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Terry Fontenot to the Falcons: What does he bring to Atlanta, how does he fit? - The Athletic


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by Tori McElhaney and Jeff Duncan for The Athletic

 

After nearly two decades with the New Orleans Saints, Terry Fontenot was hired as the general manager of the Falcons on Monday, joining coach Arthur Smith in a new regime. What does Fontenot bring to the Falcons? How can he get things turned around after three straight losing seasons?

Falcons beat writer Tori McElhaney and New Orleans columnist Jeff Duncan share their thoughts of what’s next for Fontenot and the Falcons:

McElhaney: When Smith was announced as the Falcons’ coach this was the first question I asked Joe Rexrode about him. With Fontenot the newly announced general manager in Atlanta, I wanted to get your answer to the same question because I think the Falcons readers would love a little background on Fontenot. So, if you were told to give a few-sentence synopsis on who Fontenot is, what would you say?

Duncan: Terry presents a polished front, but he is Louisiana blue-collar to the core. He came from humble roots in Lake Charles, La. He was not a silver-spoon kid. His father works at the local Firestone Plant. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who raised seven children. He started at the bottom as an intern with the Saints and worked his way up in the organization. He knows how to work.

McElhaney: I was very impressed with Terry on Tuesday in his introductory news conference. He was charismatic and witty, and his kids were absolute cuties (because yes, they had to show off their new Falcons gear), but something that really stood out to me was how highly he spoke of the Saints organization, particularly Mickey Loomis. Fontenot actually got a bit choked up when talking about the chance Loomis took on him as a 22-year-old.

Before all of that happened, however, Arthur Blank said Loomis actually called him once Fontenot’s decision was made. Loomis sent his support and told Blank that when Loomis finally sought retirement, he wanted Fontenot as his replacement. Through the years, how have you seen this relationship grow professionally and personally between Loomis and Fontenot?

Duncan: Fontenot’s personality reminds me a lot of Loomis. Neither guy is afraid to state his opinion, but neither feels the need to dominate a conversation or take over a room. Both take a more cerebral, understated approach to business matters. Loomis gave Fontenot his start in the business, and Terry will always be loyal to him for that. He learned much of the GM business from Loomis, who is a shrewd salary-cap manager and contract negotiator. Those skills will be important for Fontenot since he comes from the personnel side of the football operation and rarely had to handle those kinds of things. I know Loomis is extremely proud of how Terry has worked his way up the ladder and handled himself with class and professionalism along the way. Fontenot is now the third NFL general manager to develop under Loomis’ tutelage, following his predecessor — and good friend — Ryan Pace in Chicago.

McElhaney: Yes, as you have explained: Fontenot has worked his way up the Saints organization’s front office ladder. It seems to me he has done a little bit of everything in New Orleans. I feel like my next question is maybe a bit easier to answer in regards to coaching candidates because they have a body of work that is filmed and you get to see their schemes play out in real time. With GM candidates, it’s sometimes a little more difficult because so much of their work is behind the scenes, especially with an assistant GM. But, in your opinion, what’s perhaps the most impressive thing Fontenot has done in almost 18 years with the Saints?

Duncan: Under Loomis and Sean Payton, the Saints have a very collaborative management style so Terry has had his hand in a lot of big decisions over the years. Payton has praised him for his work on providing detailed, in-depth scouting reports on the Saints’ opponents. Terry and his staff left no stone uncovered in their prep work, and that attention to detail was critical to the Saints’ success over the years. Terry also has a keen eye for talent and understood how to find players who fit the vision of the Saints’ coaching staff and scheme. Demario Davis is by far his best free-agent signing. Few people had ever heard of him when the Saints brought him in, and he’s become a team captain, a leader and an All-Pro. But even more impressive has been Terry’s ability to beat the bushes and find mid- and veteran-minimum-level players to bolster the team’s depth and fill out the roster. Players like Malcom Brown, Latavius Murray, James Hurst, Nick Easton and Ty Montgomery have come in and played key roles and allowed the team to withstand attrition and injuries, which is so critical in today’s game. He also has mined the CFL ranks for players like Delvin Breaux, Erik Harris and Adam Bighill.

McElhaney: I like that you brought up his ability to find mid- and veteran-minimum-level players because that was a point of emphasis he brought up Tuesday.

“They can’t all be high-paid free agents,” he said. “They can’t all be top draft picks. We have to hit on the mid- and late-round picks. We have to hit on the undrafted free agents. We have to hit on the lower-paid players and make sure we’re clear with our vision and in line with our coaches.”

I think this quote goes hand-in-hand with what you are saying he does really well. It’ll be interesting to see how this translates to the Falcons.

Another question I had is one that I always like to ask when we’re thinking about the journey someone takes to get to where they are now: Was there maybe a moment when you really felt as though he could be a GM one day?

Duncan: Definitely. It was 2015 and Breaux had burst on the scene as a starting cornerback, and I worked on a story with Terry about how the Saints discovered and landed him. It was fascinating how the Saints went about beating the competition for a coveted free agent. It was a collaborative effort, but Breaux was largely a Fontenot find and target. And the competitive savvy and attention to detail he displayed to get the deal done said a lot about how he operates. I was very impressed and could see that the Saints entrusted him to execute important decisions.

McElhaney: It’s interesting the narrative that has started to play out with Fontenot taking over in Atlanta as people make connections between the situations of the Saints and Falcons. Both teams have a tight salary-cap margin to work with, and Fontenot already has been working with an aging quarterback in Drew Brees, having to make decisions for when Brees is no longer in a Saints uniform in a similar way he will have to do with Matt Ryan. There are a couple of similarities.

Also, he knows the Falcons pretty well given the Saints and Falcons play twice each season and sometimes three times. With all of that in mind, why do you think Fontenot coming to Atlanta was a good move? Do you think all of these things made him stand out?

Duncan: As the former director of pro personnel, Terry definitely will have an intimate working knowledge of Atlanta’s personnel and roster. Roster management and building will be strengths of his. More important, Terry has learned how to build a winning culture for sustained success, the importance of hiring smart, talented people and empowering them to do their jobs. I’m sure he knows this won’t happen overnight. He understands the long road ahead for him and Smith, and I’m equally sure he is not intimidated by the challenge at all. Rather, knowing Terry, I expect him to be excited about the challenge and see it as the greatest opportunity of his career.

McElhaney: To wrap up, I am glad you brought up the challenge ahead because the Falcons do offer a challenge. Between the salary-cap situation and the players they need, it’s going to be a difficult puzzle. Fontenot has many decisions ahead of him: Do they draft a QB, the future of Ryan and Julio Jones, battles on the free-agent market, and the Falcons desperately need a running back and pass rusher. What makes you think Fontenot is ready for this challenge?

Duncan: He’s learned from some of the best minds in the business: Loomis, Payton, Pace and Jeff Ireland. He won’t be afraid to make tough decisions. As nice a guy as Terry is, he understands you have to be the bad guy sometimes in order to achieve your team’s major objectives. Ultimately, those big decisions will be his to make, but after studying and learning in the Saints operation, I’m confident he will employ a similar management model, surround himself with smart, talented people and promote a collaborative decision-making process. Terry has natural leadership skills. He earns respect through his work ethic and competitive nature. But he also has an engaging personality. You’ll find very few people who don’t like Terry Fontenot. And because of that, he’ll be able to hire a lot of smart, talented people in Atlanta because he’s the kind of guy people will want to work with and for. I’ll be surprised if he isn’t extremely successful.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Goober Pyle said:

by Tori McElhaney and Jeff Duncan for The Athletic

 

After nearly two decades with the New Orleans Saints, Terry Fontenot was hired as the general manager of the Falcons on Monday, joining coach Arthur Smith in a new regime. What does Fontenot bring to the Falcons? How can he get things turned around after three straight losing seasons?

Falcons beat writer Tori McElhaney and New Orleans columnist Jeff Duncan share their thoughts of what’s next for Fontenot and the Falcons:

McElhaney: When Smith was announced as the Falcons’ coach this was the first question I asked Joe Rexrode about him. With Fontenot the newly announced general manager in Atlanta, I wanted to get your answer to the same question because I think the Falcons readers would love a little background on Fontenot. So, if you were told to give a few-sentence synopsis on who Fontenot is, what would you say?

Duncan: Terry presents a polished front, but he is Louisiana blue-collar to the core. He came from humble roots in Lake Charles, La. He was not a silver-spoon kid. His father works at the local Firestone Plant. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who raised seven children. He started at the bottom as an intern with the Saints and worked his way up in the organization. He knows how to work.

McElhaney: I was very impressed with Terry on Tuesday in his introductory news conference. He was charismatic and witty, and his kids were absolute cuties (because yes, they had to show off their new Falcons gear), but something that really stood out to me was how highly he spoke of the Saints organization, particularly Mickey Loomis. Fontenot actually got a bit choked up when talking about the chance Loomis took on him as a 22-year-old.

Before all of that happened, however, Arthur Blank said Loomis actually called him once Fontenot’s decision was made. Loomis sent his support and told Blank that when Loomis finally sought retirement, he wanted Fontenot as his replacement. Through the years, how have you seen this relationship grow professionally and personally between Loomis and Fontenot?

Duncan: Fontenot’s personality reminds me a lot of Loomis. Neither guy is afraid to state his opinion, but neither feels the need to dominate a conversation or take over a room. Both take a more cerebral, understated approach to business matters. Loomis gave Fontenot his start in the business, and Terry will always be loyal to him for that. He learned much of the GM business from Loomis, who is a shrewd salary-cap manager and contract negotiator. Those skills will be important for Fontenot since he comes from the personnel side of the football operation and rarely had to handle those kinds of things. I know Loomis is extremely proud of how Terry has worked his way up the ladder and handled himself with class and professionalism along the way. Fontenot is now the third NFL general manager to develop under Loomis’ tutelage, following his predecessor — and good friend — Ryan Pace in Chicago.

McElhaney: Yes, as you have explained: Fontenot has worked his way up the Saints organization’s front office ladder. It seems to me he has done a little bit of everything in New Orleans. I feel like my next question is maybe a bit easier to answer in regards to coaching candidates because they have a body of work that is filmed and you get to see their schemes play out in real time. With GM candidates, it’s sometimes a little more difficult because so much of their work is behind the scenes, especially with an assistant GM. But, in your opinion, what’s perhaps the most impressive thing Fontenot has done in almost 18 years with the Saints?

Duncan: Under Loomis and Sean Payton, the Saints have a very collaborative management style so Terry has had his hand in a lot of big decisions over the years. Payton has praised him for his work on providing detailed, in-depth scouting reports on the Saints’ opponents. Terry and his staff left no stone uncovered in their prep work, and that attention to detail was critical to the Saints’ success over the years. Terry also has a keen eye for talent and understood how to find players who fit the vision of the Saints’ coaching staff and scheme. Demario Davis is by far his best free-agent signing. Few people had ever heard of him when the Saints brought him in, and he’s become a team captain, a leader and an All-Pro. But even more impressive has been Terry’s ability to beat the bushes and find mid- and veteran-minimum-level players to bolster the team’s depth and fill out the roster. Players like Malcom Brown, Latavius Murray, James Hurst, Nick Easton and Ty Montgomery have come in and played key roles and allowed the team to withstand attrition and injuries, which is so critical in today’s game. He also has mined the CFL ranks for players like Delvin Breaux, Erik Harris and Adam Bighill.

McElhaney: I like that you brought up his ability to find mid- and veteran-minimum-level players because that was a point of emphasis he brought up Tuesday.

“They can’t all be high-paid free agents,” he said. “They can’t all be top draft picks. We have to hit on the mid- and late-round picks. We have to hit on the undrafted free agents. We have to hit on the lower-paid players and make sure we’re clear with our vision and in line with our coaches.”

I think this quote goes hand-in-hand with what you are saying he does really well. It’ll be interesting to see how this translates to the Falcons.

Another question I had is one that I always like to ask when we’re thinking about the journey someone takes to get to where they are now: Was there maybe a moment when you really felt as though he could be a GM one day?

Duncan: Definitely. It was 2015 and Breaux had burst on the scene as a starting cornerback, and I worked on a story with Terry about how the Saints discovered and landed him. It was fascinating how the Saints went about beating the competition for a coveted free agent. It was a collaborative effort, but Breaux was largely a Fontenot find and target. And the competitive savvy and attention to detail he displayed to get the deal done said a lot about how he operates. I was very impressed and could see that the Saints entrusted him to execute important decisions.

McElhaney: It’s interesting the narrative that has started to play out with Fontenot taking over in Atlanta as people make connections between the situations of the Saints and Falcons. Both teams have a tight salary-cap margin to work with, and Fontenot already has been working with an aging quarterback in Drew Brees, having to make decisions for when Brees is no longer in a Saints uniform in a similar way he will have to do with Matt Ryan. There are a couple of similarities.

Also, he knows the Falcons pretty well given the Saints and Falcons play twice each season and sometimes three times. With all of that in mind, why do you think Fontenot coming to Atlanta was a good move? Do you think all of these things made him stand out?

Duncan: As the former director of pro personnel, Terry definitely will have an intimate working knowledge of Atlanta’s personnel and roster. Roster management and building will be strengths of his. More important, Terry has learned how to build a winning culture for sustained success, the importance of hiring smart, talented people and empowering them to do their jobs. I’m sure he knows this won’t happen overnight. He understands the long road ahead for him and Smith, and I’m equally sure he is not intimidated by the challenge at all. Rather, knowing Terry, I expect him to be excited about the challenge and see it as the greatest opportunity of his career.

McElhaney: To wrap up, I am glad you brought up the challenge ahead because the Falcons do offer a challenge. Between the salary-cap situation and the players they need, it’s going to be a difficult puzzle. Fontenot has many decisions ahead of him: Do they draft a QB, the future of Ryan and Julio Jones, battles on the free-agent market, and the Falcons desperately need a running back and pass rusher. What makes you think Fontenot is ready for this challenge?

Duncan: He’s learned from some of the best minds in the business: Loomis, Payton, Pace and Jeff Ireland. He won’t be afraid to make tough decisions. As nice a guy as Terry is, he understands you have to be the bad guy sometimes in order to achieve your team’s major objectives. Ultimately, those big decisions will be his to make, but after studying and learning in the Saints operation, I’m confident he will employ a similar management model, surround himself with smart, talented people and promote a collaborative decision-making process. Terry has natural leadership skills. He earns respect through his work ethic and competitive nature. But he also has an engaging personality. You’ll find very few people who don’t like Terry Fontenot. And because of that, he’ll be able to hire a lot of smart, talented people in Atlanta because he’s the kind of guy people will want to work with and for. I’ll be surprised if he isn’t extremely successful.

 

 

Dang, always seems to be me and you posting from the Athletic lol, was just about to post this as well.

 

I like the fact that TF has worked from the ground up and knows how to get what he wants. I think this might be the beginning of a bright future for us. 

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