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Blank goes with a football man, not a sideshow


michaelgee
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Blank goes with a football man, not a sideshow

By Jeff Schultz | Saturday, January 12, 2008, 08:08 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeff Schultz This isn t about selling tickets, as difficult as that must be for a former retail whiz to swallow. It s not about the name on the marquee, or the pre-kickoff buzz, or the once-famous coach who keeps un-retiring in different cities, only to wind up back in a studio when he s done scratching his itch.

The Falcons didn t need to hire the big name. The Falcons only had to hire somebody to fix a mess. Tom Dimitroff meet your mess.

The next few years will tell us if owner Arthur Blank chose well. This much we know: Blank has absorbed a lot of criticism of late. But after being conned by Bobby Petrino, used by Bill Parcells and dancing an illogical dance with Pete Carroll, he bounced back with a reasoned choice, free of emotion, pyrotechnics and clowns with exploding feet.

Blank didn t hire a sideshow. He hired a football guy.

I know. You ve never heard of Thomas Dimitroff. You re worried. I mean, Dimitroff has never been on ESPN so how good can he be, right? It s sort of like when Lucy Van Pelt told Schroeder: Beethoven wasn t so great. He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he?

Nobody outside of football insiders has heard of Dimitroff, and few of those could pick him out of a lineup. But to view that as a negative would be shortsighted. Fact is, this franchise could use a little anonymity about now.

Eight years ago, the New England Patriots weren t quite the present-day Falcons, but they were headed in that direction. They finished 5-11 in 2000. They were bumped up against the salary cap and were paying for a series of personnel mistakes.

Then owner Robert Kraft did something radical: He hired a personnel chief (Scott Pioli) known only to hard-core football geeks and a head coach (Bill Belichick) who had been a disaster in Cleveland.

How did that turn out?

This is what I know about Dimitroff: He works for the New England Patriots. I m sold. The bio could read: Tom Dimitroff: Washed towels in Foxborough, and that would be good enough.

For the past six seasons, he has worked for arguably the best owner (Kraft), the best personnel director (Pioli) and the best coach (Belichick) in professional sports. There is something to be said for osmosis.

When the Patriots went from 5-11 in 2000 to Super Bowl titles in three of the next four years, they excelled at finding low-budget free agents who could help form a team. It was football s version of Moneyball.

Overshadowed is the fact they also have been pretty good on draft day. Dimitroff has spent 18 years in player personnel, the past six with the Patriots, most recently as the director of college scouting. He has been there for the past five drafts, which yielded 19 roster players and 11 starters, including four who were named to this year s Pro Bowl: Asante Samuel (2003 draft), Dan Koppen (2003), Vince Wilfork (2004) and Logan Mankins (2005).

Koppen and Mankins are offensive linemen.

What a concept.

Blank seemingly strayed only once during this process, when he spoke to Southern Cal s Pete Carroll. We ve never heard the specifics of that exchange from either party. But if few fans appeared to embrace the concept of such a successful college coach with an NFL background working in Flowery Branch, there was a reason. Carroll was not overwhelming as an NFL head coach he took a team that went to the Super Bowl in 1996 and the Pats regressed each of the next three seasons.

But more important, there was a belief Carroll wanted total power, and he has no background in personnel. That s a far greater issue for the Falcons than coaching. They don t need an interior decorator. The house is falling down.

Dimitroff will be in charge of football operations. Rich McKay is out as general manager. He remains as president, but he will have nothing to do with football decisions. Blank gave him a contract extension, but don t make too much of that. Some of these things are done for window dressing. Remember: Jim Mora received a contract extension the year before he got fired.

An educated guess: McKay will be gone within seconds of finding another job offer to his liking. Until then, he ll make a lot of money to glad-hand sponsors and orchestrate a stadium deal.

The best thing Blank could do now is allow his new general manager to run his football team. Fix the mess, and wins and fans will follow. Then everybody will have heard of Tom Dimitroff.

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kjc34 (1/12/2008)
good article , thanks for posting and yes, we are in a mess and we need some football minds to dig us out!!

so heres to climbing up ;)

dang right!

for the weenies who are "so" worried about the webcam interview, webcam interviews are apparently used everywhere in the world except on MOMS COMPUTER!

a Google search for "patriots" "webcast" = over 79,000 hits

"patriots" "webcam" = over 202,000 hits

looks like the New England Patriots are using the internet quite a bit, our weenie fans panic because of a webcam interview. wow! talk about freaking out over nothing...

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I know. You ve never heard of Thomas Dimitroff. You re worried. I mean, Dimitroff has never been on ESPN so how good can he be, right? It s sort of like when Lucy Van Pelt told Schroeder: Beethoven wasn t so great. He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he?

LOL!

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The Cush (1/12/2008)
I'll do the math here for everyone. In 5 years, they have added 30 players to their roster, which is arguably the deepest in the NFL. That's an average of 6 a season.

Not saying Mckay is great or anything but, since 2004, ATL has drafted 30 players. 23 are still with the team. 8 starters, 9 back ups, 6 on IR. of the 7 remaining only 2 are still in the NFL. Jordan Beck with Denver, and Matt Schaub with Houston.

He has not done a bad job,just not a great one. and FA has not been successful much either.

Thanks for postin' the article Mike!

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604hof (1/12/2008)
Good article, and shockingly not the usual trash the Falcons from the AJC.

if you look, ugh, at the ajc site, there were about 30 CONSECUTIVE positive replies to what Schultz wrote..I couldn't believe it!

don't worry though, TMoore will pour water on the hire tomorrow... that is what TMoore does...

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Lee Long (1/12/2008)

Not saying Mckay is great or anything but, since 2004, ATL has drafted 30 players. 23 are still with the team. 8 starters, 9 back ups, 6 on IR. of the 7 remaining only 2 are still in the NFL. Jordan Beck with Denver, and Matt Schaub with Houston.

He has not done a bad job,just not a great one. and FA has not been successful much either.

The only difference between the players we have drafted an the ones the Patriots have drafted is that we chose ours in order to fill a position and the Patriots chose theirs to compete for a position. McKay has done a horrible job for the amount of high draft picks we have, I feel like more than 1 draft pick should have gone to the pro bowl although this year Boley definitely should be. Besides Boley, DHall and Roddy White no other draft picks that we have would start on most teams.

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