Thomas Dimitroff shares his insights on the Falcons

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff chats with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick while Falcons coach Mike Smith appears to be focused elsewhere. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff chats with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick while Falcons coach Mike Smith appears to be focused elsewhere. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – It was a big opening to the preseason for Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

He got see his two best friends in the NFL, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.

He was clearly moved by watching the Falcons and the Patriots practice together on Tuesday.

On Monday, I sat down with him in his office for a story.

We talk about what lessons he learned in New England and how he’s brought some of them with him to the Falcons.

Here’s that story.

But there were other insights that the general manager had to share.

KNOW YOUR ROLE, STAY IN YOUR LANE: “The main thing that I’ve talked about since I’ve been here and I want to re-iterate how important it is to implement and that’s that idea of  indisputable role understanding,” Dimitroff said. “I go back to that all the time. I consistently go back to that idea and make sure that we continue to know our roles in this building. For me as a general manager all the way down to the lowest level person in this organization.”

He clearly doesn’t want to be singularly thought of as  a Belichick clone.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick confer as their two teams meet for a combined practice in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, August 17, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick confer as their two teams meet for a combined practice in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, August 17, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

“What’s important to understand is that we are all very different individuals,” Dimitroff said. “Why I learned so much from New England, my personality is so different from Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. . .

“Scott is doing things a little bit differently down in Kansas City than how Bill would do it and how I would do it.”

He doesn’t want to try to be someone else and come off as a phony.

HERE’S HOW THE PRACTICE HAPPENED: After the schedule came out, the Falcons and Patriots tried to figure out if practicing together would be beneficial to both teams.

“We’d already had things scheduled with Jacksonville,” Dimitroff said. “At first Smitty said let’s think about this logistically and see how we can manage this because of the fact that New England was coming down for a preseason game it actually worked out. It was a really smooth logistical exercise. The more Smitty and I talked we realized this could be very beneficial for us.”

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, left, talks with head coach Mike Smith during the morning session on the second day of NFL football minicamp at the team's training complex in Flowery Branch, Ga., Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, left, talks with head coach Mike Smith during the morning session on the second day of NFL football minicamp at the team's training complex in Flowery Branch, Ga., Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

Smith and Dimitroff think that intra-squad practices will be the wave of the future if the league goes to an enhanced 18-game schedule.

“In the spirit of being forward thinking and on the front end of the curve in certain  aspects in this business, I think that falls in line with that,” Dimitroff said. “We really feel strongly that we can scrimmage and have combined practices with head coaches that we know very well and we respect a lot. The thing that is the key for all of this to work out is that there is mutual respect between the head coaches.”

DIMITROFF AND BELICHICK GO BACK TO THE 1980S: Dimitroff’s father, Tom, was on the Cleveland staff when Belichick was hired to coach the Browns in 1991.

“My dad was there during the late 80s, back then and that’s where I was first around,” Dimitroff said. “It wasn’t like I had regular day to day interaction with Belichick. I was around there and I developed some good relationships with guys like Scott Pioli who was obviously very close with Bill. And I’m sure through their interaction that some of my attributes were known going forward.”

The relationship blossomed in New England.

“I had an opportunity to be in a lot more meetings there. I was younger and . . . so that was like a great learning experience to truly see how things were implemented and how philosophies were adhered too. That was interesting to see.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE FALCONS?: Innovation is one of the tenets of Dimitroff’s administration. So what’s next for the Falcons?

“I think again, without divulging any of our proprietary secrets, we are looking into a lot of different aspects  of athletic performance, as well as scouting as it pertains to statistical analysis as well as (Information Technology) and it affects on scouting and how it can refine our scouting. Those are three things that are kind of in the hopper for us.”

SMITH ON TD: “I think he is one of the most forward thinking guys that I’ve ever been around,” Smith said. “As a head coach, I am always thinking week to week. As a personnel guy your timeline is much further out and down the road. I think that Thomas’ forethought in terms of personnel moves is a strength. . .

“Thomas is very progressive in his thought process in how he envisions our team being put together. We are the only team that has a director of athletic performance. We have brought in consultants who have spent a significant amount of time with us in regards to what we are doing in the offseason. I think it speaks volumes about how Thomas is forward thinking.”

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE

Thursday, August 19 — Preseason Week 2 vs. New England 8 p.m.

Friday, August 20 — No Practice.

Saturday, August 21 — 9:30 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. (closed to the public); 3:45 p.m. – 5:25 p.m. (closed to the public).

Sunday, August 22 — 9:35 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (closed to the public)

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82 comments Add your comment

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

rekingball

August 19th, 2010
7:14 am

GO FALCONS!!!

Jim

August 19th, 2010
7:15 am

Refreshing to see actual football personel runing the Falcons after all of the years the stuff we have ahd to put up with!

Mike Jay

August 19th, 2010
7:22 am

Love the Falcons Brass. It seems like an eternity since the Smith’s ruled the roast.

BKJ

August 19th, 2010
7:24 am

Looking back at just how bad things were in 2007, it’s pretty amazing that Blank was able to bring in 2 unknown and untested commodities in Dimitroff and Smith that have really turned this franchise around. 2010 is the beginning of the Falcons Decade!! You heard it here first.

rekingball

August 19th, 2010
7:30 am

I was looking over the headlines of the N.O. Picky-yo-own, and one of the headlines concerned Payton seeking advice from the Patiots organization, on how to sustain the saints success into the future.
It looks like TD already has a plan for today, and into the future.

rekingball

August 19th, 2010
7:37 am

At the beginning of the 2008 season, the oddsmakers had the Falcons listed as the least likeliest team to win the SB, the odds were a 1, with about 24 zeros behind it to 1, against the Falcons.
For the Falcons to even make it into the playoffs was amazing.

geno

August 19th, 2010
8:08 am

ina couple years smith and TD will be gone…..maybe then well get a real coach and real GM

Bird Dog

August 19th, 2010
8:12 am

Bring on the regular season already! The pre-season is way too long. Rise up dirty Birds!

Paddy

August 19th, 2010
8:21 am

TD also has taken pages out of George Steinbrenner’s playbook. He probably does not even realize it. George was always way down the road in his thinking and imagination.

Birdword

August 19th, 2010
8:24 am

I think you’re confused, G.

Paddy

August 19th, 2010
8:31 am

geno, thats an interesting take on the Falcons front office and HC. Where have you been, in jail?

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
8:34 am

The most fictitious and hilarious comment of the day:

“It looks like TD already has a plan for today, and into the future.”

LOL!

As always:

GEAUX SAINTS! OUR TIME!!

Paddy

August 19th, 2010
8:39 am

Little girl is back!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ATLHOMER, D. Orlando Ledbetter. D. Orlando Ledbetter said: Thomas Dimitroff shares his insights on the Falcons http://bit.ly/bgHHo1 [...]

Dan

August 19th, 2010
8:44 am

Falcons will dominate the division and will win every game in the divison by 10 or more points !!! I guarantee it! I mean Tampa Bay and Carolina are starting over with young teams and the Saints were obviously just a FLUKE I mean yea Brees and their O-Line is good but what else do they have? Just a one hit wonder after all the Saints are well the Saints

BT

August 19th, 2010
8:45 am

Jim,
So true, refreshing indeed.
A highly intelligent, young, forward thinking GM with a plan.

Saints Idiot,

August 19th, 2010
8:48 am

is back again for his daily beat down, while spewing hate and non-sense.
How pathetic.

Joe Tess Fish House

August 19th, 2010
8:51 am

So why is he so dumm not to sign TO?

mountain_jim

August 19th, 2010
8:52 am

AJC must like these NO (and other) trolls, as they sure help ramp up the page views.

Saints Idiot,

August 19th, 2010
8:58 am

Joe, the idea of T.O being any good, anymore is a myth.
TD is smart enough to see that and he has stated, he likes the the young wide receivers the team has on the roster.
In other words, only desperate teams make desperate moves.

alanfalcon

August 19th, 2010
9:00 am

Proof that once again the Falcons put brain and brawn together on the same plateau, sorry to Joe Tess, Seen this and etc.. I guess one day in the not to distant future you may understand the concept and the direction football is taking- FORWARD THINKING.

Hamp

August 19th, 2010
9:19 am

Some people on this blog are so…. (place any negative here!)

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
9:23 am

Dan: Let me straighten you out, since you seem lost.

1. Atlanta should dominate both Tampa and Carolina, if they don’t, shame on them.
2. Atlanta will not dominate the Saints, no matter how much you wish for it.
3. New Orleans also has an excellent wide receiver corp.
4. They have very good tight ends.
5. They have a steady capable running back corp, 6th in the league in rushing last year. You guys want to concentrate on the passing game and the receivers? Be our guest, that’s when they’ll slash you on the ground.
6. They have a solid group of linebackers, not the best in the league admittingly, but adequate enough to enforce the line and crowd the passing lanes.
7. Their secondary is very young, very fast, and very good, sprinkled with a few veterans for leadership and guidance.
8. They have veteran experienced special skills people, Hartley is now quite confident in his kicking ability as is Morstead the punter, and our return specialists are could-go-all-the-way threats on every return.
9. They have a defensive coordinator who isn’t going to accept any slack from anybody and is willing to go for the jugular, instead of playing “prevent defense”.
10. They have a head coach who is willing to go for an on-side kick at the beginning of the second half in a superbowl, willing to go for the 2 pt conversion in a superbowl, willing to go for a td on 4 and 2, in a superbowl. In other words, a head coach who plays to win, rather than not lose.

And that’s right, I didn’t even mention Brees.

GEAUX SAINTS! OUR TIME!!

waynester

August 19th, 2010
9:40 am

“Fans” like ‘geno’ fail to understand how significant and profound the changes currently underway in Atlanta truly are. For those of us who have followed this franchise from it’s inception the difference is like night & day. Reforming an organization as complex as an NFL franchise is daunting. Not just athletes and coaches but scouting, athletic performance, nutrition, marketing down to the secretarial pool and beyond–it’s a massive undertaking and I, for one, think they’re doing a stellar job. With the improvement of the NO franchise, hopefully the NFL’s Deep South teams are on the way to developing the winning tradition of the region’s collegiate counterparts. Looking forward to watching the future development of the team– for the 1st time in recent memory….

Mike Jay

August 19th, 2010
9:43 am

6, 7, and 9 equaled the what rated defense last year for the Saints? And you added how many players to bolster that awesome unit?

Robert1288

August 19th, 2010
9:48 am

“…from me to the lowest level person in this organization.” Good luck with the “caste” system feeling and approach. Never works. It’s a football team, not an aircraft carrier. Oh, yeah, this guy’s Dad was in the NFL as an exec, so he is a genius, of course. Kind of like the sons of the father Paul Brown. Look how many championships Bengals have won. It’s hard to get near the Bengals facility because of all the glare from the platinum Lombardis. Hey, are the Falcons going to have any receivers for Matt to throw to?

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
9:49 am

Mike Jay: The 25th rated defense in the league.

The defense that shut your team’s vaunted offense enough to enable me to say: The only team the Saints dominated in the NFC South was the falcants.

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
9:53 am

Oh and Mike Jay: That was the 25th rated defense in total yardage allowed. It was also the number one defense in points scored, and either 1 or 2 in take-aways.

Dan

August 19th, 2010
9:55 am

HA Seen this B4 ….Please you will be the first to put a paper bag on your head because you cant afford a real mask. How many pro-bowl receivers do the Saints have uhhhh none? Uhhh Falcons have Roddy White. How many all All-pro TE do they Saints have uhhh none if you want to include a washed-up often injured Jeremy Shockey hmmm who do the Falcons have a very good still very productive Gonzales? OH OH lets talk RB hmmmm Falcons have wait wait wait for it the Burner Turner who do the Saints have ha Bush please I dont see him at the top of anybody’s Fantasy RB wish list? Now lets talk about the Saints DEF their defensive line any potential All-Pros hmmm uhhhh no, Lets look at the FALCONS I think they have Babineaux when reading reports should have been an ALL-PRO last year and wait there is John Abraham dang this is so easy. Now lets look at LB yea you have Vilma but the Falcons have Lofton pretty much a wash even there I would say. Now lets look at the secondary the Falcons have a shut down corner in Dunta Robinson and the Saints have hmmmmm uhhhhh nobody nobody LOL thanks for making this so easy. Now on the Saints coach thanks for proving my case for me a coach that has to rely on gimmicks to win? The Falcons a in your face swarming GRITZ BLITZ Defense and a running attack that pounds the ball sounds more like if this was a jury trial you just lost. How does it feel to be someones B

PMC

August 19th, 2010
9:57 am

It’s just really amazing how they have inspired confidence. In the past the Falcons being good felt like smoke and mirrors. A superstar here, a world class season there followed by the inevitable fall. This feels a lot more like slow steady real growth. Sure they have shortcomings but they aren’t crushing. They aren’t preventing having success. It doesn’t feel phony. In the past a couple of crushing injuries like that kill the entire season… and they would go 6-10. Last year they had setbacks and flaws and they finished 9-7 a far cry from the 2003 effort when they lost the QB in the preseason. I don’t begrudge mistakes or small failures… I’m willing to pardon their progress. I’m very proud of our team and thier work eithic. I feel like they are having fun and they like eachother and that gives me confidence for the upcoming season.

Falcon57

August 19th, 2010
10:02 am

I’m certainly glad ‘geno’ is on the outside looking in!!! Our GM and HC are amoung the best duo in the league and will only get better with time. I guess ‘geno’ would rather have the Clampetts and Marion Campbell back!!!

waynester

August 19th, 2010
10:12 am

PMC & Falcons57
Amen! Going through the wilderness makes you appreciate a glimpse of the promised land even more!
Robert1288
A modern NFL franchise is almost on a par with an aircraft carrier in terms of complexity and the number of unique specialties that are required to make it run properly. Staying with the comparison, it takes a while to turn a carrier around– the same goes for a Franchise in the NFL. TD and Co. have accomplished a lot relatively quickly and they’re not done yet. Just watch…..

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
10:13 am

Dan: First of all, the Saints spread the ball around, to all their receivers, TEs, and running backs. They won’t have that many pro bowlers because they spread the ball around, not to apease their receivers, but to keep the defense guessing. And all the receivers, running backs and TEs, they all have agreed, they’d rather get the ring, than a pro-bowl appearance.

Two: The term “shut down cornerback” is too often abused by NFL fans. Noticed I never used the term, cause I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe Dunta is a shut down cornerback. He’s good, I’ll give you that, but he’s not a shut down cornerback. Besides, you have to be on the field to prove it, and he’s not on the field so far, is he? You do have a bowling ball of a running back in Turner, I wish we had one like him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be stopped. If Turner goes down, and with the load he carries that is a distinct possibility every game, if he goes down, your running attack becomes very, very average, and your passing attack, well it starts out average, even with White.
Finally, it’s not a trial, it’s a game, and your team has lost to my team something like 7 of the last 8. I don’t need a jury to know who is the “B” right now.

PMC

August 19th, 2010
10:26 am

Indeed Waynster. Indeed.

Dan

August 19th, 2010
10:27 am

SeenThisB4 Atlanta leads the overall series 44 – 38 – 0 and the playoff series 1 – 0………
Oh yea add 2 more for this year 46-38!!!

Here is a question for you how come every time the FALCONS play the SAINTS the people are bus in from New Orleans to Atlanta but when a hurricane is coming they decide to stay in New Orleans?

Mike Jay

August 19th, 2010
10:28 am

sb4,

You mean the two games you played against the Falcons and gave up a combined 50 pts? That is shutting down an offense? Let’s not forgot that the Falcons were missing their two best players on offense the secong game and still put up 23 points against that dominating defense. Jeebus the Saints let Redman go for over 300 yards passing! Nice rose tinted, delusion enabling glasses you got on there.

I will give you the turnover thing. That was impressive but will not be repeated.

That defense got older and slower not better.

DHM JR

August 19th, 2010
10:34 am

Now if we could run the Atlanta Spirit Group out of town, all of our pro sports organizations would be first class.

Mike Jay

August 19th, 2010
10:35 am

“You do have a bowling ball of a running back in Turner, I wish we had one like him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be stopped. If Turner goes down, and with the load he carries that is a distinct possibility every game, if he goes down, your running attack becomes very, very average.”

Turner can be stopped? So why did he go for 151 yards in the first game against that awesome Aints defense?
Very, Very Average Jason Snelling carried the offense the last few games of the season and averaged 4.3 ypc while scoring 4 TD’s.

CKS

August 19th, 2010
10:36 am

Come on, ATL, admit it…if we ever win the Super Bowl, you’d probably find us on some rival message boards talking trash too. Give SeenThisB4 his due–his team won the Super Bowl. Let the trash talking being AFTER we beat the Saints, IF we beat them, not now.

SeenThisB4, I think a lot of what you said makes sense, although our “average” passing game did torch your D last year for 300 yards with our back-up QB…that, and the fact that history tends to work against repeat champs, bodes well for the Falcons.

Joe Tess Fish House

August 19th, 2010
10:43 am

OK….I get a lot of trash talking because I felt this team shold of have signed TO. You tel me TO is no good. I tell you the Falcons sighed Dunta Robinson and he is injured and I bet won’t paly the fist regular season game! How is TO so bad? At least he is practicing and playing.

NUFF SAID

Paddy

August 19th, 2010
10:45 am

Joe Tess…you broke your promise! When the Falcon did not sighn TO, you said you are done with this team and never go to another game. Why are you still hanging around and talking TO again. Find some new playmates and drop this tired act of yours!

SeenThisB4

August 19th, 2010
10:50 am

Dan: Because the people who bus into atlanta for the games, pay for the bus themselves.

What are you? A communist? There are wealthy people, middle income people, and low to no income people in New Orleans, just like in Atlanta. Get real, get a clue, and stop asking really foolish questions.

Dan

August 19th, 2010
10:56 am

Just face it your time has come and past! Instead of wasting your time on reading about the dominating FALCONS you should be looking at web sites about the Draft 2011 and at the top of the draft which players will be available? What do you think a top 5 pick for the Saints in 2011?

Bluto

August 19th, 2010
11:07 am

Joe Tess Fish House pick any internet fights today?

PCman

August 19th, 2010
11:21 am

Geno…are you retarded?

laguna Darren

August 19th, 2010
11:34 am

Joe Tess and Geno have been quiet for a while. I think they are out checking the air pressure on their trailors tires.

mountain_jim

August 19th, 2010
11:40 am

DLed – good reportage. I am still hoping and waiting for a report from you on what really is going on behind the scenes with William Moore – a TD 2nd round choice with supposed 1st round potential who we have never, other than a couple of special teams plays, ever seen on the field.

Is he going to ever play? be cut? What says TD and coach Smith about him, other than ‘day to day’ which is obviously a crock.

Thanks.

Lee Smith

August 19th, 2010
12:02 pm

Go Falcons, Dimitroff is certainly an innovator in todays game. They have done a great job putting a great coaching staff together and a good team. I believe the Falcons will be a playoff team again this year but I think they fell short with putting together a roster that can win a Super Bowl.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

August 19th, 2010
12:24 pm

What’s an enhanced 18-game schedule and how does it differ from a standard 18-game schedule?