Posted: 7:27 am Friday, January 31st, 2014

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Dimitroff & Pioli ready to make moves 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli and general manager Thomas Dimitroff making the rounds along Super Bowl XLVII radio row on Thursday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli and general manager Thomas Dimitroff making the rounds along Super Bowl XLVIII radio row on Thursday, January 31, 2014. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

NEW YORK – Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and new assistant general manager Scott Pioli made the rounds at radio row on Thursday at the Super Bowl.

Afterwards, Dimitroff granted an exclusive interview to me and columnist Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Schultz, a long-time former beat writer, went into “Beast Mode” and I knew to just get downfield and get some blocks for him. When he needed a break, I jumped in with a question or two, until he got his wind back.

Here’s the full transcript on the wide-ranging interview:

Q: When will you all start making moves?

A: I believe that on February 3rd, when the rosters are no longer frozen, we’ll start to make some moves.

Q: Have you all been in meetings to make those roster determinations?

A: To say that we’ve had meetings is an understatement. Yes, we’ve been very busy at so many levels.

Q: Is there any way to quantify how dramatic of a change we should expect? Last year, you all did a bunch of moves and it was like wow! Could it approach that?

A: I don’t know if we can parallel the two years because this is a very different offseason than last season. Suffice it to say, we’ll be very mindful of our assessment of the readiness of some of our young players to potentially move into starting roles. Yes, there will be moves. There will be adjustments. We’ve already made them throughout the organization in football (operations) and certain (other) areas. We’ve added some really good football coaches to our staff. We’ve added a top notch personnel executive in Scott Pioli, who is going to be very good in our adjustment as well, teaming with Lionel Vital, who I believe is one of the top talent evaluators in this league. We like where we are there. We haven’t even really started our adjustment from a personnel standpoint, but there will be strong moves and there will be legitimate adjustments.

Q: In a sense do you think you have some clarity about maybe some guys now because a lot of young guys had to play last year?

A: There is no question, given this past season, 4-12 allowed us as a team to experiment with a lot of different personnel groupings that we never would have done if we were a 13-3 team.

Q: When would you say that the experimental aspects started?

A: I believe it probably started. … We were mindful going into probably the fifth or sixth game how important it was going to be. We knew it was going to be very important even going into the season. I had talked with (head coach Mike Smith) time and again about the unbelievable importance of developing our football players. That’s the important thing. Mike believes it and he knows it and he understands that the way the league is going right now that it is more important now, more than ever, to spend time and develop our youthful talent because of the restrictions from the salary cap standpoint. Sometimes, it may not be the most suitable situation and the best player for that position overall, but that player may satisfy two or three traits that we are looking for to get better and we’ll really hone in on that player.

Q: As soon as the fifth or sixth game, you all started to say we are playing with some other players?

A: No, I was just saying that when we started having our injuries and we realized that we were playing a lot of, or a number of younger guys, it was going to be very important for us to continue to focus on schooling, educating and developing those players while they were on the field. That was going to be very important for us.

Q: Last year, those moves weren’t announced until March 1, when the league year started. With the Feb. 3rd date are you all working with a different timeline this year?

A: We’ll have the discussions and we can start to make the moves after the 3rd (when) the rosters are no longer frozen.

Q: Can you clear up how the (decision-making) hierarchy is going to work now with Scott Pioli being on board? How will it work between you, Pioli and Lionel Vital?

A: Lionel Vital is our personnel director. He is charge of the personnel department, both pro and college. Nothing has changed with the hiring of Scott as far as what Lionel’s responsibilities are. Scott is an assistant general manager. He (has) a very important seat at the table. His insight and experiences as per building teams and putting rosters together is going to be very important as a discussion point at so many levels. Again, Scott’s direct line is to me and our owner. He is not in charge of the personnel department.

Q: So he has no autonomy per se? It’s just a voice basically?

A: Yes, Scott doesn’t have autonomy. We’re a very collaborative football team. What he’s going to be again is an incredibly insightful voice for us at so many levels. Not only from a personnel standpoint, but also from an organizational football and operational standpoint. Not only from all of the successes that he’s had, but by his own admission from the challenges that he’s had along the way as well. It’s going to be a great reminder for myself, as well as for Mike Smith, Arthur Blank and Lionel Vital and for all of those of us in that football ops leadership group. It’s going to be very important to have a very challenging and insightful voice.

Dimitroff and Pioli talking with Mike Bell and David Archer of 790TheZone. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Dimitroff and Pioli talking with Mike Bell and David Archer of 790TheZone, the Falcons flagship station. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Q: Did he just want to slowly ease back into it? Everyone knows about your (personal) relationship with him and your comfort level with each other, but was he just not sure if he wanted another (general manager’s) job yet? Maybe, there wasn’t another GM job offered yet.

A: I will say without getting too specific about Scott’s situation, I will say that Scott had opportunities and potential opportunities, that he could have been perceived as very beneficial for him. But this is where we wanted to be. He wanted to work with me, the Falcons, Arthur and Mike Smith, who he knows well over the years and Lionel Vital, who he knows very well. He believes that we have a good football team and that we can continue to be more and more successful. Scott feels that he can provide us with some very good insight in so many different ways. That’s why he wanted to be here. I would suggest that there is probably only one place in the National Football League where he would take an assistant general manager’s title and that was in Atlanta.

Q: Any update on a possible contract extension for Roddy White that has been widely speculated? In order to get a more cap friendly number for him and maybe Blalock?

A: I don’t want to comment on the specifics right now of any of their contracts obviously. But there is no question that we’d like Roddy to be back here. . .for the rest of his career.

Q: Are you in decent shape cap-wise?

A: We are in good shape cap-wise.

Q: Will it enable you to spend money in free agency? Can you quantify that?

A: Yes. We have a good situation as far as the cap space. We’re good from a cap standpoint as far as entertaining certain options in free agency. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to go big or go home. It does mean, however, that we’ll be very mindful of what may be out there and what may fit into our areas of need throughout our football team. Our feelings have always been that we can acquire through free agency, but we can also build through the draft. But we have to know where we can plug guys in who are ready to play right away.

Q: Since you have to make a decision in free agency before the draft, is there any way you can say where you are more likely to spend money?

A: I really can’t say that right now and that’s not me being evasive.

(PR guy and Schultz get into verbal scuffle. Something about ‘we’re not going to tell you’ and ‘it’s my job to ask questions.’ I get downfield and block the PR guy and get him out of the play.)

TD resumes: At this point, we don’t know which direction that we are going in free agency. We are really trudging forward in our discussions about it. Again, part of this had to do with how we compare that free agency group to what may be out there in the draft and taking all of that information and all of the financial implications of acquiring in free agency verses the draft and again being mindful of the readiness of the our roster to step up and play right away. That’s so important for us.

Q: Do you look at the Super Bowl teams and go wow, John Schneider made some smooth moves by getting Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett? Do you look at and admire John Elway’s pick-ups?

A: Anytime as a general manager, you look at some of your contemporaries and the ones that you truly respect. You’re always analyzing their system and their approach. We are all similar in certain ways and different in a number of other ways. It’s just a matter of what truly applies to team building. But there is no question that I respect both John Schneider and John Elway in their approach to building a football team. They approached it with aggressiveness and confidence which is something that I feel that we do here. We are very confident with our approach. We never look back and hesitate with our moves. We are usually very forward about what we are going to do as an organization. It’s something that I’m proud of.

Q: Where do you need impact players?

A: Offensively and defensively?

Q: Yes. Preferably by position or however you want to break it down.

A: There is no mystery here. We know that we need to continue to build along our fronts. We need to continue to focus on getting more gritty and more rugged in certain areas. That’s going to be important for us coming into the season. …We all know that this is a warrior game. We have to come to the line of scrimmage with that mentality. Mike Smith is a heck of a football coach and we’ve added two tough football coaches along both offensive and defensive lines. Now, we need to continue to look at personnel that is going to fit into our system.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff while doing his exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com).

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff while doing his exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com).

Q: Did it become apparent last season that you all lacked that grittiness, toughness or warrior trait? Not, just on the field, but in the locker room?

A: I believe that we have some tough guys on this team. I believe that we have some guys, who have a lot of perseverance. There were a number of things that played into our 4-12 season. Along with that, we as an organization realize that we need to ramp up our ruggedness, not only the field, but off the field as well. …That’s very important.

Q: Does Jadeveon Clowney qualify as one of those players who could help you? Would you trade up for him?

A: All I will say is what everyone else knows in the country. J. Clowney . . .is a top notch talent. He’s going to make a team happy. He’s going to be a legitimate difference maker in this league. The people with the top two picks know that.

Q: In what scheme does he fit best?

A: He has the versatility to play in the 4-3 and 3-4. That is what makes him really interesting.

Q: Is there more uncertainty at the top of the draft? At six, does it make if difficult for you to determine if you have to trade up or sit at six?

A: I believe that this top 10 of the 2014 draft is a really top-notch group of football players. It’s going to be one of those drafts that you are going to get a lot of very accomplished football players from day one on the football field in the NFL out of this top 10. …you’re not going to be disappointed picking in the top 10.

Q: So you’re willing to sit at six and not trade up?

A: I’m willing to sit at six. I’m willing to trade up and trade back.

Q: All three possibilities. Are they equal?

A: That would be 33.3.

Q: So, that would be equal at this point?

A: Yes at this point. Ask me later.

Q: Like later today?

A: No!

Q: Are the quarterbacks the wildcards in the top 10?

A: Sure they are. Quarterbacks are always wildcards in the top 10.

Q: You have friends in St. Louis and Jacksonville at two and three in the draft. How could that help the Falcons if you want to trade up?

A: We have already talked about the fact that we have two, (three) and six with Atlanta Falcons ties. Obviously, with Les (Snead of the Rams) being at two and Dave (Caldwell of Jacksonville) being at (three) and the Falcons being at six: this league is about having the right allies when you are trying to broker trades and that’s always a good thing. I’m excited about the opportunity to discuss with the other two teams.

Q: Will there be deals in top half of the draft before draft day?

A: There could be deals before draft day.

Q: Why would you make a trade the day before if you think the guy you want could be gone at two or three?

A: Ideally, you’d look beyond the clock and everything would roll and you’d decide. With the Julio (Jones 5-for-1 deal) we struck that about a day and a half early. You’ll definitely talk about compensation. It never truly comes to fruition until the day of the draft.

61 comments
TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Let me guess - Dimitroff will offer you 5 Falcons draft picks to move up 5 positions in this year's draft!! I hear every team in the NFL is tripping all over each other to line up and make one of these "deals" with the Falcons. Of course, the Rams and Jags get first dibs 'cause they are our "friends".

Gimme a break Falcons. I'm already getting a sick feeling in my stomach.

TNScott
TNScott

You know it's bad enough Blank has stayed with TD this long, but now I just now realize that Blank has allowed Scott Pioli to be hired as an assistant. We have someone in the front office worse at evaluating talent than TD. Are you kidding me??? Talk about a franchise going nowhere fast. Kansas City realized their error with going the "Patriot Way" in time. Blank has decided to go all in with this nonsense. Somebody please save this man and this franchise from itself. 


23Zone
23Zone

thomas can trade a bunch of picks to get one overrated player!  he knows his stuf!!!

notPlanB
notPlanB

One thousand points is the difference on the value chart to trade from #6 to #2. To trade up to #2, (if my calculations are right) we would have to also give up our #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 & #7 this year and still owe 100 points ( a #3 or #4 next year). If we trade for the 3rd pick, we only have to give up our #2 & #4. Does this sound like a good deal for a team that needs so much. I think not.

All the trade value is in the first 4 picks. After that there is not that much difference. Trading back to #10 though would give us their #3 & #4.

TG88
TG88

I like Clowney but trading up to get him should be out of the question But with the Idiot TD we never know .TRADE DOWN NOT UP!!

TG88
TG88

What? This is really scary having TD in the draft room!! I will be happy to chip in to buy TD a ticket on a Cruise ship during the draft!! Dont trade up Trade DOWN and get some good high extra picks. We need more than one player...

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

SIt tight at number 6 and take the best offensive lineman available.  Clowney is good but is he worth giving up 4 or 5 picks, including 2 number 1's.  For a team that is 1 or 2 players away from the Super Bowl maybe but not a team that needs help at just about every position.  Trading down at number 6 is possible but only if you swap 1's and get a number 2 and 4 pick.  

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Sometimes a pic is worth a 1000 words. Pioli seems to have control of the computer with TD at his side looking in. I sense a coup in the making.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Trade down and get more picks....please

Kennyd_va
Kennyd_va

Just don't screw this up like last off, season.... result into a 4-12 .

Esquire
Esquire

Dman


I love the prospects of next season. I know we will be back on top. Can't wait..

******************************************************

Love the confidence Dman but we'll know if there is any chance for the 2014 season as soon as Pioli makes his first move in the draft.

Dman
Dman

I love the prospects of next season. I know we will be back on top. Can't wait....

JSSN
JSSN

George Young, Bobby Beathard, and pre Dementia Al Davis were some of the most anti-social & goofy looking people ever to walk the Earth; but they knew how to build football teams. DImitroff is not "New Age" or a "Modern." He's a guy who has guy who has a "style" (played out and as 1997 as it is) and will never let it go. If his wife or family let him walk out the house like that, why are you complaining?


Now, back to football. I don't like Dimitroff as a football evaluator and builder of a roster. I never have, it took a lot of "smoke and mirrors" to mask the deficiencies. 2013, the wheels finally came off. Nevertheless, the task at hand will be played out. If Snead or Caldwell put their franchises at risk to save Thomas, well they can all go beg Daddy Bill for a job in Foxborough!

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

Well, I'd say the falcan't brain trust is still as retarded as ever.

gfw
gfw

Just more phony PR talk, and a good sprinkling of foolishness:  1) If Pioli really "believes that we have a good football team" as Dimitroff says, then that should have disqualified him right there.  What does that mean, that we have a good football team?  What we all want is a good football team.  We don't presently have one.  2) What's all this baloney about the importance of confidence?  It's competence, not confidence, that's important when you're building a team.  You can be be full of confidence (when has Dimitroff ever lacked it?) and be completely incompetent, and field a very poor team.  If you're competent, that doesn't happen.  He's just a talker, so he gets himself twisted up in nonsense.

96JB
96JB

They can spin anyway they want to, Arthur Blank went out and got Thomas some help.

RangeRover
RangeRover

I will never take Dimitroff seriously until he shaves that peach fuzz off of his chin and upper lip, gets a adult haircut, and learns how to dress professionally...just look at his tie knot beneath his collar.

As the old saying goes...you are what your wear!

FalconJames
FalconJames

I read this whole boring transcript and did not see one tough question asked.  Were ya'll dancing or what?


redleg24
redleg24

Where have these so called GM and personnel guys been the last 5+ years.  The falcons have needed defensive line help for a hell of a long tme and offensive line help for a good while alsol  Just look at the offensive production the past few years..  When you get inside the 20 and have to settle for field goals two out of three times you are lacking offensive punch.  When your receivers fail to get separation you are lacking offensive punch.  And when you always give up a lot of 2d half points you are lacking on defense.  Are these so called experts just now seeing this. If so, help is needed in more than just players.

SavDawg
SavDawg

GM keeps talking about getting tougher on OL & DL heck he got rid of the only tough guys on the OL. He has not paid any attention to lines of scrimmage since he's been there.  Well except Baker and look how that turned out. He compounded the error by resigning him. Guy has not played a half season yet.

I don't know who is worse Dimitroff or Richt when it comes to the lines of scrimmage. They both think skill players are all you need.

BulldawgRick
BulldawgRick

Not a lot of "info" in the interview..

Posturing...

reckingball
reckingball

Definitely, need OLinemen & DLinemen..... or something, to build some kind of a pass rush,

58Supersports
58Supersports

agree mike69 let "Racist" and the "mouth"  Roddy  go....to...well......can't stand him.

mike69
mike69

IF THEY WANT THE TOP PICK SWAP THERES AND GET RID OF THAT RACIST RODDY WHITE

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Absolutely right! With a normal team. But with TD in charge we'll just squander those picks anyway. I'm glad we hired several new GM's.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

You don't waste one of the 1st 10 picks on offensive lineman. Just pay to bring Dahl and Claybo back rather than do that. You use these picks for D linemen and Qbacks!

notPlanB
notPlanB

What gripes me is that we could have played A Smith at RB & C Coffman at TE for the Redskins game and been more knowledgeable of what we need to do at those positions. If we lose that game, we would have the #2 pick. Our season was lost at that point anyway. I didn't say don't try to win, I just said, don't use our starters at TE and RB.

I'm for picking up Incognito if possible too.

notPlanB
notPlanB

TJ9

I think and hope you're right. Speaking of 1000, that's the difference on the value chart to trade from #6 to #2. To trade up to #2, (if my calculations are right) we would have to also give up our #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 & #7 this year and still owe 100 points ( a #3 or #4 next year). If we trade for the 3rd pick, we only have to give up our #2 & #4. Does this sound like a good deal for a team that needs so much. I think not.

All the trade value is in the first 4 picks. After that there is not that much difference. Trading back to #10 though would give us their #3 & #4.

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

Got that excuse down perfectly, eh Dman?! Injuries! LOL!

Dman
Dman

No, 11 out of the 22 starters getting injured resulted in a 4 - 12 season. We will be back strong this year...

Dman
Dman

True that...

Dman
Dman

@JSSN -everybody already knows you don't like anything about the Falcons. You and Seen will never admit that the Falcons winning 5 years in a row showed that maybe TD and Mike Smith do know what they are doing. but I'm sure you will come up with some negative comments to follow....

Contractor1
Contractor1

Says a lot about you then, because he has put the Falcons in a better place to win than anyone in the history of the franchise.  I think you need to stick to the Bulldog blogs, because your logic is baseless and holds no merit, much like your boy MoistDawg.  You just sound uneducated.

96JB
96JB

@RangeRover Agree. He trying to be that cool new age crap. Well, He's got a big boy job making big boy money in a Billion dollar industry. He needs to can the Georgia Southern Professor look.

atlmertens
atlmertens

@redleg24  The falcons have been a top scoring offense for awhile.  The o-line has been pretty darn good until this past year.  So I don't really know what you are talking about.  Nobody is batting 100 in this league.  But pretty much the whole roster has been turned over since 08' with the exception of Roddy, Blalock, and Babs and its been the best stretch EVER, EASILY, in falcons history.  Get a grip!     

SeenDatB4
SeenDatB4

@mike69: "theirs" not "theres" - don't make yourself look ignorant.

RogerHenslee
RogerHenslee

@mike69 Why do you type all in caps? Why is Roddy White a racist? Why do you use "Theres" when you should use "Theirs"?

JSSN
JSSN

@Dman  

You're just another in a long line of squawking posters who try to tie anyone that points out any ounce of truth about the Falcons (and predicates that point far in advance of the eventuality as a "negative."


Making this simple so you can understand it. "Your team" and people currently leading it have admitted their mistake. Meanwhile, you are still living on that product that are currently trying to retool and walking away from in large parts. Therefore, a simple thing called: "Logic" points out that was a "F-A-I-L-U-R-E!" Only the 2nd team in NFL to go from 13-3 to 4-12

Let's list a few...

IJonathan

Big Ray

UGABugKiller

Larry

Georgia Peach

TrueFalconsFan

Esquire

Charlie

and now ...Dman

Don't be mad, better posters than you have stalked me, posted falsehoods, and been served heaping plates of cold crow to eat when the the brain trust (that would be "TD and Smith") came up short once again! You think the 49ers are patting themselves on the back for 3 straight NFC championship appearances? The answer is no, but unlike the Falcons, they have a solid roster.


SeenThisB4 is gonna hate on your team because he has a rooting interest as a Saints fan. Until the masquerade ends, I'll give Dimitroff, Smith, and Blank the grief they deserve! You're just mad because your team can't prove me wrong! ;-)

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

@AlwaysReady: Maybe, but Saints fans aren't making personnel decisions; Loomis and Payton are! And they have proven they can judge talent, versus the dimwits of TD and Pioli. GEAUX SAINTS!!!

JSSN
JSSN

@AlwaysReady @SeenThatB4  

Sorry, this franchise has Thomas Brown as a supporter (as well as that "Toilet reference" poster), no room to point fingers!


notPlanB
notPlanB

Yes, TD has had a good run for the time he has been with the Falcons. It has taken him 5 years to let the players go that made them good. We had a decent line with Dahl, McClure and Clabo and now Blalock is our best OL. He was here before TD. Even Stivek was better at LT than Baker and now he is gone.

On defense our best DL is Babs, again he was here before TD. Abe gone, Sidbury gone, Vance Walker gone. P Jerry is a 1st round bust. C Peters is an OK 3rd rounder when he isn't injured. There is no size or push on the DL. Spoon isn't what a 1st round LB should be and we are using 2 UDFA's as starters. What else can I say. I believe TD has the assistance that will transfer him out when the time is right.

Dman
Dman

Seen telling someone not to look ignorant? Really? Seen, you need to work on yourself before you give advice.

Dman
Dman

Looms and Peyton need to find a way to stop BEAST MODE... Dats what...

Trackbacks

  1. […] UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the full Q&A, posted by D-Led. […]

  2. […] coming to play in Atlanta, then there’s obviously a flaw in the design. Falcons management have begrudgingly admitted as much, but it remains to be seen what changes they will […]