Dimitroff returns to New England (and who has better team now?)

Arthur Blank made the right decision when he hired Thomas Dimitroff away from New England to run his team. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

Arthur Blank made the right decision when he hired Thomas Dimitroff from New England to run his team. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

FLOWERY BRANCH — A few months after he left New England to take a job with the Falcons — who were less an NFL franchise at the time than they were a series of spontaneous lab explosions — Thomas Dimitroff received a package in the mail. It seems the Patriots had shipped him a belated going-away present, something Dimitroff embraced even more than a bottle of ibuprofen.

“I went to the Super Bowl that year and I was still kind of carrying the Patriots in my pocket at the time, hoping they would win,” the Falcons’ general manager said. “One day, I get an AFC Championship ring in the mail. They didn’t have to do that. I had left them. But it speaks to the class of that organization.”

Dimitroff has three rings (two Super Bowl, one AFC title) from his days in the Patriots’ personnel department. He’s working on his first with the Falcons but it’s kind of early. A roster makeover and the hiring of coach Mike Smith orchestrated last year’s unlikely 11-5 season and run to the playoffs.

And how strange is this? As the Falcons prepare for their game at New England this week, they are 2-0 and viewed as the young NFL team on the rise, while the Patriots are 1-1 (and fortunate to not be 0-2) and being beat up by fans and media for mediocrity on the defensive side of the ball and the relatively pedestrian play of Tom Brady. New England won its opener only because a Buffalo player fumbled a kickoff that he didn’t have to return (leading to a Patriots touchdown). They lost Sunday to the New York Jets, after which coach Bill Belichick admitted several times he was “outcoached.”

We should insert here that these aren’t Dimitroff’s observations. He takes nothing negative from the Patriots’ start. “They’re the last team that you should ever count out,” he said.

Nonetheless, there is some irony.

Even with losing rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry for the season, people are jumping on the Falcons’ bandwagon and off the Patriots’. Matt Ryan’s quarterback rating of 108.5 ranks third in the league. Brady’s 76.8 ranks 22nd. Then again, he also has three Super Bowl rings. We’re five seasons removed from the last one but only two years removed from the undefeated regular season that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. So it’s probably a bit premature to project the living room is about to collapse into the basement.

This game means something a little extra to Dimitroff, but not in any grudge sense. He left on great terms. (Why else would Kraft mail an ex-employee a $15,000 ring?) Personnel chief Scott Pioli (now with Kansas City) was his mentor and close friend. Belichick made every draft pick look good. Kraft was generous. That’s why when Falcons owner Arthur Blank hired him, Dimitroff promised himself he would not try to take anybody from the Patriots with him.

“I was very mindful when I left the Patriots of not going against the grain, jumping into their roster or their personnel department, talking to coaches or adminstration people and saying, ‘Hey, come with me,’” he said. “That was out of respect for Bill and Scott and ultimately the Krafts. It was more like, ‘OK, I learned a lot. Let’s go down there and set up shop. Let’s take the principles I’ve learned there, but not the bodies and the minds.”

He would like to have seen Pioli this weeks, but points out, “If he wasn’t with the Chiefs, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the [Tony] Gonzalez deal done.”

He still refers to the Patriots as the “blueprint franchise.” He still has friends there. But, “I won’t be going up and down their sideline, high-fiving people. I’m mindful of what’s understood there. Your side of the field is your side of the field.”

Not a problem. The Falcons’ side might be the better place to be right now.

60 comments Add your comment


September 21st, 2009
6:55 pm

Dimitroff may be the best hire in Falcon history.


September 21st, 2009
6:56 pm

Yes I prefer the falcons sideline at this point…..


September 21st, 2009
6:57 pm

Darn >.>
CBN I’d have to agree with that.


September 21st, 2009
6:57 pm

Hiring TD was the probably the best move by the organization EVER. Sympathies go out to Jerry. Lets hope Walker can fill in good. Should be a great game, Falcons by 3.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 21st, 2009
6:58 pm

This game should tell us a lot about where both teams stand. Should be interesting.


September 21st, 2009
7:02 pm

“The Falcons’ side might be the better place to be right now.”

Jeff – Reputations are made in the NFL after New Years Day, not between Labor Day and Halloween.

Maybe (and I hope) the Falcons will do well when it counts, but you do not get a ring and get to wear a cap for beating Miami and Carolina at home in September.

Nobody cares or remembers who was in “a better place” 2 weeks into the season – I know blogging requires constant comment, but can you at least wait until the Falcons beat the Pats (or maybe even wait until they beat the Saints) to state whether the Falcons live in the preferred neighborhood?

Bull Butter

September 21st, 2009
7:21 pm

Lock and load.Go Falcons.

Ted Striker

September 21st, 2009
7:42 pm

No idea whether the Falcons are better than the Pats however neither has female “Cage Dancers” like the Cowboys.


This is all very fascinating to me. If regular fans get cage dancers — what do luxury box ticketholders get? Lap dances? Cheerleader locker-room cam? Happy Ending?

Reality Time

September 21st, 2009
7:44 pm

Hey Dan, who licked the red off your candy?

Bad News

September 21st, 2009
7:45 pm

You guys must be on crack – you can’t hold the Patriots jock :)


September 21st, 2009
7:59 pm

Bad News, you seem to be hung up on jocks, could you be high from sniffing Vick’s jock?


September 21st, 2009
8:01 pm

Bad News you can’t hold Mike Vicks jock because you got your hands on whats suppose to be in his jock!!



September 21st, 2009
8:03 pm

Enter your comments hereThanks Mr Blanks, Thomas Dimitoff An Coach Smith I am prowd of you and all the Falcons players Good Luck


September 21st, 2009
8:05 pm

Never thought I would say this, but I actually like our chances with the Patriots. Losing Peria is going to hurt us, but the Pat’s defense isn’t what it used to be and they’ve really gotten away from the running game. Unless our secondary falls apart, I think we’re looking mighty good this week.


September 21st, 2009
8:08 pm

Thomas Dimitroff is the best thing to ever happen to this franchise. Thank you SO MUCH Michael Vick for going to prison, Petrino for quitting, and Bill Parcells for spurning/ sparing us and making all this possible…Arthur Blank stumbled on a football genius….and a class act at that


September 21st, 2009
8:15 pm

bad news stick to ur predictions falcons r going 4-12 right??????????????/ well thats just bad news

An Observation

September 21st, 2009
8:23 pm

“Bad News”….your redundant comments are becoming “OLD NEWS”.

If you had watched any of the Patriots first two games, EVEN YOU, would know (doubt that you would ever admit it though) the Patriots can be beat this year. In fact, they should be 0-2 right now instead of 1-1!!!!


September 21st, 2009
8:31 pm

Bad News, although I know your heart isn’t in the right place, I tend to agree that we are unproven. As someone stated this game should tell alot about the makeup of our team. Although this may not be the NE squad that we are used to seeing in the past.The game should prove interesting. I think my beloved Falcons will be triumphant by a TD. Falcons 21-14. Hate to see Peria hurt. Seems like a quality young man.

Jeff Schultz

September 21st, 2009
8:37 pm

Dan — I agree about teams being defined in December. Doesn’t mean you can’t answer the question how the team compare today.

matt r

September 21st, 2009
9:02 pm

Nooo!!!! I will remember the first time that I read the Falcons might be in better shape than the Patriots, and point to this as the moment where the season turned disastrous. Thanks for the jinx!


September 21st, 2009
9:08 pm

Reality Time

Sorry I am not more fired up (yet)

I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 70s – the expectations are set a little higher for some franchises


September 21st, 2009
9:40 pm

I am disappointed in BAD NEWS…..he didn’t even mention Matt Ryan and his “noodle arm”…..c’mon, are you slipping??? IDIOT.

Falcons roll in Foxboro Sunday. Pats can’t hold OUR jocks. Get on board now-there’s plenty of room.

Reid Adair

September 21st, 2009
9:44 pm

History is on the Patriots’ side (at least semi-recent history), but for the here and now, the Falcons are in better shape.

Thomas Dimitroff was a fantastic hire by Arthur Blank. When you look back at where this organization was prior to his hire and where it is now, the change is amazing.


September 21st, 2009
10:23 pm

The Patriots are not a team to be counted out… We DO NOT have a defense like the Jets (although our offense is probably better) the more Brady plays, the more comfortable he is going to get. Please Falcons, do not forget who we are playing… don’t look at stats, standings, or anything like that. Let’s go to work and get ready for a TOUGH game


September 21st, 2009
10:31 pm

Dan, you sound like a fun guy to hang out with. Relax and have fun with the fact that the Falcons are looking good right now. Forget about after New Years Day. I am constantly amazed when people take sports so seriously. It is all for fun for fans…that’s it.


September 21st, 2009
10:42 pm

I am extremely nervous about the Pats game. Our pass defense leaves me with trembling knees. They haven’t gained my confidence yet. It scares the something out of me to think of what Brady will do to us if we don’t get a lot of pressure on him and with Jerry out, OOOOhhh THIT!!!


September 21st, 2009
10:46 pm

i take the falcons right now

Warren Peace

September 21st, 2009
10:50 pm

Worried about the Falcons in Foxboro? Oh c’mon. It is not like it is the winter of 1812. It will barely be fall. Cue the Overture.

Burger Brian

September 21st, 2009
10:55 pm

Enter your comments here
so many of you make sense ~ Expect to friggin win ~ otherwise you dont have a chance, The worse than can happen is we go into the by with a winning record win or lose. Injuries change everything as the season goes on (remember, we dont have any starters on the D-Line), Welker was out last week and the Jets have a pure cover DB. What we lack in experience the Pats lose in youth. They are an aging team and Matty Ice and company MUST eliminate the penalties and mistakes cause this is a Quarterback league and you have to score TDs. Best of Luck Birdz~


September 21st, 2009
11:27 pm

The Patriots are still a great team and have plenty of firepower. But they have also been somewhat exposed and are not the unbeatable team they have been. Hmmm…wonder if that has anything to do with Pioli and TD leaving…doit! The Falcons have their work cut out for them but are talented enough to beat anybody.

Great article Jeff. I love to hear TD talk. It’s amazing that as young as he is he has the moxie to show that kind of regard for his former organization. No wonder Kraft sent him a ring. Respect is a two way street.

Jeff Schultz

September 22nd, 2009
12:19 am

DePlane — Thanks and great comments. I think losing Pioli, Dimitroff, several coaches and players getting old all have taken their toll on the Patriots.


September 22nd, 2009
12:37 am

Um Dan, um, when have the Saints won anything? They’re a high school gimmick offense that real teams like the Falcons will have figured out by the time November comes around. Once they get exposed Atlanta will own them like they always do.

Anyway, I think New England probably wishes they kept Seymour. Their pass rush is weak, and Atlanta should look to take advantage of that.

Defensively the Falcons may be in some trouble without Jerry. It will take some really great scheming on Smith and VanGorder’s part to corral a potentially ticked off Tom Brady.


September 22nd, 2009
1:10 am

The falcons win this game easy—new england doesn’t have the playmakers any more. Brady’s the only star on offense. Randy Moss? LOL–he’s washed up.


September 22nd, 2009
1:31 am

Jeff, I’ll be at the game Sunday. During preseason, I was just hoping the Falcons didn’t embarrass themselves against NE. Now I think they can actually win. They need to pressure Brady, shut down the enemic rushing attack of the Pats and continue to play great O. All is possible. Has there been any word about Welker’s availability for the game?


September 22nd, 2009
2:14 am

games in Sept count towards playoff positions…. they ALL count


September 22nd, 2009
6:55 am

Pats fan here. I don’t think defense was our problem last Sunday.We got to Sanchez a few times, and the Jets only scored one touchdown.
The problem was Brady, Gallaway, Moss, and offensive coach,assistant, whatever you want to call this clown Bill O’Brien. He needs to go back to Duke. After 13 seasons as a college assistant he has no experience as a pro coach. Duke finished 105th out of 119 division 1 colleges in offense last season. Ya, nice hire Belichick. Running backs only touched the ball 20 times Sunday for 4.2 per carry average, and yet Kevin Faulk only touched the ball 3 times. Taylor alone averaged 5.8 per carry and he only touched it 8 times. O’Brien is pass happy. Listen when Moss is as blanketed as he was and no other deep threat available, screens and runs win the game. The offense lost that game for the Pats, not the Defense. Brady was hurrying the ball when they weren’t even near him. He was totally gun shy. Am I predicting a bad season from the Pats, nah, far from it. Brady will find himself, no doubt. Moss will recover from the embarrasement Revis laid on him, and Belichick will prevail in the end.Right now the question is can we beat the Falcons. The way the Pats played Sunday, a resounding NO. This has to be done in baby steps, it is rebuilding, no doubt, but the Pats have enough veterans still left on the team to ignite the passion that is New England Patriots football into the youngsters on the team. Brady will come out firing both barrels Sunday, and I predict Fred Taylor gaining over 100. Should be a barn burner, enjoy it Falcons fans, we will.


September 22nd, 2009
7:12 am

It should be a great game. I will be in Foxboro so there will be at least one Falcon Fan in the house.


September 22nd, 2009
7:31 am

The birds have their hands full this week considering the size and skills of the Pats receivers and Jerry being out it should be interesting………….we will need to control the clock……….we will need the running game.


September 22nd, 2009
7:31 am

cityrooter, nice post.
The Patriots and Steerlers are still the golden standard, while the Falcons are in the process of trying to get there.
No doubt, it`s gonna be a fun game to watch.
Good luck to your team but not this Sunday.


September 22nd, 2009
9:06 am

Game of the week for me. Dogs take a back seat to this one.

If we get pressure on Brady they will crack. The difference between Carolina and Miami was the QB pressure. From what we’ve seen on the Film, NE line isn’t what it used to be and Brady still doesn’t have the follow through that it takes (thank you to ESPN for abusing that). Abe and Bier & Co. need to show up confident and hungry. Welker is ? and Moss is fantastic as usual, plus they have a Falcon killer in Galloway, so the key is PRESSURE. Bull Rushes, Dwight Freeney spin move, JA98 at DT (oh I said it, Jerry’s out move him over), do what it takes to rattle Mr. Bundchen.


September 22nd, 2009
9:45 am

Whatever happens Sunday, the Falcons won’t panic if they win and they won’t chest-bang if they win. That’s a beautiful thing. I like the cliche, “Act like you’ve been there before.”


September 22nd, 2009
9:46 am

Uh, that should have been …”they won’t panic if they lose.” duh.


September 22nd, 2009
9:55 am

I see “Bad News” got in his usual cheap shot at the home team.

Anyway, I agree, Jeff Schultz. I think the Falcons are on their way up, and the Pats are on their way down. I think Atlanta will win a close one over NE this weekend.


September 22nd, 2009
9:58 am

Welcome Cityrooster, good to have fans from the other teams give us some perspective on their teams. BTW thanks for Dimitroff. :) As someone said your club (for me) is the gold standard that we are hoping someday that we can emulate. Class organization and from your example, class fans. Good luck after Sunday. :)


September 22nd, 2009
10:54 am

Great article Jeff. I hope the Falcons can put some pressure on Brady (they sure couldn’t do it against Jake). If Brady can stand back there all day he will pick the Falcons secondary apart. On the offensive side of the ball I can see the Falcons having their way with the Pats defense. I think Turner will have a pretty good day and the offense will sustain long drives. Could be a shootout. Hope the Falcons come out on top.


September 22nd, 2009
11:20 am

This is a trap game for the Birds . . .with Jerry out for the year the Birds will be exploited up the middle . . .Randy Moss will try to decimate Birds’ secondary, not to mention Welker in the slot . . .So far I’m not impressed with “burner” Turner, hope he’s not satisfied with the big money…Jenkins needs more touches…if Brady is allowed to read the daily newspaper in the pocket he’ll destroy Birds . . .hope Jerious Norwood is available, we need his change of pace…Belichick will try to confuse the young Ryan with multiple coverages…I’m not going to predict a score . . .go Falcons, go Bills, go Philly…welcome back MV7…

Captain Jack

September 22nd, 2009
11:43 am

i actually thought this would be an early superbowl preview.. but not sure the NE is going to make it… The Pats are going down like a scud missle…


September 22nd, 2009
12:37 pm

Enter your comments herePut Finneran in at connerback ffs. He’d be a shutdown cb for sure. well maybe


September 22nd, 2009
1:14 pm

Finneran at CB sounds great: he blocks the ball down (not up), but Grimes did well to reach the underside of the ball on that Hail Mary heave. My main concern is our running game. We’re down to Turner and Snelling as Norwood won’t last long, even if he plays, due to his concussions. Unless we have a monster hole for Turner to get his speed up, I see him going for 3 yds a try. Also, they are tackling him lower now. I guess our running game will keep the D honest enough so that we can do our excellent passing game. I suspect Brady is really concerned about getting hit, so if our pass rush can intimidate him, things should go our way.

Eric C.

September 22nd, 2009
1:50 pm

I’m thinking the Patriots will bring their A game this Sunday and it will take a herculean effort to pull out a victory for the Falcons – my feeling is a loss is on the way. I’m just hoping the Falcons make a game of it and take confidence in being competitive. Having pulled for the Falcons for 30+ years, I’m a little jaded by all of the let-downs…so hopefully I will be proved wrong by the new regime.