Dimitroff: ‘Insinuation we’re not being active is incorrect’

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been trying to do the most he can with a limited budget. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been trying to do the most he can with a limited budget. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

In his first four years as the Falcons’ chief architect, Thomas Dimitroff didn’t have to convince anybody that he was being aggressive.

There were screaming headlines every offseason as evidence: Free-agent signings (Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards), a trade for a Hall of Famer (Tony Gonzalez), draft picks for franchise anchors (Matt Ryan, Julio Jones).

Yet, here we are in mid-March, and the headlines haven’t been screaming. Re-signing John Abraham was significant. It broke the silence of spring. But whether that’s enough to douse perceptions that the Falcons aren’t doing nearly enough to improve their product is another matter.

To say that Dimitroff disagrees with those perceptions would be an understatement.

“The insinuation that we’re not being active and doing everything we can to improve our football team is, in my mind, incorrect,” the Falcons’ general manager said, measuring his words carefully. “We’re doing everything in our power to analyze and improve this team.

“We said we’re going to be aggressive and make changes, not just tweaks. Between [placing the franchise tag on] Brent Grimes and [signing] Abraham, and the new coaches we’ve brought in, we feel we’ve been making significant changes.”

Abraham’s signing helps. If he had not accepted the Falcons’ contract offer — and there were concerns in the building that their best pass rusher was going to sign elsewhere — Dimitroff would have sought help in the free-agent market. But Abraham was his preferred option. (There is still a chance the Falcons could re-sign linebacker Curtis Lofton, but he’s drawing interest from other teams, including New Orleans.)

But here’s where the divide between perceptions comes in: Whereas fans, media and others off the team’s Flowery Branch campus hear the words “aggressiveness” or “change” and equate that to “new,” Dimitroff is factoring in signings and negotiations with existing members to preserve the team’s core.

He has a point. Several Falcons, including picks from Dimitroff’s first draft in 2008, had expiring contracts. Identifying the key players in a team’s core is part of building a winner. The question is whether this will be good enough.

Dimitroff believes so. He expects Smith’s new coordinators, Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan, and offensive line coach Pat Hill to have significant impacts. “When you get new coaches in, it’s a fresh perspective,” he said. “Both [coordinators] came in and had real positive feelings after analyzing our roster. We said we’re going to make changes, and this is a big part of that.”

One obvious area in question is the offensive line. There’s still a chance the Falcons will bring in another veteran (center Todd McClure remains unsigned). But Dimitroff thinks the change to Hill, who replaces the fired Paul Boudreau, will help the existing cast.

“We needed to truly analyze what the issue was with the offensive line,” he said. “They were back on their heels too much, literally and figuratively. We have the makings of a gritty, physical line. We like the foundation of our line.”

And yes, he is including the oft-maligned left tackle Sam Baker. “He’s been a part of many wins for us over the last four years,” he said, then referenced Baker’s injury problems.

Which means either don’t expect a change, or there’s one surprise left to come.

Dimitroff touched on several other topics during an hour-long interview, including:

• Being so close to the salary-cap ceiling makes many more moves difficult, unless more space is created. (He didn’t expand on that, so I’ll translate: A veteran would need to be cut or traded. With Baker getting the vote of confidence, that leaves fullback Ovie Mughelli as a likely candidate. His salary: $3 million.)

• Dimitroff considers cornerback Brent Grimes (who was franchised) part of the team’s core and still hopes to get him signed to a multi-year contract.

• He was relieved to get No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas signed to a new deal, believing the team might lose him. Keeping both Douglas and Eric Weems wasn’t likely (Weems signed with Chicago).

• He believes defensive end Kroy Biermann and safety Thomas DeCoud, despite some issues last season, are versatile and fill needed roles, which is why they were re-signed.

Bottom line: Dimitroff likes his team.

“Everybody in the organization is held accountable and asked to improve, and that starts with me,” he said.

Ultimately, he knows: The real grades won’t come until next season.

By Jeff Schultz

232 comments Add your comment

Big Lou

March 16th, 2012
5:36 pm

Nothing But The Truth

March 16th, 2012
5:37 pm

No real playoff success = keep the same group and hand out extensions.

Sounds like every Atlanta sports franchise.

Big Lou

March 16th, 2012
5:37 pm

I’m thinking they’re being hush on the LT situation. I expect Baker to be cut for McNiel. Go Falcons! Hey, Jeff, I guess the ‘no sacred cows’ comment made by A. Blank meant the coaches…?

DMO

March 16th, 2012
5:42 pm

I’m hesitant, Abe is “log in the tooth.” but the next best option out there. He’ll never make it 3 full seasons. I’ll wait to give my grade next season like TD said. I hope the new OC and DC can make some improvements scheme wise.

James

March 16th, 2012
5:44 pm

Sign McNeil and not a bad FA period. And we can still pick up OL in the Draft.

mountain_jim

March 16th, 2012
5:46 pm

I also am hoping that if McNiel comes in and passes a physical and gets signed, then Baker can be cut. When another hole gets filled in FA then Ovie gets cut to pay for that.

I am glad to have HD back and hopeful that Abe can do better in a new,more varied, scheme.

Joey

March 16th, 2012
5:47 pm

I believe in Dimitroff.

I don’t believe in Mike Shottenheimer Smith.

UGABugKiller

March 16th, 2012
5:48 pm

Well, considering the head coach continues to believe it’s the 1970’s and not the 2010’s, there’s not much hope for this team at all.

Matt Ryan is a prototypical WCO QB. He excelled in the offense in college. He’s smart, can run an offense on his own, makes quick decisions, reads defenses well. Yet Smith is AGAIN chaining him to a run-first offense, only this time, instead of playing in mostly 2-WR sets that have the receivers running a lot of out-routes, NOW, Smith wants Ryan to take 7-step drops and wait for his 2-WRs to get separation in vertical routes.

It’s stupid and backwards, and with THIS offensive line (new coaching only polishes a turd), he’s going to get KILLED.

Smith proves again and again and again that he’s a swell guy, but his Martyball football philosophy won’t win anything of substance in the NFL.

This team had a chance to become aggressive on offense. Instead, they hire Dirk Koetter. Smith makes some talk about screen passes or what have you, but Koetter runs an antiquated, 2-back, 2-WR offensive that DOES NOT spread the field and try to take advantage of match-ups.

The modern NFL is a PASSING LEAGUE. And in a passing league, WHY is Mike Smith still determined to be a run-first offense that employs a FULLBACK, of all antiquated positions?

Signing HD would’ve been a great allocation of funds if the team would actually USE HIM!!!

So, Smith sees what the Saints, Packers, and Giants have done, all running 3-WR 1-Back sets, spreading the field, winning Super Bowls, lighting up the scoreboard, and he says, “Nope, that’s not for me or my team.”

Someone please tell me how that makes sense? THEN, he and TD completely ignore what you do on defense to win: PASS RUSH.

They throw all this money at Grimes, a CB who is only good in soft zones (which Smith prefers, but maybe Nolan won’t be a pushover as BVG sadly was), who CAN’T play bump and run, and completely ignore the pass rush.

Had the team cut Baker, a complete bust, had they cut Ovie, a guy who is a dinosaur in the modern NFL and costs WAY too much money, had they NOT tendered Grimes, they could’ve gone after Mario Williams and improved their BIGGEST weakness: PASS RUSH.

Then, sign a CB who can complement Robinson, who is a very good physical, man coverage corner (and who has been used so poorly by Smith’s stubborn refusal to play ANY man coverage), and BOOM, an aggressive DC like Nolan makes that work.

Unless Smith keeps on interfering in the defense, demanding all of these vanilla schemes and soft-zones. Which, let’s be honest, he probably will.

This team goes 8-8. They hired a great DC, but I don’t for a second believe Smith will allow Nolan to run his own defense and they hired a horrible OC, and Mike Smith is stuck in the past and refuses to join the modern NFL.

He has 2 more years as Falcons coach before Blank has enough. Most of us fans have already seen enough of the Marty Schottenheimer, I’m sorry, I mean the Mike Smith Show.

Mitch (the one in Rome)

March 16th, 2012
5:50 pm

Gonna see more man coverage and lots more people coming with ears pinned back. Should see pressure and that will make Edwards and Abe look good. Our corners can play man great, and that should free up Peters to get pressure up the middle. Good man coverage makes the D-Line look great and then the D-Line makes the corners look great. Team game, but that team has to run a scheme that they are built for.

That zone coverage we ran was horrid. Our corners are man to man guys and they can get that done.

Looking forward to watching the D this year.

Lofa Smith

March 16th, 2012
5:52 pm

Falcon faithful, we need to chill and remember where this franchise came from and what has happened since Thomas Dimitrof & Mike Smith arrived on the scene. I would say 4 winning seasons in a row – 3 of 4 years in the playoffs speak well of this group. The disappointment of 0 of 3 in playoffs doesn’t alter the direction of the team, which still points up. I know we are a heck of a lot closer to a Championship than we were before this group took over. So quit with the negativity and let’s see what happens when the season begins in September – Go Falcons!

Hillbilly D

March 16th, 2012
6:07 pm

On the one hand, even though they haven’t made any big moves, I doubt they are just sitting there and not trying to put anything together. On the other hand, it sounds like somebody is beginning to feel some heat.

UGABugKiller

March 16th, 2012
6:08 pm

Mitch, correction, ONE of our corners is a physical, man-coverage corner, the other is strictly a Ronde-esque cover-2 guy.

If we switch from zone to man, next year, people will be killing Grimes for sucking just like they’ve killed Robinson the last two years.

If the Falcons are truly abandoning the all-zone, all-the-time scheme, then signing Grimes makes absolutely NO SENSE.

Larry

March 16th, 2012
6:09 pm

“…and the new coaches we’ve brought in, we feel we’ve been making significant changes.”

They resigned voluntarily to pursue other opportunities, or so you said, Thomas. So, to suggest you have effected changes in this regard (referencing the two new coaches “brought in”) is factually incorrect. Factually they were replacements for open positions.

Elijah Snow

March 16th, 2012
6:29 pm

Look, who knows, maybe this strategy will work out and the new coaches will significantly improve the team. I suppose it’s possible.

But the problem with this team is that it treats its fans like idiots who don’t deserve a truthful explanation of our strategy — and the local media is more than happy to go along with the party line. Due respect, TD, but seriously: “change” means “decide which of our current group we keep”? Only someone with nothing but contempt for the fan base could make a statement like that. And when the next line in the story is “he has a point,” you know exactly where the journalist who’s writing the story stands. He has a point? Are you insane? He literally just said “change means stay the same,” and you said he has a point.

We deserve better. We deserve someone who will press Dimitroff on that kind of pathetic rationalization, who will explain what a public relations disaster this off season has been for the fans. We have signed the OC of the worst offense in the league. We have made no significant changes in free agency. We haven’t even been in the conversation for big free agents at key positions that every fan knows we need to improve. We have no first round pick in the draft. The playoffs were a total embarrassment. Even when we got rid of two coordinators that every fan knew needed to go, we were told that move was more of an accident than a purposeful change. Now Dimitroff acts like getting rid of Mularkey and BVG was their big plan for the off-season. We deserve a real explanation, even if that explanation basically amounts to “look, we don’t have the money or the picks to do anything right now, so we’re stuck with what we’ve got.” That, at least, would be honest.

But Dimitroff, Smith, and Blank know they don’t have to be honest. They don’t have to give us an explanation. They’re the only game in town, and they know damn well that none of the journalists in this town will ever hold their feet to the fire. We deserve better, but we’re not about to get it.

Chub Rock

March 16th, 2012
6:32 pm

Jeff Shultz I’ll tell you what I love most of all about this time of year. You can post comments straight from the horses mouth as it pertains to what this team wants to do in a given situation then somebody will read it word for word and come up with some BS theory that is the antithesis of what you just posted. Un-freakin-believable how thick headed some fans can be. People are trying so hard to read between every line its crazy…and sad at the same time.

Kingdaddy

March 16th, 2012
6:33 pm

If some of you bloggers had your way, you would censor any negative criticism of your Falcons. Construtive Criticism IS HELPFUL. I’ve got two eyes and I can see for myself what is or isn’t going on at Flowery Branch. If you think the Falcons have improved enough to not get swept by N.O. this year, that’s Your Opinion. Me, Myself and I don’t think our present personnel are up to the task
The Giants DESTROYED this group. So don’t tell me not to be negative when I see upgrades NOT being made on personnel because T.D. gambled with J.J. and essentially left us with few draft-picks and no cap-space to work with! Then he tries to blow smoke up our tailpipes by telling us how active he has been in F/A. I’ve got eyes and they’re WIDE-OPEN …

Heath

March 16th, 2012
6:34 pm

Considering the regular season success, I think they are right that coaching changes were more important than roster changes. Failing to get a first down on fourth and one multiple times and not even having a running back on the field during the playoffs shows that coaches in place had run out of ideas.

Pastor Mackdaddy

March 16th, 2012
6:38 pm

@UGAbugkiller – you are way too pessimistic and assume the worse….don’t you think people inside the organization have a lot better perspective on this team’s needs more so than you do?….time will tell but one thing for certain is this team has progressed significantly under the current leadership and in time will get that playoff monkey off their back…guaranteed

Chub Rock

March 16th, 2012
6:39 pm

Speak Elijah Snow!! Speak on it!! The bottom line here is Mr. Blank has picked up his checkbook and put it back in the wall safe behind that ugly ass portrait of himself hanging on the wall in his home office.

Just Me Again

March 16th, 2012
6:42 pm

I can’t say that I often agree with UGABugKiller, but he was ABSOLUTELY on point with his comments(5:48pm). Some fans are overly optimistic, and some overly pessimistic, but many of them are rational and can form reasonable conclusions based on clear historic evidence. It is impossible to argue the points he made regarding Mike Smith’s stubborness to modify his approach from the run first mindset; the misallocation of resources (not using players to their strengths); and seeingly viewing change as improving existing players performance via new coordinators versus simply upgrading certain positions with better available talent in the free agent market. TD and Smith may very well be right with their approach, but we will not know until January 2013. (Regular season victories won’t matter at this point if they cannot win a playoff game) So, if they do not advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, then those fans not excited about the moves (or lack thereof) by TD and Smith this offseason would have been accurate in their assessment of this regime. Time will ceratinly tell.

It should be noted that fans who keep track of this team should not be dismissed for lacking optimism since their views are based on the historical facts they have before them. We will see who was right in a minute, but for now, do not expect the fans to get excited about potential coordinator enhancements (more difficult to envision) when the absence of upgrading the team with new and better players (easier to envision) is ever before them.

Kingdaddy

March 16th, 2012
6:49 pm

@Jeff Schultz
Why don’t you do an article on how GMs are responsible for a teams continuity and keeping an eye on the FUTURE of a team. How did the Falcons get where we are today with few draft-picks, and no cap-space? Obviously it isn’t TDs fault. Must be the fans fault. No, I bet it’s our stadium. Whatever …

Just Me Again

March 16th, 2012
6:51 pm

Bravo Elijah Snow…Bravo!

Chub Rock

March 16th, 2012
6:54 pm

This interview by Dimitroff and the post season press conference served the same purpose for this organization. DAMAGE CONTROL. We’re in control Falcon fans, we’re working hard, we planned all of this now go out and buy those season tickets.

marko

March 16th, 2012
6:56 pm

I’ve found over the the years that a really cool time to shop for candy is day after Halloween. It’s the same damned candy they were selling the day before for tree times the price. By the same token, the Falcons could still make a major score in free agency. There are many good players left, and the stupid money is starting to dry up. Football players, like everything else, are worth what somebodies willing to pay for them. Really think about it. The almighty NFL brain farts drafted Ryan Leaf in the first round, Second overall I think, And Tom Brady waited till round six. today does anybody consider Ryan Leaf worth Millions, and more millions, more than Tom Brady? The draft is pretty much a crap shoot, but free agency, that’s rocket science.

Kingdaddy

March 16th, 2012
6:58 pm

By the way, I’m not insinuating anything. That’s too subtle. I’m saying outright, he’s trying to deflect the blame for Atlantas Dire Straits …Idiot …

Chub Rock

March 16th, 2012
7:13 pm

I don’t question whether or not there are still good players left in free agency. I believe we already have a roster chock full of good players the problem is we need a couple of very good players, game changing type players specifically on the offensive and defensive lines. Are those type players still available?

Dave

March 16th, 2012
7:13 pm

How does holding on to core players from a team that got humiliated in the first round of the playoffs make us better? Don’t we need to add or replace players in order to improve?

Longtimefan

March 16th, 2012
7:15 pm

I wonder if any of the dozens of other GMs who would like a primo DE like Mario Williams made a play for him? Some of the bloggers suggest just because a player is available we should be able to sign him. Other teams have needs and the money to sign FAs. We don’t know what happened behind the scenes with TD. If I was a GM I would not hold a press conference to telegraph may intentions regarding FA or the draft just to pacify a few disgruntled fans who think they have a better blueprint on how the team should be structured than the experts that actually do this for a living. Of course, as a few above have forcefully stated, everyone is entitled to their opinions- but that doesn’t make them right.

Me Too

March 16th, 2012
7:17 pm

UGABugKiller – You have hit the nail on the head. Mike Smith is and will control everything in 2012. Please go to the Bird Cage and post the exact same stuff.

Kingdaddy

March 16th, 2012
7:18 pm

Don’t get me wrong. TDs done good for this orginazation, but the JJ deal was the catalyst for where we are today, which is in a bind. For every Action, there’s a Reaction. He should acknowledge his responsibility or man-up to a problem he should have forseen when he pulled the trigger on the JJ deal. Other than that, he’s got a long way to go to be considered a Great GM…

Ted

March 16th, 2012
7:18 pm

Significant changes? By whose measure?

Stop thinking you’re a genius and are reinventing the football wheel.

normvanbrocklin

March 16th, 2012
7:26 pm

“Between [placing the franchise tag on] Brent Grimes and [signing] Abraham, and the new coaches we’ve brought in, we feel we’ve been making significant changes.”

Is it just me or are two of those three nothing more than maintaining the status quo? I like the Nolan hiring but otherwise this statement sounds just like it came from the Atlanta Spirit Group.

MaxxFalcon

March 16th, 2012
7:29 pm

I’m sorry Jeff, but I don’t understand how franchising Grimes and resigning Abraham constitute “change” in personnel. Also, Sam Baker has never been healthy at any level, and even when he WAS healthy (see week 1 @ Chicago last yr), he got tossed around like a ragdoll! I don’t think Budreau was the main problem with that line, as is being insinuated here. I think that LT, C and RG were glaring weaknesses, and that clearly affected the play of Blalock and Clabo. If we come back with the same players on Defense minus Lofton, and we come back with Hawley at C and Baker at LT , we are not going to have improved enough to win it all

RobbE33

March 16th, 2012
7:31 pm

Wimbley and McNeill?

Snake Doc

March 16th, 2012
7:32 pm

Blah Blah Blah Blah

Snake Doc

March 16th, 2012
7:32 pm

Enter your comments here

Snake Doc

March 16th, 2012
7:33 pm

Blah Blah Blah Blah. thats all I hear coming out of Mr. No Playoff Win GM mouth.

falCANS

March 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

As ive said many a time the problem was never talent!! just scherme.. TD has built a contender in an extremely short amount of time. Lol I know D Robinson and P Jerry still have us scratchin our heads but overall hes a godsend….. LETS GO FALCANS!!!!!

Longtimefan

March 16th, 2012
7:46 pm

Monday morning armchair quarterbacks. It’s always easy to make the right choices in retrospect. Some say TD needs to pull the trigger for the big play guy when over the past 4 years he has been as active as any GM going after big name FAs and trading fof HOFer Tony G. Then JJ in draft. Now people are bi** hing because he didn’t sign Nicks or Williams. Can’t make this crowd happy. If any of you experts know the next Clay Matthews in upcoming draft, please chime in.

Orwell

March 16th, 2012
8:10 pm

Yes, Mr. Shultz,

I agree-black is white, up is down, 2 + 2 = 5, no change = significant change.

Keep up that hard hitting, honest evaluation of the Falcons. At the end of the year you can always write a story that 7-9 is really 12-4, etc.

Falcon's 4 life

March 16th, 2012
8:21 pm

Im smelling a trade.

Falcon's 4 life

March 16th, 2012
8:24 pm

Im smelling a trade. I wouldn’t be surprised to see white being traded for a MLB to replace Lofton. Move HD to number 2 and mier in the slot.

Pastor Mackdaddy

March 16th, 2012
8:25 pm

@Longtimefan – thanks for bringing some common sense to board, your point is well taken….don’t let other teams know your intentions and any draft prospect can be a bust – no guarantees

Great Falconi

March 16th, 2012
8:35 pm

I trust Dimitroff to put together a good product. I’m not as high on Mike Smith, but the new coordinators and O-line coach will make a significant impact on the team, especially Mike Nolan. VanGorder may have been vanilla because Smitty wanted it that way, but that wasn’t working. Nolan is a very good coordinator who knows how to get production out of a defense. We have a good deal of talent on that side of the ball, but if we’re not going to do anything other than sit back in a zone, how will we ever know what those guys can do? I’m really looking forward to seeing what Nolan and Smitty come up with next season.

Koetter can’t help but do a better job than Mularkey. Ryan is a very good QB and there are weapons to work with. It’s time to really take advantage of what we have.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

March 16th, 2012
8:39 pm

This franchise has gone from Superbowl Contender in 2004/5/6 to Playoff One and Dones in 2008/2010/2011 because they spent a fortune on a 5 year senior qb with 22 picks in his 5th season.

Dude is holding the team back and has strangled to cash net to resign players.

:)

UGABugKiller

March 16th, 2012
8:51 pm

Super Bowl contending in 2004, 2005, 2006???

Really? 8-8 (in 2006) is now considered Super Bowl contending?

Wow… the DogKilla lovers aren’t just low-life scumbags, they’re also really bad at simple math, too.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

March 16th, 2012
9:03 pm

UGABugKiller

March 16th, 2012
8:51 pm

Super Bowl contending in 2004, 2005, 2006???

Really? 8-8 (in 2006) is now considered Super Bowl contending?

Wow… the DogKilla lovers aren’t just low-life scumbags, they’re also really bad at simple math, too

_____________________________________________________________

I never mentioned anyone by name, but thanks for stating the obvious……………..

2004 and counting LOSER……………..

HA HA HA :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

March 16th, 2012
9:05 pm

TRIVIA

Who is the only Falcants qb to fail to take the team from worst to first and FAIL to lead the team to offfensive points in a playoff game?

Anyone?

Come on someone?

Give up?

HA HA HA :)

rivercard

March 16th, 2012
9:09 pm

Before this turns into the vick/ryan board I want to say good comments by UGABug, Elijah, Kingdaddy, Chub and others. Some keep asking don’t we think TD knows better than fans? I am not so sure he does know better than some fans. Pretty astute observations are what I am reading.

In fact if they understand that signing players already on team does not equal change and that this offensive line stinks, they are way out in front of TD.

Trapper John

March 16th, 2012
9:16 pm

I agree Mike Smith is the problem. Living in an NFL (1950’s?) which no longer exists. Stubborn as a stump and not quite as smart. How can you hire the Offensive Coordinator from the worst offense in the 32 team National Football League? How? How on God’s Green Earth? Somebody help me here. I’m begging you. Please?? How??