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'You need people like that'
'You need people like that': Kirsten Grohs plays vital role in Falcons roster construction
Falcons manager of football administration lays foundation for contract talks, so much more
By Scott Bair Jun 06, 2022

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The first email Terry Fontenot sees every morning comes from the same person. So does the first thing to come across the GM's desk.

Kirsten Grohs assembles this morning briefing, if you will, containing up-to-date figures on the Falcons salary-cap standing, along with other teams across the NFL, and a breakdown of every contract signed the previous day.

Those vital reports provide a microscopic and 30,000-foot view of league activity entering each day, giving Fontenot a clear lay of the NFL landscape.


"There are so many little details of it, and she does an analysis of every single [deal]," Fontenot said. "She has a sheet where you have every position, every player, every contract, so you can look at market value. This is a daily, detailed, tedious thing. As she's doing that, she's seeing the trends."

That's part of the reason "Falcons manager of football administration" doesn't describe what she does.

Grohs is, in more accurate terms, an NFL market analyst.

She's also the Falcons compliance officer and league liaison for the salary-cap and player-personnel rules. If that sounds like a lot, it's because it is. And Grohs is uniquely qualified for such duties, essential work in helping the Falcons roster get right.

When it comes to player acquisition, she's in charge of breaking down player contracts and putting them in a proper context.

She synthesizes data from around the league and information from other Falcons departments to determine a fair contractual offer to someone the Falcons want to sign or extend. Then she presents that information to Fontenot and Falcons top decision makers, offering insight into how it fits within the Falcons preferred ways of acquiring players.

"It's not just about looking at the historical data and what's going on in the league right now," Fontenot said. "She has to anticipate and look at the trends and where the cap is going, where contracts are going, so we can anticipate. That's a big piece of it. She's the one in the weeds, and that's a really important job."

It's a really important role that executes essential tasks casual football fans don't even know about.

They see a "Falcons sign Grady Jarrett to contract extension" headline and don't consider how that statement became fact.

The process isn't like Jerry Maguire, with agents yelling "Show me the Money!!," and GMs screaming right back while hammering out a deal.

It's often a months-long process of numbers and data and player comps and calm, calculated back-and-forth until a deal gets done (or not).

Grohs is integral to that process, someone helping create clarity so Fontenot and the Falcons can make the best decisions for the organization. And, in more than a year of early-morning emails and detailed reports and sound advice, Fontenot listens when Grohs speaks.

"Some people don't have that candor, where they can be honest in the moment," Fontenot said. "Some will try to acquiesce and tell you what you want to hear. There are some people who are honest regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you feel. She's one of those people. That's what you want. There are times where I say, 'this is what I'd like to do and this is how I see it.' Some people fall in line with your opinion. You need someone who is going to be honest. You need people like that."

Feeling valued, trusted in that way, is a key part of their dynamic.

"I like that he really cares about what my opinion is," she said. "He listens. He's open minded, which I think is huge. There's a sincerity with him that you don't always get. He'll really listen to you."

It wasn't long ago now that Grohs was desperately trying to get someone, anyone, in the NFL to listen. There’s a well-told story about how she sent Starbucks gift cards, a cover letter and resume to every team in the league. It goes a little something like this: Grohs was interning with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger Cats, looking for a way into an NFL front office, when then head coach Marcel Bellefeuille suggested she send a $5 Starbucks card in each submission. She sent $3 instead, to cut costs and provide just enough (at the time) for a cup of coffee.

She was determined to move on from a previous modeling career and into the world of sports full-time, trading time alone on a runway for the comfort of a full team.

The coffee gambit worked.

The 49ers called to set up an interview. The Jaguars flew her to Jacksonville to possibly fill an opening, interested in her versatile football experience after working with the Tiger Cats. She eventually landed in the Jaguars gig and moved up from administrative assistant to that slightly misleading "manager of football administration" role.

There weren't many women filling that position back then. It's less of a rarity now, but still somewhat unusual for a in the NFL.

"Having a seat at the table, which has not always been an option, is a great thing," Grohs said. "Even in Jacksonville, in 2013, to get a job in football as a woman, you had to be in admin. We've come a long way, but that was the truth of it. To start there and be where we are now shows great progress."

Grohs' passion for the work, her commitment to even the subtlest details is clear in everything she does. It also prompted Fontenot to recently ask her why she's so driven to excel in a role that can be tedious, time consuming and a bit misunderstood by those outside the league. As he always does, the GM got a very real and honest answer.

"I didn't play sports. Not in high school. Not in college," Grohs said. "[Terry] asked why I liked working as part of a big team so much. There are a couple things. I'm used to people counting me out, assuming I won't achieve X, Y or Z. There's part of me that enjoys proving people wrong. And I've always love being part of a group, of a community. That's a credit to my upbringing in Canada. My parents are blue collar people who work really hard. All those things contributed to me taking this path where I took it."

Grohs' mind is suited for a job where everything is in the details. It is, as she puts it, "naturally wired to find the most efficient way to do anything in life."

Her daily goals are simple, to make everything flow as easily as possible, so everyone gets information and clarity they need exactly when they need it.

That obviously goes for the compliance side of things, making sure everything the Falcons do follows NFL/NFLPA rules.

It also goes well with player acquisition. She's always ready with the information required for negotiators to engage, often present as they get under way.

Ask about her favorite part of getting a player's deal done and she doesn't go straight to the signing. Instead, she highlights the preparation, the background research, the NFL market development and analysis. Her job is about building a foundation for negotiations by offering both empirical and Falcons-focused opinion as talks progress.

Press a bit farther and there's a point when emotion enters in during a minor, yet fulfilling part of the job. Grohs is often the person to deliver the contract for signature when a player reports to put pen to paper. It's in that moment, after all the hard work done behind the scenes bears fruit. There's real satisfaction in that.

"It really hits when you watch them sign it," Grohs said. "When you're in the middle of it, in the weeds at the time, you can't step outside yourself to see the bigger picture.

"…It's special. I think that's the only way to sum it up. In some cases, you've spent months working on a deal. Getting deals done is the bread and butter of what the job is supposed to be. It's really gratifying, really special, when you cross the finish line."

She's nowhere close to the finish line in this football career. There's more left to do, which is why someone with two master's degrees is going back to law school -- while continuing in her current role.

She doesn't spend much time looking back at this improbable career arc, from Canada to Atlanta and into a coveted NFL front-office job, or the Starbucks cards that helped her get here. Her focus is always on what's next.

That doesn't mean the journey's not important. Suddenly welling tears showed just how meaningful all this is.

"I don't mean to get emotional," Grohs said. "Sometimes you need someone to point that out. There was a point 10 or so years ago where you would've been happy with anything, and to have it turn out to be so much more than that is beyond your wildest dreams. That's honest. That's real."


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