Dimitroff says Falcons will be better (and he can enjoy it)

Given the way things went this off-season, Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank can both enjoy vacation.

Given this off-season, Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank can both enjoy vacation. (AP photo)

It was about a year ago this time when Thomas Dimitroff took his first vacation as a general manager.

Of course, he brought his laptop. Also, a stack of DVDs of players in the next draft. Also a cranium that must have felt like it was about to implode at any minute.

“I worked a lot, and took quite a bit of heat for that,” he said Wednesday. “I’d watch players. I’d study the league rules and the salary cap. I was still getting my feet wet. I was in uncharted territory as a general manager, so there was a little bit of apprehension not knowing what was around the corner. But, yeah, sometimes I’d would be there at 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, sitting and watching tape of a player, and thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

Dimitroff’s second vacation as the Falcons’ GM begins next week. Two weeks in Colorado and Montana. He’ll bring the laptop. And a stack of DVDs of players in next year’s draft. But, “I’ll be better this time,” he insisted.

The roster tweaks are done. The OTAs are over. After a first season in which almost nothing went wrong, Dimitroff just completed another off-season in which, well, nothing went wrong. Adding veteran offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry this week was the final addition, he said.

Did everything go as planned?

“Yes,” he said.

In retrospect, did you do anything wrong last year?

(Long pause.)

“I don’t think so. There was that one tie I wore to a certain game.”

He was trying to be funny. He’s really not that egotistical, even though after last season it would be understandable if his head were the size of Colorado or Montana.

The Falcons went 11-5 with a playoff berth. Expectations have gone from extraordinarily low to extraordinarily high, and Dimitroff doesn’t have a problem with that. He’s as excited about the offense and the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez as anybody. He believes the loss of five veterans from the defense, including Lawyer Milloy and Keith Brooking, isn’t a big deal. When asked about the youth and inexperience on defense, he said, “I can tell you that we as a staff will never be afraid to play our young players.”

One Matt Ryan-like rookie season will embolden a guy. And yes: He believes next year’s team will be even better.

“You’ll see improved speed and urgency on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We’ll definitely be an improved product.”

Last year, he had to clean up a mess, hire a coach, establish structure, set direction and tone. Relatively speaking, the past few months have been like sitting on the beach and drinking something out of a smoking coconut. He admits he now has a comfort level in the job that didn’t exist before. He and coach Mike Smith are in tune on personnel and salary cap issues, not always common for a GM and coach.

There is, “lucidity,” he said.

In year one, he felt compelled to be myopic: coach, roster purge, draft, free agency, scouting.

In year two, he said, “There’s more breathing room. I can look at things with more of a broad scope.”

He wanted to re-sign Michael Jenkins, Jonathan Babineaux and Chauncey Davis. He did. He wanted to bring in a veteran linebacker. He got Mike Peterson. He added a “quintessential team leader” in Gonzalez, then Newberry.

One other thing: “We didn’t want to have to spend the summer answering questions about Michael Vick.”

So Vick’s gone. Before vacation.

Colorado and Montana await. The laptop will make the trip. But maybe one night, he’ll just watch a movie.

101 comments Add your comment

Adam

June 17th, 2009
4:28 pm

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
4:29 pm

FIRST!!! …. Ah man. Late again.

Bangkapi Ajarn

June 17th, 2009
4:31 pm

Agree, he has taken his shot. The defense needed to be blown up, and it was in favor of youth and speed. This is a team built to surprise on occasion, get blown out in others, but improve over the course of time. The man earned his vacation! Good column.

lawton

June 17th, 2009
4:42 pm

i disagree with the comment above. the falcons are built like they were under dan reeves, to BE IN EVERY GAME. rarely will you see the birds blown out in a game with the type of systems they have in place on offense and defense. a ball control, play action offense, and a bend, but dont break defense, that blitzs in certain situations, will keep you in every game.

The Grinch

June 17th, 2009
4:45 pm

The sked is horrifying, but I do think even though the expectations are higher this team will still surprise. The offense will be sick, and the D will be good enough. We should be able to take the NFC South.

Bill

June 17th, 2009
4:48 pm

Damn great GM…Love his work.

Paul H

June 17th, 2009
4:52 pm

I can’t remember the last time someone has done so much in so little time. It’s exciting to see. Now that he doesn’t have to answer tired questions about Vick, the sky is the limit on what this guy can do.

Rowndman

June 17th, 2009
5:16 pm

The “smoking coconut” line was great. Can’t wait to see the falcons next year. Arthur Blank can finally breathe easy….

mountain_jim

June 17th, 2009
5:31 pm

Thanks for this column – I can’t wait for the season to start.

falcon fan

June 17th, 2009
5:33 pm

There is a method to the madness……….or shall we say to the process? Either way I like it…….Go Falcons!!!!

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
5:50 pm

BANGKAPI AJARN: Thanks.

THE GRINCH: If they go 11-5 again with this schedule, that will confirm they are a better team. Defense still concerns me, though. Games could be fun to watch – 35-28 every week!

PAULH: On point. If he accomplished that much in two seasons, people would’ve been overjoyed.

ROWNDMAN: Thanks. Could use one of those beverages right about now.

jimmy a

June 17th, 2009
6:14 pm

hey dont Fire Dimitroff

Blue Fender

June 17th, 2009
7:01 pm

Hopefully these young guys on defense will be hungry. There’s nothing like the feeling of loosing your job (or getting let go) to motivate someone!

wxwax

June 17th, 2009
7:11 pm

No-one’s mentioning the “I” word. That, and the schedule, are the only things which temper my optimism.

I imagine the young secondary will get blown-up from time to time. That happens. A healthy offense with the addition of Gonzalez may offset that.

Fingers crossed. It’s so nice to have an outfit that’s doing it right (I speak as a long-time Redskins fan who badly misses Jack Kent Cooke.)

Matt

June 17th, 2009
7:23 pm

Are d was awful last year, compensated by good o coming up with big plays and ball control. We gave up more than 40 years experience and in all that experience they could not come up with plays in crunch time. The eagles game with the gaff of a punt recovery, just let westbrook score. Week 14 saints game 3 minutes 3 timeouts and 2 minute warning O never saw ball again. Playoffs 3rd and 16 biggest mistake all year. Rookies can make those kind of mistakes. If a rookie let Anquan Boldin get wide open he at least has the speed to catch him before he gets a 72 yard td. Falcons will be about the same on d, but now we have room to improve great job Dimitroff.

Fulton Kuykendall

June 17th, 2009
7:28 pm

it is nice to see us returning to where we were almost 30 years ago….a solid, balanced team with a good running game. let’s just hope at some point Mr. Blank doesn’t think we need to make a change so we can get “over the hump.” It has taken almost 30 years to recover from that…..

Fulton Kuykendall

June 17th, 2009
7:29 pm

…’getting over the hump’ adjustment made by the Smith family.

william cranman

June 17th, 2009
7:35 pm

Please someone explain to me how our defense is going to be better next year. Peterson for Brooking is a wash. We are HOPING the draft picks will come in and be productive. May be they will maybe they won’t. Other than a fragile John Abraham, we still have no one that can rush the passer. I want the Falcons to be successful as much as anybody but the defense is still a huge concern. Great column Jeff.

Greg

June 17th, 2009
7:55 pm

I agree completely with william cranman. Hanging most of our pass rush hope an Abe is a formula for disaster. We were weak rushing the quarterback against strong O-lines last year. We will face stronger O-lines this year. Have we made the D-line provably stronger? I wonder. We had better put in a few more stunts and blitzes, or we’re going to struggle against the eight really good teams we have to play. I might add that the secondary is largely untested, and could very well be weaker without Foxworth. The LBs will be overall younger and quicker, but I would temper expectations about Peterson until we see what he can do. We look right now to be only marginally better at LB than last year. The conclusion: defense is still a major concern.

PUTTING ON THE FOIL

June 17th, 2009
8:07 pm

“Captain Crazy” was my kind of player. Heard he was in the medical field now.

Jimmy P.

June 17th, 2009
8:13 pm

Mr. GM, I live in Colorado. There is great fishing at 11 mile Lake in southern Colorado. Nice size trout, ave size is 18 to 24 inches long. Have a great vacation.

TROTTINGHOME

June 17th, 2009
8:36 pm

Now we sip cocktails and hope for one more reciever to emerge.

TROTTINGHOME

June 17th, 2009
8:37 pm

Now we sip cocktails and wait for one more reciever to emerge>

R. U. KIDDINME

June 17th, 2009
8:38 pm

Hey thomas don’t forget your shade’s…you know the future’s so bright ya gonna hafta wear’em!!! Oh and i believe i do i do i do!!!

Eagle83

June 17th, 2009
8:42 pm

There is one pro team in Atlanta that appears to be getting it right. I wish the rest would get a clue. Super Bowl!!!!

ha ha

June 17th, 2009
8:54 pm

countdown to a vick post……3…2….1

BugKiller

June 17th, 2009
9:01 pm

Jeff, if this defense were coached by the incompetent Willie Martinez, I may be worried.

But it’s not.

It’s coached by the incomparable BVG.

That’s right. Initials only. BVG will see it done.

I agree with Dimitroff. This defense WILL be better by subtracting all of the players who should have been let go years ago who had nothing left *cough-KeithBrooking-cough* and who were just dragging down the team with their slow play.

Fast and hungry. They can learn to be technically proficient from their coaches. But you can’t coach speed and the hunger to win.

There will be no more ankle tackles 5 yards past the line of scrimmage Jeff, like a certain number 56 became famous for the last 5 years or so.

Mike Smith and BVG are bringing aggressive, slobber-knocking football to the defense, just as Mularky brought it to the offense last year.

If the Falcons go 10-6 against this schedule, that’s proof they’re a better team.

Dave

June 17th, 2009
9:07 pm

Cranman and Greg, I think our D line will be much better this year… if they can stay healthy. Abe will be the same monster and likely face fewer double and triple teams because Peria is a much more aggressive force in disrupting the QB and making tackles for loss, and Babs is an extremely solid player and J Anderson, having worked with Chuck Smith recently and now in his third season, should be much improved. And with Davis, Biermann, and Lewis in rotation, we finally have excellent depth for the first time in a long time. If the sacks are not coming, we have much improved team speed to enable blitzing from almost anywhere. Sidbury will become a serious sack threat in time and our Linebackers, Corners, and Safeties are faster/quicker as a group. Add the coaching continuity factor in the mix and we should be better by our Bye and much better come playoff time. Our O should help our D by both managing the clock or playing ‘quick score’ if need be. With all due respect to Milloy, Grady, and Brooking, ‘The Process’ has begun. In Dimitroff and Smith We Trust.

Matty Ice-man

June 17th, 2009
9:19 pm

I think the defense will be a “work-in-progress” but that is better than the crap-D that Falcons had last year – the defense will be improved – it just may not seem like it because the schedule will be so much tougher.

Matty Ice-man

June 17th, 2009
9:20 pm

Jeff, looking at your mug up above this column – how many different colors do you have in your beard? I count at least six

falconidiot

June 17th, 2009
9:21 pm

I believe when we get into camp the focus will become our LBs in pass coverage, maybe Thomas will give it some thought on his vacation. This will be the teams weakness if they have one, if the safety’s are better than expected they can sceem around it. Your not going to run on this defense and the pressure in the backfield will improve our secondary. The shocker this year will be how good our defense is. Bring the NFC Championship game to the Ga Dome.

Whopper Dawg

June 17th, 2009
9:22 pm

I think they will be better, second year in the same system, same coaches, second year for Ryan – It was well put in the intro, I think that fine tuning is a bit strong as the D was essentially overhauled, but they are spending time improving rather than figuring out where they are. Just the simple fact they know who the QB is and that Vick is gone is HUGE in terms of focus and improvement.

I think he D will be better also, Jerry is going to be quite good and can pass rush some, so DL should be improved, LBs will be same to better, safetys will be same to better, I am worried about the corners though, some one is going to have to come through.

Offense could be unstoppable. No team had all pros at two of the three following positions, WR, RB and TE except the Falcons and with Tony G, now we had all pros at all three. Throw in Ryan’s rookie of the year and that is pretty impressive. I think 10 and 6 worse case.

Mark "the tank"Turner

June 17th, 2009
9:24 pm

I am so very excited about the upcoming season! Analyst are being a bit negative, as they were last preseason, but it shows what they don’t know. TD and coach Smith are gonna build a name for themselves.

Ryder

June 17th, 2009
9:24 pm

In spite of last year’s surprising season, what we all have to remember is that Atlanta is still in a rebuilding process. It was just that the unexpected acceleration of Matt Ryan’s success along with Turner took Atlanta to surprising success.

That said, I like the moves that Dmitroff has made on defense, beginning to put their own stamp on the players they like. Also, with the daunting schedule Atlanta has to play it is a great thing that Atlanta beefed up their offense to the point where they will have to score at least 27 a game against teams like the Eagles, Patriots, and Cowboys, not to mention that the Saints will be a threat as well.

That said, I expect Atlanta to be 9-7 at worst and 11-5 if some breaks go their way.

Jack G.

June 17th, 2009
9:27 pm

With all this great mind power in the organization, I still cant figure why we are hanging onto Jamal Anderson. Either trade him or release him. He is doing nothing but taking up a spot on the roster. Comes a time when you bite the bullet and just take your loss and move on.

k483

June 17th, 2009
9:56 pm

Fair enough, Jeff, but how much better will the other teams in our division be? They haven’t been sitting on their hands this off-season.

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
9:59 pm

JIMMY A: That’ sound advice.

WILLIAM: Thanks. I think T.D. is counting on added speed compensating or experience. As I’ve written before, that’s a risky proposition. It’s one of those things where the defense should get better as the season goes on, but there could be several mistakes, blown coverages, and the win total will depend how explosive the offense is.

MATTY ICEMAN: I have the 64 Crayola box (with the sharpener).

JACK G. : It’s not like the Falcons have great DLs behind Anderson waiting for their turn. They’re thin. But if Jamaal doesn’t show something soon, he’ll be gone. Remember, Dimitroff didn’t draft him.

Nate

June 17th, 2009
9:59 pm

Paul H – What about Bill Parcells in Miami???

Volman

June 17th, 2009
10:28 pm

Great article Mr. Schultz! Keep the POSITIVE ones coming out! Not everything has to be so negative!

Gator Nation

June 17th, 2009
10:30 pm

Good Lord Dimitroff…..get those legs in the sun. You may blind one of our players during practice causing a freak injury.

Go Gators…..Go Falcons

eddiedawg

June 17th, 2009
10:44 pm

Can’t wait for the year to start. And you know what’s even better? There has hardly been any MV7 banter on this blog-finally. No Vick Supporter 2 sure is nice.

GO FALCONS!

JM

June 17th, 2009
10:54 pm

Jerry is going to make a HUGE difference for this defense. Unlike Grady Jackson, he can get into the backfield on passing plays with consistency. With he and Babineaux, we’ve got two tackles who will provide excellent penetration and make the job a lot easier for our ends. I’d still like to see us start Chauncey Davis opposite Abraham and involve Jamaal Anderson in the tackle rotation with Jerry and Babineaux. That would make us extremely athletic at tackle and give more playing time to Davis and Kroy Biermann, who to this point have both proven themselves to be better at getting to the quarterback than Anderson. Anderson could slide back to end whenever needed, but I like him in that swingman role more than strictly playing end. Hopefully that’s something Smith and BVG will look at.

VICK SUPPORTER 2

June 17th, 2009
11:22 pm

WHY ARE THE NON-VICK POST ARE ALWAYS LESS THAN A PAGE :)

OKAY VICK IS GONE – LET’S GET SOME UNASSISTED SELL-OUTS THIS SEASON :)

VICK SUPPORTER 2

June 17th, 2009
11:28 pm

“THE CAT KILLER” – WHAT A SADISTIC “THUG” :)

Tron5000

June 18th, 2009
12:26 am

Last time I got my hopes up for back-to-back winning seasons, I was horribly disappointed. And my dad and grandfather have had season tickets since Day 1, 1966. We’ve seen lots of bad football.

Come on, guys. At least give me 9 wins. Like, seriously, that’s all I ask. It’s all I ask, but I want more.

SKYROCK

June 18th, 2009
2:45 am

Our D will be better than they were last year, & look how far they took the Falcons!!! We got rid of the ones that got burned in the play-offs. I can’t wait for the season to begin!!!

truth-serum

June 18th, 2009
4:12 am

I just want more free tickets during the Vick out…I mean black out…opps I mean when you cant sell tickets because you have shown yourself unloyal, and dedicated to redneck sports. When that that qb leads the leaque in handoffs to turner and norwood.

Does anybody really care about the ATLANTA PETA NASCAR BUBBA ASSOCIATION FALCONS?

truth-serum

June 18th, 2009
4:17 am

VICK SUPPORTER 2

June 17th, 2009
11:28 pm

NOW ITS OK TO KILL CATS, DUDE THEY ARE FROM KENTUCKY AND THEY ARE WILD. ALSO OBAMA IS ON PROBATION FROM MEDIA BEGGING PETA FOR KILLING A FLY. IF HE HAD TRAINED THE FLYS TO FIGHT AND KILLED THE WEAK ONES THEN HE WOULD BE CHARGED WITH FELONY CREULTY TO INSCECTS. IT CARRYS 5 TO LIFE IF HE USES A FIREARM OR SWATTER IN THE COMMISION OF THE CRIME.

DID YOU GET TICKET TO THE UFC BLOODNIGHT… I MEAN FIGHT…?

Political Man

June 18th, 2009
4:20 am

What comes through loud and clear is just how mush incompetance there is in most organizations and it is not even seen. Is Dimitroff a genius. NO. He’s smart, organized, & can make decisions. Apparently that is rare. Maybe he should have taken over GM last yr, instead of the Falcons

truth-serum

June 18th, 2009
4:29 am

Dimitroff says Falcons will be better (and he can enjoy it)

YEP, HE AND THE REDNECK BUBBA POSSE.

TURNER THE LEAGUE MVP RUNNER UP AND NORWORD WILL DO ALL THE WORK AND AFTER 16 GAMES THEY WILL BE SPENT TEAMS WILL KEY ON THEM AND BELLY UP IN THE FIRST ROUND.

WE SHOULD HAVE STAYED WITH VICK!!