Falcons give assistant GM Pioli new responsibilities

ATLANTA (AP) Assistant general manager Scott Pioli will take on pro and college scouting and will have new NFL draft responsibilities in the restructuring of the Atlanta Falcons' personnel department announced Wednesday.

The Falcons say Pioli will report to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who retains responsibility for salary cap and player affairs, among other duties.

The moves came as the team continued its search to replace coach Mike Smith, who was fired following a 6-10 season.

The changes appear to weaken the authority of Dimitroff, whose future was left in doubt by owner Arthur Blank at the news conference to announce Smith's firing. Blank said Wednesday the new coach and Dimitroff ''will report separately to me.''

''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,'' Blank said in a statement released by the team.

''It maximizes the talents of Scott, allows for more time and focus on all areas of our football operations groups managed by Thomas, and is in line with other player personnel groups in the league.''

Pioli, the former director of player personnel for the Patriots, joined the Falcons last year. Dimitroff worked with Pioli in New England as the Patriots' director of scouting before he was hired by Atlanta in 2008. Dimitroff recommended Pioli's hire last year.

Dimitroff said in a statement Wednesday Pioli ''is a trusted partner who has proven himself, time and again, during his 23-year NFL career.

''His thumbprint can be found on a number of Pro Bowl players during his NFL career, and he was a key contributor to the remarkable Super Bowl success of the Patriots during his tenure there. We look forward, and I do personally, to the many contributions he will make to our pro, college scouting and NFL draft efforts going forward.''

Dimitroff and Smith combined to build winning seasons in each of their first five seasons together. There has been increased criticism of Dimitroff's free-agent and draft decisions as the team posted a combined 10-22 record the past two years.

At Smith's news conference, Dimitroff said ''I know that I have made mistakes and I'm going to be scrutinized for it.''

The Falcons interviewed former Jets coach Rex Ryan on Tuesday. Ryan had two interviews with Atlanta before Smith's hire in 2008.

The Falcons also have interviewed New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Bills coach Doug Marrone, according to multiple reports.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians said the Falcons and other teams requested permission to interview Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Blank said the decision to restructure the personnel department ''was not tied to the head coach search currently underway.''

Added Blank: ''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.''

Director of player personnel Lionel Vital was given additional pro scouting responsibilities and will play a role in college scouting with director of college scouting Steve Sabo.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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