Posted: 10:04 am Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
Last month when I spoke to Scott Pioli, it was clear the affection and respect he still had for Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who worked under Pioli as a scout when both were in New England. It also was clear the two spoke often and easily could be seen working together again one day.
And here we go.
In a modern day version of “Trading Places,” the Falcons have hired Pioli, the former Patriots’ general manager, as an assistant GM under Dimitroff. So the teacher is now working for the student.
It’s a terrific move by the Falcons. Pioli and Bill Belichick co-built the Patriots into one of the NFL’s premier organizations. Pioli eventually moved on to Kansas City, where he had both hits and misses in four seasons before being fired. (Despite the firing and one playoff season in four years, it’s worth noting Pioli completely overturned the roster and he acquired most of the players who led the Chiefs to this year’s 11-5 record.)
Pioli gives the Falcons one more set of eyes in the personnel department they clearly needed, given so many of the problems we witnessed this past season. The only surprising aspect of this is that he would take the job.
I’m certain his friendship with his Dimitroff has a lot to do with it. I suspect he also has been watching film of Falcons’ games. There’s a comfort level there.
Pioli told me last month that he had been offered other jobs following his exit from Kansas City but he preferred to sit out the 2013 season and decompress. He worked as an analyst for NBC on Sunday night games this season. He had been rumored for jobs this offseason, including one in Houston.
I asked Pioli last month about the Falcons’ unraveling this season. He referenced injuries and then said the results revealed something about the other players. “Sometimes you can lose key guys and make it through,” he said. “Other times it can have a really bad effect. It happened to us in Kansas City. When there are adverse conditions, it puts pressure on people who maybe had gotten comfortable.
“Adverse situations reveal what people really are. Not just players but coaches and trainers. People act a certain way. But when there’s adversity, they react. It’s interesting for the Falcons right now to watch how people react.”
Pioli also said he had no doubt that Dimitroff would put himself under the microscope before anybody else, commenting, “He’s a very harsh critic of himself. That’s how he was raised. He’s always going to look at himself before anybody else.”
In a statement, Dimitroff called Pioli “one of the most respected and adept talent evaluators in the NFL, adding, “We have made the commitment to improve every aspect of our organization this offseason, and with the addition of Scott to our personnel department, we have taken an important step to enhance our scouting staff.”
About the Author
Jeff Schultz has worked at newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. He has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations. He also likes puppies, rock and roll and anything with cheese on it.