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.
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.
“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.”
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)