ATLANTA — Perception-wise, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have been tied to the proverbial hip for the better part of four seasons with Atlanta.
**Quinn and Dimitroff each have partial 'final say' with personnel moves regarding the Falcons.
(As determined a few years ago, Quinn essentially controls the 53-man roster during gameday weeks. Dimitroff presides over the full roster during the offseason, along with free agency and trade moves. Assistant GM Scott Pioli directs the draft-preparation matters ... with Pioli, Dimitroff and Quinn consulting among the group.)
**Quinn and Dimitroff have the ear of team owner Arthur Blank.
**What's more, Quinn and Dimitroff even signed their contract extensions on the same day last year, with both terms covering three years.
In all, everything syncs up with the 'co-builders' tag that Blank publicly referenced a few years ago.
Moving forward ... does this mean Dimitroff and Quinn would get equal blame next January, if the Falcons should post back-to-back losing campaigns?
In a recent conversation with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Blank said the 'co-builders' label was still accurate ... for now.
"(You) judge a coach and general manager not in the same parameters. There are different disciplines that they are responsible for. One could be successful and one not."
Blank then added.
"An example would be when we made a move with coach (Mike) Smith and we kept Thomas," said Blank, while providing some insight to his rationale for dumping Mike Smith – the Falcons' all-time leader in coaching victories.
"It was just because we felt we needed to make a coaching change with great respect and fondness for everything that Mike Smith did for us, five winning seasons in a row, multiple playoffs. But we felt after a couple of very disappointing seasons, we felt we had to have a change in that area.
"We didn't think it was necessary in terms of our general manager."
As the majority owner for 17 years, Blank certainly has the prerogative to direct the front office however he sees fit. But his above comments call for a trio of frank questions ... which may require delicate answers.
If the Falcons offensive line incurs another middling-to-porous year of production, would the heavy sword of responsibility fall to Quinn (and his coaches) or Dimitroff, who's primarily responsible for assembling the O-line's overall talent and depth?
"Most importantly, the coach and (Dimitroff) believe that's probably our No. 1 priority," Blank told the AJC.
For what it's worth, here's the list of Falcons offensive linemen drafted in Rounds 1-4 since 2008:
2017 – OG Sean Harlow (4th round ... yet to start an NFL game)
2014 – OT Jake Matthews (1st round ... started all 79 games; signed a 5-year extension last year)
2012 – C Peter Konz (2nd round ... started 29 of 38 games; released by Falcons in Year 3)
2012 – OT Lamar Holmes (3rd round ... started 19 of 21 games; been out of football since 2014)
2010 – OG Mike Johnson (4th round ... just one career start; out of football since 2014)
2010 – OG Joseph Hawley (4th round ... started only 23 games from 2010-14; been out of football since 2017)
2008 – OT Sam Baker (1st round ... solid O-line contributor from 2008-12, before injuries derailed his career)
Will the Falcons be aggressive during NFL free agency in March, making full use of roughly $29 million in available cap space?
Consider this to be a loaded question.
Yes, the Falcons have significantly more cap room after dropping kicker Matt Bryant, defensive end Brooks Reed and cornerback Robert Alford earlier this week.
However, these moves were an absolute necessity ... if the Dimitroff-Quinn tandem has any chance at re-signing defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (before hitting the open market), following through on a long-term extension for Julio Jones and then eventually offering market-level extensions to Atlanta's deep corps of defensive stars on entry-level contracts:
Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley and Keanu Neal.
In other words, the Falcons might not have enough resources to rebuild the offensive line – short of getting lucky with low-cost, short-term free agents ... or investing high picks on the interior O-line.
Will the leadership structure change much this off-season, regarding Quinn, Dimitroff (and Pioli)?
"I think (Quinn) and Thomas have a very much shared vision for the club. They make decisions collaboratively. That doesn’t mean they always agree. They respectfully disagree," Blank told the AJC.
Blank later added: "(Quinn and Dimtroff) have that much respect for each other. They are connected at the hip only in terms of their charge to make the team better and roster better and our team to perform better.
"But beyond that, they are not connected. They have different jobs and different responsibilities. They are not (a set of twins), by any means."