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Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dimitroff stays, so I guess it's still all Smitty's fault

Ask yourself this: Do the Atlanta Falcons have a particularly robust roster? One of the league’s 16-best rosters? (The NFL has 32 teams, as you know.) If your answer is “yes,” you’re either Arthur Blank or Thomas Dimitroff. If your answer is “no” – and I suggest that most everybody besides Blank and Dimitroff would answer that way – don’t you then have to ask: Who compiled this roster? Who has had eight years as general manager to build a talent base that goes beyond Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Desmond Trufant?

The answer is Dimitroff, who was again given a vote of … well, I’m not sure we can call it confidence. Maybe a vote of hope against hope. Blank has had two chances to fire this GM, and he has twice declined. He has re-aligned Dimitroff’s duties – that should have told the owner something, should it not? – but he has kept him as general manager. I have no idea why. Guessing you don’t, either.

Dimitroff has done some very good things here. Ryan was the most important draft pick in franchise history, and the then-rookie GM aced it. I will argue forever that trading up for Jones was a bold move executed to perfection. Michael Turner is the best free-agent hire the Falcons have ever made. Trufant? Very good player. Vic Beasley Jr.? Could be a very good player. Ryan Schrader? Nice off-the-grid find. But the intent here isn’t to sing TD the GM’s greatest hits. It’s to examine the totality of his work over eight seasons, and here’s what we see:

A team that had five consecutive winnings seasons in its first five under Dimitroff has had three consecutive non-winning seasons. Perhaps you’re one who views 8-8 in Year 1 in Dan Quinn’s first year of coaching as a bold step forward. I do not. I think a team that starts 6-1 against what would wind up as the league’s second-softest schedule had to fall apart to finish .500, and a team that falls apart is never a recommendation of anyone – the GM, the coach, the owner, the quarterback, the offensive coordinator. (Wes Durham and David Archer get a pass.)

Blank is free to keep/hire whom he chooses, but this lingering affection for his GM stumps the band. I regard Dimitroff as one of the smartest men I’ve ever met (and not just in sports), but I don’t know how Blank or anyone can reconcile three non-playoff seasons on the trot as a sign of brighter tomorrows.

Truth to tell, the way the Falcons collapsed – with Ryan clearly confused, with an offensive line still in flux, with a defense that hasn’t manifested a pass rush since Claude Humphrey – doesn’t augur better for next year. The schedule will be tougher, and the Falcons will apparently still have Kyle Shanahan calling plays.

But enough. I’ve made myself clear. But I do note that the Falcons just folded in a way they never quite did under the previous coach, and Mike Smith – who hasn’t coached in a year but might again soon – is still the only principal Blank has fired over the past decade. Guess it’s still all Smitty’s fault.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.