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Falcons hire Patriots' Dimitroff as general manager

ATLANTA -- Tom Dimitroff was hired as general manager of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, leaving his job as director of scouting for the unbeaten New England Patriots.

Dimitroff, who has been with the Patriots since 2002, will direct the Falcons' football operations, including working with a new head coach on draft decisions, free agency, trades and other personnel decisions.

The Falcons had a dreadful 4-12 season, one which saw star quarterback Michael Vick sentenced to a 23-month prison term after a federal dogfighting conviction.

Dimitroff will report to president Rich McKay, the Falcons' former GM whose 17-month contract extension was finalized Sunday.

McKay will handle the business side of the operation and report to owner Arthur Blank, who still is looking for a coach to replace Bobby Petrino. Petrino abruptly quit after 13 games to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.

The Falcons said the 40-year-old Dimitroff will begin work immediately. The hiring came a day after the Patriots defeated Jacksonville in an AFC playoff game to improve to 17-0.

"I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to become a part of the Atlanta Falcons organization," Dimitroff said. "I'm looking forward to working with Mr. Blank and Rich McKay, two highly respected men in the world of professional football."

Blank said he was grateful to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for allowing Dimitroff to leave while New England's season continued.

"In doing so, he is helping us complete our head coach search in a timely manner, and ensuring the most positive and productive relationship between the new head coach and general manager," Blank said.

Dimitroff worked as a scout for Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City before joining the Patriots.

"Tom's done a good job for us," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I've known him a long time since I was in Cleveland."

As director of college scouting with the Patriots, Dimitroff directed the evaluation of college prospects, including such draft picks as defensive backs Asante Samuel and Brandon Merriweather, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen, running back Laurence Maroney, tight end Ben Watson and defensive linemen Ty Warren and Vince Willfork.

The Patriots won Super Bowls in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

"Thomas is a really bright football mind who comes out of the most successful franchise in sports today," McKay said. "He has an excellent track record of evaluating players, and I certainly look forward to working with him."

The hiring of a general manager likely will end Blank's possible interest in Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll. Carroll has said he would have interest in an NFL job only if given the authority in personnel decisions.

Among the head coach candidates who already interviewed with the team: Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, Dallas assistant head coach Tony Sparano, former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jimi Schwartz.

The Falcons were denied permission to talk to New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo while the Giants are still alive in the playoffs.

Falcons secondary coach Emmitt Thomas finished out the year on an interim basis after Petrino's exit. No one on the current staff is being considered for the permanent job.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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