Two Super Bowl rings.
That’s one of the accomplishments Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli were able to pull off when both were on staff with the New England Patriots from 2002 to 2007. The Patriots won three championships in four years (the first came after the 2001 season, just prior to Dimitroff’s arrival) and had the NFL community discussing the term dynasty.
On Wednesday the Atlanta Falcons announced that Pioli would once again join forces with Dimitroff.
On Feb. 3, when Pioli’s contract with NBC Sports and Sirius XM Radio expires, Pioli will join the team as Atlanta’s assistant general manager.
When this duo was together with the Patriots, Pioli was the vice president of player personnel and Dimitroff was the director of college scouting. The Patriots not only won two titles, but they also advanced to the playoffs in five of the six seasons Pioli and Dimitroff were together, compiling a 75-21 overall record.
Just as important as the team’s record, the Patriots had a reputation for shrewd moves when it came to personnel acquisition.
New England stockpiled its roster with moves in the draft that brought in countless starters and many future Pro Bowl players like four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel in the fourth round in 2003, five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (first round, 2004) and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Cassel (seventh round, 2005).
Pioli and Dimitroff were also partly responsible for wily free-agent signings that kept New England in the hunt just about every season.
Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was signed in 2003 and greatly aided the Patriots’ pass rush. Linebacker Junior Seau was signed in 2006 as a much-needed veteran presence, while safety Rodney Harrison (signed in 2003) might have been the best free-agent acquisition in franchise history.
Now the duo will be tasked with bringing similar results to Atlanta. And even though Pioli doesn’t officially start for two weeks, he and Dimitroff have already joined forces in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl to strategize.
What has to be done?
Dimitroff and Pioli must figure out a way to bring in some depth to a roster that is extremely top-heavy. It’s great that Atlanta’s depth chart is chock-full of stars, but when injuries hit like they did in 2013, the bottom of the roster has to step up. Last season the talent wasn’t as good as it needed to be.
The trenches must be addressed in the offseason. The Falcons lost battle after battle at the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively.
The franchise’s edict since season’s end has been getting tougher, as reported by Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, and there’s a lot of fixing that needs to happen to a team that failed to protect its franchise quarterback and didn’t do much to get pressure on the opposition's passer.
Then, and this is where Pioli and Dimitroff being together at the Senior Bowl is crucial, Atlanta has to win the draft in May. It’s an unfortunate and rare occurrence when a team that played in the conference championship one season falls off so much the next that it gets a top-10 pick. But the Falcons own the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and must grab a game-changer.
It’s because of this need to improve Atlanta’s player-acquisition report card that hiring Pioli as an assistant general manager is such a powerful boost to the franchise.
The track record for Pioli and Dimitroff is evident, but Pioli was also general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009 to 2012. And while his tenure didn’t go as planned, he still made some fantastic moves.
Kansas City Pro Bowlers Dexter McCluster, Dontari Poe, Justin Houston and Eric Berry were all drafted by Pioli while he was running the show for the Chiefs. A total of eight Chiefs players were selected to the Pro Bowl this season, and don’t forget running back Jamaal Charles’ contract was extended by Pioli in 2010.
Knowing how to win at the draft and free agency and having the powerful foresight to keep players that still have Pro Bowl-caliber seasons left on the tread is what makes Pioli a fantastic evaluator and an excellent addition to the Falcons’ staff.
Pioli's presence could have a profound effect as early as the 2014 season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.