Falcons will keep Dimitroff, Shanahan as expected, fire scouts

Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were all smiles after winning the season opener here and starting the season 5-0, but the Falcons slid from there and missed the playoffs. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were all smiles after winning the season opener here and starting the season 5-0, but the Falcons slid from there and missed the playoffs. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has never been shy about making changes in his team’s front office or coaching staff. But in a long-anticipated decision, he’s not going to mandate any major firings after his team went 8-8 this season.

Blank, who has met with both coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff in recent days, has decided not to fire Dimitroff or offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, both of whom had come under fire by fans and media when the Falcons missed the playoffs after a 5-0 start.

In a statement that you can read below, however, the owner said changes will be forthcoming in the personnel department, meaning some pro and college scouts may find themselves out of work soon. In a curiously worded statement, Blank also referenced “a good foundation our existing coaching staff can build upon,” which suggests no coaches will be fired.

Keeping Dimitroff and Shanahan was expected. As I wrote last week, it also was the correct decision in my view after one season of the Dimitroff-Quinn regime. I don’t know why Blank’s statement could not have come out three or four days ago, when it was apparent Dimitroff would be retained, but Blank chose to wait until Friday morning for some reason.

Summarizing Blank’s statement in three bullet points:

• Dimitroff, assistant general manager Scott Pioli and Quinn’s coaching staff will be retained.

• Major changes are forthcoming in the pro personnel and scouting departments. Among those at the top of the scouting department: director of pro personnel Lionel Vital, pro scout Bob Kronenberg and director of college scouting Steve Sabo.

• Buy tickets.

Blank’s complete statement:

My commitment to our fans is to put the best possible product on the field each year. No one is satisfied with an 8-8 record, but I am very pleased with the direction of our team under the leadership of Dan Quinn and confident in his long-term approach. No question, we took some positive steps forward this year and have a good foundation our existing coaching staff can build upon.

Over the last week, we have conducted an exhaustive review of every area of our team. Through this process it has become very clear to me that Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have built a productive working relationship over the last 11 months. There is very good alignment between Dan and Thomas on the direction we need to go to improve our team and I believe maintaining the continuity of that relationship, with Scott Pioli continuing to assist Thomas, is the right way forward.

We are going to make a number of changes to our pro personnel and college scouting departments and that process began this week. It will take some time, but we will be adding talent on the pro personnel side and re-organizing both of these groups to best align with the shared vision of Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. I expect these changes will produce positive results for our team.

We are very grateful for the ongoing support of passionate Atlanta Falcons fans and will keep working hard to deliver a team they can be very proud of on and off the field.

I know Dimitroff has his share of detractors, largely because of the Falcons’ continuing problems on the offensive defensive lines and some bad drafts. But I believe this is the correct move. It’s also clearly what Quinn wants, and he is the de facto head of football operations, even if that never has been made official with a title. If Quinn told Blank he couldn’t work with Dimitroff or believed another personnel/GM candidate would be an improvement, he would’ve told the owner that.

Dimitroff was hired in 2008 to fix a franchise that had made the playoffs only eight times in 42 years and never had back-to-back winning seasons. Dimitroff completely revamped the front office, hired coach Mike Smith and, in concert with Smith, oversaw a roster overhaul that resulted in the Falcons having five straight winning seasons, make the playoffs four times and reach the NFC title game in 2012 (losing to San Francisco).

But consecutive losing seasons followed, leading Blank to fire Smith after the 2014 season and hire Quinn. Dimitroff, who oversaw drafts and free agency but largely was on the same page as Smith, was spared. Some believe the fact Dimitroff had a year left on his contract played a major role in that decision. But Blank has fired plenty of coaches with time left on their contract (Smith included, and I’ve always believed Blank not only likes Dimitroff personally but has a special appreciation what the general manager did for his business. So he allowed Dimitroff to come back for at least one more season with reduced power. Quinn now has final say on the roster and, it follows, his opinion carries the most weight in the draft and all personnel decisions.

Quinn and Dimitroff have worked well together. But with the Falcons’ sliding in the second half of the season after starting 5-0 and 6-1 — losing six straight at one point and going 0-5 against losing teams Tampa Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco — Dimitroff and Shanahan both came under fire. Dimitroff was at the end of his contract and Shanahan implemented an offense that underperformed, relative to recent seasons.

The offense finished the regular season ranked seventh in yardage (374.4 yards per game) but only 21st in scoring (21.2 points) and touchdowns (34). The Falcons also ranked only 17th in red zone touchdown percentage (54.7 percent).

As I wrote last week, Matt Ryan’s defenders are hesitant to acknowledge that he had a bad year. He had the second-most interceptions (16), second-fewest touchdown passes (21) and second-lowest efficiency rating (89.0) of his career. He also ranked second in the NFL in total fumbles (12) — though some were the result of bad snaps — and tied for third in fumbles lost (five).

Shanahan, like many offensive coordinators, has a reputation for being overly married to his scheme. He under utilized Roddy White this season. He needs to accept more input from players and improve the team’s red zone offense (which often struggled).

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93 comments
realfalconfan
realfalconfan

I am truly disappointed that Quinn and blank want to keep shannihan . well after 1 more year it will be Quinn and shannihan and so be it

OH:IO
OH:IO

Nice yank, Walsh.

EJJ65
EJJ65

So fire our scouts will solve this personnel problem. All team scouts view the same out-coming college players. Now if the falcons would stop coveting other non-SEC talent we may be able to build a quality roster. Typical GM has last say but we know that is not the situation we have in Atlanta. So these pink-slips carrying scouts drafted Jerry,Baker,etc. Blank is the problem, his loyalty is killing us. So I guess Quinn is going to scout now. Dude is way over his head. Team will be blown up in 2017 and rebuilding.

jimstas
jimstas

One might say the Mike Smith won early in his career with McKay personnel.  TD plugged in a QB, left tackle, running back and middle linebacker. Since McKay's personnel have been shed, what has TD done to replace them.  


What will Blank do next year when we miss the playoffs again and he can't give away a PSL?  I get contacted frequently about buying PSLs - can't be going that good if every time they call I laugh and then call back again.

goosedog84
goosedog84

This is why Atlanta teams  are so comfortable in being mediocre, because  media apologists like Jeff Schultz write articles.  Only in Atlanta can you hire a fired GM(Pioli) to help a struggling GM and still not win, and have the media tell us it's OK. Thanks Jeff. 

ljax
ljax

Matt Ryan has never been a super QB for the Falcons.  The biggest problem the Falcons have on offense is they allow too much pressure on Ryan.  They need to improve the Offensive Line.  It is too bad they will not get Henry out of Alabama in the draft.  If I was them I would make trades to get him.  Henry in the backfield and Jones at WR are a win win combination.  Protect Ryan and you will score a lot of points.  Defense has to get tougher.  They have to get some shutdown corners.  They allow too many short field passes to the middle.  They did beat the Panthers one time at home.  If they had played like that all season they would be in the playoffs. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

@ljax They did beat the Panthers to even the series this year. The Falcons reached back and got something in that game that is hard to come by on a week to week basis....Intensity, desire to win, and pride. Give Ryan 4 plus seconds to find a receiver and he will beat you. He's not great but he is a great competitor. He will give you all he's got. I challenge any QB to perform at a high level under the same circumstances that Ryan endured. No QBs perform very well from the prone position. A great offensive line makes any OC's game plan effective so don't put all of the blame on the OC. Even a bad OC is somewhat effective with great offensive players. A great defensive team that keeps giving the ball back to the offense is also key to winning......Carolina, Green Bay, Seattle, N.E. Patriots to name a few. This is not rocket science. Everyone who knows football knows all of this. It boils down to management and drafting ability. THE FALCONS DON'T HAVE IT!!

BillyBarnard
BillyBarnard

Whoever passed on Gurley, you are Fired!

Luciafurr
Luciafurr

I've lost hope for this franchise. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

"Quinn and Dimitroff work well together"?


yea, those free agent acquisitions we got this past year were all great!  What a great winning combination. 

attendee
attendee

Mr. Blank's statement inspire no confidence whatsoever. If TD were measured by results he would get an F. It will likely only be a slight improvement to a 9-7 season with the team not being a contender. The Matty has always been interception prone - look at any playoff game during his tenure. Perhaps as a long time season ticket holder I should save my money and sit out the 2016 year since I am already one of the fools to have signed my PSL for 2017. I really want the Falcons to do well but it seems like we are destined for the first round of the playoffs and out, saw that with another local professional team for over a decade. Lets hope for a more successful team on the field!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@attendee: "I really want the Falcons to do well but it seems like we are destined for the first round of the playoffs and out . . . ."

____________________ 

First round of the playoffs??? Playoffs?!

I think most here would be delighted to just to make the first round after the past 3 seasons of all-too-typical failure.

GoldRush
GoldRush

"The offense finished the regular season ranked seventh in yardage (374.4 yards per game) but only 21st in scoring (21.2 points) and touchdowns (34). The Falcons also ranked only 17th in red zone touchdown percentage (54.7 percent)."

Isn't this the exact same thing we heard about Shanhan run offenses before he arrived in Atlanta?  Puts up a lot of yards but it doesn't transistion into points which in turn affects wins.

He's taken a great QB, in my opinion, and turned him ordinary.

We deserve better and I though Blank knew better.

Hey Arthur if you'd like me to come work  for you as a consultant I'll be happy to. ;)

 

 

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

I don't agree with his moves but really hope Arthur knows what he's doing here. Anytime you go against popular fan sentiment you're taking a major risk. Canning a couple of scouts is meaningless as long as the village idiot still remains to influence illogical decisions. Proof is in the pudding now and if these moves backfire the remaining fans will have plenty of empty seats around them in the new stadium to stretch out and put their things.

Thenumber34
Thenumber34

Draft more players from the SEC.....it's really not that difficult.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Thenumber34 You're right, they have to play in the NFL because they rarely care about classes or degrees?

mar1049
mar1049

I think the Falcons are doing great. Each season they continue to be losers. I was just curious how a loser franchise rates a new stadium. 

Blasingame
Blasingame

@TOJacket @mar1049 When one starts with the season the Falcons started with and ends up at .500 against the 2nd weakest schedule in the NFL, yes 8-8 is a losing season.

ronaldtallon
ronaldtallon

@Blasingame @TOJacket @mar1049 8-8 is not a losing season.  It is a crashing collapse.  Only Pollyanna herself could look at that dismal finish, realizing that if they only won one more game they would be in the playoffs, and feel anything but shame and disgust.  They stunk.   They had two good games out of 16.   They stunk.   Two bad lines.    To call it a losing season is to insult a decent losing season.   They quit.   

patnealm
patnealm

TD's first draft pick was Natty Ice!  The guy that is a boat anchor in the pocket!  Not a lot of improvement from the Smith/Clampett era!

kerryb
kerryb

Last season it was Smittys fault who is a good coach. This season it was the scouts fault. I guess next season it will be Pioli or Quinn's fault. For some reason it will never be Dimitroffs fault.

kerryb
kerryb

Dimitroff must have some kind of dirt on Blank because no GM keeps his job with the horrible history of drafting players and below average teams as he does. If Blank thinks he is going to fill his palace with fans with the team a no talent GM like this puts together then he must be getting senile.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@kerryb Probably seen him squeezing that niece of his on the sideline?

Dis custed
Dis custed

Dufus... Let;s see whom does that apply to ?

DawgNole
DawgNole

This is weak, compared to Bradley's take. Disappointing, too.

Blasingame
Blasingame

I realize that this is probably the worst thing possible to say about anyone; but, Blank is beginning to sound a lot like Obama.

DS
DS

The Falcons need to improve talent and depth at the line of scrimmage, both offense and defense. That's the foundation for winning. Every top team in the NFL has good play at the line.

I don't hold a grudge that some previous draft picks didn't work out. It happens. I'm looking ahead to see if the Falcons are savvy enough to focus on getting talent and depth where it's needed the most.

jlrhoya
jlrhoya

@DS This is part of Shanahan's problem - he looks at OL as mindless tools and will take whatever he can find as long as they block according to his zone blocking scheme.  I just hope we at least invest something in a high-quality center this year (and this does not mean just a 6th-7th round draft pick).

patriotdog
patriotdog

Listen........hear it? It's the sound of PSL's trickling to a halt. I lose a lot of respect for Blank

for making sacrificial lambs of the scouts and others who don't necessarily deserve to be fired.

As with the crowd noise episode where some underling was sacrificed so Artie and his boys didn't lose face, the franchise is more about appearance and less about result. I've been a fan since Norb Hecker was named the first coach, Blank's glossing over the facts and slap in the face of the fans make it hard to continue.

TheRealSupes
TheRealSupes

The main reason why Matt Ryan had a bad season is this offensive scheme of Kyle Shanahan. You don't take a top 10 QB and suddenly regress as an offense. Anyone with marginal football IQ that follows the NFL knows that Kyle Shanahan is a QB killer. They also know that while his offenses start hot, and maybe average a lot of yardage between the 20's, eventually get figured out and slowed down in the red zone. A lot of that is the run blocking scheme he's using isn't efficient in the red zone when the field is reduced and everyone is packed in tight. Anyways he did improve our run game numbers (I think a lot of that is due to Davonte Freeman than the scheme but oh well), other than that he failed as an OC. Too slow to adjust, won't let Matt Ryan run a scheme more suited for HIS best attributes (which is a pocket passer, not athletic booth legs etc).


I'm still hopeful that Mike Shanahan gets hired somewhere and takes his stubborn son with him to be his OC. Good riddance. I honestly don't know what Dan Quinn sees...rumor has it that Matt Ryan wasn't even consulted about the Kyle Shanahan hiring in the first place. Why invest 100M in a QB if you aren't going to play to his strengths and ask his input?


As far as Dimitroff and his bf Pioli, both should be gone. Dimitroff has missed far more than he's hit in the draft and FA. Especially at the line of scrimmage. The NFL is a line of scrimmage league. Control you and you can win with average talent elsewhere. Don't control it and you can have the best QB and WR etc and you won't have the time to execute the plays resulting in you getting beat. The Falcons D and O lines have not been improved in the last 3 years (exception was Jake Matthews) but come on, anyone can hit a top 10 pick more or less. Problem is the mid to late rounds he's wiffed too many times. Where is the 2012 draft? Out of the league...One can take a closer look at the Green Bay Packers...where the majority of their talent is "home grown". That's depth. Then look at the Falcons...almost half the players on this team were NOT drafted by the team.


I love the Falcons as much as any fan...but this statement is crushing. I see 2 more seasons of mediocrity...eventually Quinn will be maker of his doom and office will be cleaned. However you would have wasted the prime years of Ryan and Jones and the fans will be less than willing to forgive and be patient AGAIN to rebuild (which you will have to). 


Blank has lost his mind if he believes that we are going to improve as long as there are no changes. The definition of insanity is doing the same stuff over and over and expecting different results. Unless the Falcons get several top 10 picks Dimitroff is going to miss again and again. No hope. A sad day in Atlanta.

DogTheMan
DogTheMan

I guess we will continue to draft guys that can't run, are to small and to weak.. Its a mess..

BlawgDawg
BlawgDawg

The problem facing the Falcons is the needs are so numerous, it will take years to address them, even if TD gets lucky and selects a few keepers.  It's not like they can compete by filling a singular need like a wide receiver or a running back.  They need multiple offensive and defensive linemen and multiple linebackers... plus a safety and a corner. 

And that's not even addressing the topic of depth.  My head hurts just thinking of how much talent this team needs. 

TheRealSupes
TheRealSupes

@BlawgDawg Excellent point. We are not 1 draft away, we are several drafts away and that's assuming they actually HIT on the players. FA the same deal. It will be a miracle to finish 8-8 next year. SMH