Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has signed a multi-year contract extension, the team is set to announce.
Since being named the general manager on Jan. 13, 2008, Dimitroff has helped to shape the roster that has led to two playoff trips in three seasons. The franchise has posted three consecutive-winning seasons for the first time in its history.
“This extension of Thomas’ contract ensures that he and coach (Mike) Smith, whose contract was extended last month, will be able to continue to work together on solidifying the long-term sustainability and success of our football team,” said Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank. “Thomas has proven himself to be a highly-skilled and talented general manager of our club, and I look forward to the Falcons reaping the benefits of his work for many years to come.”
Dimitroff, who was a member of the front office of the New England Patriots, chose to take a more analytical approach to changing the Falcons’ fortunes and culture. He has a hand in all of the key operations, including athletic performance (medical and training), scouting and coaching.
Following the 2010 season, Dimitroff was named NFL Executive of the Year by the Sporting News. He has won the award twice since being named the Falcons general manager in 2008. Since 2008, Atlanta has posted a 33-15 (.688) record, which is tied for the third best in the NFL over the last three seasons.
“First, I would like to thank Mr. Blank for the confidence and support he has shown in me and in Coach Smith over the past three seasons,” Dimitroff said. “I look forward to working with Smitty and his coaching staff as we continue our journey of bringing NFL championship caliber football to Falcons fans and to the city of Atlanta.”
Dimitroff, a 20-year scouting and personnel veteran, made all of the right moves in his first season with the Falcons. He didn’t flinch while taking over a franchise that was attempting to recover from the turbulent Michael Vick era and from the head coach, Bobby Petrino, leaving during the 2007 season for a college job.
After hiring Smith as head coach, the two worked together to construct the team’s foundation. In their first draft, they chose quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, wide receiver Harry Douglas, safety Thomas DeCoud and defensive end Kroy Biermann.
The first draft led to Dimitroff’s selection as NFL executive of the year by Sporting News. His second draft wasn’t as fruitful. The top two picks — defensive tackle Peria Jerry and safety William Moore — missed most of the 2009 season.
Moore came on as a starter at strong safety last season, while Jerry was a situational pass rusher as he recovered from knee surgery.
His third draft was also fruitful as linebacker Sean Weatherspoon played well when healthy and defensive tackle Corey Peters cracked the starting lineup.
He has leaned on the expertise of some holdovers such as director of player personnel Les Snead and director of football administration Nick Polk while blending in some of his hires, such as assistant director of player personnel
Lionel Vital and director of college scouting David Caldwell.
Under Dimitroff, the Falcons have red-flagged players with checkered pasts. The team will continue its practice of removing players from consideration who they feel will not fit into their close-knit locker room.
“We are very particular about our locker room, and we’ve worked very hard to make sure we get a cohesive unit in there,” Dimitroff said at the NFL scouting combine. “As much as I think at times that we’d like to open up a little bit and think that we could add the challenging soul, it’s so nice as it is, and it’s so cohesive right now, that you don’t want to let go of how good we have it in the locker room.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog