The Falcons announced a “restructuring” of their personnel department Wednesday night. This is what I know about restructurings in the business world: 1) People often lose jobs; 2) People sometimes keep jobs but lose power.
Where exactly this leaves Falcons and their general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, in the front office’s sudden restructuring remains to be seen. The team maintains he will still have final say over personnel matters but it was such a clumsily worded release that it’s difficult to know for sure what will happen.
The only certainty is that owner Arthur Blank still has a job — and his visibility has not decreased. In fact, it’s going up. Let’s go down the list of principles:
• Arthur Blank: From being out front in last week’s Mike Smith firing news conference, which included a protracted opening statement, to Wednesday’s release, Blank is becoming higher profile than usual in football operations. That’s fine. It’s his team. But the wording in the official news release was intriguing and left me wondering if he was evolving into a junior Jerry Jones: “After reviewing all of our options – internally and externally – I have no reservations that this is the best approach to setting up our player personnel groups for future success. … While this decision was not tied to the head coach search currently underway, we also believe that independent thinking and collaboration will contribute to taking us to the next level in our league. Therefore, our new head coach and Thomas will report separately to me.”
• Thomas Dimitroff: He is still the general manager. He is still over Scott Pioli, the assistant GM. But in the new structure, Pioli will oversee all aspects of the scouting department, college and pro, as well as increased draft responsibilities. The release states that Pioli will report to Dimitroff, and Dimitroff, “will also retain management responsibility for salary cap, player affairs, equipment, sports medicine and performance, and video activities.” Sorry, but that reads like, “Thomas, you can do everything but scout players — that’s Scott’s job,” even if that wasn’t the intent.
At draft time, Dimitroff supposedly will still be the one who makes the picks. But there’s no question Pioli’s input and responsibilities go up. When somebody’s responsibilities go up, does another person’s responsibilities generally go down?
The Falcons believe this front office structure is similar to some other franchises, like the Baltimore Ravens. But we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. I know this much: Dimitroff’s roots are in the scouting side of football, so at the very least this doesn’t look good.
• Scott Pioli: He was praised for his work in New England but panned in Kansas City. This restructuring will leave some with the impression that he is undercutting Dimitroff. That’s probably not the case. Pioli did not make any friends in Kansas City with the way he treated some people in the front office, so his negative reputation will fuel a negative narrative. But Dimitroff and Pioli remain close friends and I don’t believe Pioli would be party to a relative hostile takeover. Also, again, at least according to the release, Pioli remains under Dimitroff in the company flowchart.
But the company has problems and changes were inevitable. Restructurings are never a good sign.
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