Exclusive: Falcons’ Dimitroff, Quinn discuss moves, philosophy

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn (with owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay) are overseeing the team’s offseason makeover. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn (with owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay) are overseeing the team's offseason makeover. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn (with owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay) are overseeing the team’s offseason makeover. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

I spent some time Friday with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn, asking about their approach in free agency this offseason. The team has come under some criticism for not pursuing any high-level free agents, filling needs with more modestly priced players.

To read my column on the interview, click here.

So what was the plan going into this offseason?

DAN QUINN: The plan is to compete at everything we’re doing. That’s the evaluation of players, looking at the roster and finding out how we can do things better. That’s from here on — it has nothing to do with what happened before. That’s for all of us. If we’re going to have the best offseason, who controls that? You do.

THOMAS DIMITROFF: Dan’s main plan coming in here was having a building that worked very well together, coaches and personnel, preventing any types of silos that may develop, where there’s this clean communication line. For Dan and his coaches to be able to communicate with myself, Scott and the personnel staff as far what we’re looking for is vital.

How has the decision-making process worked?

QUINN: One of my pet peeves in pro football is when you hear, ‘They saw it this way and the scouts see it this way.’ At what point can we just say, ‘This is the way the Falcons see it’? Not to say we don’t have a difference of opinion. There’s plenty of times we don’t see guys the same way. So we’re like, ‘Let’s put the tape on again and watch him.’ That was the biggest thing for me: create an environment where it was one connected group. Because it’s not normal in some (places). There’s that side and this side and there’s a divider. I saw it happen with Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) and that’s where it came alive for me.”

When  you first turned on the film here, what did you determine you needed to be done?

QUINN: Speed is always something that I covet, and it’s also the type and attitude that you play with. There’s special effort and good effort. Special doesn’t necessarily mean your team is faster than everybody. It’s can you play freely to where the scheme allows you to go at max speed. Some schemes are a lot of checks and things at the line of scrimmage. That’s good for some people. I just do the best to train the players, ‘How can we play our fastest?’ There can’t be so many checks and things and alerts on a player so that you can’t just let it go and rip.

DIMITROFF: Dan had a plan from the moment he came in here about playing faster, and for me it was one of the aha moments. That’s what this team needs now – let the players be the athletes they are and play to the best of their ability.

QUINN: That’s one of the things I learned from Pete. What’s the unique stuff a guy has and let’s go about featuring it. So if a guy is a terrific outside rusher but he struggles playing inside against a tight end, let’s make sure we put him in the positions where he can do best. We had some unique guys in the secondary in Seattle. Kam Chancellor was a really physical down safety, so let’s play him down a lot. We had corners who are long, so we played them on the line of scrimmage a lot. If they didn’t have that length, we wouldn’t have played that style. And when you play a lot of man to man and a lot of zone, you better have linebackers who can run. Because when they check down, they’re going to complete passes when you play zone, you better bring it when you go to tackle. We call it the kill zone.

Did either of you have anything in mind as to how much this roster needs to turn over?

QUINN: I didn’t. The first year in Seattle they turned over a ridiculous number of players. (Seattle had 284 roster transactions in 2010 and more than 500 in the first two years under Carroll.) It was just a continuing process to see who had the makeup of stuff. I didn’t feel that way when I came here. I didn’t have a great sense of the roster. I was honest with that in my assessment when Thomas and Arthur (Blank) and Rich (McKay) during the interview process. They would ask, ‘How well do you know the team?’ I said, ‘I don’t.’ My obligation was to Seattle. It wouldn’t be fair to them if I was there coaching and I was thinking about the Falcons’ roster. So that was my first couple of weeks here. I had to get up to speed. I didn’t come in with a per-conceived notion of, ‘Lets change 25.’

DIMTIROFF: I was relying on Dan and his staff to determine how they felt about this roster. The wild importance was Q and his staff being extremely clear what they were looking for. It was vital for us to work together. Dan was great. He brought in his position coaches and his coordinators on both sides of the ball and we had basically symposiums on the style of football we would be playing, relatively speaking from a scheme standpoint. I can’t tell you how important that was for us, to have clarity.

QUINN: If we’re going to be connected, we better be speaking the same language.

On average, how much do teams turn over year to year?

DIMITROFF: I think we’ve determined it’s almost 20 percent. But even without a coaching change, we would’ve had significant change and adjustments to this roster from last year.

More than 20 percent?

DIMITROFF: It’s hard to say. Probably.

Dan spoke earlier about the personnel selection process. How has it worked with you and Scott Pioli?

DIMITROFF: As I’ve said, Scott is our assistant general manager who has assumed responsibilities to run the day-to-day processes of our personnel department, along with (director of player personnel) Lionel Vital and our two other directors, DeJuan Polk on the pro side and Steve Sabo on the college side. They all work together to make sure the processes of scouting are intact. Scott and I communicate every day, as Q does with his coaching staff every day. It’s a very interactive building. The energy in this building is upbeat.

QUINN: One thing I’ve noticed with Scott and DeJuan and Lionel and Steve is their role is totally one of support. You can tell when a guy is totally for you. I’ve sensed that from these guys. They’re like assistant coaches for me, or Thomas’s assistant coaches or coordinators. And a scout’s job is not just to say, ‘That’s a good idea.’ We don’t want yes men. He needs to tell the truth.

DIMITROFF: I know you keep coming back to what Scott’s role is. What Scott has been able to do, because he has such expertise in the processes of managing a personnel department, is it allows me to roll my sleeves down a little bit. Instead of being a general manager and personnel director, which too often guys in my position do because they come from that (scouting) background, it allows me to step back and look at things from a big picture perspective and work with Dan on a lot of things and not worry about the day-to-day processes in the personnel department.

Did you need to step back?

DIMITROFF: It’s an evolution. Just as coaches evolve, I believe I’m evolving as an executive. When you have Scott and Lionel Vital and Steve Sabo and DeJuan Polk as directors, it’s vital to continue to let people grow, and respectfully and properly delegate.

I’m sure you’re both aware of the skepticism and/or criticism regarding the team’s offseason signings so far. What’s your response?

QUINN: Again, I’m not concerned about winning free agency. What’s best for our team is having the right group of guys and how they can best connect and how hard they play for each other. Specifically, what can we have a guy do on our team? All these guys we’re adding, that’s just it. We’re not asking them to do something different. So I’m not too concerned about the outside.

Can you understand the criticism?

DIMITROFF: No, not necessarily. There are a lot of really good football players in this league who don’t carry an outrageous price tag. We spent a lot of time evaluating the players we acquired and we feel they can be nice solid contributors to Dan’s schemes. They also have to have the makeup and traits that we’re looking for – competitiveness, toughness, passion and fire for the game. We spent a lot more time evaluating these players than people outside this building and we feel very confident about our approach.

What don’t people realize?

QUINN: Lots of stuff. I can’t wait for people to see how we play. There’s a real style and attitude about how we’re going to play. It’s not about the one guy. It’s not about pass rusher, it’s pass rush. It’s not done with one man, it’s done with the style and attitude that we play to affect the quarterback. And (critics) need to wait a while, too. It’s still March.

DIMITROFF: By the way, we have the eighth overall pick. Everyone needs to keep that in perspective. We have the whole other side of team building in the next couple of months.

QUINN: There’s a lot of good players here I can’t wait to get started with. It’s one of the most fun things about coaching, to have a vision of what a player can do and pull it out of them. Sometimes it’s even greater than what they thought they could do. There’s a lot of guys here we need to get going on.

Was it a disappointment not getting Derrick Morgan?

DIMITROFF: We researched all pass rushers and linebackers in this free agency class. We looked at them a great deal.

And?

DIMITROFF: We were diligent about how we were approaching this free agency class.

Haha. OK, moving on. Do you feel good about how things have gone?

QUINN: Yeah. Each step has been the first time Thomas and I have done this together. We’re evaluating how we’re doing this, too.

DIMITROFF: We diligently researched everyone in this free agency class and we’re very happy with our decisions. We’re happy with what we decided on because it’s what we were looking for in our approach to build this team together.

Seattle went 7-9 the first two years under Carroll and Schneider. Are we looking at that kind of slow process with the Falcons?

QUINN: We don’t even need to look that far ahead. Honestly, we’re trying to kick butt in this part of our world right now. On April 6 when the guys are here, I want to max out Phase I and then go into Phase II and kick butt in OTAs and have the best training camp we’ve ever had. But for me, to look that far out, there’s too much to do.

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
candlin14
candlin14

Also,


Not one question was asked about our OFFENSIVE LINE!!! You just paid Matt Ryan $120 Million and his offensive line is make-shift at best. I can not believe we have this many holes on our team with a franchise QB and we keep the man who created this entire mess!!!  His name is???????????  TD

candlin14
candlin14

Jeff: 


It would have been nice to follow up on Dimitrioffs answer of "NO, he doesn't understand the criticism for off season moves". Maybe a comment like:


Well TD, your track record for Free Agent signings is not the best. Does Ray Edwards, Dunta Robinson, Steven Jackson, Tyson Jackson, ring a bell??? Or lets look at your draft picks: Does Pierria Jerry, Kroy Bierman, Sam Baker, or Robert Alford Ring a bell? I mean you picked Robert Alford over Tyran Mathieu??? REALLY??? You picked Pierria Jerry over Clay Mathews, REALLY???


Fans in Atlanta are furious because of your offseason and draft moves TD. THAT IS WHAT A GOOD REPORTER WOULD DO MISS SCHULTZ!!!!!

FightingFalcons
FightingFalcons

I trust Dan, let's just get to April 6 and get the guys in and getting it going!! RISE UP

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

This is a watershed moment.  TD got through an interview/spin session without paying tribute to "Arthur" or "Mr. Blank".


Big step for the man from Guelph.


I agree with other commenters.  We've heard enough of Dimitroff's BS to last a lifetime.

Wilbo
Wilbo

If you fall into the trap of thinking these blah-de-blah nincompoops just because they have mastered the scam of talking much and saying nothing are going to magically build a winning football franchise in Atlanta, then you are a sucker.


I expected very little from this motley bunch, after reading this i expect nothing.

David McCallum
David McCallum

As far as I'm concerned, the slate has been wiped clean and I have moved on. We can bash Dimitroof to the sun burn out; but what's the point in that. Come on Falcons fans, let's be creative and try and build a football team. Free agency is not all about spending huge money all the time. The Falcons tried that approach last season with Solai and Jackson and it back-fired. I want football players; not names.

GaLatino
GaLatino

@David McCallum WE can be creative all we want when building a football team, but THEY, or more specifically, HE as in Thomas, has proven to be, at best, a C+ when it comes to evaluating talent.  Think about it, the man has NOT ONCE IN SEVEN YEARS signed or drafted a Probowler on either line of scrimmage!  So long as he still has any hand in the decision-making for signing or drafting players, I will remain extremely skeptical, which is sad, because I believe Dan Quinn deserves better.

TrueFalconFan
TrueFalconFan

@GaLatino  --- Although i agree with most of your comments. However you may want to check the record. TD did sign The Burner Mike Turner #33 in 2008 and #33 made the Pro Bowl. 

gfw
gfw

Hey Jeff...next time you get an interview with the Falcons, how about leaving out the guy who talks like this: "The wild importance was Q and his staff...."  I'm interested to hear what Quinn has to say, and I'm excited to see the team he puts together; but it's painful (and pointless) to hear the usual nonsense from Dimitroff. 

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

@gfw Agreed.  Aside from misevaluating players Dimitroff's skill seems to be using a bunch of words but say nothing.

SOB
SOB

@twentysixpointtwo @gfw Actually Little Dimi shares that same trait with Mike Smith. Now it looks like Quinn is mouthing the same double speak garbage. This team must be cursed by the curse of the curse.

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

I'll say this, the Falcons may lose games but unlike last year Dan Quinn will not tolerate lack of effort and he won't choke games like mike smith did last year with Cleveland and Detroit. So if the falcons lose it will be because they just didn't have the talent.

Chop_Chop
Chop_Chop

Dimitroff was a GM of a team that made the playoffs four out of five years. Only won one playoff game, but the Falcons were good for a while. Injuries can be blamed for 2013, but focusing too much on cross-training and smoke and mirrors and just plain not addressing serious roster problems can be blamed for 2014. Dimitroff kept his job because of the first five years and the fact that he and Pioli were Belichick disciples. You see, Belichick made damn certain that Pioli and Dimitroff and his other personnel guys knew exactly what he wanted on his roster. Mike Smith was never in a position to demand that of Dimitroff and I'm not sure that Smitty had much interest in that side of things.

Quinn wants to get his hands dirty and put his stamp on the roster. I'm willing to give him the opportunity to do just that. Why? Because things weren't working in Atlanta. At heart, Dimitroff and Pioli are middle management types who can be productive with a strong figure at the top. There aren't many new coaches who get the opportunity Quinn is getting in Atlanta. I hope he knocks it out of the park. 

BobbyDawg
BobbyDawg

Quinn says we'll be good this year and I believe him.

WDE
WDE

@RickinWarnerRobins @BobbyDawg I follow UGA and have never heard CMR claim he was going to win anything! He has promised to strive to win the East and the SEC every year and I feel he has delivered on that statement..and if he embarrasses you so damn badly, pack up your self and your family and leave.   

RickinWarnerRobins
RickinWarnerRobins

@BobbyDawg  And with the word "Dawg" as part of your name, I bet you believe Mark Richt when he claims UGA is going to win the SEC and National Championship each year...and of course they continue to embarrass this state over and over again.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

It all sounds good on paper, but lets see how it rolls out. I hope DQ's plan and approach work as it seems TD and AB are at least trying to let him bring in his philosophy. I almost thought they fired Smith just to settle the fans a bit and bring in another puppet coach, but maybe I was wrong about that, and hope I was. It will be interesting to watch next year at least early in the season.

Peachtree Bart
Peachtree Bart

Looks like the Falcons are shooting to be good in 2017 when the new stadium opens. Forget the next two seasons.

styymy
styymy

EVERYONE else is snatching up ELITE free agents while the Falcons have pick up unimpressive injury prone (Hankerson, Durant) free agents. Missed out on Orakpo. 2nd or 3 2nd and 3rd tier players don't make up for one elite player. Did they miss out on Graham or are they Skimping and being cheap again?? This is going to doom the Falcons for yet another season.

brushback69
brushback69

@styymy I guess you didn't even read the frigging article and get the skinny on Dan's perspective about free agency and his player evaluations that will fit with the new Falcon mold.   


PANTTERA
PANTTERA

@Kevin Brown No way. How many draft picks you willing to give up 2nd,4th,6th? That's what it will take. ATL has a good mix with Devo,Tone,Jerome's who 6-1 230 lbs BTW. Add say Karlos Williams who's 6-1 230lb and fastest Combine 40 yd.

AP will cost 9-10 million,that's a safety and tackle upgrade that can't be afforded. It's a 3 year process to the 2017 Super Bowl in the Hott Lana.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Significant roster turnover even without a coaching change, says Dimitroff. He built the roster that needs turning over.

I truly think DQ is going to be an outstanding coach in this league. Smitty was an outstanding coach in this league until he had no talent to coach. Bill Walsh AND Vince Lombardi couldnt win with the '13 or '14 Falcons roster. Smitty didnt forget how, he ran out of tools.

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

Here is a question - I wonder how many other teams have not spent all of their cap money? I suspect not many. They had better get off their rears and get some talent in here. Not spending all of your cap money is like buying a house and not having furniture in half the rooms. Julio is not going to cost 29 million and if he does he sure as heck isn't worth it. They need to get Greg Hardy - he is a difference maker.

PANTTERA
PANTTERA

@THEBITTERTRUTH And he comes with a picket line,10 barrels of bad ink and there's that little thing of being on suspension.

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

As long as Dimitroff is in the mix the player selection can have no credibility

SOB
SOB

@Falcons2013 Agreed. His continuing presence in Atlanta is by anyone's considered opinion almost beyond human belief. We were told that Tommy was not going to control the draft. That was gonna be Pioli's job and Little Tommy was going to crunch the numbers and handle the cap space which he seems halfway good at. So, why is he mouthing off about the draft with Quinn at his side obviously saying many words without saying anything of any consequence at all. Why?Dimitroff should have been a part of the total house cleaning of the front office....

Whiznot
Whiznot

The Falcons' games have become high comedy. The owner and GM are both clowns who deserve your total condemnation. The whole NFC South is a great garbage dump.

brushback69
brushback69

@Whiznot Then I guess we won't have to count on you supporting the team, good, we don't need you.

GwinnettFred
GwinnettFred

Always enjoyable to read the thoughts of those whose closest claim to football fame was a winning fantasy league as they criticize those who have spent their lives in the profession. Sure not every move will work and not every free agent can be signed, but TD hasn't gone brain dead since his first couple years when he was lauded as the greatest GM we'd ever had. Yea, he could have done better recently with the teams roster - but that's hindsight. Until you can do better, just go study your Fantasy Football magazines a little more. Real fans stick with their team thru thick and thin. Great case in point, as a lifetime Atlantan and Hawks fan, I guarantee I am enjoying this season far more than anybody that just now decided to start being a "fan" of the team. I plan on it being the same way once the Falcons get things going again.

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

There are a lot of really good General Managers in this league not named Dimitroff.

didyou
didyou

@AlwaysReady Lets see 2 Executive of the years in his first 7? I doubt you can name 5 that are legitimately better. That puts him in the upper tier.  

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

@didyou

Where does the 2 losing years of Fake Crowd Noise put Dimitroff ?

UGA76
UGA76

I'm not turned off by anything they have done but I'm not the least bit excited either.  2015 will be a rebuilding year and 2016 will continue that process. This team is so badly in need of talent.  If we had 7 1st round picks and could pay for them we still would have holes all over the roster. 

SOB
SOB

@UGA76 Acquisition of talent is the frigging GM's job for crying out loud! If this team is 3 years away from acquiring the proper amount of talent, one could ask him or herself who was the GM during that time that got us in that position in the first place?

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

When you first turned on the film here, did you think the fake crowd noise was loud enough for the fans to enjoy?

Aojibor
Aojibor

Stop getting bargain basement type talent!  If you want quality, PAY FOR IT!  If Home Depot's materials were as cheap as the quality of players you've acquired, Lowe's would be in business all by itself!  Top of the Line stadium coming and Canadian Football League players playing inside of it!  SMH.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

If this team succeeds, it's going to be because Quinn is like another coach bud. If they don't succeed, it's going to be because Quinn has an even weaker group of players on the roster then Smith did and look at how Smith did with those guys!, We'll know soon enough.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

picture of the Three Stooges,

HEY MOE!!!!

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Quinn is a fast talkin something. I hope Im wrong, but it looks like Blank has surrounded himself with snake oil salesman (like himself) and Atlantans are due to be embarrassed..............I hope im wrong (2x)

SOB
SOB

@Iluvnutella I reluctantly say I think you are right. It's the curse of the curse of the curse, I tell you.  Way worse than that goat up in the Windy City...

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Sounds very enthusiastic! I believe Dan Henning was like that when he got here also! Hmmmm.......

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

@TreeRollins 

And losing coach Dan Henning replaced winning coach Leeman Bennett for a higher plateau.

Same Ole' Falcons, fire Smitty for an unknown and keep the goofy GM.

atlfanman
atlfanman

@TreeRollins 

There are some similarities with Henning and Quinn. Both came from Super Bowl winning teams and plans to bring an identity akin to their past employer. Although, Henning's Falcon team had more talent than the team Quinn has now. William Andrews was a beast before a shoddy field in Gwinnett County dismantled a promising career. Yet, a backup named Gerald Riggs, was a good replacement. Only, if Andrews and Riggs could have played together in a traditional halfback and fullback backfield with Lynn Cain replacing the two whenever needed. Also, only if the Smiths had known to put more into the quality of the practice fields.

Only if fans dare to dream.