It's fairly evident that Thomas Dimitroff has decided to be or mandated by Arthur Blank to be more visible this offseason. Look at his Google hangout, his multiple interviews, or the buddy cop ridealong with new assistant general manager Scott Pioli. I couldn't tell you whether this is being driven by a desire to get more favorable coverage or not, but the end result is that the fans win by getting more information and wonderfully weird quotes directly from the general manager.
The most illuminating piece to come out of this newfound commitment to visibility comes to us from Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei. The veteran NFL reporter spent time with Dimitroff during the week of Senior Bowl practices and came up with a fascinating look at how a GM spends his time in Mobile.
We learned, for example, how heavily involved Dimitroff was in Scott Pioli's hire:
On Tuesday, negotiations commenced for the Falcons to hire Scott Pioli as assistant general manager. Dimitroff and Pioli have a long history as co-workers and compadres, having worked together for seven years with the Browns and Patriots. Pioli, the former general manager of the Patriots and Chiefs, can give the Falcons a strong voice in the draft room that is capable of challenging Dimitroff. They had been talking about joining forces again ever since Pioli was let go by the Chiefs, and Pioli previously had met with Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
Dimitroff and Pioli have dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on Tuesday to finalize their agreement. They talk until about 10:15 p.m., then go back to their hotel. They wrap up their conversation with another phone call at 11:45 p.m. Pioli signs his contract at 7:30 on Wednesday morning, and the Falcons announce the deal.
There may well be front office drama, but if there is, it'll be of Dimitroff's making. It never made sense to me that Arthur Blank would hire a close friend of Dimitroff's without consulting him, because that seems to be asking for bad blood.
Dimitroff spent plenty of time moving around the field and taking a closer look at prospects, using a profoundly unsettling term to describe what he was doing:
After one play, Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice admonishes a player for taking a wrong step. The player snaps back at Tice, justifying what he did. Dimitroff takes note, and wonders about how accountable and respectful the player will be once he gets to the NFL.
"I like to wander in behind them, unbeknownst to them, and gauge how they interact, gauge how they are when they come off the field," he said. "See how they interact with the coaches. When the coaches aren't around, are they mumbling or carrying on with their teammates? Are they focused? I'll never have an opportunity like this to sniff in the pits with these guys. So I want to take advantage of the opportunity that is rare."
This is precisely what you want your general manager to be doing, without the whole wafting of body odor thing. Dimitroff acknowledges the danger of falling in love with a prospect based on a week's practices later in the story, but it makes a ton of sense for him to flit between drills and get a close look at players, their attitudes and their aptitudes. There's a ton of scouting that Dimitroff can't and won't be doing himself, but if the Falcons are going to pull the trigger on any Senior Bowl prospects, Dimitroff will have a strong voice in that process.
Getting a bead on which players are most likely to be drafted by the Falcons is a tougher call. Pompei notes that Dimitroff seems to love Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, but unless the Falcons move down in the first round, it's hard to envision the team taking him.
I also learned that Dimitroff loves the English language almost as much as I do:
When Dimitroff conducts interviews, he uses a touchscreen app on his iPad. On the screen in front of him are about 60 words, such as "brazen," "sincere," "intelligent," "spacey" and "boring" that can be tapped to describe the young man. When he is speaking with Stanford pass-rusher Trent Murphy on Monday, he presses the word "respectful." "He's a look-you-in-the-eye guy with a good strong handshake," Dimitroff said. "Communicative, polite."
Ultimately, you're learning more about Dimitroff's process and the busy life of an NFL general manager from Pompei's article, but it's eye-opening on that front. We also get a glimpse at some players that could be wearing the red and black in 2014 and beyond. The piece is heavy on fluffy details and clearly gives a rosy picture in favor for this level of access, but it is very much worth your time to read in full.
What did you take away from Pompei's article?