The Atlanta Falcons hired former New Orleans Saints vice president/assistant general manager of pro personnel Terry Fontenot to become their new general manager on Monday, pairing him with new head coach Arthur Smith and finalizing the team's new leadership duo.
Fontenot has spent the entirety of his 18-year NFL career with the Saints organization, working his way up through the ranks and becoming one of the most respected people in the front office. That type of work ethic is what he'll bring to Atlanta.
"Listen, he is a tireless worker," Saints coach Sean Payton said of Fontenot. "He is someone that's been very instrumental, particularly when we talk about the pro side of the game, free agency. He's someone that loves football, he's passionate and I think all those traits will be will lead to him having that opportunity at some point."
Fontenot's background is with pro personnel, meaning he has had a bigger hand in the team's free agent acquisitions than their draft picks. A look at New Orleans' free agent signings in recent years point to the success that Fontenot has had in his roles on the pro personnel side.
Acquisitions such as linebacker Demario Davis, an All-Pro in 2019, safety Malcolm Jenkins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and running back Latavius Murray have helped the Saints build one of league's most talented and balanced rosters. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has expressed his desire for his team to create sustained success, and Fontenot has a track record of aiding New Orleans' own sustained success.
Luke Johnson, who covers the Saints for The New Orleans Advocate and The Times-Picayune, spoke with Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com about the qualities he's seen from Fontenot that would make him a good general manager.
"The guy gets people, which is an important trait to have if you're tasked with figuring out how they fit on a team," Johnson told DiLalla. "But he also has a strong track record of identifying the skill sets in players that fit the schemes of the coaching staff in place."
Coming from a team in the Falcons' own division, Fontenot should have a decent level of familiarity with the roster he is going to inherit. An honest accounting of where the Falcons stand with their roster was one of the benefits Blank saw to interviewing a large number of outside people during the team's coach and general manager search, and Fontenot will work with Smith to build Atlanta back into a winner.
The Saints have won the NFC South the past four seasons and have a combined record of 49-15 in that time. Since 2009, New Orleans has eight double-digit-win seasons and has never finished worse than 7-9. While much of the credit for that success gets attributed to Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and general manager Mickey Loomis, Fontenot has been there for every step of that journey.
He's watched the organization handle a three-year playoff drought and turn things around to become one of the top contenders in the NFL over a four-year span. In the midst of their own three-year playoff drought, the Falcons now turn to Fontenot to get them back on track.