Thomas Dimitroff served under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots from 2003 to 2007 as the organization’s director of college scouting. Belichick serves as the Patriots’ de facto general manager, which means that he and Dimitroff worked closely during that time.
And the latter built up enough of a reputation for himself that he earned the general manager position with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008, serving in that capacity with the team since then. Now his Falcons are preparing to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and their path to Houston was paved largely by a personnel move that Belichick advised him not to make.
Atlanta sensed that they were on the cusp of something great following the 2010 season, when they finished with a 13-3 record, in spite of the fact that they were knocked out during the Divisional Round by the eventual Super Bowl-champion Packers.
With the ability to taste how close they were to taking that next step, Dimitroff and the Falcons made a major gamble by giving up a treasure trove of draft picks to move from the 27th spot in the first round to the sixth spot in order to draft wide receiver Julio Jones, who was only the second wide receiver off the board after A.J. Green.
Atlanta had to five up their first-, second-, and fourth-round draft picks in 2011 in addition to their first- and second-round draft picks in 2012 in order to move up 21 spots in the first round. It was a sultan’s ransom that Dimitroff in his fourth season as general manager was ready to deliver in order to reap the reward on the other side.
Belichick would not have been so willing. It was documented in the book War Room written by Michael Holley about Belichick’s roster-building history that he advised his former disciple against making such a heavy expenditure for just one player.
Dimitroff later framed the decision as perhaps “a once-in-a-career type move” in order to acquire a player with the talent of Jones. “We felt we were in the right place as an organization with the amount of veteran talent we had and the amount of youthful talent we had and the quarterback we had in place. It was a time that was right for us to get ourselves a very explosive player”.
The gamble paid off for the Falcons, and their reward is an appearance in the Super Bowl for just he second time in the history of their franchise. So it is fitting that their opponent would be the Patriots making their NFL-record ninth appearance in the Super Bowl, led for the seventh time by Belichick.
It would not be a referendum on the decision should the Falcons lose. After all, they might not even have been able to get this far without Jones. But winning a Super Bowl after making a move that you think can get you to the Super Bowl would sure solidify it as the right call. No matter what Belichick advised. Or if it wants to talk about it anymore.