ATLANTA -- The ax fell on general managers and coaches alike, in Chicago with the Bears and in New York with the Jets on Monday. But not every housecleaning happened in pairs.
In Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank offered his deepest appreciation for the most successful coach in team history before showing Mike Smith the door. And while Smith hit the unemployment line with 66 wins under his belt and one year left on his contact, Thomas Dimitroff sat in the same room with the title "general manager" still behind his name.
Yes, Dimitroff remains in control. But he doesn't necessarily control his own destiny.
Numerous times during his news conference, Blank said, "Thomas is our general manager." In the same breath, Blank said the evaluation process is far from complete.
"Everything relative to football operations, outside of coaching, is up for scrutiny and for discussion," Blank said. "Everything."
What type of message is Blank sending keeping Dimitroff in the fold? Plenty of irate fans expressed their displeasure via radio or social media. One reporter even took Blank to task in asking how he would explain keeping Dimitroff, given how the Jets and Bears handled their situations.
"That's other organizations, and we're Atlanta," Blank said. "I can't speak for what they did in New York. I can't speak for what they did in Chicago. You'll have to call their owners and discuss it with him."
Blank's objective isn't about pairing a coach to go with Dimitroff. It's about finding the coach with the right qualities to lead the Falcons into the future, whether that coach has head-coaching experience or not, whether he is offensive-minded or defense-oriented. Blank seeks a great leader with a clear vision for success, a motivator who is decisive yet flexible, who represents the cultural values of the organization and has the ability to develop talent.
We'll just have to see how this all plays out, with the coaching search now in full swing. The Falcons already requested permission to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Plus, there is talk among NFL executives that Blank admires what fired Jets coach Rex Ryan brings to the table.
Dimitroff's status will become much clearer once the new coach is announced. It would be difficult to imagine Dimitroff co-existing with a strong personality such as Ryan. A candidate without head-coaching experience could work in Dimitroff's favor -- though an ideal match might be Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who worked with Dimitroff in New England and was the Denver Broncos' head coach for two seasons.
Blank said Dimitroff would be involved in the coaching search, though it's doubtful Dimitroff will have a strong voice in the matter. It is Blank's final decision, and he vowed to be involved in the process every step of the way.
"Hiring the head coach is the first move, but it might not be the only move we need to make," Blank said. "Time will tell. The process will dictate that as we dive more into some of these issues."
Dimitroff was unavailable to talk during the dismal 6-10 season. Monday offered his first opportunity to analyze his own performance in 2014.
"I think what I add is there's no question [Mike Smith] and I worked closely together in building this football team. We're very proud of what we've done over the five years," Dimitroff said. "The [last] two years obviously have not been what we've wanted. I take a great deal of responsibility for what happens with his organization and the team-building that has taken place. We think we have some good football players on this team.
"We also know I have made mistakes, and I know I'm going to be scrutinized for it. And I know I have over the last months have looked at every different aspect of our football operations, as far as what needs to be adjusted as far as myself and my approach to things, as well. I am responsible as much as [Smith] is for the success of this organization and the downfall of this organization."
Time will tell how long Dimitroff still has responsibilities with this organization.