taintedme reacted to Goober Pyle in SI Article On Camp Ryan
Hey @JayOzOne! Hope you don't mind, but I've copied and pasted the Falcons related part of the article here for those who can't (or won't) click the link. It's too good to not share.
Thanks for finding it and sharing it!
We’ve been here before, in certain ways, and some of the league’s current starters were around for that, too. Nine years ago, the lockout created a spot like this one for the league’s quarterbacks, then tasked with becoming quasi-coaches—and among the 32 starters from that season, eight remain starters now, with each carrying a lesson or two he took from the experience.
“There are a lot of similarities,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said late Tuesday afternoon. “I think the No. 1 thing, it’s on the players. And it’s on me to make sure I’m creating access for the guys to get the work done that they needed to get done. And that was the same in the lockout. We had groups of guys that got together in that lockout year. We were able to put on player-led practices.
“The difference this year, with COVID, is limits on the number of players that can get together, trying to practice social distancing, and making sure that everybody’s staying safe. I think that part’s been different. The groups of guys that have gotten together for us, as a team, have been smaller than they were that lockout year, but the work has been really effective.”
t’s worth listening to Ryan. In 2011, that work, going into his fourth NFL season, led to a 10–6 campaign for Atlanta, during which the Falcons were able to get a lot out of the guys around the quarterback, both new (Julio Jones posted a 959-yard, eight-touchdown rookie year) and old (29-year-old RB Michael Turner rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 TDs).
And yet, that season also saw the Bengals make the playoffs behind rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and the Broncos get there with Tim Tebow not wresting the starting job from incumbent Kyle Orton until October.
Which tells you that, clearly, there are different ways for teams to go about all this. So this week in the column, we’ll dive into what two guys heading into very big years in their respective careers—one still at the beginning of his, with Ryan closer to the end—have done.
The first difference Ryan felt in working through this offseason was the obvious one, one that we’ve all had to reach a comfort level with at some point over the last three months.
“I think at the beginning, for the first couple days, it was weird wearing masks on the field while I was throwing,” Ryan said. “It was the first time I’ve thrown in a mask, that’s for sure.”
So even with the experience he did have—Ryan ran a spring program for the guys in 2011 at Buford High School, near the Falcons facility in Flowery Branch—there was plenty he had to learn as the reality of the situation sunk in at the end of March.
Part of it would be limits on the numbers. Part of it would be getting to the point where his teammates could travel to meet him. Part of it was simply the comfort level one guy would have with the next guy as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in America.
Ryan’s way of combating all that was fairly simple. His goal in his own training was to “keep it as normal as possible,” and his message to his teammates was the same. As such, he wanted the offseason program he was creating for himself and his teammates to mirror as much of what would usually go down in Flowery Branch in the spring as possible.
The NFL allows for a nine-week offseason program for teams, with the first two weeks being designated as “dead ball.” That leaves seven weeks for quarterbacks and skill players to throw and catch. Via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex, the guys have still gotten their classroom work with coaches (that’s another difference from 2011), which has left quarterbacks to make up for the field work.
And has Ryan ever worked to do that. He has engaged his teammates for the last nine weeks (that prescribed length isn’t an accident)—the first five in Georgia, followed by three in California, with the final week having just wrapped up outside Atlanta. They’d go three days per week, with sessions lasting between 90 and 105 minutes, and the work was detailed, deliberate and thorough.
So I asked Ryan whether what the Falcons have accomplished matches what they’d normally do, and he said it’s close. In some ways, it’s still lacking: There wasn’t the 11-on-11 work they’d normally get during OTAs and minicamp, and there weren’t coaches on hand. But in others, Ryan actually believes he and his teammates may be better off, which speaks to the chance all quarterbacks have had this offseason to put their teams ahead of everyone else. Here are a few of those ...
Targeted sessions. At first, the Falcons were meeting in smaller groups to follow guidelines. But even as things opened up in Georgia, Ryan limited the size of the groups he worked with to four or fewer teammates at a time. The work, as he saw it, was better that way. He could tailor one day to more experienced teammates, and another to less experienced guys. And it allowed players flexibility in their own schedules, so Ryan could get them to come when it was most convenient for them.
“To be able to take our time, and work on the things we need to work on together, there’s a lot of time in an offseason program where the amount of time you’re allowed in the building and on the field is structured through the CBA,” Ryan said. “For us, getting together on our own, outside of that environment, allows us to work at the pace that we need to work at. And when you’re working with younger guys, sometimes you have to go a little bit slower, be able to discuss things like that, and talk things through.
“That part of it has really been beneficial, and I think we’re going to be better for it.”
Relationship building with new guys. Ryan mentioned one edge the Falcons have is continuity, and there’s no doubt that having Jones and Calvin Ridley under these conditions is a big plus. But not everyone is a holdover, and so Ryan's getting reps with the new guys is valuable on a number of fronts—allowing for the quarterback to learn those players, and for those players to work their way into the mix of the offense.
“For a guy like [free agent tight end] Hayden Hurst coming in, this is a huge advantage in terms of the amount of time I get to spend with him individually,” Ryan said. “I think that part of it can be really positive for us to get to know each other on a personal level, but also to get that sense of timing, that feel that comes along with being with somebody a lot.”
Relationship-building with the incumbents. This goes back to the very specific work Ryan might want with a certain player, which may be tougher to accomplish with a whole team to worry about in an OTA or minicamp setting. On his own, the quarterback raised how he and Ridley have worked on spacing over the last couple of months. “We’ve talked about what spots on the field he needs to save me space on certain routes,” Ryan said.
In layman’s terms, Ryan’s showing Ridley what he’s seeing on certain plays, and how working on having awareness of what’s around him could add up to more chances to make plays.
“If you’re getting to the hashes on an in-cut before I’m ready to deliver the ball, when we have certain play-pass actions off it, you’re eliminating your chances of getting the ball,” Ryan said. “You’re also eliminating your chance of getting run after the catch, all those little things that turn a completion into an explosive completion, or a touchdown. We’ve had a lot of chances to talk about the little nuances that are gonna make us better.”
And as such, Ryan sees big things coming for the 2018 first-rounder.
“That’s the development you can get with a guy now going into Year 3,” Ryan said. “But you really can only get there if you have this extended amount of time, and this one-on-one venue to work at. He’s a guy I think could explode going into a year like this. He’s in phenomenal shape, he’s been running great and I think his grasp of the offense, and his mastery of our system is so much further along than it was last year.”
Individual improvement. Ryan did ask one big favor of his teammates this offseason. He wanted to go out to Orange County to get work in with his throwing coach, Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB, for a few weeks in May. So he plainly asked the group, Boys, what do you think about making the trip out to the West Coast? Do guys feel comfortable traveling right now?
Enough of them were, so after five weeks of work in Georgia, the next three were moved out to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., which was also convenient for Jones, who makes his offseason home in L.A. And thanks to his teammates being flexible, Ryan was able to get some very specific mechanics work in that he probably wouldn’t have been able to do as many drills on during a normal offseason.
“It’s a small thing, but for crossing routes going right to left, when we have play-action pass footwork with it, trying to get my hips and my shoulders in front of these crossing routes, to make sure they’re in front of my chest,” Ryan said. “It’s something that when you’re playing with pass rush or you’re out at practice, there’s a script of a number of different things you’re working on, you can’t be as selfish for what you need to work on individually.
“But when you’re doing it this way, you can take all the time you need to, you can devote a day a week to working just specifically on that.”
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn gave his players an assignment this offseason to work on “One Main Thing.” Small as it may seem, this was Ryan’s. And Ryan said, given the amount of reps he’s gotten, when it comes to positioning his shoulders and hips off play-action, on right-to-left crossing routes, he’s “a lot better.”
Leadership benefits. Because there aren’t coaches on the field, naturally, Ryan’s had to do more to lead. But he isn’t the only one who’s taken the bull by the horns. And others stepping forward, as Ryan sees it, has to be a good thing for the team.
The best example of that? It’s probably none other than Julio Jones.
“He’s been amazing,” Ryan said. “He’s an unbelievable teacher and just such an unselfish teammate. He’s really good for those guys in terms of showing them what it looks like to work and then helping them with his experience. I mean, I can tell receivers where I want them to be and when I want them to be there, but I can’t tell them how to do it. I don’t have that experience. And they’ll laugh at me when I try and show them.
“So to have him around is super valuable. He’s got so much experience, so much time on task. And he even knows, ‘Hey, this is how Matt likes to throw this one, this is why you need to make sure you’re getting full depth on this route.’ His experience is just invaluable.”
***Skipped the Bills and Josh Allen stuff***
Likewise, Ryan thinks he and the Falcons are positioned well coming out of the spring.
As he has annually, the 13th-year vet plans to bring his teammates back in for two more weeks of work before camp, similar to what they’ve done the last nine weeks. And heading into that point in the calendar, he sees the group as on schedule, even in a year in which very few things have been. He also knows what his division looks like with Drew Brees and Tom Brady in it (“It’s gonna be a grind, for sure, both those guys are studs”), and understands what a big year it is for the franchise, coming off two years without reaching the playoffs.
“No doubt, we wanna get back there, man,” Ryan said. “We want to get back in the mix. That’s what you work so hard for, to give yourself that late-season opportunity. And so I feel it, I feel like the other guys feel it. And we’ve certainly been working that way.”
Time will tell whether Atlanta or Buffalo get there. But if either do, I don’t think it’ll be hard to guess one thing all those guys will point back to.
The message will sound a lot like what they’re saying right now.
taintedme reacted to JayOzOne in SI Article On Camp Ryan
Matty Ice going all-in to make sure the team makes up for lost time. The article is too long to paste but well worth the time to read if you have it. This is what leadership looks like.
taintedme reacted to FalconsIn2012 in Just How Dominant Is Julio...
Every year he is 1st or 2nd in yards per route run. His average of 2.93 yards per route run ranked first among receivers with at least 200 routes run, and it’s also fifth-highest mark since 2014, with the only player/seasons ahead of him being Julio Jones in 2016, Julio Jones in 2017, Julio Jones in 2015 and A.J. Green in 2014.
I don’t think Julio gets the all-time appreciation he deserves. To me it’s Rice and Julio. And if you compare both 9 years into their career it’s Julio in a landslide. Julio averages 12 more ypg through his first 9 years than Jerry did.
Julio needs to put together 5 more elite years and he may dethrone Rice. If he averages 1,400 yards for 5 years he will be at 19,500 career yards. Just 3,000 shy of Rice
taintedme reacted to Em_Jae20 in Looks like Debo, Reynolds, Oloukun, and rookie Walker got together with AB Explode
The only thing I don't like about videos like this is that they always get me too gassed up. I was just meh when we drafted Mykal Walker now I'm getting all emotionally invested and think we got another Debo lol. Im going to put nothing but positive vibes out there for him and the entire team, especially health wise.
taintedme reacted to atljbo in Bucky Brooks five most improved units
1. Miami Dolphins secondary: A perfect marriage between personnel and scheme usually produces great results. That's why the Dolphins defense should significantly improve in 2020 with Byron Jones teaming with Xavien Howard on the perimeter. Jones is a sticky bump-and-run corner with the size, length and athleticism to match up with premier No. 1 receivers. With first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene fortifying the secondary as an explosive track athlete with natural bump-and-run skills, the Dolphins have turned a weakness into a strength with a solid set of acquisitions this offseason.
2. Baltimore Ravens defensive line: After receiving a beatdown at the hands of the rugged Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Ravens upgraded their defensive line with the additions of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and third-round pick Justin Madubuike. The additional beef along the line will help the Ravens slow down punishing rushing attacks while adding more pop to the pass rush. Campbell, in particular, gives the unit an interior pass-rushing presence that should enable Matt Judon to get more one-on-one opportunities to hunt the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
3. Arizona Cardinals WR corps: Whenever a team can add an All-Pro to a unit that already features a gold-jacket performer still playing at a high level, it should be considered a coup, particularly when it comes from an inexpensive trade that tips in the team's favor. That's exactly what happened in the DeAndre Hopkins deal, giving the Cardinals a five-star playmaker at the WR1 spot while reshuffling the deck to put rest of the WR corps in optimal roles (Larry Fitzgerald at WR2 and Christian Kirk at WR3). For a young quarterback with an Offensive Rookie of the Year award on his mantle, Arizona's upgrade at the position could help Kyler Murray go from good to great in his second season.
4. Cleveland Browns offensive line: As we mentioned earlier in this piece, the Browns needed to upgrade the protection around Baker Mayfield to help him bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season. Enter Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills as the new bookends to help No. 6 feel safe and secure in the pocket. The duo will not only create a fortress around Mayfield but they will secure the edges to help Nick Chubb make another run at the rushing title. If Conklin and Wills settle in as edge blockers early in the season, the Browns' offense could finally become the explosive unit that everyone expected it to be in 2019.
5. Atlanta Falcons defensive line: The Dirty Birds' front line has undergone a massive makeover with free-agent acquisition Dante Fowler and second-round pick Marlon Davidson adding some physicality, toughness and nastiness to the unit. Fowler has come into his own as a pass rusher since leaving the Jaguars for the Rams in a midseason trade in 2018. He has tallied 13.5 sacks and 50 QB pressures over the past 23 games, per Pro Football Reference, while exhibiting a power-based game that overwhelms blockers off the edge. Davidson adds a little pop toa unit that needed a disruptor beside Grady Jarrett on the interior. The rookie flashes a combination of quickness, power and explosiveness with a non-stop motor that could make him a nightmare to deal with between the tackles.
taintedme reacted to ADAMSVILLE GYM in Falcons return to the outside-zone scheme
Alex Mack elated about Falcons’ return to the outside-zone scheme
Falcons 11 hours ago By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Falcons center Alex Mack, a six-time Pro Bowl player, is relishing the team’s return to the outside-zone running scheme.
The Falcons have dabbled in running outside-zone plays over the past three seasons since former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left for San Francisco, but during a video call with the local media Thursday, Mack confirmed the offseason plans.
“I think it’s an emphasis of the whole offense to make sure that’s something that we want to be really good at,” Mack said. “So, in order to run the wide zone, you have to have a full commitment of all of the guys on the field to make that work. It is a really powerful offense. It’s something that we have a lot of experience with.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan battled with Shanahan in his first season in 2015, but they smoothed things out by 2016, and Ryan became the first Falcons player to win the Associated Press MVP award and carried the team to Super Bowl LI with a potent attack.
“The better we can run that, the more it opens up the field, the more play-action opens up,” Mack said. “Having that weapon really opens up the offense. I know it’s something that I’m excited about. I like hearing that because it means we get to run the ball more. It means we have more play-action passes.
“In general, it’s something that I do well. I think if we can get that going, we’ll have a very powerful offense.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has mentioned running more outside-zone a couple of times over the offseason, while offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was vague when he was asked about the outside-zone attack.
Mack believes that adding running back Todd Gurley will help the offense return to being one of the top units in the NFL.
“He’s a really good runner,” Mack said. “I’ve just seen his clips and what he’s been able to do. His first couple of years in the league (were) impressive. Adding that to a wide-zone attack, I think he can be a really good addition to the offense and then a real powerful weapon.”
If the Falcons are more powerful running the ball, that will help them in pass protection. The Falcons’ offensive line gave up 50 sacks and 135 quarterback hits in 2019.
In addition to having trouble running the ball, the Falcons were behind in several games and forced to pass. If they can run the ball better in the outside zone system, that will keep the opposing defenses off balance.
Mack and left tackle Jake Matthews are the stalwarts on the line. There will be an open competition at left guard, while right guard Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Kaleb McGary are expected to make big jumps in their second seasons in the league.
“Chris is going to be a really good player,” Mack said. “I know he works very hard and he’s mentally tied into things. He has pretty good vision on the field.
“Those things are going to take you a really long way. You add that with his physical ability for how quick and strong that he is, he could be as good as he wants to be. He’s got the work ethic to take him there.”
Lindstrom missed 10 games last season with a broken foot he suffered in the season opener.
“If he stays healthy, he’s on the field and he’s learning every day, he’s going to be a good player for a really long time,” Mack said.
The Falcons drafted Matt Hennessy, who played center at Temple, possibly as Mack’s heir apparent.
Mack, 34, is set to enter his 12th season in the league.
“They drafted a lineman,” Mack said. “He seems like a great kid. Excited to have him on board and teach him everything that I can. I think he steps up and plays guard this year or he’s the swing guy, backup center or whatever the future is.”
So far, Hennessy is fitting into the virtual offseason.
“I know I’m happy to have a guy who’s excited to be here,” Mack said. “Who’s really tied in, in meetings. He knows what is going on. It’s really good to have him here and see that he’s excited to be here.”
Mack has a year left on his contract.
“I’m taking it year-by-year, now,” Mack said. “I know my goal when I showed up in the league was (to play) 10 years. I thought that was a really good, lengthy career. From here on out, I want to do the best I can to make sure I play at the highest level. Play one year at a time. I think I’ve got a lot of juice in the tank. I’m ready to bring it this year.”
taintedme reacted to Goober Pyle in What happens when an angry football fan emails an NFL general manager?
Kai Hall wasn’t happy.
An otherwise positive person by nature, Hall, a longtime fan of the Falcons, was angry, in fact. Having rooted for the franchise since childhood, Hall felt he was at a breaking point after Atlanta lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. Atlanta already had suffered three tough one-score losses with significant injuries to Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones.
As a fan, Hall wanted to see something, such as a free-agent acquisition or two, that signaled Atlanta had a plan to replenish these losses. Instead, the Falcons’ plan was to promote from within. At that precise moment, Hall had enough.
Done with venting his frustrations on Twitter, he eventually decided to go directly to the source he thought was the cause of all the problems. He figured out Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s email address and fired off a lengthy message detailing his thoughts.
Never in a million years did Hall expect a response.
Twenty minutes passed by.
“Thanks for the email,” Dimitroff wrote back. “Send me your cell and we can talk.”
For more than 20 years, Hall has been a die-hard fan of the Falcons. Born in Hawaii, he moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., when he was 4 years old. A few years later, he and his mother moved across the Georgia-Tennessee border to Chickamauga. As a kid, Hall’s connection to the Falcons bloomed thanks to family friend Rich Miano, an NFL defensive back who happened to play the final season of his 10-year career with the franchise in 1995. That season, Hall’s mother and stepfather took him to a game, which ended with a visit to the postgame locker room to meet some of the Falcons’ players.
One of Hall’s childhood keepsakes is a photo his mother took — well two, snapped consecutively — of Hall getting an autograph from linebacker Jessie Tuggle. That season cemented Hall’s Falcons fandom. When his mother could afford it, she would take him to Falcons games, which helped further forge their own relationship. Over time, Hall cheered through plenty of down seasons. He was ecstatic during the 1998 season, which resulted in Atlanta reaching Super Bowl XXXIII. Like most Atlanta fans, he was amazed at what Michael Vick could do and devastated in the aftermath of his dogfighting arrest. Hall continued to cheer for the Falcons as they went from a laughingstock in 2007 to a team that established yearly playoff expectations. And in 2009, after moving to Los Angeles to take a job in the nonprofit sector, Hall continued to cheer for the Falcons from afar.
Entering the 2018 season, expectations were high for Atlanta. But after the Steelers loss, which dropped the Falcons to 1-4, Hall decided he was done with the Falcons. It wasn’t the losing that drove him to this point. It was that he felt the team was at a crossroads personnel-wise. The Falcons chose not to sign street free agents or make any trades, opting for the next man up philosophy, and Hall said he felt like the team was acting without a sense of urgency.
Hall made the decision to root for another team. Living in Los Angeles, he asked his wife, Naomi, who they should cheer for instead. He wanted to go with the Chargers but she wanted the Rams. Naturally, Naomi won, so the two chose the Rams. But Hall didn’t want to be just any bandwagon fan. In his mind, if he was truly to switch teams, he wanted to receive a formal invitation of some sort. Therefore, he sent an email to Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff a day after Atlanta’s loss to Pittsburgh and explained his situation.
Hall didn’t write anything negative about the Falcons. He simply wrote it was time for a change since the Rams were the hometown team.
“Would you have us?” Hall wrote.
Later the same day, Demoff wrote back with what he considered to be an official invite to become a fan of the Rams. Demoff then offered to send the Halls some “welcome goodies.” Within two days, three boxes of Rams apparel arrived at the Halls’ doorstep.
With the Halls leaving the Falcons for the Rams, there was one final piece of business to take care of. On Oct. 9, 2018, a day after corresponding with Demoff, Hall decided he would reach out to Dimitroff, the general manager he blamed for Atlanta’s early season mishaps, to explain why he wanted to change teams.
Here’s what Hall wrote:
My name is Kai and I live in Los Angeles with my wife.
In 1995, a family friend (Rich Miano) played for the Falcons. As a result, I became a Falcons fan. I have photos of me as a kid rooting the team on from the stands, meeting players after games, and showing off my Falcons gear. That fandom continued on into my adult years. And over the years, I have spent thousands of dollars and given countless hours in support of the team.
Now, I am worn down and feel as though I cannot give anything more as a fan.
Falcons football is more than a game for me. Growing up without my dad, Falcons football was a way for my mother and to bond over sports. I’ve traveled the Country to support this team. I was there in-person for Matt Ryan’s first playoff game. I was there on Thanksgiving in the Dome when the Falcons lost to Manning’s Colts. My wife and I were in Chicago last season for the team’s first game after that devastating Super Bowl loss.
Point of this email is to say that Kevin Demoff of the Rams has extended an official offer to us to become Rams fans here in Los Angeles. It’s incredibly difficult, but we’d like to accept his offer. My wife and I had bought tickets to Sunday’s game against the Bucs, but we sold them and cancelled our travel reservations.
I was able to get past the blow out loss against Denver. I made it through the tough times after Vick. I was able to get past the Super Bowl 51 loss and I held hope despite last season’s loss to the Eagles. But it seems like the current team’s philosophy regarding replacing injured players (i.e. next man up) is not working. And it appears the season is all but over, but it’s only October. My heart can only take so much, because I know this team can become so much more.
I’ll always love the Falcons, but as a fan it’s so hard to accept the outcome when you have absolutely no control and are completely dependent on the leadership to make the right choices.
I want to leave you with a few photos. One is of me as a kid meeting Jessie Tuggle. Which by the way, nearly 22 years later his son Grady gave me a pair of game worn gloves. The other photo is of me and my wife cheering on the Falcons last season at the playoff game here in Los Angeles.
Thank you for all the great memories Atlanta Falcons,
Dimitroff doesn’t come across as the type to respond to fan emails. Then again, he couldn’t recall if one ever reached him before during his time as Atlanta’s GM. He joked that once this story is published that it “might open Pandora’s Box.”
But something about Hall’s email touched him. Perhaps it was the photo with Tuggle. Maybe it was that he could see there was a deep personal connection with the team that Hall developed from childhood. Whatever the case may be, Dimitroff extended the invitation to talk. And two days later, he called.
Prior to the call, Dimitroff admitted he wanted to put Hall in his place.
“After reading that and hearing that, I thought, ‘You know what? Screw this,’” Dimitroff said. “I’m going to call this guy, and I’m going to show him that we’re good people here, adept people, and it’s worth the time. So that’s what happened. That was the initial (interaction). I was a little agitated myself. I’m sitting there like, ‘Wait a minute. No, no, no, no. Let me have my chance to voice my own opinion.’”
Dimitroff figured the conversation could go three ways.
• Hall could answer angrily and tee off on Dimitroff without putting much thought into the conversation.
• They could both talk through some points but ultimately hang up upset after only a few minutes.
• The conversation could be cordial with the two finding common ground.
Lo and behold, option No. 3 turned out to be the outcome. The two talked for roughly 45 minutes, going into Dimitroff’s background and philosophy. Hall learned that two of Dimitroff’s influences, as it pertains to leadership and culture, aren’t from football mentors, but from R.C. Buford, the CEO and former general manager of the San Antonio Spurs, and David Brailsford, the cycling coach of Team Ineos who used to lead Team Sky. Dimitroff also explained his reasoning for not making an in-season move after all the injuries that took place in early 2018.
“I was able to address my concerns head-on,” Hall said. “Literally, ‘Thomas, why haven’t you gone out and picked up a free agent?’ I was literally asking these questions. Bit by bit he went through and addressed my concerns. That was the coolest thing in the world for me.”
Said Dimitroff: “I basically expounded on elements of what we were doing in our approach (in 2018). It wasn’t as easy as just looking at it in black and white. There were so many layers to putting together a football team and a sports franchise. It’s not just on the surface as you may see. I dug into some things that I probably would never have dug into with a fan before. I was appropriate about it, but I believe that was eye-opening for him.”
Toward the end of the conversation, Hall said he was convinced to remain a Falcons fan. He asked Dimitroff if he and Naomi made it out to a Falcons game later in the 2018 season, if they could somehow get on the sideline? Dimitroff said that wouldn’t be a problem. The Halls ended up getting tickets to Atlanta’s 2018 game against the Baltimore Ravens. As the game approached, Hall emailed Dimitroff to let him know he would be attending. A week later, Dimitroff called Hall and set him up with sideline passes. The Halls flew to Atlanta and brought along a Los Angeles cycling jersey, with a design featuring palm trees and a sunset, as a thank you gift, with the hope they would run into Dimitroff on the sideline.
Sure enough, as Kai and Naomi stood on the visitors’ sideline near the kicking net, Kai received a call from an unknown number. It turned out to be Dimitroff’s assistant at the time, who told them the Falcons’ GM wanted to meet them. The assistant linked up with the Halls and directed them toward Dimitroff. Dimitroff embraced the couple as if they were long lost pals.
“It felt like we’ve known him for a long time,” Naomi said. “He treated us like we were friends and family. He gave us a hug. It didn’t feel like we were meeting him for the first time. It was like we were friends catching up.”
When Dimitroff walked away, this easily could have marked the end of any future correspondence.
Instead, Hall and Dimitroff continued to email back and forth. Then they started texting. They’ll occasionally chat on the phone. Conversations veer well outside of football. Around May of 2019, the Halls found out Naomi was pregnant, which brought joy to Dimitroff when he heard the news. They started sharing personal stories, such as Hall’s on-and-off relationship with his father. Shortly after Hall got a job at a Fortune 500 company he long wanted to work for, Dimitroff offered advice on how to confront certain on-the-job anxieties that were arising.
Hall was hopeful his favorite team would bounce back from the 7-9 season in 2018. Of course, a rough 1-7 start ended Atlanta’s playoff hopes before the Falcons ever got off the ground. But in a year’s worth of time, Hall was no longer active, and angry, on Twitter. Sure, he hated it when the team lost. But there was a newfound perspective learned when it came to watching the game. Regardless of a game’s outcome, Hall would text Dimitroff something positive. Seven of the first eight games were rough. During the final eight, the two could celebrate via text after each of the six wins.
But one particular game stands out for Hall, especially because he couldn’t watch it. On Dec. 8, 2019, which happened to be Atlanta’s second game against the Carolina Panthers, Naomi went into labor. After their daughter Emilia’s birth, and after Hall saw that the Falcons won 40-20, he congratulated Dimitroff on the win and shared a photo of his baby daughter. Dimitroff was ecstatic and peppered Hall with questions about how Naomi and Emilia were doing, telling the new father how beautiful his new daughter is.
Dimitroff’s friendship was much needed in recent weeks. As the NFL operates its business, many citizens around the country have lost their jobs — temporarily or permanently — during the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the world. Hall fell into this category. On April 9, Hall received a call that he was being laid off due to the economic impact of the virus. Later that day, he texted Dimitroff about it. Dimitroff vowed to call when he had a free moment.
That came two days later, on April 11, shortly after he recorded a podcast with sports reporter Peter King. Dimitroff FaceTimed Hall, to check in and see how he was doing. Sitting with his wife and daughter at their home, Hall was surprised to see a FaceTime request from Dimitroff pop up on his phone. Even though he was let go from his job, Hall has been in good spirits — saying it has allowed him to spend extra time he otherwise wouldn’t have with Emilia. But he felt even better after Dimitroff spoke to him. Dimitroff brought up the attributes he has learned about Hall since meeting him, painting a vivid picture of what his future will be.
“When the opportunity was pulled from him I was thinking how difficult it would be to be without a job and compensation during this very precarious time,” Dimitroff said. “Believe me, my focus has been mainly on the draft and building this team. But every once in a while when I have pockets of time to be contemplative, situations like this enter my mind. I am confident that he will not be without a job for long. He’s too bright and intuitive.”
On Thursday, Hall will tune into the NFL Draft and hope the Falcons strike gold with their first-round pick. While Dimitroff hasn’t delved into trade secrets regarding the direction they may take, Hall has told him repeatedly who he wants the team to take in the first round. Asked who that prospect is, Hall declined to say, stating he would rather keep that a secret between them. And as it pertains to draft information, Hall certainly pries. Rarely does he receive.
Oh yeah — as for the Rams swag Demoff sent the Halls a year-and-a-half ago? Those items were taken to a Goodwill somewhere in the Los Angeles area. What’s crazy to think about, however, is that if Dimitroff never responded, those items would still be in the Hall household.
But as things would unfold, Hall’s direct and honest approach struck a chord with Dimitroff. And that chord produced an unlikely friendship that neither could have ever expected.
“Through this experience, I decided to remain a fan of my favorite team since the early ’90s,” Hall said. “Also through this experience, and more importantly to my family and I, we forged a friendship and connection with someone who has added tremendous value to our lives, just through the past year or two. To me, that’s invaluable. For that I’m grateful. I developed a friendship with someone who has opened up about their life, and as a result it’s impacted mine. I’ve developed a friendship with someone who has offered mentorship and guidance as it pertains to my profession. My family has gained a genuine friend. When you have a friend you want them to succeed and you’re going to stand by them no matter what.”