Why Louis Riddick makes sense as the next Falcons GM

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The Falcons are now searching for both a new general manager and head coach for the first time since 2008 after Arthur Blank fired Jim Mora and Rich McKay. Following the 2007 season, Blank hired the Patriots director of college scouting, Dimitroff, before hiring the Jaguars defensive coordinator, Mike Smith. Thomas Dimitroff worked with two head coaches during his time in Atlanta, Smith and Dan Quinn. It is unusual to hire a head coach before a general manager, but it has been done in the past. I, for one, believe Blank will stick to the traditional manner of replacing a head coach and general manager. With that being said, the inevitable general manager would be included in head coaching discussions.

This will be the third time I have written a piece about hiring Louis Riddick. After the week one loss to Seattle, I wrote an overreaction piece highlighting potential head coaches and general managers. Then again, after the news broke of Thomas Dimitroff being fired, I talked about him in a more extensive general manager candidates article. We will now take an even further look at my darkhorse candidate to become the next Falcons general manager.

Louis Riddick not only has an incredible eye for talent but also regularly receives praise for his character and judgment from former and current players, scouts, and executives. I believe Riddick is right to fill the vacant general manager position predicated on the head coaching decision alone; the rest is a bonus. This might be an unpopular opinion among Falcon fans. Still, I believe the right combination for Atlanta is obviously Louis Riddick as GM, but where I am in the minority is at head coach. Chase Irle wrote in detail why Joe Brady deserves more acknowledgment as a head coach candidate. 

Although I think Joe Brady is the right decision for the head coaching position, Riddick will surely get his guy regardless of what anyone thinks. This is exactly why I think he is perfect for the job; he is decisive and committed in his thinking but remains open to discussion. Riddick is outspoken on Twitter, most recently supporting Eric Bieniemy’s elevator speech. Obviously, Bieniemy is a much more experienced coach than Brady, and if Riddick put his weight behind Bieniemy as a candidate, then I would support him.

As stated before, my vote is for Riddick because I trust him to make the head coaching decision. But his impressive background of playing and scouting in the NFL is another promising reason to make the hire. 

A ninth-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1991 NFL draft, Riddick played seven NFL seasons at safety. His career included stints with the Atlanta Falcons (1992 and 1996), Cleveland Browns (1993-95), and Oakland Raiders (1998). Due to this experience, he will be better off communicating and understanding players than someone who has not played in the league. He understands the psyche and commitment it takes to be a professional football player, giving him valuable insights when evaluating personnel.

Louis Riddick spent time in Washington and Philadelphia as a member of each club’s pro scouting department. From 2001-2004, he was a scout until promoted in 2005 to the director of pro personnel, where he served until 2007. He climbed ranks similarly in Philadelphia, starting as a pro scout in 2008. Then, after two promotions, he found himself again labeled as the director of pro personnel but this time for the Eagles. His responsibilities included but were not limited to evaluating current NFL players and other professional football leagues (CFL, AFL, etc). His expertise in assessing professional players could be beneficial for a team like the Falcons who have the foundation pieces in place but need role players. This does not imply Riddick did not scout at the collegiate level because he absolutely did, contrary to what his job title would suggest.

Here are just a few transactions that turned out well over the years when Riddick was a member of the pro personnel departments.

Washington Football Team:

2002-Bruce Smith, nine sacks at 39 years old

2003-Laveranues Coles (Pro Bowl)

2004-Mark BrunellClinton PortisMarcus Washington (Pro Bowl)

2005-Playoffs; Santana Moss, Philip Daniels (team sack leader)

2007-Playoffs; Andre Carter (team sack leader)

Philadephia Eagles:

2008-Playoffs; Asante Samuel (Pro Bowl 3x, All-Pro, team interception leader 3x)

2009-Playoffs; Jason Peters (Pro Bowl 7x, All-Pro 2x)

2010-Playoffs; Michael Vick (Pro Bowl)

2011- Jason Babin (Pro Bowl, 18 sacks), Evan Mathis (Pro Bowl 2x, All-Pro)

It is clear and obvious that Riddick was successful in his roles with Washington and Philadelphia. Back in 2013, he was interviewed as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles front office to gain insight into the evaluation process of a former player. It is littered with great information.

PE: How does your philosophy on talent evaluation differ from that of a non-former player?

Riddick: “I attempt to use what I have learned from having spent extensive 1 on 1 time with some of the greatest position coaches/coordinators of all time that did not coach the position I played (Joe Bugel – Offensive Line, Greg Blache – Defensive Line, Marvin Lewis – Linebacker, Al Saunders – Wide Receiver, Andy Reid – Quarterback, Howard Mudd – Offensive Line) when evaluating those particular positions, and then drawing from my own personal competitive experiences to help get a better understanding/give a better evaluation on those positions that I did not play.

Perhaps most importantly, it is the time I have spent in different locker-rooms/on different teams at the NFL level that enables me to eventually determine through in an interview/1 on 1 setting whether or not a prospect has the kind of love and intrinsic motivation for the game that fits within a competitive, performance-focused organizational structure that the consistently successful NFL franchises have established. It is in this area as an evaluator that there is no substitute for having “been there/done that” in terms of understanding and truly respecting the fragile nature of the chemistry that needs to exist within and NFL locker-room, as it is different than that which exists at the college or high school level, thus making it a necessity that every player that you evaluate and recommend be a positive contributor to the health and maintenance of that chemistry.”

As I mentioned earlier, Riddick’s background playing in the NFL gives him an incredible advantage in scouting as he understands the intricacies of playing and succeeding in the NFL.

PE: What are some important intangible assets and/or leadership qualities you look for in the athletes you evaluate?

Riddick: “In player evaluation, these characteristics are what are commonly called Major Factors. When looking at potential prospects, be it for the college draft, unrestricted free agency, trades, waiver wire claims, etc., the components that make up this category determine the success or failure of a player relative to what your internal expectations were preceding the drafting/signing of that particular prospect far more often than an error made in the evaluating of their Critical Factors (athletic ability, functional size, functional speed, functional strength, instincts, production). Some examples of major factors:

  1. Functional intelligence/problem solving under duress/high-pressure situations.
  2. Adaptation ability both on and off the field.
  3. Resolve/competitive staying power both on and off the field
  4. Citizenship – off the field behavior
  5. Personality traits – team-first attitude – An attitude that doing your most for the team will always bring something good for you. A belief that everything you deserve will eventually come your way.”

Bill Belichick built an empire in New England in part due to the culture he created. Riddick’s approach and demeanor are similar to Belichick’s as a zero-tolerance, production-based assessment model. 

Louis Riddick is an intelligent, high-character individual who would represent the city of Atlanta and the Falcons franchise better than anyone before him. The job obviously requires more than just integrity, but Riddick has regularly voiced his support for polarizing college prospects that turned into highly successful players, many who were originally doubted.

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