Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff says he’s responsible for ‘downfall of the organization’
Atlanta’s general manager isn’t following head coach Mike Smith into unemployment — but he admitted during a Monday press conference that he’s made mistakes.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows that he’s just as culpable as (newly former) head coach Mike Smith for Atlanta’s two-year decline. Yet Dimitroff, who has received intense scrutiny for his role in back-to-back losing seasons, was present at the Monday press conference announcing Smiths’ firing. Present and still employed.
“I am responsible just as much as Smitty is for the success of this organization and the downfall of this organization,” Dimitroff said. “We think we have some good football players on this team. We know that I have made some mistakes.”
Falcons owner Arthur Blank, chippy and noticeably agitated by the media’s repetitive line of questioning, refused to dive into the details of his decision to fire his coach and keep his GM.
“Blame is for God and children. I’m not in the blame game.”
Blank wouldn’t hand out blame, but he did offer up praise. Heaps of it.
“Smitty demonstrates and has demonstrated all of the qualities one would look for in an individual [to coach the team],” said Blank, who called his decision to part ways with Smith after seven seasons “the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.”
“He coached every minute of every game with intensity, resolve, integrity. Smitty was the most successful coach in the history of this franchise.”
Blank noted that Smith brought immediate stability to a franchise reeling from the chaos left in the wake of Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick but noted that the decline over the past two seasons was unacceptable. With the division title and a trip to the playoffs still in reach, the Falcons were blown out at home by the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, ending their season.
Blank, who said he doesn’t know if he would have retained Smith had he gotten the team into the playoffs, was careful to state that the decision was not a knee-jerk reaction.
“This was not a decision based on one seasons, even two seasons, certainly not on one game,” Blank said.
Blank said that the team will be sending out interview requests for possible replacements as soon as Monday afternoon and that Dimitroff will play a role in hiring a new coach. But while Blank repeatedly stated that Dimitroff will remain the team’s general manager, he stopped short of giving him a ringing endorsement.
“We have a tremendous number of skill players. Were they performing to their level of ability? That’s debatable… Do we have holes? Probably, yes. How best to fell them will be in large part up to the new coach.”
Among those skill players is quarterback Matt Ryan, who Blank said would be a major help in recruiting Smith’s replacement.
“When you talk to head coaches… they always start with, if you have a quarterback, you have a chance. And we have a great quarterback.”