Rebuilding The Falcons From The Ground Up
New Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was very non-committal about what he plans to do with existing personnel. Other team officials said they hope to clear enough space to leave the Falcons with roughly $20 million in cap space, which means some painful player cuts could be in order.
None of those moves will be made until the new coaching staff evaluates the existing talent and salary-cap projections.
As for Dimitroff, he clearly isn't looking for a quick fix. In using the Patriots model, he plans to re-stock heavily through the draft and build support pieces through free agency. Dimitroff also said he is a "quarterback snob," meaning that if he can't find his ideal prototype QB, he's not going to burn a high draft pick on one.
The Falcons are in desperate need of a quarterback, and although Dimitroff said he wants to build through the draft, he said there are some good quarterbacks that will be available in free agency.
Some of how the Falcons augment their roster could be determined by whether the new coach prefers to play a 3-4 defense, as Rex Ryan has with Baltimore. The Falcons have played a 4-3 for years and don't have prototype talent to immediately configure into a 3-4 -- especially with so many offensive needs. Dimitroff said -- and he used Ryan as an example -- that adjustments could be made to combine 3-4 and 4-3 packages until the proper personnel could be acquired.
Dimitroff's Biggest Decision Yet
Hiring a coach is the biggest football decision new Falcon's GM Thomas Dimitroff has had to make in his 18-year pro football (personnel) career. If he were to pick the wrong coach in haste or have the wrong guy pushed upon him, it could get him off to a rocky start.
Dimitroff has never had to make such an important decision.
His entire NFL career has consisted of scouting college talent. He has never made a trade. He has never had to pour over salary-cap decisions. He has never had to discipline a player for misbehaving or tell a player that he has been cut.
That is why he spent a decent portion of his inaugural news conference explaining why he is up to the task.
"Even though I am a college scouting director and I am on the road 200-plus days a year, some of those days are spent in the office," Dimitroff said. "I feel very comfortable with my people skills and my ability and my leadership role and leadership ability. I am not in any way a brow-beating type of leader. I am about treating people as people, men and women. I understand we're all adults and I believe it's something everyone will feel comfortable with."
Dimitroff added that he would not view McKay as a threat but use him as a resource. With that, Blank drew distinct lines between McKay and Dimitroff, saying that McKay won't have any input on football decisions without Dimitroff seeking his help.
McKay said he's okay with that.
"My door will be open and I'll be happy to help and happy to give whatever views I have in respect to players and our setup," McKay. "As far as stepping out, it won't be easy but it's also something that I've contemplated and talked to Arthur about years ago. I always said that in my role before, I never viewed myself as a super scout. I always tried to rely on the personnel people and work with coaches to create decisions that way. I welcome the idea that we're going to get a fresh look in personnel and a fresh look at a new system."
--Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was hired by the Bengals to the same position. Zimmer had hoped to be considered for Atlanta's head-coaching job, but after not being named interim head coach when Bobby Petrino walked, Zimmer figured his days could be numbered.
--The reason the Falcons interviewed new general manager Thomas Dimitroff via web cam was because the window for an interview to take place for employees on playoff teams with a first-round bye was set to expire. Falcons officials were set up in their Atlanta offices; Dimitroff was at his home office in Boulder, Colo.
Dimitroff gave an overwhelming Power Point presentation and showed enough of his personality for the Falcons to hire him without ever meeting him in person. Arthur Blank added that Dimitroff received an overwhelming number of supportive references from various NFL officials. The only glitch, Blank said, was that he couldn't tell how tall Dimitroff was.
--Assistant general manager Billy Devaney is a respected pro personnel evaluator and deal broker, but his job is not secure, according to team officials. It will be up to Dimitroff to decide if he wants to retain Devaney.
Dimitroff Hired So McKay Can Focus On Stadium Push
"Two years ago, at the Combine, Rich [McKay] and I were sitting in my room and he and I both discussed, with the potential of a new stadium for us and the broad range of responsibilities, how it's almost unheard of in the National Football League for a general manager and president to be the same person," Said Falcons owner Arthur Blank at Dimitrof's initial press conference. "While that seemed to be reasonable, we both agreed at some point that we needed to separate the two. The job would be just too much for one person."