Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
One of the biggest reasons that the Atlanta Falcons have forced their way into the elite, or at the very least the semi-elite, group of teams in the NFL the last few years was the hire of their new general manager Thomas Dimitroff. A former scout in the New England Patriots’ front office, Dimitroff has made more good moves than bad ones as the man in charge of building the Falcons’ roster.
His most recent move, hiring former Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli as an assistant GM, may turn out to be his best move yet.
Old friends, Pioli gave Dimitroff his start in New England, and now he’s returning the favor. While in Kansas City and New England Pioli has proven to be one of the more shrewd contract negotiators in the league, something the Falcons can use heading into an offseason that will define them for years to come.
While Pioli’s tenure in Kansas City may be viewed as a failure by some, the turnaround the Chiefs showed this season has to validate his work. Often times general managers are judged on how the team plays on the field right away, when so many of the decisions they make are to set the team up for future success. Pioli did just that in Kansas City, leaving them with a talented young roster and an enviable cap situation.
Sure, he made mistakes. He hitched his wagon to a former New England quarterback that turned out to be a decent backup at best, but more of his moves have turned out to be good ones than bad ones. The two biggest decisions a GM makes are his coach and his quarterback, and Pioli messed both of those ones up. That was his undoing, but it shouldn’t take away how good he is at building a team.
While we don’t know exactly what his duties will be in Atlanta, most likely it will have something to do with contract negotiations and cap management, both of which he has always been great at. He may have had his shortcomings as a general manager, but as a specialist he brings a lot to the table. Much like a third-down back or a punt returner, there is always a spot for a guy who may not be good at a lot of things but is special at one or two.
Atlanta is about to begin an offseason where they will be faced with several key decisions that will define the team for years to come. There are too many bad contracts holding back the salary cap, and too many weak spots on the roster that need to be upgraded. Pioli is just the kind of player personnel type of front office executive that can help them navigate these waters.
The Falcons are constantly looking for ways to improve this offseason, and adding a veteran front office guy like Pioli is a good step in the right direction.