When the Atlanta Falcons traded up to pick Julio Jones, I felt like throwing up. Not because the pick was a bad one, but because I eat a lot when I'm nervous, and rumors leading up to the draft that Thomas Dimitroff was considering the trade made me feel like passing out.
It's just that it came out of nowhere. A couple days before, there were reports that Atlanta could be thinking about trading up for either Jones or A.J. Green, a pair of homegrown SEC blue chips who'd been associated since their high school days in the minds of NFL types. That would never happen to a team built in the model of Bill Belichick's New England Patriots, where draft picks are as precious as canned goods in a bunker.
And then, out of nowhere, it actually happened. Instead of vegetables the family wouldn't need for another two or three years, Dad pulled out his credit card and bought a golden scooter. We love it, and all, but does this count as our Christmas present from now until, like, 2016?
There hadn't even been any reports of the Falcons working out Jones. Is the team overreacting to the Packers loss? Does Arthur Blank worry about ticket sales? Would the team be trading for Jones if he hadn't played for a very near, very huge football fan base that the Falcons would very much love to tap into? These are the things you think when everything happens out of nowhere.
But did you know Dimitroff had been plotting that trade for six months before draft night?
In War Room, Michael Holley traces the roots of that trade back to October 2, 2010, when Dimitroff nerded out to a visiting Boulder buddy about the potential of Jones and Green. Trading up to land one of the two was an inkling then, but became the GM's "singular thought" by March.
And further, to when the 2007 pickup of urgent athlete Randy Moss allowed the Patriots to completely reinvent their offense and shred scoring records. Reading through the onboarding of Moss is almost eerie in light of the way Falcons brass talked about the Jones trade both before and after.
In one passage, Pats OC Josh McDaniels seems about to burst with excitement as he listens to the newly obtained Moss tell a player from another team, "we could play y'all in a parking lot and we'd still tear y'all's hearts out."
And to when Belichick, Dimitroff's mentor, advised him not to make the trade. But Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, another longtime Belichick man, encouraged Dimitroff to do it. It comes as no surprise, but we see a Dimitroff who has no problem being cast as an independent football man.
Back to when Dimitroff worked with his father Tom, a longtime scout and "the ultimate meat-and-potatoes man, in a meat-and-potatoes business," who was proud of his tofu-eating son's curious principles.
Every Falcons fan should read this book. There are, like, two books about the Falcons -- one a collection of 1970s essays by Furman Bisher, one a series of stories by former beat writer Matt Winkeljohn -- and though this one is a book about satellites breaking away from Belichick's Patriots, there's no shortage of Falcons material. There's an entire chapter on the team's history that works as a defense of a flighty, battle-scarred fan base, for one thing.
But this is a look at the blue print for the best run in franchise history and one of the most accessible teams in pro sports. We see a Dimitroff who cares almost as much about marketing and community as he does about talent. During a dinner, Pioli complains about teams that look to put on a show beyond just a football game.
"That would be us," Dimitroff responds.
Exacting in detail and taking full advantage of an incredible level of access, this book might be one of the best ever written about modern football. And there's never been a better book written about the Falcons, even though that's not saying much.
Even if it wasn't largely about Dimitroff, I'd recommend it if you asked me about it. But because of the level of insight into the man who's made the Falcons what they are, I'd go out of my way to bug you to read it.
Some leaders follow well-worn paths. Others make their own. In War Room, we learn the best personnel man the Falcons have ever had spent his lunch breaks during his first few weeks in Atlanta clearing a bike path for himself around the team's Flowery Branch campus.