Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff certainly felt the pressure after the 2014 season when team owner Arthur Blank snatched away the bulk of his power, allocated more draft responsibilities to assistant general manager Scott Pioli, and gave new coach Dan Quinn final say over the 53-man roster.
With Dimitroff surviving a third-consecutive playoff-less season, he fully understands the heat has been turned up another notch, even if he tried to downplay it while addressing the Atlanta media for the first time this season Thursday afternoon.
Dimitroff was asked point-blank if he feels the 2016 season is a make-or-break year for him.
"Again, I've said this to you for years now, I believe every year is," Dimitroff said. "That's what I believe. I believe this year, just like last year, is about the success of this organization. That's my responsibility. There's no doubt in my mind that I look at it every year as I need to produce in order to keep my job. That's just the way it is."
The problem is, the Falcons haven't produced a winning record or postseason appearance for the last three seasons, and Dimitroff's personnel decisions have played a big part in it. Although he can point to the drafting of Pro Bowlers Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, and Devonta Freeman along with franchise quarterback Matt Ryan and swinging a trade for now-retired tight end Tony Gonzalez, Dimitroff hasn't established quality depth or strengthened the offensive and defensive lines as needed. Dimitroff called the failed 2012 draft class, led by second-round pick Peter Konz, "highly disappointing." That entire 2012 draft class is currently out of work, and former first-round draft picks Sean Weatherspoon, Peria Jerry, and Sam Baker are no longer with the team. (Weatherspoon and Baker had significant injury issues.) Throw in a handful of free-agent acquisitions that haven't panned out and you have the recipe for disaster.
Despite the aforementioned issues, Blank released a statement saying the partnership between Dimitroff and Quinn would continue into next season, with some tweaks in the pro personnel and scouting department. The Falcons just this week hired former Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery and former Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster as national scouts, although both Emery and Webster are known more for their failures as decisions-makers than their successes. Dimitroff said interviews are ongoing to fill roles in pro personnel and college scouting.
Dimitroff admitted he needed to win back the trust of Falcons fans for his own failures.
"Like anything, this business is the way it is: You're going to have some hits, and you're going to have misses," Dimitroff said. "And I understand that. The fan base deserves a very good product here. The media is going to report on it. I feel very strongly about that. I understand what my responsibility are, and I take full responsibility for where this organization is right now as far as the acquisition process. That is ultimately my duty, and that's where my focus is.''
Dimitroff said he and Quinn have a clear vision on how to build the roster moving forward. That being said, both agreed they would move on from drafting or signing a player if there's a disagreement over the player. In the same breath, Dimitroff acknowledged that it should be Quinn's decision whether a player fits the scheme.
"In the end, if the head coach is totally against a player, the success rate of that player working out obviously is quite low, in my mind," Dimitroff said.
We'll see how that translates when the Falcons acquire players this offseason, with needs to fill on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at linebacker and wide receiver. Quinn said the Falcons also need a quarterback to back up Ryan.