Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Dimitroff fine with deep posse of former GMs

Good morning! Welcome to the special Super Bowl edition of The Cover 9@9 blog. Normally it is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, which is 9 items published at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning. This week from Houston, we will be live each morning at 9 a.m. with the Super Bowl edition of Cover 9@9!

1. TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN: After coach Mike Smith was fired after the 2014 season,

the Falcons started stock piling former general managers.

President Rich McKay (Tampa Bay, Atlanta) and Billy Devaney (St. Louis) were already with the franchise.  Scott Pioli (Kansas City), Phil Emery (Chicago) and Ruston Webster (Tennessee) were added in a varying capacities.

It was widely thought that the Falcons had too many cooks in the kitchen.

But Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff thought otherwise.

"Scott is a long and trusted friend of mine and a trusted aid," Dimitroff said. "He’s someone that I can go to on many things whether if it’s personnel matters that I want to talk to him about it, handling certain situations that are going to come up as a leader in the NFL. Scott and I spent a lot of time together and a lot of time talking about the nuances of players in New England."

Dimitroff knew all of the former general managers and felt that everyone would stay in their lanes.

"We are fortunate to have Scott here," Dimitroff said. "We are fortunate to have Phil Emery here and Ruston Webster here as two other senior guys.  For our scouting staff, which does a great job, it’s like a symposium every time that we have scouting meetings."

Most of the times, the former general managers discuss the the things they messes up on or lessons they learn from a particularly tough situation.

2. MEETING WITH QUINN: Dimitroff says he meets are talks with Quinn about 10 times a day.

"It's mostly about the Falcons moving forward from 2015," Dimitroff said. "He hates hearing 'we've always done it like that', but we talk about what I’ve learned. The good things and the bad things, certain things that needed to be adjusted."

3. RYAN ON REBOUND: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan gives a great deal of credit to others for the resurgence of the offense in 2016 after the collapse of 2015.

“I think we’ve come a long way,” Ryan said. “We’ve gotten better, and that was one of the things we focused on this offseason, trying to find ways to improve as a team, as an offense.”

The Falcons did add a few new pieces.

“I think the addition of some of the players that we picked up – guys like (wide receiver) Taylor (Gabriel), (center) Alex Mack, (wide receiver) Aldrick Robinson, and (wide receiver) Mohamed Sanu – just have added to our team and made us a better offense,” Ryan said.

4. THE JULIO PLAN: The Falcons suspect that the Patriots will attempt to take away All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.

“We’ve got to move him around a little bit and try to make it difficult for them to tee off on where he’s going to be,” Ryan said. “Even when he gets double teamed he has made plays for us all year. So we’ve got a lot of guys who can do it and I know Julio is going to have a great game for us.”

5. RYAN REFLECTS ON VICK: Ryan never said much, but it was a burden trying to replace fan-favorite Michael Vick after he went to jail on federal dog-fighting charges.

“Obviously, when I got drafted here, Mike had been here for such a long time, and everybody knows how that ended in Atlanta,” Ryan said. “For me, early on I just tried to go in and do the job the best I could.”

Ryan guided the Falcons to an 11-5 record as a rookie and a berth in the playoffs as a wildcard.

Over time, Vick, who was later re-instated and went on to play five more seasons, and Ryan have established a relationship.

“Michael has been incredibly supportive of me as I’ve gotten to know him, as I’ve gotten older,” Ryan said. “That support has meant a lot because he is such an icon for the city of Atlanta. He was such a huge part of the sports fabric in that town, and for him to be supportive and help me out in the way that he has throughout my career has been really, really nice.”

6. NO SHANAHAN STAFF RAID: When Kyle Shanahan becomes the San Francisco  49ers head coach, there will not be a raid of the Falcons coaching staff.

Chip Kelly is a real option to replace Shanahan, according to columnist Jeff Schultz.

7. CONGRATS TO KLEHA: Former Falcons media relations director Frank Kleha, who was with the team for nearly three decades, was recently hired as the marketing and communications manager for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. (We hope he has some pull in making sure the Media Party for

The Super Bowl in 2019 will be held at the Aquarium!!!! We'd also like Outkast or Future to perform!) Also, former Falcons media relations Reggie Roberts has started his own public relations firm in Atlanta and is doing well. 

8. BUSINESS VS. BROTHERHOOD: Running back Devonta Freeman wants to get paid. His family has to eat and that $600,000 salary needs upgrading. Michael Cunningham looks at how keeping together the Brotherhood will continue to clash with future business decisions likes Freeman's request for a contract extension.

9. TRAVEL WELL: Lot of folks are heading to Houston from the ATL.  Our Jennifer Brett went to the security meeting. The police are ready for anything from protests to prostitution. You might want to read this security alert and hopefully you can have some Super Bowl fun and stay off law enforcement's radar.

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan clears up a report from the NY Post that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning sent Ryan text messages on how to beat Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. (Video by Ryon Horne/AJC)


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.