FLOWERY BRANCH – St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney, who worked for the Falcons from 2006 to 2007, appears to have struck gold with quarterback Sam Bradford, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Bradford has the Rams, who play the Falcons on Sunday, off to a 4-5 start and are in second place in the NFC West.
Devaney was the senior personnel executive in 2006 and as assistant general manager in 2007 for the Falcons.
Devaney, a former scout, also worked in Washington with Joe Gibbs and the legendary Bobby Beathard. He went with Beathard to San Diego. In all, he’s had a hand in helping to build three Super Bowl teams, two in Washington (1983 and 1988) and one in San Diego (1994).
It was good to catch up with “Billy D” over the phone when he took the time to take 7 questions from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.
Q: How are things going with the rebuilding of the St. Louis Rams?
A: “Well, it’s certainly still ongoing, that’s for sure. I think the feeling is that we are moving in the right direction. We’ve got some important pieces in place to build around and a pretty good foundation with young players. We’re getting there.”
Q: How has your quarterback, Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the draft, been playing thus far this season?
A: “I think for the most part it’s been pretty impressive the way he’s handled everything. There was a lot of pressure coming in with him being the No. 1 pick. Quarterback. Face of the franchise. All of that stuff. He’s handled that like a champion, like we expected him to. The on-field, playing the position, he’s played nine games now and he’s kind of set the bar pretty high. We have to remind ourselves when he does make a mistake or does something goofy that he’s only played nine games.”
Q: How’s the defense been coming along?
A: “The defense has been playing really good as a whole unit. Like anything, you’d expect progress from year one to year two. Last year, we were still installing and players were learning what to do and how to use the proper techniques. Now, they are just playing fast. They are playing good team defense. It’s a credit to the coaches how they are playing.”
Q: What did you take with you from your stop here in Atlanta that’s helping you build the Rams?
A: “Personally, it’s having that trust with the head coach. Having a good relationship with the head coach. I think Thomas (Dimitroff) and Smitty (Mike Smith) are a great model for teams to follow. When were in the process of hiring a head coach that was one of the things that was going to be really important to me. How was I going to be able to work with the head coach? Do we share the same philosophy about putting the team together. That, as much as anything, drew me to Spags (head coach Steve Spagnuolo) because we do see so many things eye to eye and we do have a good close, working relationship.”
Q: Looks like you have a couple Falcon-Rams in Laurent Robison, Daniel Fells and Renardo Foster?
A: “They are good guys. I’m glad they are in the building. They are good team guys. There in no ego. They bust their butts everyday and that’s what we’ve been trying to instill here. We started by trying to change the culture last year. These guys like Laurent have been around a winning program. Renardo was there for a little bit and they about the way things are supposed to be done. I think that’s helped our growth. They are all good hard working good kids.”
Q: What do you all have to do to win the NFC West and get into the playoffs?
A: “I don’t know. We’re still so young and kind of in the formative stages. What we’ve got to focus on is not even thinking about winning any kind of division. Our next goal is to win a game on the road. We’re playing OK at home, but we’ve yet to win on the road this year. Unless and until we learn to do that, we’re not going anywhere. All our focus is that we have a home game with Atlanta this week, then we are on the road for the next three weeks and we have got to find a way to win a couple of those road games.”
Q: How is linebacker James Laurinaitis doing for you all?
A: “He’s a pro. The best thing is say about him. He is that he’s one of the cornerstones that’s helping us put this thing together. He just eats, sleeps and breathes football. He’s a workaholic. He took over as rookie last year and he became the quarterback of the defense immediately. He’s just got those natural leader traits and he’s a heck of a football player.”