Headlines were being made all over the league this week. In New York came the firing of GM Mike Mccagnan three weeks after the draft. Meanwhile in Arizona it was announced that their star cornerback Patrick Peterson was suspended for eight games for testing positive for PEDs, reduced to six on appeal. That meant that a significant offseason move went under the radar as Scott Pioli, assistant manager for the Atlanta Falcons, left after five years in Georgia.
Following years of unrivalled success working with Bill Belichick to build the first Patriots dynasty in the noughties, he tried to go it alone and struggled in Kansas City. The team went 23-41 during his tenure, winning the division once and finishing last in Pioli’s other three years in charge, culminating in earning the first overall pick for the 2013 draft.
Then came Pioli’s resurrection, joining former Patriots colleague Thomas Dimitroff’s staff in 2014. Anyone who has read War Room by Michael Holley, which I would highly recommend, will know how close their relationship is. Pioli was a key part in steadying the ship as Dimitroff’s team started to lose their way and fall away from being perennial playoff contenders.
It’s not uncommon for front office moves at this time of year, as both Kansas City and the Buffalo Bills fired their GM after the draft in 2017, as football operations slow down for the summer post-draft and major free agent signings. That being said, Pioli does leave a big hole in the Falcons front office staff. He was critical in their scouting and free agency strategy, specialising in the trenches on both sides of the ball. In fact his finger prints were all over the Falcons’ 2019 first round picks, as well as tempting centre Alex Mack from Cleveland.
I don’t think that the Falcons will fall off a cliff without Pioli,they succeeded without him, earning the one seed in the NFC twice under Dimitroff alone. But Pioli’s guiding influence definitely helped the Falcons become a steadier franchise and a great soundboard for Dimitroff.
If Dimitroff feels he does need to replace Pioli, which he should, it is difficult to find an obvious successor. Shepley Heard, a former senior scout recently became director of pro personnel and Joel Collier was promoted to national scout. Nick Polk, director of football operations, may be a top candidate, though it would be beneficial to havecan outside influence.
Pioli is still without a Super Bowl since leaving New England, having lost to the Pats with Dimitroff and the Falcons in 2016, but he can be proud of the work he did in Atlanta. He played a key role in three great drafts that has the Falcons back competing for the playoffs late into the season annually. The rumour is he may be headed to the Jets to replace Mike Maccagnan having worked there prior to creating the Patriots’ dynasty, but we will have to wait and see if that right vs true. For now, the Falcons need to focus on how they will move on from their front office Patriots’ double act.
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