Monday, August 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl: A follower of 'The Patriots Way' is now in the Patriots' way

HOUSTON

Thomas Dimitroff held a cup of coffee and listened as his coach was peppered with questions for a fourth straight day at Super Bowl LI. Dressed in blue jeans, a sweater and a collared shirt, he didn't look 50.

Nor is he the young genius who took over as the Falcons' general manager in 2008.

With a goatee and bearing a slight resemblance to actor Ethan Hawke, he finds time for everybody. On Thursday, Dimitroff granted a half-hour to Sports Illustrated, shot a "How the Falcons were built" video for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and entertained questions from other reporters on his way to a TV interview.

Dimitroff was the Patriots' director of college scouting from 2003-07. His relationship with New England coach Bill Belichick goes back further, to his days as a grounds keeper and scout in Cleveland when "The Hoodie" was the Browns' coach.

Maybe it's serendipitous — or just plain bad luck — that with Dimitroff finally constructing a Falcons team good enough to reach the Super Bowl, New England is the opponent.

A follower of "The Patriots Way" is now in the Patriots' way.

So every interview with Dimitroff invariably begins with questions about his feelings about facing Belichick or about his team going against Tom Brady.

"This is kind of a dream game that way, to be able to go against the Patriots and against one of my mentors in this league," Dimitroff said.

Maybe it was bound to happen anyway. This is Belichick's 10th Super Bowl as an NFL assistant or head coach. He has been in more than 19 percent of the 51 Super Bowls.

At least he's not going through it alone. Dimitroff hired Scott Pioli as assistant general manager in 2014. Pioli was Belichick's right-hand man, running the Patriots' personnel department from 2001-08. Like many executives who leave New England, Pioli saw his bloom come off during a failed stint as the Chiefs' general manager.

Dimitroff seemed bulletproof when the Falcons had five winning seasons in a row and reached the playoffs four times under coach Mike Smith. But injuries contributed to a 4-12 record in 2013, and they followed that up with 6-10 the next year.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank stripped Dimitroff of his authority over the draft and free agency, giving it to coach Dan Quinn when he hired him two years ago after Smith, now the Bucs' defensive coordinator, was fired.

"You have to put all that noise aside because there can be a lot of critics," Dimitroff said.

But he found a partner in Quinn, who was greatly influenced by Pete Carroll's team bonding methods in Seattle. Two years ago, Quinn was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator when Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler clinched Super Bowl XLIX by intercepting Russell Wilson on second and confetti at the goal line.

Dimitroff stills seeks Belichick's advice but doesn't always take it. In 2011, he traded five draft picks, including two first-rounders, to move up 21 spots and draft receiver Julio Jones out of Alabama.

"Our conversation about that had much more to do with, 'This is something that you better be very sure of, and whether you are or aren't, it's going to be with you for the rest of your career,' " Dimitroff said.

"I thought Bill was fantastic in that he would take all that Scott Pioli and the scouting staff had given him and would put him in a place to be as successful as possible. He wouldn't force-feed a guy into a spot just because this was the scheme. I also used (former Colts president) Bill Polian's approach in what he did in surrounding Peyton (Manning) with really good athletic players."

Defensively, Quinn was willing to play 12 first- or second-year players who can all run and hit. He instituted a "toughness" grade for players. Pingpong tables went up in the locker room. The music at practice got louder and more upbeat.

Dimitroff loves what he learned from the Patriots, and he didn't set fire to the lifeboats. But "The Falcons Way" is now entirely their own.

"There's definitely a northeastern stamp on it in certain ways, and yet we've really evolved into something that is very much the Falcons and not — obviously — the Patriots," Dimitroff said.

Comments
Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

TAMPA — Monday was a beautiful day out at One Buc Place.Sunny. Blue skies. Hot, but not a thousand degrees like it has been in recent weeks around here.The Bucs were finally back home after spending most of the past week in Nashville. And despi...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein injuries have Bucs scouring waiver wire again

Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein injuries have Bucs scouring waiver wire again

TAMPA — The Bucs continued to address their mounting injuries on defense by signing fifth-year defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.Rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea, the team's first round pick from Washington, hasn't played since suffering a calf str...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Justin Watson standing out in battle for Bucs’ final receiver spot

Justin Watson standing out in battle for Bucs’ final receiver spot

In the battle for the fifth receiver spot, Justin Watson needed to stand out.  Being 6-foot-3, 216 pounds helps. But the Penn rookie needed a play to separate himself from the pack.He got it at the end of the first half in Saturday's 30-14 win a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Bucs now have Men in Black, injured players with no-contact jerseys

Bucs now have Men in Black, injured players with no-contact jerseys

Bucs cornerback M.J. Stewart and safety Jordan Whitehead suffered injuries in Saturday's 30-14 win against the Titans Saturday and had to leave the game.They were both back at practice Monday, but with a warning flag of sorts. Stewart and Whitehead w...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What a difference in Bucs quarterbacks

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What a difference in Bucs quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled while Jameis Winston dazzled, showing improvement in his footwork and scrambling, in the Bucs' preseason victory over the Titans. Tampa Bay also has gotten good play from DeSean Jackson, while rookie Ronald Jones ...
Published: 08/20/18
Nothing is going to stand in way of Peyton Barber and his goal to be Bucs’ starting running back

Nothing is going to stand in way of Peyton Barber and his goal to be Bucs’ starting running back

TAMPA – Ask Peyton Barber his approach to training camp or preseason games, and his answer is meant to bull over the questioner as if it's all that's standing between him and the goal line."I think the end-all goal for me is to be the star...
Published: 08/19/18
Bucs claim defensive tackle Adam Reth off waivers from the Eagles

Bucs claim defensive tackle Adam Reth off waivers from the Eagles

Facing a critical shortage of interior defensive linemen, the Bucs on Sunday claimed Eagles defensive tackle Adam Reth off waivers. To make room for Reth, the Bucs waived/injured defensive tackle Drew Iddings, who joined the team last week.With both ...
Published: 08/19/18
Why wait? Time for Bucs fans to start missing Jameis Winston

Why wait? Time for Bucs fans to start missing Jameis Winston

NASHVILLE — Here in the land of love-sick country ballads where the dog dies, the pickup truck tires are slashed and somebody leaves a note on the way out of town, Bucs fans should already start missing Jameis Winston.Oh, he's not gone, gone, g...
Published: 08/18/18
Updated: 08/19/18
Tom Jones’ Two Cents: Mixed bag for Bucs’ first teamers vs. Titans

Tom Jones’ Two Cents: Mixed bag for Bucs’ first teamers vs. Titans

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents while tuning in to the WFLA-Ch. 8 broadcast of Saturday night's Bucs-Titans preseason game.It's preseason. And it was just the second preseason game at that, so there's no reason to get too ...
Published: 08/18/18
Bucs journal: When in doubt, keep throwing to Mike Evans

Bucs journal: When in doubt, keep throwing to Mike Evans

NASHVILLE — Coach Dirk Koetter joked last week that the Bucs' offense consisted mostly of throwing to WR Mike Evans.All kidding aside, it's not a bad plan.Evans is the most reliable weapon among the Bucs' corps of target-rich receivers. He prov...
Published: 08/18/18