Ex-Saints executive Terry Fontenot is all-in on Falcons

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

LAKE CHARLES, La. -- As Terry Fontenot was going through the interview process in December, he had to deal with some NFL business realities.

The former Saints executive had interviewed with Denver, but was looking like the front-runner in the Falcons’ search for a general manager, a job with the Saints’ NFC South rival.

“When the Falcons opportunity was there … you’re on the outside looking in, and they obviously had some talent in some areas that gets you excited,” Fontenot told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution while give a tour of his hometown in July. “When you look at Grady (Jarrett) and Debo (Deion Jones) and having a young talented corner like (A.J. Terrell). You look at Calvin (Ridley).

“They have some players to build around, but I didn’t think twice about it because I didn’t think I’d be with a division rival.”

Fontenot started to investigate the Falcons’ internal operation.

“I started doing my research on the Falcons, and (team owner) Arthur Blank, his off-the-field philanthropy really stuck out,” Fontenot said. “How important it is to make an impact in other areas outside of football is with this organization and with this owner. That really spoke to me because I want to be able to do that.”

Blank recently was named philanthropist of the year by a TV network.

“Work as much as I need to work and work hard in this area, but I want to be able to have an affect off the field as well,” Fontenot said. “When you see an owner who is truly passionate, truly wants to help and truly will do everything that he can to build, right away I was excited about the opportunity.”

With each passing day, Fontenot is learning how to distance himself from his former employer of 18 years.

“Once I did the interview, every step, every time we do something else for the team, I really felt like OK this really was meant to be,” Fontenot said.

The Falcons opened training camp Thursday. Fontenot already has made some key decisions and helped to shape the roster through the draft as he has a partnership with coach Arthur Smith.

“I feel like we are going to have success because I know what we put into it,” Fontenot said. “I feel like there is no magic. There’s a formula to where you put in the work; you make thoughtful decisions.”

The Falcons elected to restructure quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract and trade disgruntled wide receiver Julio Jones, who requested a trade.

Transitions usually are not smooth. When Thomas Dimitroff was named general manager and Mike Smith was named the head coach in 2008, one of the first moves they made was to trade cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

“We are going to continue to build it,” Fontenot said. “We are going to put together some good drafts. We are going to sign some good players. We are going win a lot of games. We are going to build a championship organization.”

Fontenot and Smith have a no-nonsense approach to football matters. They are hoping that their oneness of purpose will return the Falcons to respectability.

“There is no other agenda,” Fontenot said. “It’s about winning. ... If it’s not going to help us win, not the right thing in the right moment, if there are other outside agendas that aren’t affecting the football team ... then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Fontenot’s focused mindset will permeate his tenure.

“It’s all about winning and winning the right way,” Fontenot said. “Having good people and making those right decisions. I think over time, they’ll see that in me and see that in Arthur. We are going to win games, and they are going to be excited.”

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