From Indianapolis, Indiana
When the Atlanta Falcons hired Thomas Dimitroff as their general manager in 2008, the stories included the notation that his first job in the NFL was with the Kansas City Chiefs.
That came as a surprise to some of folks at Arrowhead Stadium who never remember Dimitroff being in the building, let alone on the payroll. The details became more sought after when Dimitroff was named The Sporting News’ 2010 NFL Executive of the Year. The magazine polled nearly 50 NFL general managers and other front office personnel and in the voting Dimitroff was named 13 times, or more than the man in second place, Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.
Dimitroff and Pioli worked together with the New England Patriots for six years (2002-07). The Falcons GM frequently identifies Pioli as one of the people who influenced him the most during his NFL career.
But that’s not the Chiefs connection that came out in 2008. At that time Pioli was still the Patriots player personnel guru and did not become the G.M. at Arrowhead until 2009.
Actually, Dimitroff’s first NFL job in player personnel was with the Chiefs in 1993. At the time, it wasn’t his full-time job and he wasn’t even part-time enough to be listed in the team’s media guide for that season or any other. At the time, Dimitroff put in more than 40 hours every week as a member of the grounds crew for the Cleveland Browns, who at the time were being coached by a fellow named Bill Belichick. Sometimes at night he would help out in the personnel department where Pioli was the assistant in pro personnel.
And on weekends, Dimitroff would watch film and scout small college games in the Ohio-Pennsylvania area for the Chiefs.
“I wasn’t even part-time,” Dimitroff remembered on Friday at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I was part-part-time. I’m sure there were people who didn’t know I was working for the Chiefs. But Lynn Stiles knew my father (also Thomas Dimitroff, who played, coached and scouted in the AFL and NFL) and I was getting my feet wet scouting games in Ohio and Pennsylvania.”
Stiles was the Chiefs player personnel director at the time and he would employ all sorts of people to help out with scouting assignments around the country. Dimitroff was their man in northeast Ohio.
“I would scout the game on Saturday, write up my report on Sunday and on Monday morning I was hauling out the tarp,” Dimitroff said with a laugh. “I guess it was an unusual way to get started but it was fun. I was doing what I wanted to do.”
He does know that almost 20 years later, there’s no way one NFL team would allow their employee to work for another, no matter how part-time.”I would let someone who was also working for another organization within a mile of our building,” Dimitroff said. “It would not fly with the Atlanta Falcons.”
That’s too bad, because the story of the guy from the grounds screw who moonlights as a part-time scout for another team and eventually becomes the NFL executive of the year is one of the great stories in professional football over the last 25 years.