General Manager, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have won more games than any other team in the NFC since 2008 (56-24), and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is the architect of a roster that has become one of the most competitive in the NFL. He and co-team builder, Head Coach Mike Smith, have built the Falcons into one of the most consistent franchises over the last five seasons.
Dimitroff has been named Executive of the Year by Sporting News two times (2008 & 2010) during his five seasons in Atlanta. In the draft, he has selected franchise cornerstones QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, LB Sean Weatherspoon, LT Sam Baker, S Thomas DeCoud and S William Moore and he has added key veterans via free agency and trades like TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Steven Jackson, DE Osi Umenyiora, and CB Asante Samuel to shore up various positions.
Since his first day on the job, Dimitroff has brought the philosophical approach of building through the draft and supplementing with free agency. With the help of his scouting department, he has made the Atlanta Falcons the class of the NFL when it comes to keeping and growing the players a team drafts. Since 2008, the Falcons rank second in the NFL in draft retention (73.9 pct.). From 2008 through 2011, Atlanta selected 46 players in the draft and an astonishing 34 draftees remained on the roster entering the 2012 season. Also during that time, 39 of the Falcons 46 selections are active players in the NFL (84.8 pct.), which is the seventh best mark in the League since 2008.
Atlanta’s 2013 offseason was full of moves to fill needs along the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Dimitroff and the Falcons front office were systematic with their approach and did not rush into free agency. His patience paid off as the Birds landed Jackson and Umenyiora prior to the draft.
A two-time All-Pro selection, Jackson is the NFL’s leading rusher among active players with 10,135 yards. He is the only active player with more than 10,000 career yards and just the 27th player in NFL history to achieve that milestone. Additionally, he is one of just 14 running backs in NFL history to total 10,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, has tallied 430 total tackles (155 solo) with 75 sacks, 31 forced fumbles, and 13 fumble recoveries in 129 games over his 10-year career. Since 2003, Umenyiora’s 75 career sacks rank ninth in the NFL.
Dimitroff’s calculated, yet aggressive tactics on draft day came into play once again during the 2013 Draft. Since arriving in Atlanta, the Falcons have made at least one trade during the draft and that approach continued this year. Atlanta held the 30th pick in the first round, but they knew the player they coveted would not make it past the 23rd selection. Dimitroff called former co-worker, and now the General Manager of the St. Louis Rams, Les Snead who held the 22nd pick. The trade allowed the Falcons to acquire CB Desmond Trufant from the University of Washington. Trufant was the player Atlanta had their sights set on the entire time, but Dimitroff knew they would have to be aggressive to make sure they obtained their target and that is why they made the move.
“We knew who we were targeting. We knew who we were going after,” Dimitroff said immediately following selecting Trufant. “That’s part of our deal as an organization that we research properly and know the needs of the other team. Lionel Vital and his staff have done a great job of knowing the needs of other teams. We thought there were a number of teams in the back stretch of the first round that would be targeting corners. Again, we weren’t going to run the chance of running the risk of not having a guy like this on our team. That’s why we made our move.”
Dimitroff’s astute moves to acquire talent have helped produce 56 wins since 2008, four playoff appearances, two NFC South Division crowns and a trip to the NFC Championship game in 2012. Last season, the Falcons continued to produce on the field by securing the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 record en route to their third consecutive playoff appearance and fourth in five seasons.
One of his goals when he arrived in Atlanta was to make this franchise a relevant and sustainable organization, and in just five seasons at the helm, Dimitroff and his group have continued to build and improve upon the foundation that was laid in 2008. Since 2008, the Falcons have posted a NFC-best 56- 24 regular season record, which is the second highest win total in the NFL and they are the only team to post five consecutive winning seasons in the NFC over that same time period (11-5, 9-7, 13-3, 10-6, 13-3). Despite the team’s success since his arrival, the determined and driven Dimitroff is not going to allow the Falcons to become complacent and he understands that there is still a lot that needs to be accomplished.
Following the 2011 campaign, Dimitroff and Smith both knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done to get where they ultimately wanted to get this team.
“Personally I have little patience for football teams who don’t step onto the field with fiery passion. We have talked about that since the time we arrived here in 2008,” said Dimitroff at the team’s 2011 season ending press conference. “That is what Mike Smith is about. It’s definitely what I am about and I know it’s what Arthur Blank is about. We’ are vehemently opposed to sitting back and being a hesitant football team.”
Dimitroff’s statement at the end of the 2011 season coupled with his drive to excel and Coach Smith’s guidance on the field propelled the Falcons to an NFC-best 13-3 record in 2012. Prior to the 2012 Draft made another aggressive move to help fill a need on the roster. The Falcons did not have a first round selection, but Dimitroff did not let that deter him from adding an impact player to the fold. As the Draft approached, he reached out the Philadelphia Eagles to see if there was any way he could re-unite with his former New England Patriots counter-part CB Asante Samuel. The move was made to acquire the four-time Pro Bowl corner and two-time Super Bowl Champion on April 25, 2011 when the Falcons sent a seventh round selection to the Eagles for Samuel. The move paid dividends immediately as Samuel started 15 games and tallied 39 tackles, a team-high 19 passes defensed and five interceptions in his first season with the Falcons.
Samuel was not the only Dimitroff acquisition that led the Birds to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2004. Atlanta had three players voted to the Pro Bowl last season and all three were acquired by the two-time NFL executive of the year. Dimitroff’s first ever draft pick, QB Matt Ryan, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and 2011 first round draft pick Julio Jones all made the Pro Bowl and also played key roles in the Falcons securing their first playoff victory in the Dimitroff and Smith regime.
QB Matt Ryan, the third overall selection in the 2008 Draft, flourished under the guidance of Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter in their first season together. Ryan set career and franchise single-season highs in passing yards (4,719), attempts (615), completions (422), touchdown passes (32) and completion percentage (68.6) while starting all 16 games. He also helped guide the Falcons offense to the seventh ranked passing attack (292.0 ypg) in the NFL and the sixth ranked scoring offense (26.2 ppg) in the NFL. Ryan earned his second Pro Bowl appearance last season while leading Atlanta to the NFC Championship game for the first time in team history since 2004.
Despite suffering a first round playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2011, Atlanta’s 2011 regular season was filled with memorable moments and significant accomplishments. Ryan produced a solid season by setting at the time the franchise record for passing yards (4,177) in addition to throwing 29 touchdowns and a finishing the season with a 92.2 passer rating. Ryan’s record setting performance was joined by RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White in the pages of Falcons history. Turner broke RB Gerald Riggs’ franchise record of 48 rushing touchdowns, with two scores against Tampa Bay in Week 17, giving him 50 as a Falcon. “The Burner” also led the NFC in rushing yards with 1,340 yards and added 11 touchdowns on the season.
In each season since ascending to the General Managers position in Atlanta, Dimitroff has astutely engineered key moves and deftly drafted a solid nucleus of players to bolster the Falcons roster.
In his first year on the job, he landed Ryan in the draft and added Turner, a two-time Pro Bowler in free agency. Heading into the 2009 season, the perception was the Falcons needed a pass catching tight end. Dimitroff answered the bell once again by orchestrating a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to obtain the most prolific tight end in NFL history and future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez. After finishing 9-7 in 2009, the fanbase wanted help on the defensive side of the ball and Dimitroff and his staff brought in former Defensive Rookie of the Year CB Dunta Robinson and selected OLB Sean Weatherspoon with GM Thomas Dimitroff & CB Desmond Trufant, the 19th pick, in addition to drafting defensive tackle Corey Peters in the third round (83rd overall).
Dimitroff did not rest on his laurels during the 2011 Draft. His philosophy of addressing the needs of the team and being aggresive if the organization believes it is the right move was put on display once again. Atlanta held the 27th overall pick entering the draft. While most thought Dimitroff would stay put and take the best player available at 27, he had a different thought. Dimitroff reached out to the Cleveland Browns, who held the number six pick, in hopes of landing an impactful player to help the team. With Dimitroff’s keen sense for the draft and for talent, the Falcons manufactured a trade with the Browns and selected University of Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones with the sixth pick.
In 2010, Atlanta’s 13-3 mark was spearheaded by Ryan. He set then career highs in passing attempts (571), touchdowns (28), yards (3,705), completion percentage (62.5), quarterback rating (91.0) and set a franchise record for completions (357). His performance earned him his first Pro Bowl appearance and was joined by eight of his teammates. Ryan enjoyed the company of defensive end John Abraham, tackle Tyson Clabo, tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Brent Grimes, fullback Ovie Mughelli, running back Michael Turner, specialist Eric Weems and wide receiver Roddy White in Hawaii. The Falcons roster, which Dimitroff and his staff devote countless hours into also produced four players who earned All-Pro honors in 2010. Abraham and White were each All-Pro first team selections, while Mughelli and Turner garnered second team recognition.
Dimitroff’s forward thinking and aggressive but calculated nature has allowed the Falcons to be players in the free agency market each year, and the 2010 offseason was no different. He knew he wanted to upgrade the defense and Dimitroff and his staff wasted little time in doing so.
With an eye towards improving a young Falcons secondary, Dimitroff targeted and signed talented five-year veteran cornerback Dunta Robinson from the Houston Texans two days after free agency opened. An Athens, Georgia native, Robinson brought a veteran presence and a stalwart reputation back home with him. His impact was felt throughout the defense as DE John Abraham collected 13 sacks and the corner opposite of Robinson, Brent Grimes, posted a franchise-high 23 passes defensed and tied for the team lead in interceptions with five. The Robinson signing allowed Dimitroff important flexibility when entering his third draft. Dimitroff enjoyed another successful needs-based draft in 2010, selecting speedy, playmaking outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri with the 19th overall pick in the first round. Additional picks included defensive tackle Corey Peters (Kentucky) and offensive lineman Michael Johnson (Alabama), as well as offensive lineman Joe Hawley (4th round, UNLV), cornerback Dominique Franks (5th round, Oklahoma), wide receiver Kerry Meier (5th round, Kansas), and safety Shann Schillinger (6th round, Montana). Weatherspoon and Peters have proved to be strong players since 2010. Last season, Weatherspoon tallied 114 tackles, six tackles for loss, four passes defensed, three sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble in 13 games. Peters missed the first six games of the 2013 season, but still produced 20 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defensed.
Although the Falcons have produced some impressive accomplishments in his first four years on the job, for the architect behind the transformation of the new look Falcons, it is not enough. Dimitroff strives for so much more.
Every move Dimitroff makes is well-thought out and calculated and forward-thinking with one goal in mind. Assembling the best football team he can is paramount in his daily thought process and he’s aggressively determined to get the Falcons to the next level.
That inherent, tireless drive is one of the main reasons why Dimitroff has been so successful throughout his 20-plus years in the NFL. A product of the championship producing ways in New England, Dimitroff is all about building a winner who is able to compete at the highest level each and every season. He has an acute ability to not only focus on the team’s needs of the present, but to plan for a sustainable future for the franchise. These traits are what many around the NFL respect about Dimitroff, but none more than his head coach.
“Thomas is one of the most forward thinking guys I have ever been around,” said Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. “As coaches, we are always thinking week to week and personnel guys have timelines that are much further down the road. Thomas’ forethought, in terms of personnel moves, is his strength. As a coach, you’re worried about Sunday, but he is looking out for the long term future of the organization, which is impressive. His vision on how to put this team together is the most impressive thing about him.”
The 2009 Atlanta Falcons capped off their first back-to-back winning seasons in the history of the franchise with a 20-10 victory at Tampa Bay in the season finale. For long-time Falcons fans, this was quite a monumental feat. But for Dimitroff and his staff, this was just another block in the foundation for this young Falcons team.
Before the 2009 season kicked off, Dimitroff went looking for another target for Ryan and the Falcons offense to improve their efficiency when he traded for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs on the eve of the 2009 draft. Gonzalez delivered in a big way with 83 receptions, second-best on team, and six touchdowns, including the game-winner at the New York Jets on a fourth down with 1:38 remaining. Gonzalez was also a positive and winning presence in the Falcons locker room. He possesses the type of leadership qualities Dimitroff looks to add to the roster each season.
Part of Dimitroff’s master plan also includes adding other veterans when needed to shore up his units. For example in 2009, he signed savvy veteran players like linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Brian Williams. Peterson finished second on the team with 140 tackles, starting all 16 games, while Williams supplied a punch to the secondary for the first five starts to the season before being lost with a knee injury.
When he feels he needs to make a move to bolster the roster or retain core players, the decisive Dimitroff doesn’t stand idle for very long. He extended the contract of veteran wide receiver Roddy White prior to the start of the ’09 regular season. White responded with another stellar campaign that landed him in his second straight Pro Bowl with a team leading 85 catches for 1,153 yards and a career-best 11 touchdowns.
The momentum from the Gonzalez trade and the other free agent acquisitions carried over a week later as Dimitroff completed the second draft of his tenure with the ‘09 selections of defensive tackle Peria Jerry, safety William Moore, cornerback Christopher Owens, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, tackle Garrett Reynolds, defensive tackle Vance Walker and linebacker Spencer Adkins. Despite missing most of their rookie seasons, the selections of Jerry and Moore payed dividends in 2010. Jerry continued to recover from his injury, and recorded two sacks, four tackles for loss and one pass defensed. Moore started 15 games at safety and tied for the team lead in interceptions (five) while adding 108 tackles, eight passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The two will look to continue to improve in 2012.
In 2008, Dimitroff’s first move was signing talented free agent running back Michael Turner from San Diego. Turner fittingly exploded onto the scene as a full-time starter for the first time in his career, finishing with 1,699 rushing yards with a club record 17 touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl, while finishing second in MVP voting.
Dimitroff’s initial ‘08 draft was a windfall, delivering franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, the consensus NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, starting left tackle Sam Baker, starting middle linebacker and All-NFL rookie selection, Curtis Lofton, and eventual starting free safety Thomas DeCoud. His adept choices also included solid contributors in wide receiver Harry Douglas and defensive end Kroy Biermann. Dimitroff’s belief that the NFL draft is a major building block to establish a team’s foundation for years to come has been the impetus for the Falcons’ winning ways since 2008.
His first five drafts reaped huge benefits as 17 out of 37 picks have started at least one game and 28 rookies have been active on game day since 2008. Eight rookies have started on opening day from the first five draft classes under Dimitroff.
All of these major moves prove Dimitroff will do whatever it takes to make the Falcons roster better whenever he sees the opportunity. His timely maneuvers have helped the Falcons post a notable 56 victories over the past five seasons, which is the second highest total in the NFL from 2008-12.
Dimitroff directs all aspects of football operations with the Falcons and working with Head Coach Mike Smith has final authority over all personnel decisions related to the signing of free agents, the selection of players in the draft, trades, and related decisions. He will also handle coordinating other football-related activities with Coach Smith.
Dimitroff has earned his climb up the NFL mountain to General Manager by working his way through the scouting trails as a combine/BLESTO Scout, an Area Scout, National Scout, and College Director of Scouting.
His father was a big influence on his life. Tom Dimitroff was a high school, college, and pro coach turned NFL scout (and a former NFL quarterback for the old Boston Patriots). Other key influences that have also helped shape Dimitroff’s philosophy today and aided in his rise to his current post include Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli and New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. The younger Dimitroff took a genuine desire for scouting players to the ultimate level early in his life. He became the Canadian Scouting Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL in 1990 as his first taste into the world of scouting. In 1992, he moved on to World League of American Football, where he scouted all NFL, CFL and World League rosters while tracking player transactions for the NFL’s developmental league.
Dimitroff’s career aspirations brought him to the NFL and the Detroit Lions where he became a College Scout in 1994. It was in his years as Scout for the Lions that he was introduced to Atlanta for the first time (living in the Virginia Highlands area) while evaluating the Southeastern part of the country. From there, Dimitroff made his way back to Cleveland in 1998 as a College Scout for the Browns for four years before landing in New England in 2002.
During his five years as the Director of College Scouting in New England (2003-07), he was responsible for overseeing area scouts who evaluate all of the nation’s college prospects while scouting and tracking the development and availability of drafted players. The Patriots had a 77–17 overall record in Dimitroff’s tenure and they won the Super Bowl in the 2003 (XXXVIII) and 2004 (XXXIX) seasons while making a historic march on a perfect 2007 regular season. Many of the players responsible for New England’s history-making NFL-best 16–0 regular season record in 2007 were scouted, evaluated, and later drafted during Dimitroff’s time. Some of those players include: cornerback Ellis Hobbs III, center Dan Koppen, guard Logan Mankins, running back Laurence Maroney, safety Brandon Merriweather, cornerback Asante Samuel, defensive end Ty Warren, tight end Ben Watson, nose tackle Vince Wilfork and cornerback Eugene Wilson.
I think there are two ingredients in being a talent evaluator,” said long-time, respected NFL personnel executive Ernie Accorsi. “You have to learn under top people, which Thomas has done from his father to a championship organization in New England. But you also need that indefinable instinct to see talent. That can’t be taught. You can be a good evaluator without it, but not a great one. Thomas has that instinct.” Dimitroff captained his college team as a defensive back at the University of Guelph (Canada) from 1987–1989. He was born in Barberton, Ohio, in 1966. Thomas and his wife, Angeline, have one son, Mason, and live in Atlanta.
DIMITROFF’S PERSONNEL BACKGROUND:
- 2008-13 – General Manager // Falcons
- 2003-07 – Dir. of College Scouting // Patriots
- 2002 – National Scout // Patriots
- 1998-01 – College Scout // Browns
- 1994-97 – College Scout // Lions
- 1992 – Scout // World League
- 1990-91 – Scouting Coor. // Saskatch. Roughriders