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Lions reportedly will interview Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli for general manager post

John Niyo
The Detroit News

The Lions aren’t abandoning the Patriot Way — or Bill Belichick’s scouting tree — just yet. 

Two former NFL general managers who got their start in pro football working for Belichick in Cleveland in the early 1990s and later climbed the ranks with him in New England reportedly are scheduled to interview for the Lions’ general manager vacancy next week,  

Thomas Dimitroff

Former Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots while serving as a personnel director, will interview with the Lions next week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. So will former Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, a two-time NFL executive of the year who also worked as a Lions area scout in the mid-1990s, the NFL Network reported. 

They are the third and fourth known external candidates on the Lions’ interview list, joining former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith, who also is on the schedule next week, and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who was expected to meet with the Lions this week. 

The NFL doesn’t allow teams to interview front-office executives or coaches employed by other teams until after the regular season. So the Lions, much like Atlanta and Houston, two other teams that have GM vacancies, are using this month to meet with available candidates. Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp fired GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, both of whom spent their entire NFL careers working for Belichick in New England, in late November, promising to conduct “an extremely thorough and comprehensive search” for new leadership. 

Dimitroff, a 54-year-old Ohio native, spent the last 12-plus years in Atlanta, where he built a team that went to two NFC championship games and a berth in Super Bowl LI, where the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the New England Patriots.  

It was in New England that Dimitroff got his start as an executive, spending six years with the Patriots, first as a national scout and then as the team’s director of college scouting from 2003-07.   

Dimitroff was fired by the Falcons in October along with head coach Dan Quinn following Atlanta’s 0-5 start this season.  

Pioli, 55, spent four years leading the Chiefs’ front office from 2009-12, and after getting fired in Kansas City following a rocky 2-14 season, he took a year off before joining Dimitroff as an assistant GM in Atlanta. He resigned from that job in May 2019 and has since worked as an analyst for the NFL Network and CBS Sports. 

The Lions already have interviewed three in-house candidates for their GM vacancy: vice president of player personnel Kyle O'Brien, director of player personnel Lance Newmark and director of pro scouting Rob Lohman.  

Lions president Rod Wood was asked earlier this week how much of an emphasis the team was putting on experience in the search for new leadership.  

“Certainly experience is something we’re going to take into account," Wood said Tuesday, as the team announced ex-Lions linebacker Chris Spielman was joining the front office in a new special assistant's role. "If somebody has had prior experience as either a GM or a head coach, you have maybe a better opportunity to evaluate what they may do in either job, but it’s not going to be a prerequisite necessarily.  

“I think we’re trying to find the best team, and if that means they’re two first-time individuals, that’ll be what happens. If it means one of them has experience and one of them doesn’t, that’ll be what happens. But certainly, having experiences, it gives you an opportunity to evaluate whether they’ve been successful in the job, versus trying to project."  

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JohnNiyo