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Dimitroff: 'The expectations are legitmate'

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Dimitroff: 'The expectations are legitmate'

PUBLISHED Friday, Aug 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm EDT

LAST UPDATED 14 hours and 43 minutes ago

Vinnie Iyer Sporting News

Text size A A A FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.—Entering his fourth full season as Atlanta Falcons general manager, Thomas Dimitroff has already won Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year award twice, including for his work in 2010. SN's Vinnie Iyer caught up with Dimitroff at training camp to discuss just how good the Falcons feel about 2011, the big draft-day trade for wideout Julio Jones and other key decisions that have helped build the team into a consistent NFC contender:

Q: So how do you feel about this team you have assembled for this season?

44719-650-366.jpgAtlanta Falcons general manger Thomas Dimittroff watches practice during NFL training camp, Friday, July 29, 2011 in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo) A: Very encouraged about what we have both offensively and defensively. I feel like we accomplished what we set out to accomplish in the offseason by adding some explosive elements on both sides of the ball. We were able to re-sign two of our three offensive linemen— very important for us—as well as a kicker, linebacker and running back. (I’m) encouraged how things fell into place the way they did. The expectations are legitimate.

Q: Coming off the tough playoff loss to Green Bay, did you see the need to add more pop in the passing game?

A: Aaron (Rodgers), he was on fire—I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback on fire as much. Our feeling was we knew we had to go tit for tat with teams like that, quarterbacks like that. That was something that was on our mind, no question about it. We felt for a while now that we were very interested in having a No. 1A and No. 1B receiver. And we feel with Julio, we have added a nice element to be a very solid receiver in this league.

Q: Do you feel that just looking at the talented offenses in the NFC South, you have to keep up with these teams?

A: You think about it a little bit where our division is, how explosive it is as far as playmaking ability. We felt from the very beginning when we drafted Matt Ryan, we had to continue to put pieces in place to help him along the way as we evolve as a team and Matt as a quarterback. We believe in riding the train while Matt is strong, healthy and young.

Q: With your defense, it seems like you've slowly added the right pieces through the draft and free agency over the past four years. What's been your plan there?

A: All along, we said, let's really focus on offense, take care of the big pieces there—some expensive, some high draft picks, and then build a defense that can be consistent, tough, young, hungry and passionate. We feel like we have that defense. We've sprinkled in the select veterans who have a lot of experience in the league and their own element of passion. With our combination of youthful players who are going into their fourth year now and are battle-tested, with the select veterans, the defense is really starting to come together now.

Q: Have you been following how your defense has statistically improved over the past three seasons?

A: I'm very aware of that and follow that quite closely. I think it's a good indication of where we are. The finish to last year, though no one in this organization is dwelling on it, there's a little bit of a pit in the stomach that keeps the fire burning. Everyone wants to prove we are a very sound opponent and we're a defense that can play with anyone in this league.

Q: Just how much does your owner, Arthur Blank, facilitate your job as general manager?

A: Arthur has been very good with myself and (coach) Mike Smith as far as being mindful of that proverbial line, respectfully speaking, where he has allowed us as the two football decision-makers to make the decisions we need to make. He's provided some very good counsel along the way. He's been very generous to me and one of the most competitive owners in the league. Anytime we need something we deem we will make this organization better—whether it's the talent on the field or the technology we need to improve in certain areas—he's always there to encourage us to do so. We're very fortunate that way.

Q: How has your working relationship with coach Mike Smith been so successful?

A: One of the things I've been so impressed with since 2008 … from the very beginning, we have viewed building this team, setting policy —all the decisions we have made together—we do definitely see it through the same lenses. Our approach and our leadership style have been very congruent. With Arthur, the three of us work very well together when there are big decisions to make.

Q: When Arthur hired you and coach Smith in '08, was it at first overwhelming to look at the laundry list needed to turn the team around?

A: There's no question it could have been perceived as a daunting task from the outside. But when Mike and I came in, we both talked about being sequential with our approach. We focused on things in segments. We knew we had to take care of certain policies, we had to get the right players here and jettison the players we felt weren't right for this team. We had so many things on the docket we had to approach, but we stepped back and thought about knocking out one aspect as a time. We didn't look too far down the road.

Q: Is there any kind of blueprint you follow to building a team?

A: I think there's not a blueprint at all. For us, what works here—and I'm proud of Mike and myself—we're very systematic and we're very calculating in our decision-making. We've made a concerted effort not to let the emotions send us in different directions.

Q: How important is the success of the Falcons to the city of Atlanta and the neighboring community?

A: I'm very impressed with the fan base here. They're very intelligent —they know football inside out. It's encouraging when we're out in the community to see the support. We've heard time and time again since we've been here in 2008 how much this fan base is craving a perennial contending team. They know that each game, we have a chance as a team to win. That makes me feel good that we're providing the right product to be proud of and get behind.

MORE NFL: Training camp reports from all 32 teams

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/story/2011-08-12/dimitroff-the-expectations-are-legitmate#ixzz1UwOAdCbz

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Despite whatever the rest of the Sports World think of Atlanta as a sports town. Atl fans should have expectations for their teams. The days of Braves,Falcons and Hawks making the playoffs and calling that year a success are long gone. We now want our teams to take that next step and turn this town into a Championship city.

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