Atlanta Falcons' David Caldwell in demand for open GM spots
By Steve Wyche
Updated: Dec. 30, 2012 at 01:00 p.m.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff already has received fair warning that following the end of business Sunday, he will be bombarded with requests from rival teams to interview director of player personnel David Caldwell for a variety of forthcoming general manager vacancies.
"Black Monday" will leave nearly as many GMs out of work as head coaches. Caldwell, according to a variety of NFL sources, is one of the hottest candidates to become, well, the next Dimitroff. NFL sources have Caldwell linked to being a front-runner for projected openings in Buffalo and Jacksonville, although more teams are expected to pursue him.
"David is bright, organized, has a firm understanding of the (draft prospects) through the entire country -- not just this season but years to come," Dimitroff said Sunday morning. "He's my right-hand guy. We talk about our personnel, personnel around the league and personnel in college.
"Him and (associate director of player personnel) Lionel Vital are side by side with me. They were part of the historic move with Julio Jones. (Caldwell) is polished enough. He's a smart guy, not a chest thumper, and he'll let his work show. I don't think he would have a problem hanging with one person in these GM interviews."
Before becoming the Falcons' director of player personnel in 2012, Caldwell spent four seasons as Atlanta's director of college scouting after being hired from the Indianapolis Colts. He replaced Les Snead, who was hired by the St. Louis Rams as their general manager last offseason.
Dimitroff's success as a GM after being a longtime scout with the New England Patriots has prompted NFL owners to look more at younger people with scouting backgrounds in Dimitroff's mold, like Trent Baalke (San Francisco), John Schneider (Seattle), Ryan Grigson (Indianapolis) and Dimitroff's former right-hand man in Atlanta -- Snead (St. Louis) -- to become GMs.
Owners want people who can find them players, not necessarily an executive to manage an entire operation.
It's a formula that has been successfully used by Bill Belichick (New England), Ted Thompson (Green Bay), Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore) and Jerry Reese (New York Giants).
The positive early results with Snead after a season with the Rams compound the attraction of the Falcons, a club that teams look to for non-playing talent. Caldwell is on deck, with potential risers Vital and director of football administration Nick Polk in the pipeline.
"One of the points I drive home with all our guys is the more success we have as a team, the more opportunities you could have," Dimitroff said.â??
Since 2008, the Falcons have been one of the NFL's winningest teams â??- in the regular season. They've yet to win a playoff game in three appearances. They've clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs this season.
Some of the reasons Dimitroff cites for Atlanta's success are tools he developed while working for Belichick as a scout. Besides knowing how to find and evaluate talent in conjunction with what the franchise seeks, the Falcons have members of their pro scouting department switch spots with college scouts every few years so everyone has a complete understanding of the types of players that fit.
"Our guys see a head coach (Mike Smith) and GM with a working partnership," Dimitroff said. "Us doing everything shoulder to shoulder is important. We're No. 1 or No. 2 in draft retention. We're mindful of keeping our guys and coaching them up. We sprinkle in veteran free agents and get aggressive when we have to -â?? like we did in trading up to get Julio (Jones)."