In the way the best quarterbacks see the whole field, Thomas Dimitroff, who’s the son of a quarterback, grasps the big picture. And when have we been able to say that of the man charged with hiring players for the long-suffering Falcons?
At 4:42 p.m. Thursday, someone named Ray posted this on an ajc.com blog: “It sure feels good to know you’ve got one of the best GMs in the game. [It] kind of feels like the Braves’ moves of the ’90s. You always figured JS [John Schuerholz] would make the best moves for the Braves. Now we’ve got that for the Falcons.”
This came barely an hour after the Falcons consummated a trade with Kansas City for the Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez. At 33, Gonzalez isn’t what he was, but he’s way better than anything the Falcons had. And, by parting only with a Round 2 pick in next year’s draft, Dimitroff has cleared the path to do what he intended all along.
Since the 2008 draft was completed, 2009 had been earmarked for defense. Dimitroff bid adieu to five defensive starters over the winter because he felt he could find better. But reality, as reality will, intervened. There seemed a chance that Brandon Pettigrew, a gifted tight end from Oklahoma State, might fall to the Falcons in Round 1. And Dimitroff really liked Pettigrew.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Here’s my reading: Dimitroff was torn. He knew his D needed immediate fixing, but he wanted a tight end who would give Matt Ryan another outlet and would block like the crack of dawn for Michael Turner. This wouldn’t have been Dan Reeves taking Reggie Kelly for the heck of it. This would have been a considered decision, and I think Dimitroff might well have taken Pettigrew.
But now there’s no need. The Falcons have Gonzalez, and they still have seven picks to spend over the weekend. As many as six could be devoted to defense. (Dimitroff would like another offensive lineman, preferably a right tackle.) My guess – and, seeing as how Dimitroff wouldn’t say, it’s only a guess – is that the Round 1 pick won’t be a defensive back.
Dimitroff believes safeties make greater economic sense when found in later rounds, and he doesn’t consider many cornerbacks in this draft true No. 1 corners, meaning cover guys. That leaves defensive line and linebacker, and there are a lot of linebackers out there, including the three Southern Cal guys. But I keep coming back to what Dimitroff said in January: That Mike Smith, who coaches this team, believes tackles are the key position in any defense.
I’m guessing the Falcons will take a defensive tackle in Round 1 – either Peria Jerry of Ole Miss or Evander (Ziggy) Hood of Missouri. (Me, I’d prefer Hood, if only because of the nickname.) But we’ve seen enough over these past 15 months to feel confident, whatever Dimitroff deigns to do. I mean, he signed Michael Turner. He drafted Matt Ryan. He landed Tony Gonzalez.
In 43 years of operation, the Falcons haven’t managed consecutive winning seasons because they never had the man with the plan. They have him now. They have their Schuerholz.
(Self-promotion time: I’ll be blogging live on the NFL draft from rustic Flowery Branch on Saturday. We’ll start around 3:30 p.m. — the draft commences at 4 — and go until the Falcons get around to picking in Round 1, which should be around 7:30 or 8. And I’ll see if I can get some handsome photos of esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter to post while we’re waiting. Join the semi-fun!)