The football world according to Thomas Dimitroff, ace GM

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.

144 comments Add your comment

country boy

March 2nd, 2009
5:24 pm

Good article MB. As I have said before if Dimitroff uses our first round draft choice to select a punter from Southeast Louisiana Poly State Tech then I’m on board. So far he has made very good decisions for Falcons with the draft and free agency. I chuckle at silly bloggers who post who they think we need to draft or sign.


March 2nd, 2009
5:26 pm

Mark, I couldn’t agree more. He’s what Scheurholz (sp.?) was to the Braves in the early 90s, though with different methods.

Now he just needs a different hair style. It looks like his barber used a weedeater!

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
5:27 pm

Thanks, Country Boy. I’m sure Dimitroff will make a bad choice at some point in his career. But he hasn’t yet.

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
5:29 pm

Interesting you mention Schuerholz, T-Bone, because as I typed that last response I was thinking what I used to say about John S.: I waited 17 years for him to make a lousy move so I could tweak him about it, and he never quite did. (Although I gleefully tweak him about Albie Lopez to this day.


March 2nd, 2009
5:33 pm

Try the Teixiera trade if you want to tweak Schuerholz. I understand his philosophy, but I thought they wanted to keep Foxworth. Since he left, wouldn’t it make sense to fill a yawning gap at CB? You can’t fake it out there on an island with Steve Smith.

Meanwhile...a return to form?

March 2nd, 2009
5:34 pm

“…because he liked the cut of Matt Ryan’s jib” Such a nice turn of the phrase Mark. Are we returning to the halcyon days of “185 lbs. of whipcord and steel”? And then to keep the theme going with “…along the lines of being proclaimed the finest yachtsman in all of Kansas.”

Of course you could have used the term “jettison” for shed, when it came to the players who have left :)

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
5:37 pm

I could have, but I was trying to simplify.

I should note here that Dimitroff used the word “discursive” in our conversation today. He is, as you might have heard, a bright guy.

And the whipcord and steel thing? I’m positive that was someone else. My money’s on Hummer.


March 2nd, 2009
5:43 pm

Terdell Middleton. Funny. Or Elvis Peacock or Eric Hipple.

You nailed TD. We’re fortunate to have him and Mike Smith. Thanks, Arthur.


March 2nd, 2009
5:45 pm

Shed is way underused. It’s a great word. Hope it doesn’t become popular. It’s cooly old school.

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
5:51 pm

Thanks, Mac. Fair Hooker would also rank high on any list of all-time NFL names.

As for “shed”: In certain parts of Kentucky, to “get shed” of something is to get rid of it. Then again, in certain parts of Kentucky — and I am, as we know, a native Kentuckian — those little sausages you buy at Winn Dixie are known as “VIE-eeny” sausages.


March 2nd, 2009
6:02 pm

Great article Mark Bradley…. By the way…. 6′5 275lbs DE Mike Montgomery (Packers) will visit with the Falcons this week..


March 2nd, 2009
6:10 pm

I think that we can trust in Mr. Dimitroff. I feel very confident in our franchise finally puting together 2 back to back winning seasons. But I wanted to put a feeler out there about Jason Taylor. He is now a free agent, can we get him at a bargain price to play opposite Abraham? Interested in what my fellow fans think.


March 2nd, 2009
6:11 pm

Enter your comments here can't beat a good vocabulary

March 2nd, 2009
6:21 pm

Yes, one does get the feeling that if Dimitroff threw out “discursive” in conversation, it was in regard to his thought process, and not recounting his struggles with penmanship in grammar school.

Any chance the Cassel trade came up in your conversation?

Since his former colleague Belichick seems to be in such a generous mood when it comes to former colleagues, is there any chance he’ll try a Scott Pioli, and offer a second round pick for say, Adalius Thomas?


March 2nd, 2009
6:23 pm

I must confess that I thought Petrino was a great hire at the time, BUT I think the Falcons are in the right hands. Mistakes are going to be made-they are only human. But, I think the philosophy they embrace is SOUND!!!! And they clearly have a plan and at first impression- they certainly seem to be on the mark- I’m in!!!

[...] Link [...]

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
6:26 pm

The Cassel trade did not come up. And I thought about making the same — or at least a similar — “discursive” joke as you, Meanwhile. And I was reminded of the time I was studying literature and Euripides came up, and my lit-loving dentist dad said, “Euripides pants and I’ll break your jaw.”


March 2nd, 2009
6:37 pm

Mark, do you think all that some of the reason we have let all of these guys go (Brook, Milloy, Boley, Foxworth, etc.) is because T.D. is hoping for some compensatory picks next year? Do you think that is factoring in?


March 2nd, 2009
6:38 pm

MarkB –

Swell blog today. The article is refreshing in a time when soo many teams are making moves yet we are only dropping people; but as point out, its all part of the process. Over time, it works. Its exciting to have that type of leadership here in Atlanta, we should be grateful……well – let me hold that statement a few years yet….

I honestly feel many people who are frustrated, are forgetting that the team has many players NOT on the field. Players that are being groomed – Stephen Nicolas, Trey Lewis, Chevis Jackson, David Irons. I really think these guys have the moxie to start. Draft is merely a way to get youthful guys to learn the system and work hard to earn that spot.

Bring on the Draft!

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
6:44 pm

Thanks, Mike. And you’re right — sometimes the best move is to wait and let the players under contract develop.

And Willie: Yes, I absolutely do believe that. Giving a GM more draft picks is like handing him the keys to a Bentley. (Not to be confused with LaCharles Bentley.)


March 2nd, 2009
6:48 pm

Re: that photo.

Sure that isn’t Sean Penn?

And in Georgia, we get “shut of” things that lose their usefulness/charm (or at least we used to).


March 2nd, 2009
6:58 pm

I know that we’re all used to the one good – one bad year cycle for the Birds, but, as much progress as was made in the past year, I really can’t wait till 2011. By then, TD should have this team in very tall cotton.

Meanwhile...revisiting the classics

March 2nd, 2009
7:08 pm

Re: “Euripides these pants…”. I actually LOL, something I have never done with Junior Samples, by the way.

And the keys to the Bentley analogy is apt when it comes to draft picks, especially considering who we are giving the keys to. Detroit handed the keys to the Bentley to Matt Millen for years, and all he did was treat it worse than Mike Tyson used to treat his Bentleys when they were getting “discursive” with sidewalks and trees.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 2nd, 2009
7:10 pm

“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.”

When you follow Rich McKay, you probably only have to go 8-8 to earn this “ultimate affirmation”.

But he has done a good job so far as the GM of the Falcons.


March 2nd, 2009
7:10 pm

I have been waiting to hear something about what the Falcons are doing in free agency. I have also been waiting for someone employed by the AJC, not named DOB, Sekou Smith, Chip Towers, or Carrol Rogers, to write something decent on here. Both are accomplished with this article. Please ban Terrance Moore from online. I don’t read the paper. Nice job Mark.


March 2nd, 2009
7:12 pm

MarkB can you comment on Atlanta’s chances of moving Erik Coleman to SS and starting Thomas Decoud at FS.

Old Dawg

March 2nd, 2009
7:18 pm

Good piece, Mark. With the current management team it’s obvious the Falcons are in good hands. Aside from continuing to upgrade the players, I really wish Atlanta would go back to the Glanville-era uniforms — they fit the current smash-mouth orientation!

Falcons now a good ole boy team& loser

March 2nd, 2009
7:23 pm

The Falcon will not get any good free agents because they are going to take a hit on Vick contact. This why they should keep Vick. If golden boy (Matt Ryan)
goes down they have no QB that can win. But for Vick sake I hope he goes to the 49er that is the coach he has always needed after Dan Reeses left. Golden Boy will not have a good year this year watch and see. He will be below 500 this year.
And for the other golden GM his luck has run out Rick McKay all over again!He got lucky in 2008 watch 2009 loser!!! you better get defensive player loser!

jimmy a

March 2nd, 2009
7:25 pm

just to remimber stay away from FRANK WREN ty

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
7:30 pm

” To wit: Smith sees tackles as the core of any defense, and so does Dimitroff.”

That says it all, to me….


March 2nd, 2009
7:36 pm

Great article Mark. I love the Terdell Middleton reference!


March 2nd, 2009
7:41 pm

Dimitroff treats the Falcons as a business which is what it is. Now if he can pull off a spectuar trade for Vick?


March 2nd, 2009
7:51 pm

Still would like to see the money that was freed up from Brooking, Malloy, Boley and Foxworth be used on young veterns like Safety Sean Jones, CB Bryant McFadden, DT Shaun Cody and DT Dewayne Robertson and then concetrate on LB and TE and offensive line debth in the draft?


March 2nd, 2009
7:53 pm

Mark, great article. I like the way you put things in perspective.

To piggy-back on turkey’s point (now I’m getting hungry) re: trading Vick, do NFL teams ever pay part of a traded player’s contract as baseball teams sometimes do?

I thought I read the cap charge was the same whether we trade him or release him.


March 2nd, 2009
8:00 pm

Great article, and we only had one falcon hating, vick loving blogger to boot. By next week when free agency calms down , we will sign some solid hungry football players who still care and want to show what they can do, This week is about selfish older vetrans who just want to be paid, no real loyalty or hunger.

Ed from Woodstock

March 2nd, 2009
8:09 pm

Dimitroff certainly had a great first year where all his moves were on target, but please let’s wait a few years to say he’s one of the best GM’s ever. Everyone will be crapping on him if we go 6-10 next year.

I do hope we finally break that record, and I do love the direction the Falcons are headed with the the new coaches and GM. Arthur deserves back to back winning seasons!


March 2nd, 2009
8:28 pm

Great article MB! Definitely agree that the Falcons are good hands with TD. Tons of people in Atlanta skewered his moves last year, from over-paying Michael Turner & drafting Matt Ryan over Glenn Dorsey to drafting Sam Baker and Kroy Biermann.

His signings last year (Turner, Hartsock, Coleman) all turned out pretty well. A lot of people forget about Von Hutchins as well, who can either come back to compete for the open CB spot with Chevis Jackson, who played pretty well. I don’t think CB is a big a concern as others have mentioned.

I really hope we do go after Sean Jones or Jermaine Phillips. It would be a nice pick-up for ability and leadership in the secondary. The question is: what are their plans with Jamaal Anderson?


March 2nd, 2009
8:42 pm

Mark – I’m a big fan of what the Falcons did last year and the approach and philosophy TD has brought to the organization, but let’s temper our enthusiasm just a little bit. It was one season, one great season yes, but come on, he still has a lot to prove before getting so much acclaim.

One person actually compared Dimitroff to Schuerholz – seriously! Hell we haven’t even had back-to-back winning seasons yet, much less fourteen division titles and a Super Bowl.

Don’t get me wrong… I am so pleased that Arthur has started trying to run this organization like Dan Rooney instead of Dan Snyder, but there is still a lot to prove.

And TheManMike, you’re right on. I really would like to see Stephen Nicholas and Trey Lewis get a shot on this team. Honestly, I would love to see one quality (non-big name) free agent, like Jermaine Phillips, and a solid draft and I’ll be happy for 2009.

Let’s see what TD does and hope he can keep the magic going from last year.


March 2nd, 2009
8:50 pm

don’t forget the infamous tennessee qb jim bob cooter

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
8:57 pm

Thanks for the kind words, folks. As for Erik Coleman — it’s my understanding the Falcons prefer him at strong safety. As for Stephen Nicholas and Trey Lewis — both figure in the team’s plans. As for Jamaal Anderson — there’s a chance he could move inside (to DT) to stay.

I believe that’s correct about Vick’s contract. But I’d surprised if the team gets much in trade for him. Not much demand at the moment.

Ken White

March 2nd, 2009
8:59 pm

Mark, really good article. Very well articulated, structured and communicated. Agree with you on all parts. TD has done a very good job and there is no reason we shouldn’t trust him.

Flappin' Falcon

March 2nd, 2009
9:12 pm

Me like article. It very good.
C’mon, guys. Bradley turns a couple of clever phrases and every English Lit Major in Atlanta who likes the Falcons comes out of the wood work.
Actually it’s nice to see positive bloggers who use proper grammar.


March 2nd, 2009
9:19 pm

Good job Mark but let’s not go crazy. One Year(and to be honest the easiest schedule in the league). Don’t get me wrong/I am a STH since the Dome opened. You lose Boley, Brooking, Antonio Smith doesn’t even show. I am a little worried.

nola dawg

March 2nd, 2009
9:43 pm

Great article Mark and good discussion. One thing to ponder… I think Blank made a GREAT move by leaving McKay as President. We all know that Dimitroff’s strength is… talent evaluation and scouting. As an administrator he no doubt was green. We all know how office politics work (maybe even at the AJC?!)… leaving McKay to handle the bureaucracy was a VERY smart move.
Eventually I could see TD doing more and taking over that role too, but for now, let the man work…go get a TE, DT and LB in the draft sir!

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
9:53 pm

Thanks, Ken. Thanks, Flappin’. Thanks, Hollywould.

And Nola, I’d agree with your premise: The Falcons like their front office as constituted. If McKay should leave, they’d have a choice to make — do they bring in another president/exec type, or do they add to Dimitroff’s responsibilities? Right now, I’d bet on the former.

Classic/classical Italian tailor joke

March 2nd, 2009
10:19 pm

In ancient Rome, a dialogue between a tailor and his customer, both educated in the classical tradition of Greek tragedy. Customer hands a pair of ripped pants to tailor.

Tailor: Euripides?
Customer: Eumenides?


March 2nd, 2009
10:24 pm

Mark, if he is able to find a suitor for Vick in any form or fashion, he deserves GM of the millennium, no matter what he has to do. I don’t care if he has to pay half of his salary, half is still better than having his dead weight contract on our books.

Oh, and great article. I totally and absolutely agree. I really liked the hiring last year, and he’s done nothing but impress me.

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2009
10:28 pm

Thanks, Patrick.

And in two blogs today — Bradley’s Buzz and this one — we’ve covered everything from socialism to Greek tragedy. A full day, I’d say.

Here’s the Buzz, just in case you missed it:

Joe Schmukatelli

March 2nd, 2009
10:30 pm

Mark, I generally agree with your thoughts about Dimitroff. But I think it’s too early to lavish too much praise. Defense was the worse side of the ball last year and he just dumped most of the key starters. It will be interesting to see how he replaces them with better players.


March 2nd, 2009
10:31 pm

Call me crazy, but we might want to give this cat more than one year before we assess how good he is.