The Samuel trade: Another validation of Falcons management

I believe these men know what they're doing. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I firmly believe these men know what they're doing. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I understand that not winning is disappointing. What I couldn’t understand was the amount of vitriol directed toward the Falcons this offseason. They were Doing Nothing. (As if keeping eight key free agents was tantamount to nothing.) They were Content With Mediocrity. (As if four consecutive winning seasons could be deemed mediocre.) They needed — this is always a personal favorite — to Show More Urgency. (As if hyperventilation is a hallmark of clever management.)

I understand that we as a society demand instant gratification at all times. What I couldn’t understand was the utter misreading of the Falcons as an organization. Being a member of the media offers access that the general public doesn’t get, so I can excuse the masses for not knowing better. But anyone who has been around the Falcons since January 2008 surely must know that Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are not men who spend their days reclining in Barcaloungers eating Tostitos and watching “Three’s Company” reruns instead of game tape.

These are smart, driven men, and here I want to underscore the second adjective. Not a day passes that Smitty and Dimitty don’t ask themselves the question that stewards of every professional team must ask: How can we get better? The giddy turnaround of 2008 didn’t satisfy them. (If it had, they wouldn’t have dumped half their defense.) The 13-3 season of 2010 didn’t satisfy them. (Otherwise they’d never have done the five-for-one Julio Jones trade.)

To suggest that the Falcons have grown fat and happy just to keep making the playoffs in Round 1 is, at least to these eyes, a grievous error. To suggest that this front office would leave an avenue unexplored is an affront to the brainpower housed at 4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch, Ga. Have there been draft picks who haven’t hit big? Absolutely. Has every imported free agent had the desired effect? No. But this isn’t an organization that’s apt to be outsmarted.

Having worked here since 1984, I can tell you that hasn’t always been the case. There were Falcons management teams I wouldn’t have trusted to pour Pepsi from a boot, and those who followed the team in those dark days will recall my disdain over nearly every move. But Dimitroff and Smith are different: They’re the best GM/coach in team history, and I don’t mean that as faint praise. I’m willing to cut a team almost any amount of slack if I believe it is well run.

Not every John Schuerholz move panned out, but I was never of the opinion that the Braves under that Hall of Fame general manager weren’t in wise and capable hands. I feel the same about these Falcons. Have they won a Super Bowl yet? No, but winning championships isn’t easy. It took Schuerholz’s Braves five seasons (one of them a strike year) to take the World Series. If my abacus is correct, Dimitroff and Smith are in Year 5. And their team looks better by the day.

They have new coordinators, at least one of whom was sorely needed, and a new line coach, also a necessity. (For all who wondered: Why did the Falcons stick with Mike Mularkey/Brian Van Gorder/Paul Boudreau so long … well, the 2011 season marked the first step backward under this administration, which had gone from 11-5 to a fairly gutty 9-7 to 13-3.) They kept those eight free agents, and now they’ve traded for cornerback Asante Samuel, once a Pro Bowler and still spry enough to bolster the secondary.

This has not been an offseason spent Doing Nothing. This has been a time of mid-course corrections. The Falcons got good in a hurry, but they haven’t quite gotten to great — which isn’t to say they’ve stopped trying. (And they’ll keep trying via the draft, which begins Thursday for most teams but is scheduled to commence Friday for the Falcons.) This has become an aggressive organization, and just because they didn’t make a run at Mario Williams shouldn’t have been construed as a lack of commitment.

I’m not here to serve as an apologist. This administration has made mistakes, and this team played to 60 percent of its capacity last season. But I see nothing in Dimitroff and Smith — or Arthur Blank or Matt Ryan or Julio Jones — that would preclude these men from winning a Super Bowl. They’re bright enough, and they’re hungry enough. With the Saints in chaos, the Falcons will reclaim the NFC South this fall. And then?

On March 8, 2010 — the day the Falcons signed Dunta Robinson — I wrote that this team would win a Super Bowl within three years. There’s one year left. I stand by that belief.

By Mark Bradley

202 comments Add your comment

RecentWreck

April 25th, 2012
2:31 pm

Thrilled with the move. Great work TD!

RecentWreck

April 25th, 2012
2:31 pm

…and great work, MB!

Go Falcons!

April 25th, 2012
2:32 pm

GT

April 25th, 2012
2:33 pm

Mark Bradley

April 25th, 2012
2:34 pm

Thanks, RecentWreck. And kudos, if you’re so inclined.

sleeze

April 25th, 2012
2:36 pm

Agree Mr. bradley. I am kind of curious to see what moves need to be made to get Samuels’ reworked contract to fit within their limited cap space..

Yunel's Frosted Tips

April 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

Mark, can I borrow your “pour Pepsi from a boot ” line.?……..that’s classic

RecentWreck

April 25th, 2012
2:39 pm

I’m not necessarily inclined but will appreciate them nonetheless…

Samuel brings a proven dynamic to this secondary that you have to appreciate. It is very indicative of the “win now” mentality pervasive through most of this organization- and unfortunately necessary for the Falcons to maintain the attention of too many of our sometimes overly critical fan base (and media).

I remain the hopeless optimist raised on the teams of the 90s and have to believe 2012-2013 will be the year.

Craig Speedy Ehlo

April 25th, 2012
2:39 pm

Perfectly said. Wish some day you could write a verbatim article about the Hawks, but for now it is clear that, you could “suggest that the [Hawks] have grown fat and happy just to keep making the playoffs in Round [2].”

coolbreeze

April 25th, 2012
2:39 pm

Glad to see a smart and hardworking team complimented. Some guys equate change and new faces with progress. Anyone could do that. Being architects of an improving team is harder. Hope the improvements continue…..

ZinoDawg

April 25th, 2012
2:42 pm

hbcuclassics

April 25th, 2012
2:42 pm

HBCU Classic Sports
2012 Draft Preview:

WR, Mario Louis, Grambling

http://www.hbcuclassics.com/hbcu_showcase

crose714

April 25th, 2012
2:44 pm

Yes sir! Great acquisition…great article. Thanks MB!

WHY ALWAYS ME?

April 25th, 2012
2:44 pm

I agree that this is easily the best management team in Falcons history and right now second only to early-mid 90’s Braves for best ownership/management team in Atlanta sports history.

GTBob

April 25th, 2012
2:47 pm

I will reserve my judgement until after this season. After Robinson and Edwards pretty much bombed as big time free agent signings, and after the Julio Jones deal that I still don’t believe was very smart, and after several recent draft busts, I have my doubts on what the team is doing. Hopefully Samuel, and the new coordinators will bring some life to this team though. I certainly feel like the Falcons are trying, I just hope they can start being a little more smart about it.

dbird1

April 25th, 2012
2:51 pm

love this trade. lets make some great draft picks and bring on training camp!

megan

April 25th, 2012
2:52 pm

“But I see nothing in Dimitroff and Smith — or Arthur Blank or Matt Ryan or Julio Jones— that would preclude these men from winning a Super Bowl.” I do… 3 first round playoff exits, the last after scoring only 2 points! I do not see this Samuel trade as doing much of anything!

Whopper Dawg

April 25th, 2012
2:54 pm

That was a good move by TD. I have never doubted they are driven, but rather the moves over thepast three years. That being said this one was a good one. I would like some of that Super Bowl forecast though Mark. How bout some Memphis BBQ vs whatever you suggest?

Dick Luckburst

April 25th, 2012
2:55 pm

Go Birds!!!

TRIVIA: which stars across all four of the major sports leagues are undefeated in the championship round (minimum of two appearances)?

Hint: Not Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Shaq, Kobe, Roger Clemens or Derek Jeter.

Kane337

April 25th, 2012
2:57 pm

Excited about this move. Tired of the Falcons being a 20+ rated defense. Hopefully this move improves the pass rush by making the QB hold onto the ball longer.

RecentWreck

April 25th, 2012
2:57 pm

GTBob I tend to agree with a number of your postings but will have to respectfully disagree with you here. Robinson and Edwards haven’t lived up to their potential- yet- due to injury (Edwards) and poor schemes (Robinson), but this team does trial and error pretty well. Truthfully the Jones trade was the riskiest thing management has done, as going for someone unproven in the NFL is a lot more dangerous than a free agent signing- as you mentioned with the number of busts (which every team experiences). They’re definitely trying and will get that winning combination soon enough, hopefully before the guys who have been the workhorses of this team are too old to get rings themselves.

Birdlover

April 25th, 2012
2:57 pm

We ain’t going to any Superbowl without a big improvement with the talent on the O-line (and no, a new assistant coach isn’t going to do it). Great move with Asante, but they should at least try and trade Dunta and a pick for a decent O-lineman. Franks is worth the gamble at being ready next year.

GT Alum

April 25th, 2012
3:00 pm

Not that I don’t trust the Falcons FO, but, to play devil’s advocate, haven’t the Hawks had approximately the same level of success over the past few years? And it seems like you couldn’t have less confidence in their management.

Also, retaining FAs might not being doing nothing, but I think the concern was that this team needed to improve the talent on the field, especially on the lines and the secondary. Maybe a more appropriate complaint would’ve been Standing Pat, rather than Doing Nothing.

George Stein

April 25th, 2012
3:01 pm

I applaud the effort, but I’m not a fan of Samuel. He gets destroyed by double-moves because he jumps every route. If Nolan gameplans for that, then this may work. But my expectation is that, eventually, he’s going to give up a big play at a bad time.

Jay

April 25th, 2012
3:03 pm

Another validation? When did the first validation happen? Bradley, please try not to get carried away or be too gushy…TRUE validation ONLY comes with playoff success. Offseason signings don’t validate anything, you should know that better than anyone (Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards).

chokeville

April 25th, 2012
3:03 pm

wasting more millions on another over-hyped over the hill DB. It never changes with this franchise.

Manny

April 25th, 2012
3:05 pm

Well, that was a good draft!

AtlantaDude

April 25th, 2012
3:05 pm

I think we are at the stage where this management team has proven it is extremely competent, but with the low batting average of their draft picks, we can’t yet be sure that this management team is anything more than competent.

And in my view, the middle of the Dan Reeves era was the only other time we have even had competence, which is why it is so tempting to assign greatness to Smitty-Dimitty.

Kane337

April 25th, 2012
3:07 pm

TRIVIA: which stars across all four of the major sports leagues are undefeated in the championship round (minimum of two appearances)? Tim Duncan, Eli Manning.

Nate

April 25th, 2012
3:08 pm

Is Matt Ryan still the quarterback? Yes. So it doesn’t really matter who the team puts on defense. Ryan will disappear in the playoffs once again.

Chub Rock

April 25th, 2012
3:08 pm

Bradley- Loved the pour pepsi from a boot line LMAO!! Are you sure you meant pepsi or a waste liquid generally known to have a yellowish hue? LOL

rojer

April 25th, 2012
3:10 pm

Samuel is a known gambler on the back side of his career. Assuming the price is right its a fine pick up but is pretty much additional depth.

Dick Luckburst

April 25th, 2012
3:13 pm

Good call, Kane337!

(I’d need help on the hockey side if applicable.)

jerry

April 25th, 2012
3:14 pm

I am going to give the Falcon’s an A for effort. It would appear that there is legitimate reason for optimism.

Larry

April 25th, 2012
3:14 pm

Mark,

Good work!

The bad? Just the spouse, friends, neighbors and employers that are so burdened to be or work around such a negative, pessimistic and glum lot that are already doubting, piss.ing and moaning another effort by this team to get better every single year.

To all of you…log out and go find somewhere to be alone with your whiney self. Yuck!

lanier

April 25th, 2012
3:14 pm

so you are predicting a Super Bowl win this year, interesting

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

April 25th, 2012
3:15 pm

“Asante Samuel”

Another future fall guy for CHOKE’s failures to win in the playoffs :)

Joe Tess Fish House

April 25th, 2012
3:17 pm

Anoter misteak by the Flacons. Samauel is just another cheep shot artist like D Roberson. Expect a lot of pinalties and fines this year.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

April 25th, 2012
3:17 pm

What separates Eagle brass from Falcants brass………

When they let a guy go, they are usually pretty much done.

You may ask yourself “Why didn’t Denver make the trade”?

I’m pretty sure Samuel would rather play with Peyton vs Peyton Wannabe :)

Joe Tess Fish House

April 25th, 2012
3:20 pm

Yeah U have 2 ask why they only wanted a late round pix for this guy if he is so good

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

April 25th, 2012
3:22 pm

“RECENT EAGLES CUTS & TRADES”

Brian Dawkins…….Retired 2 years later.

Jeff Garcia……Out of football 1 year later.

Donovan McNabb…….2 teams in 2 seasons.

Kevin Kolb……..Benched in 1 season.

The Eagles are king when it comes to evaluating talent, and knowing when to cut & get value.

coloradobulldog

April 25th, 2012
3:23 pm

Get a life Nate. Ryan has won so many games for us. Who do you want at QB? Joey Harrington?

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

April 25th, 2012
3:24 pm

WHY ALWAYS ME?

April 25th, 2012
2:44 pm

I agree that this is easily the best management team in Falcons history and right now second only to early-mid 90’s Braves for best ownership/management team in Atlanta sports history.

________________________________________

Is that based on “Playoff wins” or “Playoff losses”? :)

Grandmaster JeJe (GM)

April 25th, 2012
3:26 pm

So you are saying we will win the Super Bowl next year?

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

April 25th, 2012
3:26 pm

Does anyone realize that in 2008 this team was the 1st to break the NFC South tradition of going from worst to first? :)

Robert

April 25th, 2012
3:29 pm

Sure this does not help the Eagles more than us by moving a has been whose weaknesses they well know.

Rickster

April 25th, 2012
3:31 pm

“pour Pepsi from a boot” – in the home town of Coca-Cola?

No wonder the Falcons were so horrible in those days!

UGA sucks

April 25th, 2012
3:32 pm

I can’t wait to read Marks column about how UGA will win the SEC this year.

UGA sucks

April 25th, 2012
3:32 pm

Matt Ryan sacked at the 5 yard line.

Matt Ryan goes down again.

realist

April 25th, 2012
3:33 pm

Once again, Bradley sucks up to the Falcons management and ignores the simple fact that they have done zero to make this team a playoff success. Heck, they can’t even compete in the playoffs. Why the unfounded optimism given the terrible results in the last 8 years?