots rolling. With a ton of control he's run into problems, but when he's just in charge of acquiring players, Pioli has consistently done a good job...providing he has a quarterback in the fold. He does in Atlanta.
Arthur Blank gets to make a statement about Dimitroff's talent acquisition—he's had spectacular acquisitions that set the Falcons up well from 2008-2012, and lousy ones that doomed them in 2013 and 2014—and shuffle his personnel department as he sees fit. The head coach will also answer directly to him and not Dimitroff, and said coach may have control over the 53 man roster when all is said and done. I'd prefer my owner not have a coach directly reporting to him, but what's done is done, and Blank has made sure he'll remain involved in operations while putting the front office in an alignment that he believes makes sense.
Dimitroff's "final say" is over Falcons' draft and free agency. Final say over the 53-man roster still not determined, could go to the coach— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 7, 2015
The upshot is that this move puts a little extra pressure on Dimitroff while ensuring he's deeply involved in the team's day-to-day operations, and it's a return to relevance for Pioli, who left Kansas City in disgrace but has years of experience to suggest he's an effective personnel man. The team's free agency hauls have consistently been okay-to-terrible under Dimitroff and the drafts have been a mixed bag, so if Pioli can improve that, good. Given how closely Pioli and Dimitroff will work together in 2015, though, I'd be surprised if this wound up being a seismic shift in the Falcons' hierarchy.
All bets are off if Pioli crushes the offseason and returns the Falcons to relevance in the blink of an eye, but it looks like this will be a tandem. The clear winner here is Pioli, even so, and he'll look to put his stamp on this team in earnest in the months ahead. If the changes and a quality coaching hire produce better results in 2015, I doubt many of us will care about this come December.