The rumors from last month that Thomas Dimitroff was in trouble were unfounded. Team owner Arthur Blank announced Friday that Dimitroff would return as the Atlanta Falcons’ general manager for another season.
Dimitroff dodged a bullet last year when Blank instead fired head coach Mike Smith. Some of the same personnel issues that cost Smith his job are still in place now, but evidently Dimitroff is not getting any of the blame.
That’s two chances Blank has had to start over in the front office. The Falcons have had three straight non-winning seasons since playing for the NFC Championship three years ago this month, and somehow Dimitroff has been able to convince Blank this slip into mediocrity is not his fault.
But it has been Dimitroff’s fault. He has been too loyal to his draft picks and has not adequately addressed issues on the lines of scrimmage. Those mistakes have the Falcons stuck in neutral. And while there was improvement this season under new head coach Dan Quinn, there is skepticism about Dimitroff’s ability to take the team to the next level.
Dimitroff’s biggest issue has been the draft. It goes back to 2011when Dimitroff took a gamble by moving up to pick Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Now Jones is a great player, but the loss of picks to acquire him made it even more important for Dimitroff to hit home runs on his subsequent selections.
Instead Dimitroff struck out. The next year, with Atlanta not owning a first round pick due to the Jones trade, Dimitroff took back-to-back offensive linemen in the second and third rounds. If they had developed into starters or at least contributors the trade might have looked better. Instead, Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes were busts.
In fact, not one of the six players Dimitroff picked in 2012 is even playing in the NFL anymore. Only three seasons later, you can’t have that type of disastrous draft. It explains why there are roster issues.
Then in 2013, Dimitroff gave up a third round pick to move up to draft Desmond Trufant, who has become a very fine cornerback for Atlanta. But this was not a team that could really afford to give up another high draft pick. And then, instead of getting another offensive lineman in the second round that year, Dimitroff picked a second-straight cornerback in Robert Alford.
Atlanta switched to the zone blocking scheme this season and the line did have two solid players – tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. But the interior line was weak, and Dimitroff now must fix that by finding a center and at least one starting guard.
The Falcons still can’t get to the quarterback, so the defensive line of scrimmage is still a problem. Atlanta finished last in the NFL with only 19 sacks. They had only 22 sacks in 2014. So it’s time for Dimitroff to go find someone that can help this team put pressure on the quarterback.
They’ve got the quarterback in Matt Ryan. They now have the running back in Devonta Freeman. They have the best wide receiver in the NFL in Jones. But the reason this franchise has not gotten back on track is what Dimitroff now must quickly make as the priority this offseason.
Some might believe since Dimitroff has failed the last few years at even admitting there was a problem in that area that someone else should now make those decisions. But Dimitroff is getting one more chance.
With the looming new and expensive stadium on tap a year from now, Dimitroff’s chances are running out. He must get it right this time or Dimitroff won’t escape Blank’s forgiveness if Atlanta fails to have a winning season.
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