Q&A: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on moving forward

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OPENING STATEMENT: Here we are again. Obviously a lot has happened throughout this season . . . quite honestly I’m very much looking forward to jumping into the building of this football team in Atlanta and working very closely with our new head coach Dan Quinn. I’m really, really excited about the budding relationship there. We spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks really honing in on our team as well as some of the prospects or potential prospects in free agency and the draft.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff speaking at the 2015 scouting combine. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Q: Have you heard anything about the sound investigation from the NFL?

A: No updates on any decisions at this point.

Q: Are you worried about losing a draft pick?

A: Obviously, if it affects football operations and a draft pick, that’s something that we’ll have to focus on and deal with that. That’s not minimizing the financial impact if something like that comes about. We are just waiting patiently.

Q: How has the roster evaluation been with coach Quinn?

A: We’re still very much firmly entrenched in that. We are focused on going through our entire roster and then juxtaposing it with the draft class and free agency class. We have not made any concrete decisions as of yet, as far as our releases. After we get through this process here at the combine and back into Atlanta we’ll have a much clearer idea about what we are going to do with our current free agency class and the roster that is currently in place.

Q: Have you all meet with some of the agents here?

A: We’ve talked to representatives for people on our team. Obviously, free agency hasn’t opened yet, so we’re not in that process. We’ve spent a lot of time internally with our coaching staff. As you can imagine, when you have a new coaching staff and with things changing, it really opens up for some really interesting conversation for the direction and the style of football player that we are going to have on this team in Atlanta

Q: Would it be a perfect scenario in your need-line crosses with the talent-line at the top of this draft?

A: Need and talent. We are really excited about the potential of picks at the eighth overall pick. That’s a great situation for us. I think it gives us an opportunity to pick at a number of positions. We’ve said and I’ve said in the past, we have some holes in the roster, but we also very good football players. We have a number of them at the killer positions in tact right now that we are excited about building around. I can’t stress enough....I know that Dan and his staff are excited about what we are going to be building around. To be picking up in the top end of the draft is again, very encouraging for this staff.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff doing a radio interview. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Q: What has to change in the scouting department as you all are looking for different players?

A: The first thing in the process was to sit down with Dan and his coordinators as well as with Scott Pioli and his scouting staff and discuss the scheme that we are going to be playing. The nuances of the schemes and the nuances of the football players. We all know that by watching Dan and his defense up in Seattle, this is a really interesting element to them and the fiery, play-free and play-fast personality. I think that’s going to be a really big part of us moving forward with putting together the team. We’ve discussed that a lot and we’ve had, interestingly enough, this is the first time that we’ve had an opportunity to do this... brought in the coordinators with some of the position coaches and really drilled down on, again, the players they are looking for. The style of players they are looking for, all the way down to some of the fine tuned elements of certain players’ games and certain positions. I think that’s vital, especially when you are starting a new team. You make sure that we’re not just out there picking the best team of the best so-called football player. If they don’t fit in to this defense or this offense, we may not be getting the most out of the talent that we are going after.

Everyone has been very encouraged. I will tell you that the scouting staff is really excited about having an opportunity to sit down . . . .you can imagine the energy in the room when you have the scouts in there, who have just been hanging off the end of their seats trying to figure out what the next step is as far as acquiring talent. Then you have a new coaching staff, which is armed with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. It’s been fun watching how they are really working together. That’s a big thing for us going into the future. We are very focused going forward that there is a synergy coaching and personnel. That’s vital for us moving forward.

Q: How's the restructured front office working out?

A: I feel very confident with the way the new structure is set up. One of things that we talked about, even prior to hiring Dan, was the idea of making this a much of an equal partnership between the head coach and the general manager. With Arthur obviously being on top of the structure. As Arthur (Blank) has mentioned, respectfully and appropriately, he’ll be involved. But he provides the keys to the football operation side of the building, he’s going to allow Dan and myself to make the decisions as far as personnel, the 53-man, drafting, free agency, and everything else that is sort of under the football operations umbrella. We are very confident that we are going to set really well . . . as far as equal ground. I think with the split of different responsibilities that we’ve talked about, talking about the 53-man (roster). I’m really excited to work with Dan Quinn on this. Dan is a very adapt football man. He has a really good understanding of evaluating personnel and for him to have 53, 46 and the practice squad is vital for the success of this organization. I think with us as a personnel staff, myself, Scott Pioli and the rest of our scouting staff, we’ll be able to work with Dan and provide him with all of the information that he needs. In the very end, when it comes down to cutting that team we will be doing that together. I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be a very collaborative effort. I think it’s going to be very smooth and understanding.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff chatting with ESPN's John Clayton at the scouting combine. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Q: Does Blank settle the disputes?

A: If there is a disagreement in the end on the 53 (man roster), there is no question about it, that is under the head coach’s responsibility. It’s up to him to make the decision in the very end if we are at loggerheads. Both, he and I, have talked about this at length. What we both believe is that if we are completely at a disagreement, where ever it may be and we can’t convince each other it the following days and meetings, then normally, you might want to move away from that player if it’s a personnel matter. If we can’t and if there is a disagreement on it and Dan sees fit that it is best for the scheme and the organization, for building the football team, that comes down to the head coach's decision.

Q: Seeing how the coach had control while you were in New England doe this help in this new set up?

A: I think, deep down, that most of us in this role understand that . . .  when I look back on my seven years as a general manager I don’t believe I had one major disagreement when it came to personnel. I understood what the coach was looking for. I understood that there were lines and I understand that in the very end, you have to defer to a head coach whether if it’s in their contract or not, it really to me, has nothing to do with it. This to me, again, is about making sure you have this equal-footing partnership and that we understand what is best for the organization.

Yes, seeing how it worked in New England was important. But again, I’m not concerned about disagreements (around) building this football team. Again, I’m really, really fired up from the two weeks that we worked together and discussed players, as well as discussing them with the scouting staff and becoming more aware of what we’re looking for. Again, that’s going to be vital.

Q: Could you talk about analytics, using gps monitors and other new items that help football operations?

A: This is an evolving league in so many ways. It’s about productivity and understanding what is important. Where the coaches are and the coaches that are open-minded and the organizations that are open to using analytics, using bio-mechanical assessments, all of the new evolving elements of athletic performance and sports science supplemented very well with a coach who is very open-minded you can use that. We are very fortunate to have someone like Dan, who’s very open and into that. He took part in that up in Seattle and he’s been very impressed with what we have in place so far. We’ve talked a lot about how we are going to continue to build in that area.

Q: What do you do after collecting all of the data?

A: The data can be overwhelming. What I think is really important is that and I think back to this football staff, they

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff doing an interview with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports at the scouting combine. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

understand that if you inundate them with too much you can muddy the waters so to speak. Then it may become a little bit of over analysis. . . . I understand and Dan understands the importance of supplementing (information).

Q: Who are some of the candidates to have their contract restructured?

A: We have some big decisions to make. We have some financial decisions to make and I think that’s important. …we are going to have to sit down and figure out where we are potentially we are freeing up money and what’s in the best interest of the organization to stay put. That’s going to take place after the combine. That is when we are going to make those decisions.

Q: (Inaudible: Something on Josh McDaniels)

A: Josh McDaniels, I have a great deal of respect for him, not only him as person and a football coach, also his intelligence level and his creativity. There are so many things. I have no doubt in my mind that Josh McDaniels will be a head coach in this league again. I think that he can be a very successful head coach in this league. Our decision to continue to go out in the process and eventually hire Dan is something that we felt was best for this organization. We are incredibly excited about Dan. With Josh, I wish him all of the luck. . . . I think he’s going to do great things in the league.

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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