Meet the Detroit Lions GM candidate: Pros and cons of Thomas Dimitroff

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are expected to interview a wide range of candidates for both their head coach and general manager jobs. They began GM interviews in early December and are expected to continue talking to candidates for both positions into early 2021. As part of an ongoing series, here is a look at one known candidate on the Lions’ list:

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Thomas Dimitroff

Current role: None.

Background: Dimitroff spent 12-plus seasons as Atlanta Falcons general manager before he was fired in October. He built the Falcons’ Super Bowl 51 roster, drafting players like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and helped the franchise win six division titles. The son of a former CFL coach, Dimitroff’s first full-time personnel job in the NFL was as a scout for the Lions in 1994-97, where he worked with special adviser Chris Spielman’s brother, Rick (who is now the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings). After Detroit, Dimitroff had stints with the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, where he won two Super Bowls as director of college scouting.

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When interviewed: This week

Why he makes sense: Past experience is important, though not a prerequisite in the Lions’ search, and Dimitroff has plenty of that. He cut his teeth under Ron Hughes, the Lions’ well-regarded vice president of player personnel in the 1990s, then was part of the early Patriots’ dynasty with Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. In Atlanta, Dimitroff took Ryan with his first-ever draft pick, and was unflinching in making a blockbuster trade-up for Jones. Dimitroff’s Super Bowl experience is a plus, and it does not hurt that he was a part of the Lions organization during its modern heyday, and perhaps knows some of what went wrong more recently.

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Why he doesn’t: Dimitroff’s draft record outside of Ryan and Jones is spotty, and he was rumored to be on the outs in Atlanta long before he was fired, only to have then-head coach Dan Quinn save his job. Dimitroff left the Falcons with a less-than-desirable salary cap situation for 2021 — they’re about $25 million above the projected cap, according to OverTheCap.com — and the Falcons never got over their Super Bowl malaise. He does have Patriots ties, which will be a tough sell after the last three years, and while winning the news conference is no reason to make a hire, it is part of life, as he has acknowledged, in the NFL. 

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Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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