General Manager Thomas Dimitroff
"First I'd like to say I'm really happy with the Mike Smith, the coaching staff and the players that fought through all the adversity we faced this season. We had a number of challenges as you all know. It wasn't an easy season. I was pleased with how this team, after knowing that we were not going to be in the playoffs for the last three games played sixty minutes every game, and ended up getting to a spot where we can say we had two back to back winning seasons. That is obviously very important for this organization. I'm very happy for Mr. Blank and his family and the rest of the fan base in Atlanta. On that note, I'm also clearly disappointed with the fact that we weren't in the playoffs. That's clearly something that we strive to do year in and year out. This is about getting better all the time and that's what we'll strive to do. We want to be, as Mike Smith mentioned, relevant and significant. Those will be the driving forces going forward. Again I'm happy that we've moved on from what I perceive and inconvenient curse."
Q. Could you talk about the development of Matt Ryan this year? Are you pleased with it?
A."I am pleased with Matt's development. I think anytime you go into the second year, there's that much more out on a player. People have studied Matt all of the off season. He was going to be faced with tough challenges schematically. As we also know he was faced with challenges and a handful of injuries that weren't reported. Those aren't excuses. He had to deal with them and he dealt with them in an admirable fashion. He's a tough guy and he's the type of guy that I think we know the majority of this team looks to as a leader and he'll continue to be challenged as we all will in our roles. I see his arrow definitely up and he's the least of our concerns here. He's a guy we're going to grow with. He's the quarterback of the future, no doubt about it. We're excited about his development and his evolution."
Q. Can you talk your assessment of the defense?
A. "We started off the beginning of the season with the mantra of being more consistent, more urgent, faster and younger. We feel we've defensively accomplished at least three of those things. We think we're faster, we're more urgent; we are playing with more passion than we have the previous year, and we are young. The one thing we need to get, in all facets, is we need to become more consistent. Again that's something that we'll strive to do. We've seen some very positive aspects of this defense. That doesn't mean that we won't look to upgrade at all positions on this team. That's what our goal will be. We are always looking to improve. Again, I am encouraged by our development on our defense. I think given the youth, this defense came together in the final game, and the final part of the season. In my mind, this defense is definitely up."
Q. What is your single most concern?
A. "As I mentioned I think the idea of becoming more consistent throughout the organization, whether it's offensively or defensively, that's something that's very important to be considered as a relevant or significant team. You need consistency. You need to focus and carry through all the duties you have as a player, as an administrator and as a coaching staff. We will do that. This team wants to get better, they want to continue to focus and I'm very confident we'll do such."
Q. Can you narrow it down to position?
A. "I think in a situation like this, I think we'll look at every position in the offseason. We'll watch every play together. We'll determine what may be out there in free agency, versus what we see possibly being out there in the draft. We'll make that decision as we get closure to the draft. Again, every decision is worthy of being evaluated. I'm not try to be evasive, but I am because I would hate to suggest that we're going to do something right now then after extensive evaluation, not live up to my word."
Q. How hard was it to evaluate everybody?
A. "That's always challenging. You come into an offseason or even during a season when you're evaluating what you're doing and you tend to evaluate and entire unit like and offensive line and you realize that you've had injuries across the line. You have to determine as a group, the strength of that group and it is a difficult thing. It's challenging across the board. When you talk about the run game for instance, with Michael Turner being injured and Jerious Norwood being injured, this was a tough evaluation as an offensive unit that we feel has a lot of fire power and a lot of potential to move from being a good offensive to a prolific offense."
Q. Do you think it was more of a balancing act?
A. "I think this team became more consistent as it settled into the scheme, whether it was offensive or defense but especially on the defensive side. They became more comfortable with their technique and the coaching style. They'll only continue to get more consistent. That is a difficult thing when you're young. I think what is very encouraging is I think this group is a very wide-eyed group of individuals who are looking to get better. Again, I continue to say that this is one of the best locker rooms I've ever been around and the fact that these guys continue to play and continue to strive to get better, to me, is admirable to say the least."
Q. What are the difficulties you facing in free agency with the current labor situation?
A. "Obviously the uncertainty of the CBA is what's going to dictate our movements going forward. There are some very good football players out there that may become more restricted or may maintain their restricted status. What that means is our personnel department is going to have to work overtime to make sure that they have everyone evaluated that may or may not become available. I'm very proud of the way our team is put together on the personnel side. Les Snead and the rest of the pro personnel department work very hard at differentiating between we feel a free agents that can helps, and ones that may not be good business moves going forward."
Q. There are a lot of college juniors coming out this year. What is your opinion?
A. "It's not my place to comment on what's going to happen with the CBA; obviously that's a League matter. What I will say is that there are some fantastic players out there that are testing the waters and they have to make their decision by January 18. I think it will be very interesting on the other side of the decision as far as their declaration. I foresee there being a greater number of juniors coming out this year. That's just my opinion. Again, like free agency this year, our college scouting department has had to work overtime to make sure they cover their bases, at least in office. We never evaluate juniors when we're at the colleges because that tugs at the fabric of our relationships with the college programs. We have to make sure that we have our ducks in line as far as knowing and planning going forward, if in fact these juniors do have an early declaration. There are some fantastic players coming out this year as far as juniors and seniors. It will be interesting to see how the effects the strength of the entire draft if more juniors do declare, given the uncertainty of the CBA."
Q. Have there been any juniors come out that you thought weren't making the right decision?
A. "I believe every year there are underclassmen that come out early that shouldn't come out,
and that's not being derogatory. I think there are certain positions out there and certain scenarios where players definitely need to stay in. They obviously need to continue their education but also get more training at their position. Matt Ryan is a perfect example of a guy who stayed in and got more and more work, and matured at a level that we were very happy with when he did come out."
Q. Who would you give MVP game balls to for the season?
A. "Offensively, I'd give Tony Gonzalez a game ball. I think Tony's impact on this team, not only on the field with his receptions, but off the field he leads by example. I don't think there's a player on this team that's more respected as far as working on his craft. Tony did that day in and day out from the very first day he came here all the way through the end of the season. Defensively, I thought Curtis Lofton had a heck of a season. He was consistent day in and day out. He got better at stepping up into the hole, as well as his ability to play the pass continued to improve. He was slowed down a little bit by some nagging little injuries, and I think he'll take it to another level next year as well"
Q. What's the easiest group to make your mark with, as far as draft picks and free agents?
A. "To draft is always a difficult thing because you're projecting. You have to look. It's very important when we draft players to juxtapose a player that you are actually evaluating, versus the player he his going against. For instance, if you're looking at a left tackle against a certain defensive lineman, if the left tackle is sliding really well and mirroring the defensive lineman, I think it's very important to look at the defensive lineman and the discern the talent that he may have. I think you're projecting a lot as a college evaluator. The middle group of free agents, after the first contracts that are possibly available, is the group that you really have good chance of hitting on and you have good, solid understanding of what they are after four plus years in the League. How they handle themselves both on and off the field is very important. I think those are the guys that I think you can really make your hay, so to speak. If you evaluate as a group properly and you put a lot of time in it within your personnel department and you make wise decisions financially, I think that's a very interesting group to work with. I think you can really score on that. The older group of free agents, I think if you sprinkle them in here and there, and I feel like we did that though it was through the trade with Tony (Gonzalez), you can really have some positive effects on that side. I think you have to be very careful that you don't over populate your roster with the thirty-five year olds, because that tugs at what we were talking about as far as getting younger, more urgent, and more aggressive for a longer period of time. We don't want to be turning over the roster every year on the back end of the roster."
Q. Can you talk about your grading system week to week and at the end of the season?
A. "It is a whole body of work. We talk about it all the time. Halfway through the season we may be agitated by the play of a certain individual, or incredibly pleased by a player. By the end of the season, we may have a different opinion on it. At the very end, that can push in the direction of whether we're going to renegotiate a player, resign a player or possibly look to move on. It would be very interesting to have the discussion publicly, because they get quite heated sometimes. Between myself as an administrator and Mike Smith, we've had some very driven discussions that are probably not for public ear."
Q. How many picks do you have right now?
A. "We have five right now. As you know, we don't have a second this year and we traded away our seventh for Tye Hill. I think the driving force to make the move on Tony Gonzalez was very important for us to make sure that it was this year's draft and not last year's. We really wanted to come away with two solid, full drafts. That was one of the reasons that we were able to decide on doing that Tony Gonzalez trade, because we knew that we were going to be set up to possibly guard our three compensatory draft picks with some of the free agents we lost. As it stands right now, I'm thinking we possibly will get three compensatory picks, given the play of Domonique Foxworth, Michael Boley and Keith Brooking. Those are the three that I think are going to factor in strongly into our compensatory acquisitions."
Q. Talk about the coin toss.
A. "It doesn't parallel the significance of the last flip we had for the third pick over all. Nineteen and twenty, is significant. I won't reveal what I'm going to call this year. One move up is microprint for us, no question. It gives you the opportunity to possibly get that position that you may be looking for."
Q. How much money do you anticipate spending this year?
A. "With the free agency, we never want to be denoted as a team that's heavy in free agency or big time draft driven. I think it's very, very important to analyze what may be out there in the draft or what may be out there in free agency. Until we really continue to dig in and see the group of players that will be out there in the draft, versus the players that will come available in the free agency, then we'll determine what our spending will be along with how gracious our owner wants to be in free agency as well. We're excited about what may be out there as far as helping us continue to build this football team and gain more and more depth at all positions."
Q. Do you think Jonathan Babineaux will be with you guys through the first games next season?
A. "I'm not really clear on what's going to happen as far as the timing on that. The way we're going forward, he is going to be a very important part to this organization where ever he is. As far as playing for this team, I know he's going to contribute very well for us and I have no doubt in my mind that's going to happen."
MORE ON THE FALCONS OFFSEASON:
- TRANSCRIPTS:Head Coach Mike Smith | General Manager Thomas Dimitroff
- J. MIKE'S MISSIVES:Some key words from Smitty and TD
- FEATURE:Consistency the key for Falcons improvement
- PRESSER VIDEO:Head Coach Mike Smith | General Manager Thomas Dimitroff
- ONE-ON-ONE:Head Coach Mike Smith | General Manager Thomas Dimitroff
- FALCONCAST:J. Mike and Matt discuss the season with John Manasso