Posted: 6:00 am Monday, February 24th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s the full transcript of Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s media session at the NFL scouting combine:
OPENING STATEMENT: “It was a disappointing season for us. We’ve made a considerable amount of moves within our organization, not only from a coaching standpoint, but from a personnel standpoint. Now, the real fun begins. Continuing to calibrate and be creative with our roster is a very important part of the rest of our building in the offsesason. This is my 26th combine and people ask me how old are you really? I remember coming with father like some of the coaches and scout’s sons. This has been quite a few. Looking forward to jumping in. Open for questions.
Q: Could you talk about the re-structured front office with Scott Pioli coming over and then this week Billy Devaney and Russ Bolinger?
A: We thought good and strong about the entire organization as we mentioned from a coaching standpoint. We really focused recently on where we were with our personnel department and where we needed to adjust. We really believe that with a young group of personnel people, who are really good researchers and budding evaluators, that we needed some experience on the personnel side. Billy has an unbelievable amount of experience as a GM, as a scout and as an administrator. He’ll be working on the scouting side as a regional scout. Then Russ Bolinger who has been a longtime scout, personnel man, director of pro scouting for the Lions at one time. He played in the league. He adds a lot of experience to the staff. I think our young staff will benefit greatly.
Q: Will Scott and Russ help with the offensive line evaluations?
A: We’re very mindful about what we need. We’ve talked about it. We’ve been open about it. Whether if its bolstering both fronts that we’re going to be focused on. I think everyone needs to understand, and most of you who follow this game, understand, you just don’t have an o-line and d-line scouts and receivers scouts. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and isinvolved in every aspect of evaluating. Scott has a very nice track record of it. He’s going to have a very important seat at the table as far as discussing offensive and defensive linemen, but he’s much more depthful as a personnel man than just along the O and D lines. By bringing in Russ Bolinger who has a lot of experience on the offensive line as well as a player . . . again insight is fantastic. … We always talk about the importance of pools of players to compare to ant that’s what scouting is about. Sometimes you can notice that young guy that has an eye for talent, but until they have the pools to compare to only then do they become what we consider elite type evaluators. We are excited about having Scott, Billy and Russ on
Q: Do you have all must have contingency plays picking at the No. 6 position?
A: By draft time, we’ll have a myriad of contingencies and scenarios. We’ll run through that time and time again. Honestly, we do that with free agency as well and where we are directed in free agency as well. It becomes a real intricate process in my mind and again with some intelligent people in our building, we throw out some really interesting scenarios that are sometimes outlandish. Sometimes they precipitate thoughts of moving up in an unprecedented way for receivers in the past, so we’ll continue to be creative with that..
Q: Is this the type of draft where you have to consider everything?
A: Oh, absolutely. It’s been mentioned by a number of my contemporaries and a number of GMs about how this is a very interesting draft. In my mind, it’s a fantastic top 10 draft and throughout the first round there are some marquee players that are going to affect . . . . they are going to be the impact-type players in this league for a number of years to come. So, that’s exciting for us.
Rarely are you a team with a marquee and franchise-type quarterback and picking at six or earlier, and that’s not foreshadowing (anything).
Q. How do you all go about building those scenarios? What information do you all pull from to come up with those possibilities for that?
A: Again, I think it’s determining where the strengths of the draft are. It’s determining where the strengths of the free agency are. Comparing and contrasting and deciding where you want to spend your money and your resources. If you can potentially get a position two or three rounds later that might fit the needs that you need for your team at that time. It’s just going back and forth in so many different ways and then we add analytics to it, which is another whole topic of conversation. We’re very mindful of not just haphazardily
going into scenarios. We are pretty detailed with it.
Q: What about projecting what the teams in front of you are going to do? What resources do you rely on to come up with those projections?
A: (Laughs). I was going to say the media! Look, our pro personnel scouting department is very deft at projecting. When you look at it from the standpoint of our college department is very focused obviously on the draft. Our pro department is monitoring the teams and the moves that they make and monitoring all of the media reports that are coming out of their building so to speak. Then we started developing our needs board. Our needs board is a very important part of our development in getting ready for the draft. Sometimes it hits and sometimes it doesn’t, obviously.
Q: Given you track record, are you open to the possibility of trading up?
A: Yes. I’ve said that from Day One, since 2008 that I always want to have the light on for business. I never want to be one of those teams that (when) people pick up the phone and they quickly throw the phone back down and hesitate to reach out; thinking that we’re not going to be straight up. I think that’s the biggest thing. When you are ever able to cultivate trades it’s about being honest with people in your dealings and I think that we’ve done a nice job of that. We’re always going to be open for business.
Q: Is it easier in the top 10 to trade up because the cap and the new CBA, making it less expensive?
A: Yes. There is no question about that. Moving up from the late 20s into sixth, that was so long ago, it’s always difficult (Julio Jones trade). I thought that was going to be a multi-tiered trade to be honest with you and we were very fortunate to secure a trade with Tom Heckert and the Browns to get Julio during that time. But yes, in the top 10, I believe it’s a little easier to move around.
Q: Are you all going to recruit Tony Gonzalez to come back this year?
Q: You talked about the need to get more physical. It seems to be like the mantra of the team. Anything in particular from the review from last season when you reviewed the tape, why did you all come out and say that.”
A: We’re in a spot right now where we know that we have to run the ball and we have to stop
the ball. We understand that we have certain skill positions that we believe we can go toe-to-toe with anyone. We need to continue to protect No. 2 (Matt Ryan). That’s going to be a very big part for us continuing to be a prolific offense and an elite type of team. That’s important for us. We have some work to do to get ourselves back there, we understand that. There is an element of ruggedness that we know we need to ramp up to get it back to the next level and take it to another level. I want to be very clear about that. I’ve been semantically responsible about making sure that I don’t say ‘thug’ and I say ‘rugged.’ That’s very important for us.
We understand that with today’s environment and work environment. It’s up to us as leaders in this business in the National Football League to be responsible with the type of people that we take. We understand that it’s never going to be right on (all accounts). Sometimes, we are going to have mishaps and challenges. We’re all human and we understand that. But it’s up to us to make sure that we get the right type of people. As I’ve mentioned many times, I believe that we can truly have a very good locker room and still win football games and win a lot of football games.
Q: You talk about being open and honest. Is that a different philosophy from teams that try to throw out smoke screens?
A: There will always be the smokes screens or you may walk into a scouting room in the spring when we are out working people out and you’re going to hear people mention that so-and-so had done this-that or the other thing. Honestly, we are trying to put a boundary around that player for a reason. It’s up to us to rely on all of the information that we’ve gotten over the last 12, 13, 14 months. If you trust your system and if you trust your scouting staff and you trust basically your budget and everything that you’ve put into your scouting process, then you shouldn’t’ be swayed by all of the other noise out there or the projections or the prognostications. We are system-specific system and we really don’t care what other teams think about players. It’s up to us and how we view players.
Q: (Couldn’t hear – A Social Media question)
A: We pay attention to it. Things have changed since 2008, I mentioned to Coach Smith the other day, if we’re leading and approaching things the same way we did six years ago, then we are missing the boat and we all know that in here. I don’t’ know how many Gen Y (people) are out here. But we know that’s a big part of our work force and we have to keep up with the times. That’s very important for us. Keeping up with the times is also monitoring, respectfully in the right way, where they are with social media pre—acquisition. It gets a little funky and questionable when you start monitoring them post-acquisition as you can imagine.
Q: What do you look for in a quarterback when you take one late in the draft?
A: Quarterback is a very interesting position. It’s one of the more difficult positions to evaluate because there is so much involved. I had the good fortune of being around Tom Brady in New England and now Matt Ryan to get a real good feel for what we are looking for in a quarterback (in terms of) the leadership aspects, a strong arm and 6-5 height. It’s about the entire package. That’s very important for us and it’s very important to make sure that you continue to develop a guy that’s going to be a legitimate deuce (backup/No. 2) and maybe you can parlay into a trade opportunity, which New England has done in the past to use as an example. The later picks, I think being creative with the later picks and holding on to those guys is an important part of your scouting process. I think a big part of it and one of the big topics of conversation right now is where we are with player development in this league and it’s going to be a very important part of the future of this league.
Q: (The hiring practices)
A: Nowadays, it’s such an important part of it. There is so much more involved. So much more money involved. The community being involved. The type of individuals that you bring in, it’s an important part. I say it about everyone, it’s not only what they are doing on the field athletically, how they are communicating, how they are getting their point across and for us to really discern if a player is going to be a team-fit for us. That’s very, very important for us. We talk about that time and again, about the fit and the match for the locker room. That’s something that we’ll never move away from as far as the Falcons and our approach.
Q: On what contributions Scott Pioli has made since being on board?
A: Scott Pioli has a world of knowledge and experience, not only as a winner in winning many Super Bowls and many, many championships and many games with Coach (Bill) Belichick. They were a fantastic tandem. He also comes to the table with an incredible insight as far as the challenges that you will face in building a football team and managing. What Scott is going to do for us, not only from a personnel standpoint, that’s going to be very good and it has been already. We’ve already
dug in as staff with Scott right there at the table with a lot of very good insight. It’s not only that, but it’s going to be what he’s going to add to the organization from other aspects of the organization i.e. from a salary cap standpoint, policy making to approaches to building a championship football team.
Q: Are you confident that you can workout contract extensions before the season for Julio and Roddy White?
A: Before the season starts? I’m always confident that we can accomplish what we are looking for as far as negotiating. Having an owner like Arthur Blank and the city of Atlanta, a lot of (players) want to be in Atlanta and stay in Atlanta. . . .That is always a positive for us. As far as our focus right now, our focus is to continue to look at what we have on our team who are obviously going to be free agents this year and see how we can put the team together. The guys who are under contract right now are not . . . . we are trying to figure out where we are going before we dig into restructuring, renegotiating or adding on to contracts.