Rams GM Snead returns to his roots in Atlanta
• By Jim Thomas
Atlanta running back Steven Jackson won’t be the only one having a reunion Sunday in the Georgia Dome with his former team. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Rams general manager Les Snead when his new club takes on his old club.
“Heck, I spent 14 years there,” Snead said. “That’s like getting to the eighth or ninth grade at one place.”
Snead joined the Falcons’ organization in 1998 as a scout and worked his way up the personnel department depth chart to director of player personnel from 2009 through 2011.
“Hey, I owe a lot to the owner Arthur (Blank), Thomas (Dimitroff), Mike (Smith),” Snead said.
Dimitroff is Atlanta’s general manager; Smith the head coach.
“The success Mike and Thomas are in the midst of is one of the reasons I’m sitting here in this chair,” Snead said this week at Rams Park. “The stuff I learned that kind of helped get them on this roll is helping me here today, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m here today.”
When Dimitroff and Smith were hired by the Falcons in 2008, the franchise never had experienced even back-to-back winning seasons since its inception in 1966. Since their arrival, the Falcons have posted five consecutive winning seasons, made the playoffs four times and won two NFC South titles.
Atlanta is the NFC’s winningest regular-season team (56-24) over those five years and Snead had a hand in making it happen until he left for the GM job in St. Louis in 2012.
“Les was an integral part of building this team,” Smith said. “Very knowledgeable, not only on the pro side, but on the college side and in the different roles that he had while he was here. He worked very closely with Thomas Dimitroff in terms of putting a plan together in how we retool our roster every year, and that’s something that happens every season in the NFL.
“The good personnel men have a much longer view than coaches. Coaches, we work from Sunday to Sunday, and we’ve got to rely on having those guys that are looking down the road maybe a year or two and realizing who’s going to become available, what kind of draft class you’re going to have at certain positions. Les is very good football guy and he’s been doing it a long time.”
Working those four seasons with Dimitroff added to Snead’s overall knowledge of the game and broadened his perspective.
“I think one of the things was, if there’s a problem to be solved, solve it sooner rather than later,” Snead said. “Whether it’s a weakness on your football team, whether it’s something going on, Thomas is a nip it in the bud, right now, type person.
“I think the other thing is from the analysis part of it. He spends a lot of time with a lot of different data, a lot of different angles, when he’s trying to solve that problem to come up with the best solution. He’s an innovative thinker, if you want to call it.”
The fact that Snead was an outside-the-box thinker helped attract him to Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff during the GM hiring process in St. Louis.
Although he has been with the Rams for only 19 months, Snead has been so engrossed in his new job that he has said on more than one occasion that he can barely remember working in Atlanta.
At a luncheon appearance this week Snead said he told someone: “To be honest with you, I can’t remember driving into the office in Atlanta. I can’t remember that at all because I’m now in the current.”
Undoubtedly, memories will come flooding back when Snead walks into the Georgia Dome on Sunday morning.
Snead says he normally does more pregame socializing in the preseason than the regular season. And he says he’s not a “big hugger and kisser” before games anyway.
This Sunday, he might arrive at the stadium earlier than usual to say some hellos before the crowd starts filing in.
“I think what’ll be different about this game is as you walk the quarters of the stadium, you’ll see people in support roles that maybe aren’t necessarily on stage as coaches, owners, GMs, (people) that you’re not expecting to see. Or you’re not thinking that you’re gonna see. And all of a sudden there they are, and you’re like wow. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of those. So that’ll be cool.”
The Rams, who fly out this afternoon, are staying in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, which is where Dimitroff lives.
“He just had a second child, so there’s a good shot that I pop in and tell his wife hello and look at the newborn,” Snead said. “It’ll be a quick in and out. We won’t have a lot of small talk at his house if I do that.”
In addition, there will be some extremely familiar faces making the three-hour drive from Snead’s hometown of Eufaula, Ala., for the game — including his mother, Pam.
“I’ve already got my clear plastic bag with the Rams logo packed,” Pam Snead said Friday by phone.
On most Sundays a group of a dozen friends known appropriately enough as the “Rams 12” gather at her home in Eufala to watch the team play on TV.
She hands out rosters for everyone and wears a handmade Rams jersey. This Sunday, she’ll be wearing that jersey in a suite somewhere in the Georgia Dome, cheering on her son’s team.