The Falcons are now several weeks past head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot’s formal announcements. It is initially hard to compare Thomas Dimitroff and Terry Fontenot, but we can utilize prior comments to suggest some differences.
Thomas Dimitroff was an excellent general manager (two Executive of the Year awards), don’t get it twisted, but he did have his faults — per his termination. For one, the entire notion that Dimitroff didn’t draft the best player available and selected prospects based on need is false. I only need one example to dispel that take completely, and Chase has already done it for me, this from his defensive line overhaul article.
“Dimitroff’s parting gift might just have been the signing of Dante Fowler to a three-year, $48 million deal — one that he didn’t even come close to living up to in the first year…”
“But Fowler is just one of a long list of underwhelming pass-rushing acquisitions made during the Thomas Dimitroff era. Ray Edwards somehow managed to be even less impactful than Fowler in his one-and-a-half seasons with the team after the Falcons handed him a lucrative contract. Amazingly, Vic Beasley is probably the best pass rusher the Falcons have had since [John] Abraham left, which is extraordinarily sad considering he had just one good season out of five. Takk McKinley was a bust, but the lack of edge rushers the Falcons drafted during the Dimitroff era was more concerning than anything.”
“…Falcons have not spent many draft picks on pass rushers. This is puzzling because it is a premium position. They didn’t draft one in 2020 (I’m not counting Marlon Davidson as an edge rusher). They didn’t really in 2019 either, unless you consider fourth-round pick John Cominsky a pass rusher, but he’s more like a defensive tackle, and they didn’t select one again in 2018. I mean, think about that. As bad as the Falcons pass rush has been over the last few seasons, they didn’t spend one pick on a pure pass rusher. That’s borderline insanity.”
“The last selection the Falcons used on a pass rusher was in the first round of the 2017 draft… Falcons only took one pass rusher in the drafts from 2014-2016 (Vic Beasley), and the last time they took two in the same draft was in 2013 — Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga — a fourth and fifth-round pick…”
With such a glaring need to produce pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Thomas Dimitroff rarely addressed the situation, especially recently. He did, however, address other positions of need throughout his tenure, and those were at some point considered good picks. But he also selected players like Calvin Ridley when the team had Julio Jones and Mohammad Sanu under contract in 2018.
Dimitroff mostly drafted for need but then would do things like not address the biggest deficiency — edge — on the team or bolster one of the strongest positions — wide receiver. Inconsistency was the root of all the Falcons’ problems — front office and on the field.
Dimitroff would constantly draft specific molds of players for Quinn — fast and physical. Regardless of their technique, it seemed they wanted to put the fastest and most athletic team out there. This can be successful if the coaching staff can refine these athletes, but it will not be how Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith rebuild this team.
The Falcons front office will be approaching the offseason differently than the previous regime. This from our reaction to the introductory press conference of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith.
“Fontenot’s most substantial statement was regarding the draft and his approach. He says he is a strictly best player available guy, mentioning the great Ozzie Newsome’s approach — the longtime Ravens general manager.”
So since Fontenot has never been a general manager, we can only assume his decisions. Referencing former Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome should be a key to the way Fontenot drafts. Newsome has long been touted for saying things like “Right player, right price,” and “Best Player Available.” Choosing Jonathan Ogden over Lawrence Phillips with his first pick is a perfect example of his “best player available” narrative. Ogden is arguably one of the best linemen of all time.
But you can also look at the Saints’ draft history to fully grasp who has influenced Fontenot in his climb to the top. Micky Loomis has long been touted, similarly to Newsome, as ultra-aggressive in the NFL draft. Loomis has traded up 17 times over the past 13 years — including nine cases where they traded a future year’s draft choice in the deal. He has been quoted saying, “If you like the player, go get ’em. That’s our philosophy.”
So believe that Terry Fontenot will go and get his “guy” regardless of position — even if it comes in unconventional ways. The Falcons drafted Calvin Ridley when no fan expected a wide receiver, but in hindsight, it was a fantastic move. Dimitroff followed it up by trading Sanu away for a second-round pick right before his play diminished. There were just not enough of these aggressive, “go get ’em,” best player available moves. That will change under Fontenot.
Another significant difference between Dimitroff and Fontenot is the ladder’s presence game-planning week-to-week — as he did with Sean Payton. Fontenot will be involved with Arthur Smith as much as he needs him, and Smith will cater his system to who Fontenot puts on the roster — it will look very different.