‘It’s like getting your master’s degree’ in scouting
Pioli’s career stops after joining the Browns – which include time spent with the Ravens, Jets, Patriots and Chiefs – are both well-documented and impressive. From being a part of the Ravens’ first draft class (which included Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis) to the worst-to-first turnaround with the Jets (who went from 1-15 in 1996 to a 12-4 record in 1998 while Pioli was the director of pro personnel), to helping the Patriots win Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX, claim four AFC championships, and six AFC East titles while serving as the vice president of player personnel for nine seasons.
Still, the decision to go to Cleveland and the football minds he learned from there proved invaluable early on his career. It was there, too, where Pioli got to know Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his father, Thomas Dimitroff Sr., who was a scout for the Browns. Pioli bonded with both of the Dimitroffs and considered Dimitroff Sr. a mentor.
Pioli recalls a conversation he had with Dimitroff upon his arrival in Atlanta.
“I said to Thomas, ‘Don’t forget when we started in the scouting area, there was this group of young guys in the scouting department and there was this group of veteran guys – and all of us youngsters were trained by the old guys.' It was like getting your master’s degree,” Pioli said.
“What they used to do with us was the young scouts, during the entire training camp we were tied to the hip of one (veteran) scout,” Pioli recalled. “We had to go to every practice with the scout, we had to sit in meetings, we had to discuss players, we had to write reports, and the older scouts would talk about the reports and the players.
“That’s how we learned how to scout and be football scouts.”
Those experiences, combined with a foundation formed back in Washingtonville under Frank Green and Belichick’s message of “everything you do, do to win and make the team better” proved to be Pioli’s career compass – and something he’s brought to the Falcons’ personnel department.
Now in his 25th NFL season and closing in on his fourth year with the Falcons, Pioli has his sights set on helping Dimitroff and Falcons coach Dan Quinn bring Atlanta its first Super Bowl title.
Regardless if it happens or not, somewhere Coach Green is smiling.