Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. --George Santayana
I challenge you to look at the 2012 Falcons draft class without wincing. Short on draft picks and with a small, lightly regarded 2011 class because of the massive haul it took to land Julio Jones, Atlanta had to turn in a strong class to keep the roster from crumbling. As we sit here in 2016, not a single player from that class is left on the roster, and even the strongest Thomas Dimitroff supporters would have to admit that he absolutely struck out. Including Thomas Dimitroff.
"The 2012 draft was...was highly disappointing."
I could include Dimitroff's full quote, but suffice to say he notes that the Peter Konz "was a major blunder for us." In reality, the entire class was, with third rounder Lamar Holmes fighting through injuries and poor play, Bradie Ewing getting injured over and over, Jonathan Massaquoi getting himself in hot water with the team despite a semi-promising start to his career and winding up on the street, Charles Mitchell playing in just 10 games, and Travian Robertson winding up elsewhere. It was an abject disaster, and one of the primary reasons that Dimitroff is now so widely reviled in the fanbase despite the hot start to his career as Falcons general manager.
Really, the class was emblematic of Dimitroff's worst habits. There's the third round pick with questionable pedigree (Holmes), the Wisconsin player destined to not pan out (Konz), the weird reach at a non-premier position (Ewing), and the guy who was apparently not fully vetted before he arrived (Massaquoi). Not all of this was something the Falcons could control, and it's worth remembering that Konz was a highly-regarded center prospect coming out of college. All we'll really remember is the failure.
What makes this noteworthy is that Dimitroff has not, to put it mildly, been a candid guy in the past. He preferred to stay in the shadows whenever possible, his public reasoning for moves was pretty opaque, and he's been seen as invincible because he's survived drafts like 2012 and some persistently lousy free agent signings. To hear him concede that one of his classes was, in fact, bad and his top pick from that class was a blunder is fresh.
Here's why it matters: Dimitroff has to be keenly aware of just how close he came to losing his job this offseason, because I truly believe if Quinn hadn't gone to bat for him, he'd be looking for another gig right now. With a coach that has legitimate faith in him and wants to work with him, a widely praised 2015 draft class, and a team that made at least a couple of small strides, the one way forward for Dimitroff in Atlanta is to win back the rest of the team and the fanbase by nailing this offseason. Pointing to one of his worst hours and admitting that the class (if not the philosophy that animated the class) was one huge blunder is a step in the right direction. Especially if he's committed to getting Quinn the kinds of athletes the Falcons' coach covets, Dimitroff is not beyond redemption. He's just working in a very small window.
None of this is going to make you place renewed faith in Thomas Dimitroff as an NFL general manager, and nor should it. The man is still in Atlanta because Dan Quinn placed an enormous amount of faith in him, If this roster doesn't significantly improve in 2016, Quinn will be going to the new stadium with a new GM he probably had a hand in selecting, but Dimitroff is both aware of the stakes and seemingly willing to drift away from some of the habits that got him into trouble in classes like 2012. That is, at least, a good sign.