We Atlantans didn’t know Thomas Dimitroff from Terdell Middleton when he arrived 14 months ago, and his new employer knew him only slightly. (Remember the job interview via webcam?) But by now we should have grasped what Dimitroff is doing with the Falcons and why he’s doing it. And if for some reason you haven’t caught on to the TD Method, here’s a crash course.
He prefers the draft to free agency. It’s cheaper – “More cost-effective,” Dimitroff said Monday – and more easily controlled. A club is at the mercy of the marketplace when it comes to hiring veterans, but the draft is “a way of putting your team together in the style of play and with the kind of players you want.” Meaning: If you have cause to believe a guy won’t fit, draft somebody else.
He views free agency only as an opportunity for surgical strikes. Michael Turner was exactly what the Falcons needed — a big back who could control the clock and take the pressure off a quarterback — and Dimitroff signed him. Nobody among this free agency class fits a similar glaring need. That doesn’t mean Dimitroff will never pursue another; it means only that he’ll be exactingly picky. It will be a major shock if the Falcons sign a big-name free agent before 2010, if then.
He prefers young to old. Younger means faster. Younger means more malleable. Younger often means hungrier. Of the four veterans the Falcons have just shed — Michael Boley, Keith Brooking, Domonique Foxworth and Lawyer Milloy — not one was lost by accident or oversight. Each case was a considered Dimitroff decision. Not one of the four was seen as irreplaceable.
He says what he means. Two days after the Falcons’ playoff loss in Phoenix, Dimitroff said, “Our [personnel] decisions will not be driven by emotion.” This meant he wasn’t going to lop Brooking simply because the linebacker whiffed on third-and-16, but neither were the Dimitroff-run Falcons going to keep a player just because he’s a nice guy. This is a business he’s in Flowery Branch, not a boys’ club.
He has two watchwords — “urgency” and “consistency.” Asked to define the former, Dimitroff said: “Someone who’s incredibly focused on the task at hand and who’s flying around the football field with controlled reckless abandon; someone who perceives every play as the most important. I know it’s an idealistic approach, but urgency is what will allow us to make that interception or pick up that ball that’s rolling on the ground.”
He and his head coach are of like minds. Indeed, that’s why Dimitroff — who didn’t know Mike Smith before he interviewed him for the Falcons’ job — recommended he be hired. “We’re quite congruent in our approach,” Dimitroff said. “We see through similar lenses. It’s settling for Mike and me to know that we perceive the building process the same way.” To wit: Smith sees tackles as the core of any defense, and so does Dimitroff.
He has a scout’s eye and a GM’s global view. Dimitroff chose to address the offense in his draft not just because he liked the cut of Matt Ryan’s jib but because he knew, from being on the road all those years, the 2009 draft would be heavier in defenders.
He’s the smartest general manager the Falcons have ever had. It sounds like a backhanded compliment, along the lines of being proclaimed the finest yachtsman in all of Kansas. It’s meant, however, with the deepest sincerity. Dimitroff would be the smartest GM a lot of teams have ever had. After 14 months and an 11-5 season, he has earned the ultimate affirmation: If this team makes a move, we see it as a shrewd one. Because it’s a Dimitroff move.