EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff addresses concerns

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have been in nonstop meetings. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have been in nonstop meetings. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Since returning from the playoff loss to the New York Giants, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has gone through two days of non-stop meetings with head coach Mike Smith and other members of the football operations department.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday evening, Dimitroff discussed his spending on free agents Dunta Robinson and Ray Edwards, the Julio Jones trade, quarterback Matt Ryan, what the team will be looking for in a new defensive coordinator and how they’ll attain a breakthrough in the playoffs.

Q: As you’ve had some time to reflect, what are your thoughts on how the season ended?

A: We came into this season with very strong expectations both internally and externally. We made some aggressive moves both in the draft and free agency. Our expectations were for us to be very productive on both the offensive and defensive sides [of the ball]. We had a solid regular-season by finishing 10-6. We had an opportunity to get into the second season and once again, unfortunately, we came up short in the playoffs. That leaves us all, once again, with a bad taste in our mouths.

Q: How would you evaluate the money spent over the last few years in free agency on cornerback Dunta Robinson and defensive end Ray Edwards?

A: First of all, we were aggressive with the acquisition of Dunta Robinson. Our expectations were for Dunta to come in here and have a presence as a physical corner, help us make plays on the ball and prevent teams from racking up a lot of yards against this defense. Dunta has shown that he can produce for us. Unfortunately, this year our defense was inconsistent and at times so was Dunta. I still believe that we’re getting solid production out of Dunta Robinson in his game. With Ray Edwards, our thought was to bring a defensive end into our organization who brought elements of grit, toughness and competitiveness. We feel strongly that he has done that. He was outstanding [against] the run. He had a presence that we haven’t had at left defensive end in the run game this year. As per his pass rush numbers, obviously both he and we would have liked his pass rush numbers to up around the eight to 10 area. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition. But again, we’re confident that Ray can come back next year with one more year under his belt; with a different system and produce for us.

Q: How do you evaluate the offensive line, especially considering a comparison to a year ago?

A: Unfortunately, for the offensive line we started out with challenges. We struggled in Chicago early on in the season and Matt [Ryan] was exposed to a number of hits that he shouldn’t [have been] exposed to. With that said, we settled down well. We made appropriate adjustments along the way during the season. That enabled us to protect Matt better with each game. We finished sixth overall in sacks allowed so we definitely saw a marked improvement as the season progressed. With that said, we still need to develop as an offensive line. We need to make sure that we get the toughness and physicality out of the offense that we desire from year-to-year. It’s a very, very important part of our offense. We need to continue to protect our franchise-quarterback and we need to continue to move the defensive line so that we’re able to provide holes and opportunities for our run game; be that six inches or six yards.

Q: What’s your view of Matt Ryan in comparison to the league’s best – Aaron Rodgers, Peyton and Eli Manning and Drew Brees?

A: I’m very impressed with Matt Ryan and how he continues to grow from year-to-year. I think he continued to grow this year. I thought he had a fine season. As you know, Matt had the franchise-mark for passing yards this year. I thought he navigated through some difficult times and some challenges with some of our inconsistencies with our offense this year. He stayed positive and he continued to produce well. I think in my mind, there is no doubt that Matt Ryan is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Q: Can the running game be what you need it to be with Michael Turner, considering all of his carries over the last few years?

A: Michael continues to produce well for us. He amassed over 1,300 yards for us for the second straight season. When we have called his number, he’s stepped up and got the tough yards. We’ll always continue to evaluate our running game to see what we need to [improve in order] to have a multi-faceted and versatile football team; both in the run and the pass game.

Q: In hindsight, was giving up all of the (five) picks for Julio Jones worth it?

A: We said when we made the very aggressive move on Julio Jones, that this was not only a move for the here-and-the-now. This was a move for long term success of this organization and I believe 100 percent in what we did being the right move for this organization at this time in our evolution. Obviously, Julio Jones had a standout season for a rookie. He had more touchdown grabs — [eight] — than any rookie this year. Despite missing three games, he had the most prolific season for a Falcons rookie in our team history. We are very confident that he’ll continue to grow with Matt in this offense. He’ll continue to be a standout football player and help us produce for years to come.

Q: Can this defense, as constructed, compete for the Super Bowl title?

A: I believe that our defense has continued to improve since 2008. Obviously, there are still areas that we can improve upon. We need to continue to pressure the quarterback. We need to continue to get our hands on balls and capitalize on interceptions. With that said, I love the tenacity of this defense. I’m encouraged by the direction of this defense. Like I’ve said since the very beginning in 2008, we will always continue to look to see where we can upgrade our talent across the depth chart and specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: What will you all look for in your new defensive coordinator?

A: I appreciate everything that Brian VanGorder has done for this team over the last four years. He’s put his heart and soul into helping to create a very aggressive and passionate defense. I personally appreciate that. Moving forward, this defense needs to continue its growth and evolution as a passionate and fiery defense, one that is going to fly to the football, disrupt, be opportunistic and capitalized on opportunities to turn the game around; flip the game in critical situations. We’ll look for a coordinator who will compliment Coach Smith and his approach to putting that type of aggressive defense on the field. Obviously, that coordinator is going to work hand-and-hand with Mike Smith in helping to create a very aggressive defense. Our hope is that we will, in the very near future, land that individual who we think is very appropriate with his approach to helping this defense grow.

Q: What has to happen differently for the Atlanta Falcons to have a breakthrough in the playoffs?

A: As a general manager, it’s my responsibility to step back and analyze what went on throughout the football operations. Not only on-the-field, but off-the-field as well; in the personnel department and from a coaching perspective. I believe that myself and Mike Smith will have [many] discussions, along with Arthur Blank to discuss what we need to change and what we need to adjust moving forward. This team needs to continue to be much more focused and consistent on offense in all facets of the game. Both in the offseason and in-season. We need to be an opportunistic football team through and through. I am, as well as Mr. Blank and Mike Smith, are very driven to make the adjustments needed to provide the fan base with a team that they can be proud of.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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369 comments Add your comment

GMal

January 10th, 2012
8:07 pm

Make some DB MOVES!!!

UcantCLA

January 10th, 2012
8:08 pm

Ask him when he’s firing Mularky.

GMal

January 10th, 2012
8:08 pm

We have to upgrade at Safety, without question. The Colts, Saints, Pats and Packers all had 5 and 6 options on offense, passing wise. Our secondary has to improve.

UcantCLA

January 10th, 2012
8:10 pm

And ask him how LSU got Mularkys game plan from Sunday.

Dimitroff is at fault

January 10th, 2012
8:14 pm

Who let Dahl walk?
Who drafted Sam Baker?

The guy with the soul patch

waynester

January 10th, 2012
8:15 pm

Rather verbose without really saying much of anything…not that I expect him to give too much away, but I expect more detail and I believe the fans deserve more explanation than he’s provided. Part of that is on you, DOL—you’ve got to provoke meatier responses, somehow, even at the cost of irritating TD by being more adversarial…

Dimitroff is at fault

January 10th, 2012
8:15 pm

Who traded everything for a Wide Receiver when we’ve known for years that Ryan like short passing? (And had doubts for years that Ryan could be effective throwing it deep?)

The young genius

Dimitroff is at fault

January 10th, 2012
8:17 pm

Who thought the pass rush problems would be solved by Ray Edwards?

The guy who loves “grit, toughness and competitiveness” more than sacks apparently

Konehead

January 10th, 2012
8:19 pm

He’s either holding back or clueless…. either way it’s sad!!!

Henry D.

January 10th, 2012
8:21 pm

What a load of crap! If everything he claims in this softball lob of an interview was true, we would have beat the Giants by 3 touchdowns. Dunta has been a flop. Ray edwards was a flop. The offensive line is a joke and the offensive coordinator couldn’t call plays for a pee wee team in a pinch.

Maybe New England will take Dimitroff back. Oh, that’s right, they aren’t playing the Falcons this week.

Dimitroff is at fault

January 10th, 2012
8:22 pm

This Mularkey bashing is great for Dimitroff.

Of course, a successful QB sneak is about “coaching”, yeah right?!?!?
A QB sneak is not about STRENGTH and PLAYERS, is it?

Mularkey’s Steeler teams threw deep all the time, successfully too. I’m sure that when we saw those open receivers on our TV on Sunday… it was because Mularkey told Capt. Dink N Dunk Ryan to NOT throw it down the field… and take the checkdown every time.

denverfalcon

January 10th, 2012
8:23 pm

I’m intrigued by TD’s comment about Ray Edwards. “He was outstanding verses the run. He had a presence that we haven’t had at left defensive end in the run game this year.” Wasn’t our previous DE, Mr. Anderson, pretty stout against the run. I wonder if we should’ve saved the money and stuck with Bierman or Sidbury at DE.

Falcons4Eva

January 10th, 2012
8:23 pm

Let Talk Facts Mr. Dimitroff:

Week 1 Falcons Lost @ Chicago Bears
L 30-12 – This offense could not even score a touch down. Not 1

Week 3 Falcons Lost @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
L 16-13 Are you kidding me? 13 points against the Bucs??

Week 5 Falcons Lost vs. Green Bay Packers
L 25-14 This was suppose to be our “revenge” game. Instead, got beat again!

Week 13 Falcons Lost @ Houston Texans
L 17-10 In a game against a Rookie QB. Our offense only scored 10 points. Horrible.

Week 16 Falcons Lost @ New Orleans Saints
L 45-16 In a game that really showed just how far we have fallen behind the Saints!

Week 18 Falcons Lost @ New York Giants
L 24-2 And finally, This game really tells all.

Its time for a change sir. Either YOU or Mularkey must Go! Period.

These losses shows just how horrible this offensive coordinator was. We cannot forget. I won’t forget, Nor will I renew my season tickets until you do something about it. BVG was a start! !
Mike Mularkey should be next.

O'Brien

January 10th, 2012
8:25 pm

I was not impressed by TD’s responses. it sounded like typical GM speak to me.

Dunta Robinson playing well? Aggressiveness of the defense (dont we play zone), and the list goes on.

I dont blame him for his responses, but I was hoping for more.

Gray Mule

January 10th, 2012
8:26 pm

Everything fell apart last season against Green Bay. Same resulte this year against
Eli and his Giants. How can this happen? What is wrong? Why can’t we be competetive
in the big games?
Losing the game is one thing. Losing two years in a row in this manner – - Unacceptable.

Falcons4Eva

January 10th, 2012
8:28 pm

Mr. Dimitroff, with all due respect sir, your statment “We had a solid regular-season by finishing 10-6″

How in the he!! do you call beating a bunch of teams without a winning record and teams with rookie quarterbacks. “solid”? How do you lose to good teams with winning records? 10-6 against bad teams is not solid. Sir – you are sadly mistaken and a fool. We are not buying in to your SPIN!

Sam Baker – a bust.
Ray Edward – a bust
Peria Jerry – a bust
Donta Robinson – over paid. teatering on a bust.
and there are more.

gman

January 10th, 2012
8:30 pm

Mr. Dimitroff,

We all understand that you have to be politically correct with your statements but yet again, it sounds as though there is no fire in the belly. Every body’s is NOT doing fine. The defense that BVG used was NOT aggressive. If this was Smitty’s plan and it’s going to continue, we have to assume that will will continue to NOT be aggressive. Dunta and Edwards did NOT play well. Can’t anybody show us that there is REAL disappointment with our team and REAL solutions on the way not just more soft shoe talk?

jonk facons fan

January 10th, 2012
8:31 pm

There is alot to be changed..defence is a must, offense, special aid team, coaches o yeah, head coach ?

Konehead

January 10th, 2012
8:32 pm

@Falcon4Eva and O’Brien… you’re on the same page as I am! Let’s just see if he believes what he said himself or will he make the needed changes.

Falcon Fan

January 10th, 2012
8:32 pm

He said just what I expected..nothing. He took up for the players and team..just spin talk are better know as BS. GM’s never speak the truth about their team or players.
M TD you better make some damn changes are you may not have any fans. Get a new OC..fix the O-line and secondary..get another running back with some speed and hire Ernest Byner to coach backs.. Put White on the road. Pray for rain!

James

January 10th, 2012
8:35 pm

Okay…..I agree we need to move MM. Get and agressive DC. Get some CB help and Depth. Get a safety. Get DL help. Get a pass rusher. Abe on his way out. We need a RB that can change directions and can catch. Trade Turner while there’s value. Also, if Ryan doesnt have a big year next year I say trade him while that can because it obvious he is not accuarate or has the long ball. All elite teams are throwing the ball.

Harpie

January 10th, 2012
8:39 pm

As John McEnroe once said: ” Would you please ANSWER THE QUESTION?!!!! “. That interview was a waste of time – he didn’t say a single substantial thing….

Falcons4Eva

January 10th, 2012
8:39 pm

If this is all this GM can do is put SPIN on things – then there is really nothing else that can be said. The bloom has fallen off this GM. He is showing his Incompetence. His inability to perform; lack of competence; ineptitude.

FIRE Mularkey. And if you can’t do any better with evaluating talent…FIRE YOURSELF ! !

AtlNative

January 10th, 2012
8:41 pm

Are you serious….

This is EXACTLY why we are losers in this town…
If you are going to let guys get away with these softball, nothing to see here, answers, then why even do the interview.
Our media has got to step up and not accept these kinds of weak answers…
You actually let this guy say that the Falcons were
1. Happy with Dunta Robinson (are you serious?)
2. Happy with Ray Edwards grittiness and toughness (WTF????)
3. Impressed with Matt Ryan (who clearly regressed this year)
4. Love the tenacity of the defense (coach/front office speak for they didn’t do anything but be tenacious)
5. Thinks Turner contributed greatly to the team (even though his yards per carry are abysmal and he seems to get slower and heavier every year)
6. Ohhh and my favorite – thinks Ryan is a top 10 QB in the league…. based on what exactly? That he beats under 500 teams?

All around a bad job. We as fans, and the media as our voice, have to take these guys to task when they spout this pollyanna BS NONSENSE.
Our offense scored 0 points Sunday….. 0 POINTS!!!!!
Not against a world beater defense, against the suspect GIANTS!!!
Are you F*ing serious with this trash???

I realize that no coach or front office guy is willingly going to give straight answers, but this crap would not fly in any other city the size of Atlanta. These guys have to answer for this TRASH….
Thomas Dimitroff has missed WAY TOO MANY TIMES on his picks, and, even though I think Julio will be a hell of a player in the league, what good does it do to draft a stud wide receiver with a QB that can’t throw 20 yards down the field?

I am sorry man, but I am PISSED. and maybe, just maybe, if other people would get pissed too, and start telling these guys that when they answer questions this way it is BS, maybe something would change.

No wonder no big time guys want to come and play in Atlanta, maybe we are just a joke in the sports world.

tyger

January 10th, 2012
8:42 pm

Falcon Fans Rise Up!!!

- If Mgt. can’t make the tough decisions, rise up!
- If Mgt. stands behind a scoreless QB, rise up!
- If Mgt. bypasses another Heisman QB, rise up!
- If Mgt. produces an inferior product, rise up!
- If Mgt. sells an inferior/defective product, rise up!
- If you were humiliated Sunday, rise up!
- If you value your hard earned $, rise up!
- If you cant take it anymore, rise up!
- If your’e tired of being sick and tired, rise up!
- Why support their half-a$$ efforts???

bill

January 10th, 2012
8:42 pm

Mr Dimitroff,
First you must not have watched the same games as I did. The Falcons are not a play-off team. They were luck to go 10-6 this year. I give you credit for being a very smart person. Don’t down talk the fans. You and Smith have a lot of problems to fix..do your damn job!

fred

January 10th, 2012
8:46 pm

The same bs we get from sorry azz Braves GM…

Rollo Lawson

January 10th, 2012
8:48 pm

I tired of this front office talking to us like we are dumb. This team underperformed from the front office to coaches to players. He says something negative about everyone except Ryan. He was just as inconsistent as anybody. Just come out and say it. Don’t pee in face and then try to call it rain. We are not falling for this “its a process” B.S. anymore.

Loserville USA

January 10th, 2012
8:55 pm

STOP SPINNING TD AND DRAFT AND OFFENSIVE LINE.

1976 – Dave Scott
1977 – Warren Bryant, R.C. Thielmann
1978 – Mike Kenn

BEST OL IN FALCONS HISTORY and it made Bartkowski an ELITE QB.

Listen to history pal.

Rollo Lawson

January 10th, 2012
8:56 pm

This B.S. softball interview/response would not fly in a market like New York, Philly, Chicago, or Boston. The reason why they put this inferior ish on the field is because they can. The local media refuses to hold their feet to the fire. This crap is pure sickening.

tyger

January 10th, 2012
8:56 pm

Why do I feel like I’m being BS!

Rich

January 10th, 2012
8:56 pm

Our defense finished 12th in the league this year (out of 32 teams) and we decide that’s where our problems are. That’s just funny. In fact it’s too ludicrous to be believed. I think CVG just wanted to get out of the mess.

waynester

January 10th, 2012
8:57 pm

tyger
good one….

James

January 10th, 2012
8:58 pm

I AGREE WITH TYGER WE NEED TO RISE UP TRUST ME THE STAFF BUT IMPORTANTLY ARTHUR BLANK READS AND CARES WHAT THE FAN THINKS!

Regression

January 10th, 2012
8:58 pm

Your team is DULL and BORING! Dimitroff drinking his own kool-aid.

Rollo Lawson

January 10th, 2012
8:59 pm

At least they Hawks can beat good teams (chicago an miami) and show freaking heart and pride when they play the best.

James

January 10th, 2012
8:59 pm

BLANKS CARES WHAT WE THINK KEEP POSTING GUYS!

James

January 10th, 2012
8:59 pm

KEEP POSTING GUYS

James

January 10th, 2012
9:00 pm

10 YEAR SEASON TICKET HOLDER TIRED OF THE BS

fansince74

January 10th, 2012
9:00 pm

One thing is for certain: The Falcons are consistently better then they used to be. I know we are disappointed with this year but we no longer have seasons that look like this:
5-11
4-12
7-9
9-6-1
5-11
11-5
8-8
7-9
4-12

Those records are the 9 seasons before the current administration. The Falcons may not be where we want them to be just yet but they are not what they used to be.

James

January 10th, 2012
9:00 pm

I WORK TOO HARD TO THROW AWAY $$$$$$$$$

James

January 10th, 2012
9:01 pm

WE NEED PLAYOFF WINDS AND AGRESSIVE PLAY CALLING BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL!

James

January 10th, 2012
9:02 pm

Todd A.

January 10th, 2012
9:03 pm

A whole lot of words without saying anything of consequence. Are these the same answers he’s given to Mr. Blank? if so, he should be given his walking papers.

Michael M.

January 10th, 2012
9:04 pm

I had to come on and say this :

They was trying to fix the problems back after the first few games remember ?
Halfway through the Season they were fixing other problems , remember ?
Towards the end of the Season they thought it was all fixed until the MNF game, remember ?
Then after Tampa game, last of Season, they thought they had everything fixed, remember ?
Then the playoff fiasco loss, and they still say they need to fix it, remember ?

So now here it is, off Season, and they going to try to fix everything again………now this is starting to get too darn funny ! as I said its the Off Season, and they going to get everything fixed and so and so and so and so…………………… you know what ? Us Fans are going to be sitting here this time next year and they ” STILL GOING TO BE TRYING TO FIX THINGS “…………as a old song use to have these lyrics, ” and the beat goes onnnnnnnnn and the beat goes onnn “, same old song, same old story, just a different day !

See yahsssssssssss sometime another !

Rollo Lawson

January 10th, 2012
9:07 pm

fansince74, just stfu, please!!! Fans like you are what’s keeping this b.s. going. Praying on your loyalty and naive thinking. Stop settling for less. Being, a fan since 1974, you ought to be mad as heck.

Regression

January 10th, 2012
9:08 pm

On point Tyger. This interview was basically worthless. He picked the wrong time to pull the positive spin on us fans. We need a good dose of the truth to move forward from here.

doggoneit

January 10th, 2012
9:11 pm

We cant win if we cant put points on the board! We need a line that can protect the QB …… Defense was fine.

waynester

January 10th, 2012
9:12 pm

fansince74
I’m an old geezer who has loved this team since it was announced in ‘64 and believe me, we realize fully how improved the entire organization is under Dimitroff. My complaint is with this interview specifically. The Falcons are at or nearing a major crossroads. They’re trying to expand the fanbase beyond Georgia into a franchise with a national following like DAL NE GB etc. I can live with a certain amount of “spin” if it helps further those goals, but we long-time supporters deserve, expect and demand more from our GM and local sports press. That’s why I took Ledbetter to task in my previous post and it’s clear I’m not the only one wanting more. This blog is going to blow up with more posters saying exactly the same. I expect much more forthcoming responses tomorrow from Mr. B’s state of the franchise media event…..

SCFALCON

January 10th, 2012
9:13 pm

Vanilla. As usual.

It is obvious the questions were sent to him and he prepared the responses. If only we put that much though into a gameplan.

How can we have the the results from Sunday and there be nothing wrong? Somebody grow a pair and say something.