Terry Fontenot recently sat down with Adam Schefter on his podcast, ‘The Adam Schefter Podcast’; I will highlight some things I found interesting.
Schefter: “I’ll begin with the Denver Broncos, who didn’t speak highly about you; they raved about you. They said that Terry Fontenot is going to be a star.”
Fontenot: “That entire group is great, and you learn a lot about a team and an organization by going through this process. I actually interviewed with them twice and had several conversations away from it, so that means a lot coming from them.”
It can’t be stated enough how hot of a commodity Terry Fontenot was this offseason. The Falcons may have secured one of the most highly thought of executives in the league.
Schefter: “What did you learn about the Atlanta Falcons during that process, because you say you learn a lot about a group through the interview sessions?”
Fontenot: “If you had asked me midway through the season if I would ever join the Atlanta Falcons, I would’ve laughed. There’s no chance that could ever happen, but now I have so many friends and family that live in Louisiana that want me to send them Falcons gear. I learned a lot about that organization, but before I even went into the interview, I read Arthur’s [Blank] book. It meant a lot to me because it’s not only about winning and winning the right way, but also there’s a principled approach in everything that he does. He wants to do things the right way with the right people, and once I did my research and finished the interview, he [Blank] didn’t disappoint… From Arthur and Rich McKay, everybody, his [Blank’s] sons were on the interview as well and getting to meet them; you can’t fake that. They’re really good people, and it’s a really good organization. They operate with principles, and that really spoke to me. They want to affect the community; they want to do things the right way.”
Again, I must point out how lucky Falcons fans are to have an owner like Arthur Blank. Cal McNair, Dan Snyder, and other owners who don’t attract the right group of candidates limit themselves in the hiring process. Whereas Blank is inclusive and respectable, allowing him and McKay to cast a vast net in the coaching pool. As Chase pointed out already, both Fontenot and Arthur Smith were highly sought-after candidates but chose Atlanta because of their ownership and philosophies.
Schefter: “When did you first want to become a general manager Terry, or when did you think that it was actually realistic?”
Fontenot: “I don’t think there was ever a moment, honestly in my life, where I said I really just want to be a general manager. When I started at 22-years-old with the Saints, I was in marketing and started working with the college scouts and the pro scouts and thought it was interesting what they did. So I started going on the road with them, and I had a passion for it, and at that time, I knew I wanted to work in personnel. I had a passion for something and loved it. You know, Adam, you just love something and go with it. You don’t think about the steps; you just do.”
Fontenot referenced signing his contract to become the Atlanta Falcons general manager but wasn’t focused on reflecting on his journey; instead, his mind went directly to the team. The immediate decisions that needed to be made, the coaching staff, the roster itself. It is just refreshing to hear how obsessed Fontenot is with football in general, specifically the intricacies of building the organization the right way.
Fontenot: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
This quote was very telling of what kind of culture Fontenot wants. He referenced that you won’t be a better coordinator than you were a position coach, among other instances. He truly believes in doing everything to the best of your ability. He realizes people of aspirations and goals, but putting your head down and doing what’s in front of you exceptionally is more telling. It almost seems like there is a ‘Patriot-Esque’ way about him where all Fontenot cares about is “doing your job”. It is straightforward, but the culture has to be put in place and slowly built upon; it doesn’t just happen overnight.
Schefter: “Who are a couple of people who made a difference in where you are today?”
Fontenot: “It starts with my parents. My father worked at the same power plant for 60 years… My father gave me a sense of work ethic, and my mother enabled me to build relationships; the way she would be able to communicate with people she had just met was incredible. My wife keeps me grounded; I can discuss anything with her. I have never met someone who is so honest. High school coaches Mike John; Pat Bicker taught me about discipline and what true leadership was. Then I fast-forward to the Saints, and Mickey Loomis was a servant leader. He has rare humility, and I learned that from him. Sean Payton and his attention to detail in every aspect of everything and just winning at all costs.”
It’s like Fontenot has all the desirable attributes from these great people. His father’s work ethic and optimism, his mother’s people skills, his high school coaches’ discipline, Mickey Loomis’ humility, and Sean Payton’s attention to detail. All the people behind Fontenot have played a massive difference in how he approaches and does everything in and out of his professional life; it truly is inspiring. Not only does he seem to have all the football answers, but he is also a leader you can just genuinely believe in following. There’s no doubt he will succeed in Atlanta.
Schefter: “What should they [Falcons fans] know about your approach to building a team and managing a team?
Fontenot: “It’s a lot more than building a team; it starts with the right people. It’s not just about having the right players in the locker room or the right coaches; it’s the entire organization. It’s the entire organizational philosophy that everything we do has to be focused on winning the right way… When meeting with the college scouts, it’s not Arthur Smith’s draft, it’s not Terry Fontenot’s draft, it’s our draft, and we are going to do it together. This is going to be our team, so we are going to be totally inclusive in everything that we do.
Falcons fans are going to love this part of the conversation. Not that Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were dictators and didn’t allow for any opinions that weren’t their own, but it just seems different this time. Fontenot seems to have a knack for just about everything you can’t teach a general manager. It truly is a breath of fresh air for this franchise who has enjoyed some prosperity during Arthur Blank’s tenure but more so in spurts. Fontenot seems to be the one to change that and put Atlanta on the map for the next decade.
Schefter: “You bring up Arthur Smith. Did you meet him before you became the general manager of the Falcons?
Fontenot: “I did. If you work in personnel, you need to always be evaluating coaches [along with players]. Every personnel guy should have a shortlist, and they should really try to learn about coaches cause that is important in your development. I started building relationships and communicating with coaches, and as soon as I met Arthur, we hit it off. Right away, he’s really smart, and he’s obviously a successful play-caller. He’s a great communicator, and that’s something you can’t fake. You not only have to have a vision for the team, but you have to be able to articulate it, and he did that really well. He would be able to put together the right staff because he has a humility about himself. He’s done that with Dean Pees, Dave Ragone, Marquice Williams, and a ton of really good assistant coaches. Above all that, he is an honest and authentic person, really comfortable in his own skin.”
Fontenot mentioned that he and Smith connected over their joy for reading, stating that the two have already exchanged their favorite books. Not only do they want to make the team better, but they also want to make each other better. They both seem to be open to learning new things by sharing their experiences and thoughts. The Falcons will now have a free-flowing communication line between every member of the organization. They both did their research on each other and were each other’s top choices.
Schefter: “You have the fourth overall pick; what is the thinking behind going to Trevor Lawrence’s pro day when everybody is expecting Jacksonville to take him first?”
Fontenot: “It took us about an hour and a half to get there from Flowery Branch, so that is somewhere that is right around the corner, so those relationships are going to be important. They obviously have a lot of good players there, and we want to take advantage of getting on campus to talk to Dabo and the people there. Our plan is to go see a lot of workouts to get to compare and contrast guys. You never want to pass up an opportunity to watch a player like that throw in person because who knows what is going to happen four years from now. We are going to hit as many of these workouts as we can. It is valuable to have the fourth pick because there’s going to be a lot of good players there, and there’s always a chance to move back and get more picks.”
Leave no stone unturned; that seems to be Terry Fontenot’s philosophy. There really is zero chance that Trevor Lawrence falls to the Falcons at four, but much like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff didn’t work out with the teams that drafted them, it doesn’t mean they can’t work with someone else. Scouting everybody, everywhere, at every time is critical. Just being prepared is the most important step, not making the actual decisions. This podcast was insightful into Fontneot’s personal life and getting to know the kind of man he really is. I don’t think Falcons fans realize how great of a person, general manager, and leader he will be for Atlanta.
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