They’ve golfed together enough to develop a strong bond. In fact, although Dan Reeves preferred that Matthew Stafford remain at Georgia for his senior season, the former Falcons coach keeps praising the maturity level and the gifted ways of the former Bulldogs quarterback along the way to this weekend’s NFL draft.
“He’s a great person,” said Reeves, owner of a famously honest tongue.
Speaking of which, Reeves is correct to suggest that Stafford has lost his mind. He actually wants to play for the Detroit Lions, the worst pro football team of the past 50 years. The Lions are close to granting Stafford’s wish by selecting him with the first pick in the whole draft.
So why is this brutal?
“It’s hard to change Detroit,” said Reeves, without the hint of a chuckle.
“You can change coaches. You can change owners. I mean, there’s so little difference in winning and losing in the NFL, and one of the big things that teams that I’ve coached have had in Dallas, Denver, Atlanta — and even more so New York — is that people want to live there.
“Nobody wants to live in Detroit.”
I laughed, but Reeves didn’t, and the owner of the famously honest tongue added, “I’m serious. It’s a fact that nobody wants to live there. I mean, there are so many things that go into it. The economy, the weather. What makes a good football team is their ability to work together in the offseason, and that’s not going to happen in Detroit.”
In contrast, much is happening in Atlanta with Reeves’ old franchise that used NFL rookies at general manager, coach and quarterback last season to win 11 games after the Falcons managed only four during the previous season.
That general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, was so efficient that 10 of his 11 picks made the roster and three became starters. He also acquired splendid running back Michael Turner, and Dimitroff’s streak of enlightenment continues. He just traded for star tight end Tony Gonzalez, which is enough to make Reeves’ surgically repaired heart flutter with joy.
“I don’t think you can pass up tight ends, because they’re hard to find,” said Reeves, 65, who expressed his tight-end obsession often during his seven years with the Falcons that included a Super Bowl trip and the Miracle at Green Bay and lasted through the 2003 season. “Reggie Kelly, Alge Crumpler [both tight ends on Reeves' Falcons]. They’re kind of an offensive lineman and a receiver, and that’s a tough combination.
“If I got back into coaching, I’d definitely have me a couple of good tight ends.”
For now, Reeves just talks about tight ends as an NFL analyst on radio. He still lives in Atlanta, where he’ll golf Saturday before he returns home to see what the Falcons do with their 24th and 55th picks overall.
What should they do?
“I really haven’t looked at film and studied guys [like I used to],” said Reeves, who deferred to Dimitroff’s judgment. “Yeah, he has done a great job.”
He’s not in Motown, for instance. Reeves didn’t say that, but he could have.