Falcons orchestrate strange front office

Scott Pioli (left) and Thomas Dimitroff (right) must make the new front office structure work. Can it? Will it?

With Falcons fans calling sports talk shows asking for Thomas Dimitroff’s head, team owner Arthur Blank did the unthinkable Wednesday afternoon.

He promoted Dimitroff.

Or is this a demotion? Dimitroff still has the final say on personnel matters, but he now has someone under him, Scott Pioli, in charge of NFL Pro and College Scouting and the NFL Draft.

But Dimitroff still has the final say.


Pioli now has more power, but Dimitroff still has final say. So despite his teams, his rosters, going 10-22 in the last two seasons, Dimitroff is safe. And he still has final say on roster decisions.

Again, what?

Here may be the key element, however, to the Falcons announcement. The new head coach, still to-be-determined, will report directly to Blank. Before, former head coach Mike Smith reported to Dimitroff.

This truly adds fuel to the fire that Rex Ryan is going to be the new head coach of the Falcons. Reports had Ryan meeting with team officials for five-plus hours Tuesday. That’s a pretty significant interview. This is the guy Blank wanted seven years ago, but Dimitroff wanted Smith.

Ryan is a pretty big personality, and it’s believable that he might not want to report to anyone but Blank. Why else would this restructuring of the front office be announced the day after Ryan is interviewed if this didn’t involve him? They could have easily waited until after they named the head coach, but why didn’t they?

For the new head coach to report to Blank, that must also mean Dimitroff will not pick this coach. Naturally, with both Dimitroff and Pioli former employees of the Patriots, reports have surfaced both would prefer Josh McDaniels, New England’s current offensive coordinator. McDaniels interviewed earlier this week.

Ryan just seems like the perfect candidate. Blank is picking this coach – not Dimitroff and not some dumb search firm that is probably very expensive. If he wanted Ryan last time, and now that Ryan is available, and since Blank needs someone to help him sell the personal seat licenses for the new stadium, it just has all signs pointing toward Ryan.

Both Dimitroff and the new head coach will report directly to Blank, so that means the new coach will have Blank’s ear as much as Dimitroff will. That’s a tremendous asset for a coach to not have to worry about a general manager. Instead, a coach, particularly one with a strong presence, will be able to be honest and open with Blank instead of having to tip toe around something and go through the GM.

But here’s the real question people are going to ask: Why is Dimitroff still here? This 10-22 record the last two seasons is more his fault than Smith’s, yet it was the coach that was let go and Dimitroff gets to stick around.

It’s a mistake. The Falcons should have cut ties with Dimitroff. That ear, the Dimitroff-Smith era, should be completely over. If they were going to fire Smith, they should have fired Dimitroff. There have been few people to speak up and believe Dimitroff is blameless and deserves to stay on as GM.

Nonetheless, Dimitroff is staying. Somewhere Mike Smith is probably shaking his head. “How could he keep his job and I lose mine,” you can just imagine him asking an answerless question. But that’s the NFL, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We still need questions answered about this new setup. It’s rather peculiar, and it doesn’t make much sense. Just because Baltimore does it does not mean Atlanta should do it. Maybe the head coach will have such a voice that it won’t matter who is in the front office, but you wonder if this will work or if it just another speed bump as the Falcons try to get to the next level.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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