There was no shock Monday in the news Mike Smith was being ‘released from his contract’ by the Falcons. That was a nice way to say, “You’re fired.” Something tells me Donald Trump won’t be changing his catch phrase anytime soon.
But what was a shock was the man who sat next to team owner Arthur Blank as he tried to explain the dismissal.
Thomas Dimitroff, the general manager - the man whose roster decisions – bad roster decisions – cost Smith his job.
For some reason, Dimitroff is still employed. Why he wasn’t shown the door with Smith is a mystery. It was Dimitroff who made the bad draft picks and signed the washed-up free agents. It was Dimitroff who was too loyal to his own draft selections instead of cutting bait when he knew they didn’t work out.
Sure, Smith’s firing was warranted. Sunday’s performance proved a clean sweep was needed. But for Dimitroff to not be cleaning out his office this week is downright hilarious.
Blank could still fire Dimitroff. He made no promises Monday in the press conference and grew agitated when pressed about why Smith was out but Dimitroff was still around. But why should we be surprised by someone that actually accused the media of making up stories when they’re not there.
Yet it was obviously a true story that broke hours before Atlanta’s game with Carolina that Blank had already hired a search firm to help him identify potential candidates. Smith was still the coach. The team was trying to win a division title. And someone leaked the story that the work had already started to find Smith’s replacement.
It was tremendously embarrassing, and it made the Falcons look like a Mickey Mouse operation. Of course, Blank denied the report came from anyone inside the Falcons’ offices or that it could have contributed to Atlanta’s disastrous play. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was grossly unfair to a coach that had made the Falcons relevant in his seven years as head coach.
Keeping Dimitroff is about as dumb as the Braves keeping manager Fredi Gonzalez after their decision to fire their general manager, Frank Wren. When you have a horrible season, as both the Braves and Falcons had in 2014, isn’t just best to fire everybody and start over?
Dimitroff did not give Smith a roster that could win. This year’s Falcons team was never going to do anything special. The injuries killed the chances early in the season, but even on paper before the year there were too many questions. There were too many holes. There was not enough depth. The talent level was just not there.
Take Paul Worrilow, the linebacker. He’s a nice player. He’s not bad, but not great. Can he play in the NFL? Certainly. Should he be counted on as the main linebacker on a team hoping to improve from a 4-12 record? Absolutely not.
Dimitroff never fully addressed the linebacker position, especially after Sean Weatherspoon was injured and deemed out for the season. He also never got help for the offensive line when the players started dropping like flies from injuries. And with a pathetic running game, with an obvious too-old Steven Jackson still getting too many carries, Dimitroff never went out and found someone to try get some yards.
We can scrutinize the Julio Jones trade Dimitroff made, where he gave up a ton of draft picks. The Falcons were 33-15 in the three years of Smith/Dimitroff before the Jones trade and only 33-31 since.
Dimitroff signed free agents Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards, Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson, who were busts. He did sign Michael Turner, but the misses in free agency outnumber the home runs. He traded for Tony Gonzalez, which was great, but why did he allow the great offensive line trio of Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure to disintegrate and then draft busts like Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz?
This roster was not good because of Dimitroff. He made mistakes, and if Smith paid for his, why didn’t Dimitroff pay the same price?
The new coach better hope Dimitroff is fired at some point, or he’ll inevitably be saying the same thing Smith has probably been saying since he got sent home. “Why didn’t Dimitroff also take the fall?”
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is Thomas Dimitroff still employed?
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